/Musgrove ‘paid a price’ for his efforts, but 19 years later is happy to see state flag removed

Musgrove ‘paid a price’ for his efforts, but 19 years later is happy to see state flag removed

In May, he was on high alert when the Mississippi Supreme Court made a shocking announcement: the state did not have an official flag. The then-Chief Justice Edwin Pittman was the head of the state’s highest court. He ruled that the 1894 flag had been inadvertently removed in 1906. It was a “political decision” for the governor and the Legislature to decide whether the flag should be kept. Although Musgrove’s attempt to replace the flag was unsuccessful, it is still a key factor in his defeat to Republican Haley Barbour three years later. Barbour campaigned for the issue and distributed signs across Mississippi instructing Mississippians to “Keep The Flag.” The governor should be changed. Nineteen years later, the flag was removed by the state and citizens will vote on a new design. It cannot contain the Confederate battle emblem. “I thought it was great for Mississippi, even though it’s taken a long time …,” Musgrove stated about the June action of the Legislature to replace the flag. Yes, I paid a political and personal cost for wanting a new flag 19 years ago. The truth is that we had the flag for 126 year and have been paying the price.” 2001 was a pivotal year for the flag. In large part, the Supreme Court imposed the issue on the state. Although there had been attempts to change the flag by African American politicians, civil rights leaders, the demand was not as strong as what has occurred in recent months with protests and growing concerns about systematic racism. Musgrove also stated that among those who wanted to keep the old flag was “…Anger. This is a key difference to the fact that the Legislature’s leadership in 2001 had no interest voting to change it. Without the work of Lt. Governor, the successful attempt to change the flag wouldn’t have been possible. Delbert Hosemann and Philip Gunn, the House Speaker, preside over the Senate. Musgrove, the last Democratic governor of the state, praised Hosemann and Gunn’s leadership, as well as Gov. Tate Reeves was against the flag being altered unless it was subject to a referendum, but he signed the bill to remove it. Musgrove created a commission headed by former Democratic Governor in 2000 following the Supreme Court ruling. William Winter and Jack Reed, a Tupelo businessman. Winter and Reed were long-time friends and allies in issues such as education reform and racial relations. Winter and Jack Reed’s family, whose department store was bashed in the 2000s for his work on the Flag Commission, celebrated the decision to replace the flag. “We only wish he was here to celebrate this momentous occasion with his great friend Governor. The Reed family released a statement. True to his character, Winter, 97, praised the flag’s replacement but looked ahead to the future. It was the commission that actually recommended that the issue be put on the ballot. However, that recommendation was made knowing that it would almost be impossible to pass a bill to alter the flag through the legislative process. It was also discovered that a referendum to replace the flag was impossible. In 2001, the old flag received 64 percent of support. Musgrove stated that he recalls Tim Ford, then-Speaker of the House, telling him that he was not going to vote for a new flag. I said to him that I would not sign a bill with an old flag in it. We had a standoff, and the only way to get through it was to have a referendum by the people on the ballot. This was not the route I wanted to choose. It wasn’t the best choice. It was not the best path.