Southwest Mississippi legislators divided on state flag issue

Published 4:33 pm Friday, June 26, 2020

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JACKSON — The Mississippi Legislature could vote as early as Saturday afternoon on whether to change the state’s flag, which features the stars and bars of the Confederacy, after weeks of debate among citizens and lawmakers, who are divided on the issue.

Southwest Mississippi’s state legislators also are divided on the issue.

District 37 State Sen. Melanie Soujourner, R-Natchez, said she does not favor the Legislature changing the state’s flag and would prefer to have people vote on this issue.

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“I do not believe the Legislature should vote to change the state flag,” Sojourner said. “This is a very important issue to many on both sides of the issue. Those people’s voices matter. The people voted in 2001 and it is my belief that the people should vote now. I also believe the people should put the vote on the ballot by referendum not the Legislature.”

District 94 State Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, said he does favor the Legislature changing the flag.

“Yes the State Legislature should change the flag,” Johnson said.

Dist. 96 State Rep. Angela Cockerham, I-Magnolia, said she too favors the Legislature changing the flag.

“Unquestionably it needs to be changed,” Cockerham said. “It is time to move our state forward in order to progress and for the present and the future we need a flag that represents the State of Mississippi as a whole and that unites our state.”

District 97 State Rep. Sam Mims, R-McComb, said he does not favor changing the state flag.

“I am not in favor of changing our Mississippi state flag,” Mims said of a 2001 statewide vote on the issue. “The citizens of our state spoke on this matter at the ballot box, and while that vote took place several years ago, it is my opinion that the flag should not be changed unless the citizens by referendum choose to put it on the ballot themselves. Of course, I am well aware of the outcry throughout Mississippi for a new flag, but I am concerned that we have allowed the flag situation to overshadow the critical healthcare pandemic that all of us are facing. I think the state Legislature should focus our efforts in the remaining days of this legislative session on preparing a budget for the next fiscal year and determining how to best spend the CARES Act funds that were sent to Mississippi to assist and protect our citizens.”

Dist. 38 State Sen. Tammy Witherspoon, D-McComb, said she wants the Legislature to change the flag.

“I want to see it changed,” Witherspoon said. “It is time. It is past time. I am excited to be a part of this history, and I’m just looking forward to voting on getting rid of that flag.”

Witherspoon said she is hopeful the vote will come up Saturday when the Legislature reconvenes at 3 p.m.

“I’m looking forward to casting my vote to making history,” Witherspoon said. “Bring it down.”