A visit to 1956

Posted in Uncategorized by chamblee54 on May 12, 2008

In 1994 I was working in downtown Atlanta. I represented my company in a customer’s office, and there was often time with nothing to do. At the very least, there was no timeclock and an hour lunch could slip into overtime with few consequences.
There was an issue in the news in 1994, along with some claims made that I simply did not believe. One day, I went to the library, and sat down with the microfilms of the Atlanta Constitution (Covers Dixie Like the Dew) for the Winter of 1956.
One of the fun things about doing research is the things you were not looking for, but see anyway. Elvis Presley made a personal appearance at the Fox Theatre. There was a lot of speculation about whether Dwight Eisenhower would have a different Vice President in the next election. Mr. President had a heart attack the previous year, and many did not want Richard Nixon to be President.
This was 20 years after Mr. Nixon resigned the Presidency in disgrace. You wonder how things might have been different if someone had acted on those concerns.
This was two years after Brown vs. The Board of Education, and many were concerned about school desegregation. A bill was proposed in the legislature that year to make it a felony to advocate integration.
The Governor at the time was Marvin Griffin. Georgia Tech played Pittsburgh in the Sugar Bowl that year, in spite of the fact that Pittsburgh had a black player. The Governor strongly objected, but was overruled, and the game was played without incident.
The State of Georgia changed the state flag that year. The new flag had the state seal on a blue stripe next to the St. Andrews Cross. This cross was the battle flag of the Confederate States of America.
In 1994 many wanted to change that flag. Some said that it was a symbol of slavery and oppression; others said it was a reminder of battlefield valor. A native southerner, I could understand both points of view, and was neutral regarding a change of the flag.
One thing that I did not understand was an argument made for changing the flag. The line in those days…first expressed by Governor Zell Miller and endlessly repeated by the local fishwrapper media, was that the flag had been changed as a protest against desegregation.
I did not believe that for a minute. The legislature in 1956 was not that smart. They were a bunch of white males who were racist, alcoholic crooks. (There were exceptions to this) If someone had suggested a flag change as a stand of defiance against desegregation, they might have thought it a good idea, but I somehow doubt that anyone thought like that.
After all, this was 1956. The sixties, where protest became the new national pastime, were a few years away.
After a few minutes of searching through the department store ads and sports pages, I found what I was looking for.
I found the article announcing the flag change. There was no mention of a protest against desegregation. They announced it as a way of honoring the Confederacy. This is in keeping with the times. Georgia in 1956 was still recovering from the War, and the Cult of Honoring the Confederacy was strong.
The flag was eventually changed under the leadership of Governor Roy Barnes. The new flag was even uglier than the old one, which I did not think was possible. Sonny Perdue defeated Mr. Barnes in his bid for reelection, in no small part because he proposed a referendum on the flag. He forgot his promise as soon as he got into office, but the flag was changed once again.
Time to go back to work.

4 Responses

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  1. Foolish Law « Chamblee54 said, on January 26, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    […] 1994, there was starting to be controversy about the Georgia State Flag . PG went to the microfilm files at the downtown library to investigate certain claims about the […]

  2. Atlanta Rising | Chamblee54 said, on April 24, 2013 at 11:41 am

    […] (The book tells this story much better than a slack blogger.) The controversy about the 1956 model state flag was going full steam when AR was written. The book has some legislative records, which for some […]

  3. Atlanta Rising | Chamblee54 said, on April 28, 2014 at 5:11 am

    […] (The book tells this story much better than a slack blogger.) The controversy about the 1956 model state flag was going full steam when AR was written. The book has some legislative records, which for some […]

  4. Changing The Flag | Chamblee54 said, on May 3, 2015 at 11:37 am

    […] is a recycled post from 2008. It was written in first person. The issue discussed has mostly faded away, except for a […]

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