Chamblee54

Changing The Flag

Posted in Georgia History, GSU photo archive, Politics by chamblee54 on May 10, 2016

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This is a repost, with pictures from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”. It was written in first person. The issue discussed has mostly faded away, except for a few hardcore cranks. Politicians have found new issues to distract voters when they want to make crooked deals. These things too shall pass away.

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 time clock. Lunch could slip into overtime with few consequences.

There was an issue in the news in 1994, along with some claims that I did not believe. This issue was whether, or not, to change the state flag. 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. Elvis Presley made a personal appearance at the Fox Theater. Atlanta Blue opened a facility on West Peachtree Street. There was speculation about whether Dwight Eisenhower would have a different Vice President in the next election. Mr. President had a heart attack in 1955. Many did not want Richard Nixon to be Vice President. 1994 was 20 years after Mr. Nixon resigned the Presidency in disgrace. You wonder how things might have been different if Mr. Eisenhower found a new Vice President.

1956 was two years after Brown vs. The Board of Education, and many were concerned about school desegregation. A bill was proposed in the legislature 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. 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, 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 appreciate both points of view. I 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, with a few exceptions, racist, alcoholic crooks. 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. 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…. 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. Fergit Hell!

The flag was eventually changed during the administration 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 this promise as soon as he got into office, but the flag was changed once again.

flag display 050315

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