Supervisors vote to remove state flag from county property

James Carskadon
Staff Writer

The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 Tuesday night to remove the Mississippi flag from county property.
The county joins the city of Starkville in removing the flag from government buildings because it contains the Confederate battle emblem. District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer, District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard and District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams voted yes to Howard’s motion to fly only the United States flag at county facilities. District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller voted against the motion. District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery, who voted against removing the flag on Jan. 4, was absent from Tuesday’s meeting while he dealt with a family matter.
Four citizens spoke on the flag during the citizen comments period, with two speaking for taking down the flag and two speaking against it. The board votes and the citizen comments fell along racial lines, with African Americans in support of removing the state flag.
On Jan. 4, a vote to remove the flag ended in 2-2 tie after Howard abstained, saying he wanted to give people a chance to voice their opinions before taking action on the matter. On Tuesday, he gave a prepared statement outlining his position before voting.
“It is important to always know and to acknowledge our history, but to continue to display that history I feel has become a distraction and a hindrance,” Howard said. “I also feel that as long as the Confederate flag flies at our capital, at our universities, at our courthouses and at our city halls, we will have a harder task of reaching our full potential both socially and economically.”
Williams used Oktibbeha County’s results in the April 2001 statewide flag referendum as one reason for removing the flag from county property. In that election, 55.45 percent of Oktibbeha County residents voted to use a new state flag that did not contain the Confederate emblem. On the state level in that election, 64.39 percent of Mississippians voted to keep the current state flag.
“If we wait until the state of Mississippi takes the flag down, it might not ever be removed,” Williams said.
Trainer offered no comments before voting to remove the flag. Miller thanked citizens for the feedback they have provided since the Jan. 4 meeting before reiterating her stance that the flag is a state issue, not a county one.
“I believe the state flag should be for all Mississippians,” Miller said in a statement. “My no vote on the issue of removing the state flag is based on my belief that our current flag was adopted by referendum and the is the flag of our state for the moment. It is not within the jurisdiction of the Board of Supervisors to determine what is or is not our state flag.”
Oktibbeha County NAACP President Chris Taylor was one of the citizens to speak in favor of removing the flag. He pushed board members to vote on the issue on Jan. 4 after they requested he wait until after the November elections to address the flag. On Tuesday, he said he was pleased the county and city are united in the removal of the flag.
“This sends a true signal to our legislators when they start putting together resolutions and everything to show Oktibbeha County is together,” Taylor said. “We’re not divided and that’s great for the county.”
No bills have been filed relating to the flag in the Mississippi Legislature this year, but legislators are expected to address the issue in some form during the 2016 session.