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Winter: State needs to step out of Confederate shadows

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
April 3, 2001
Unless Mississippians vote for a new state flag on April 17, the state may suffer serious economic and social repercussions, former Gov. William Winter said Monday.
Adopting a new flag design "would be a statement that would mean so much internally, in terms of how we see our relationships with each other. It would make a huge statement economically," said Winter, who chaired a 17-member flag commission that recommended changing the state's 107-year-old flag.
Winter's comments were made to members of the Meridian Rotary Club.
The state flag has been the subject of an intense controversy for over a year because its canton corner contains an image of the Confederate Battle Flag, which some African-Americans say is a symbol of racism and oppression.
Winter warned of an economic backlash saying some automotive suppliers to the Nissan plant may not locate in the state if the current flag is kept flying.
Winter's special flag commission held public hearings throughout the state to get the public's perception on the issue. Very different perspectives emerged.
Winter said after the hearings he decided the current flag was far too controversial to represent all the people.
Winters concedes he is one of the most uncommon flag opponents because his grandfather fought as a soldier for the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Winter was also a longtime member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Although the former governor said he honors all those who died under the Confederate Battle Flag, the emblem has a different meaning now because white supremacists groups have maligned its original intent.
Showing a recent article that appeared in The New York Times, Winter showed Rotarians the racist stigma surrounding the Confederate Battle Flag. The article showed a picture of a white supremacist group with the flag. The article was about the group stockpiling weapons and making plans to destroy a school.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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