Mississippi flag commission picks final flag design to go on November ballot

National News

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag selected a final design to be included for a vote on the November 3 ballot.

The vote was 8-1 in favor of the “New Magnolia Flag” over the “Great River Flag.” The commissioners submitted the design to the governor and the legislature as instructed in House Bill 1796, which established the commission.

The commission voted to brand the flag the “In God We Trust” flag.

The flag was designed by Rocky Vaughan, with design support provided by Sue Anna Joe, Kara Giles, and Dominique Pugh. The design features a white magnolia on a blue banner with red and gold bars on each end. The magnolia is encircled by twenty five-point stars, plus a star representing indigenous Native Americans, and the words “In God We Trust.” 

“Our flag should reflect the beauty and good in all of us. It should represent a state that deserves a positive image,” said Vaughan. “The New Magnolia Flag represents the warmth and strength of the good people of Mississippi. Now is the time we show the world that we’re from Mississippi, the Magnolia State.”

Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben, Sherri Carr Bevis, Frank Bordeaux, Mary Graham, Betsey Hamilton, Robyn Tannehill, T.J. Taylor, and J. Mack Varner served on the commission. Judge Reuben Anderson chaired the commission. 

“No one worked harder to change Mississippi’s flag than Governor William Winter,” said Anderson, who is also president of the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH). “I am thinking of him today as Mississippi takes this historic step toward selecting a state flag that will unify us and make us proud. I am grateful to our state leadership and my colleagues on the commission for their commitment to moving Mississippi forward.” 

“MDAH was proud to support the Flag Commission in its historic work,” said MDAH director Katie Blount. “We were especially gratified to see the public engage so significantly in the process. The commissioners worked hard, listening to the experts and to the people, and they came up with a great design to present to voters on November 3.” 

The designer of the “Great River Flag” released a statement about the decision.

I first started designing twenty years ago, trying to give away free designs to Proud Larry’s in Oxford, Miss. I remembered that when I was sitting at the Larry’s bar back in January, mourning the loss of a close friend and mentor who helped encourage my craft.

When I saw the call for flag entries, then, I knew I had to jump in.

Had I ever designed a flag? Did I know how much work I’d put in? How many nights I’d lose sleep thinking about the ideas? Did I know how ugly the internet could get? No. But even if I did, I would do it again. In a heartbeat.

It is a rare occurrence for a designer where life experience (knowing Mississippi as an insider and an outsider) aligns with a life’s trade (a design portfolio based on typography and a decade-decade-long art project based on connection to place), which aligns with the ability to perform a civic duty. For free. With little time. And 2,976,000 clients.

I’m proud of the Great River flag submission. I’m thankful for folks who helped bring the vision to life. For the council of the wise, for the hands of the busy, for the hearts of friends and strangers. I’m proud of the way we ran this thing. We kept it on the sunny side. We showed the potential and kept it hospitable. As is only fitting.

In a moment that feels like it has come full circle, I went from designing free Mississippi concert posters that nobody saw to designing free Mississippi flag designs that a lot of folks have.

I read someplace there were over 2,200 submissions that featured a magnolia. I’m not surprised to see a magnolia going on the ballot. I hope the voters of Mississippi vote it in with an overwhelming majority and then move on to focus on more pressing issues.

I have the distinction of being one of the few living state flag runner-ups (hang the banner). And maybe I’ll get a swing at the Massachusetts flag one day.

So. What will I tell my children about this experience? What advice can I pass along about this strange, trying, exciting, evolving season of life?

In a world of magnolias, don’t be afraid to offer a shield.

Micah Whitson, Designer of Great River Flag

If voters accept the design chosen by the commissioners, it will become the new Mississippi flag. If they reject it, the commission will find a new design to go on the ballot later.

On July 1, 2020, Mississippi retired the state’s 1894 flag, which contained the Confederate battle emblem.

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