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Debate on the Georgian (U.S.) flag, 2001-2004: Part 2

The Transition

Last modified: 2015-07-28 by rick wyatt
Keywords: georgia |
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[Proposed/New/Old Flag of Georgia]
Proposed New Old Flag
Adopted 31 January 2001
Replaced 8 May 2003

See also:

The Debate Begins

Rep. Bobby Franklin (R-39th district) from Marietta, Georgia has introduced HR976 proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia to Restore The True
Georgia Flag...
House Resolution 976
By: Representative Franklin of the 39th

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution so as to provide for the design and description of the state flag; to provide for the submission of this amendment for ratification or rejection; and for other purposes.

Article XI of the Constitution is amended by adding a new Section II to read as follows:
Paragraph I. Design and description of the state flag.
The flag of the State of Georgia shall be a vertical band of blue occupying one-third of the entire flag nearest to the flagstaff. The remainder of the space shall be a square, two-thirds the length of the flag, having a red background with a broad saltire of blue bordered with white on which 13 white mullets or five-pointed stars, corresponding in number to that of the Confederate States of America as recognized by the Confederate States Congress, are emblazoned; so that such remainder shall be the same as the union of the flag of the Confederate States as approved and cited in Statutes at Large of the Confederate States Congress, 1st and 2nd Sessions, 1862-63, 1863-64, and approved May 1, 1863, such remainder being popularly known as the Battle Flag of the Confederacy. On the blue field shall be stamped, painted, or embroidered the coat of arms of the state."

The above proposed amendment to the Constitution shall be published and submitted as provided in Article X, Section I, Paragraph II of the Constitution. The  ballot submitting the above proposed amendment shall have written or printed thereon the following:
"( ) YES
Shall the Constitution be amended so as to restore the flag of the State of Georgia to the old design adopted in 1956 and in continuous use thereafter until 2001?"
( ) NO
All persons desiring to vote in favor of ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote "Yes." All persons desiring to vote against ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote "No." If such amendment shall be ratified as provided in said Paragraph of the Constitution, it shall become a part of the Constitution of this state.
Peter Krembs, 26 March 2002

Certain issues do not fall within the range of what can be considered in a referendum. One of these is to allow for a public referendum regarding the state flag. Any referendum held before a change in state law would only be a popularity vote and not binding.
Phil Nelson, 14 January 2003

Defeat of Governor Barnes

From New York Times:

An Old Battle Flag Helps Bring Down a Governor
NY Times, Nov 7, 2002

ATLANTA, Nov. 6 - It was a hidden grudge, so private, apparently, that no polls picked it up. Last year Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, led a successful effort to change Georgia's state flag, which then prominently featured the Confederate battle cross. This Tuesday, he paid the price. In their first chance to vent their anger, white voters in rural areas turned out in record numbers to vote out Mr. Barnes in one of the most stunning upsets this year. The governor had been considered one of the brightest lights in the Democratic Party, a gifted speaker, moderate, strong on education and a possible contender for vice president or even president.

Much of the state's Democratic leadership was swept out on Tuesday, after a campaign that featured frequent visits for Republican candidates by President Bush and harsh advertisements against Senator Max Cleland, a Democrat seeking a second term. But the governor's defeat was the biggest surprise of the night here, and in the morning-after search for answers, the flag issue surfaced as a leading explanation. "There was this huge undercurrent of resentment and anger about the flag, but I think we all missed it because it's not something people discuss in the open," said Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta. "The Confederate flag is still a very powerful symbol. A lot of white voters felt Barnes was not on their side when he pushed to change it."

The rural white voting base was mobilized this year as never before, but it did not simply follow Republican marching orders. What happened was more personal than that. While the governor lost badly in rural counties like Floyd and Colquitt, his Democratic partner, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, won there, showing that voters were angry not at all Democrats but certainly at Mr. Barnes. "The flag was definitely part of the equation," said another Georgia Democrat, Senator Zell Miller. "I could spend all day and all evening trying to explain why this is such an emotional issue. It just is."

Though the state banner is not the only reason Democrats were routed in Georgia, it is part of a basket of problems the party faces here. Democrats are seen as out of touch with the state's conservative values. Georgia, with its 11 major military bases, its large rural areas and its Deep South traditions, proved in 2000 that it was solid Bush country. Once again on Tuesday, it went heavily Republican.

Another upset was the defeat of Senator Cleland, a decorated Vietnam veteran, to his Republican challenger, Representative Saxby Chambliss. The Democratic speaker of the Georgia House, Tom Murphy, who had held his seat for 41 years, also lost, as did a Democratic candidate in a new Congressional district that had been gerrymandered by the Democratic-controlled legislature to produce a Democratic representative. "This was a train that has been coming down the track for the past 10 years," Senator Miller said. "Georgia is not the solid Democratic state it was in the past. It's very competitive. The Republicans did a masterful job of energizing their base." One of Mr. Perdue's campaign promises was to have a referendum on the state flag, resurrecting a matter that dated from January 2001, when Governor Barnes, intervening in a longtime battle, pushed for a new flag design.

Georgia had remained one of the last Southern states to feature the Confederate battle cross on their flags. Blacks said the flag was racist, but many whites said it spoke to their heritage. Mr. Barnes stepped into the middle of the controversy with a proposal to shrink the symbol to a small box at the bottom of the flag. The legislature quickly approved the compromise, but the move infuriated many white voters across the state, who turned against the governor on Tuesday. In rural Worth County, Mr. Barnes won 57 percent of the vote when he ran for governor in 1998; this year he scored 45 percent. In another rural county, Laurens, he won 60 percent four years ago; this year it was 39 percent. In all, Mr. Barnes won just 46 percent of the statewide vote, against 52 percent for Mr. Perdue.

Asked whether it could have been the governor's progressive education plans, or perhaps his close ties to the black leadership of Atlanta, William Boone, a political science professor at Clark Atlanta University, said he did not think so. "The flag dragged Barnes down," Dr. Boone said. "He was one of the most progressive governors in the South. Now he's gone."
Peter Orenski, 7 November 2002

What the New York Times article coveniently left out (this is a very left-wing newspaper!) was the Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes not only lost in the rural counties of the state, he also lost in the metro-Atlanta counties, which are very urban! He even lost in his home county of Cobb - which is just northwest of Atlanta. You might want to read today's Washington Times for a more balanced account of this election and the flag.

The flag may have something to do with this defeat, but the South is getting more and more conservative each year, and that leaves the Democrats out to pasture basically. How Barnes did the flag change was what made people more angry than the changing of the flag itself - by ramming it through the legislature and not letting the people of the state vote for any flag referendum. The flag belongs to the people of Georgia - not just its legislature.

Greg Biggs, 7 November 2002

The Polls Begin

From CNN:

Protesters demand vote on Georgia flag
New governor had made emblem a campaign issue

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) --Some 300 supporters of Georgia's old flag with its big Confederate emblem marched to the state Capitol on Tuesday to demand that the new governor and Legislature hold a statewide vote on bringing the banner back. The current flag, featuring a tiny image of the Confederate emblem, was adopted in 2001 at the behest of Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes. He was defeated in a re-election bid in the fall, and blamed public anger over the new flag. On the campaign trail, Barnes' successor, Republican Sonny Perdue, criticized Barnes for changing the flag in two days' time without public input, and he called for a referendum. On Tuesday, he said he supports a non-binding public referendum but would leave the details to lawmakers. Some legislators believe the Georgia Constitution would have to be changed to allow a referendum; others say a non-binding referendum would be permissible.

At the Capitol, supporters of the old flag held up signs that read, "Let Us Vote!" Many wore Confederate uniforms. Three planes flew overhead, carrying signs that read: "SONNY COUNTRY," "LET US VOTE. YOU PROMISED!" and "BARNES WAS JUST A WARM-UP." "I feel like I've been spit in the face by Perdue," said Dennis Bellew, 56, a stonecutter who said he campaigned for Perdue. "I have a sneaky suspicion we're being betrayed." At his inauguration Monday, Perdue asked guests not to bring flags, and he did not display the Confederate emblem at his ball. That did not sit well with supporters of the old flag. Ron Wilson, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said: "Don't back down. Make sure we get a referendum."

The Confederate emblem was added to the Georgia flag in 1956 at the height of Southern segregationist defiance. Supporters of the emblem say it represents Southern heritage, while blacks and others say it represents racism and slavery.
located by Phil Nelson, 14 January 2003

From, 13 March 2003:

The Governor's legislative leaders will introduce a bill soon that would allow Georgians to vote, in a non-binding referendum, on how to proceed with the flag situation. Voter will choose whether or not they like the current state flag; if they vote 'NO', then they will be able to choose between the 1956 state flag consisting of the Confederate battle flag or the pre-1956 which includes the "Bars" from the Stars and Bars.
located by Peter Krembs, 15 March 2003

The Georgia Poll has released a summary in the form of graphics in regards to the flag issue. The poll encompasses surveys from Fall 2001, Spring 2002 and Fall 2002 and is available at

The Georgia Poll is a series of surveys conducted by the University of Georgia Survey Research Center. The SRC " is a service offered by the Center to clients whose needs for data do not justify the cost of conducting an entire study. Operated on a cost-shared basis, the Poll gives policy-makers, researchers, managers, and other interested individuals and organizations an opportunity to gather high quality data in a timely and relatively inexpensive manner."
Phil Nelson, 5 March 2003

Governor Perdue's Initiatives

From the Augusta Chronicle:
Perdue favors public forums on state flag

ATLANTA -- Gov. Sonny Perdue said he favors a series of public forums about Georgia's state flag and he told reporters to expect details this week about a state-wide flag referendum. The Republican governor suggested the forums after meeting with black leaders Monday to sign a proclamation on Black History Month. Perdue said he had a "good visit" with a group that included U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young.

Perdue has been pressured to elaborate on his plans for the state flag since he was elected in November. Throughout his campaign, Perdue criticized former Gov. Roy Barnes for not giving the public a say when the flag was changed in 2001 to reduce the Confederate battle emblem. After the meeting with black leaders, Perdue said he liked their idea of discussion groups around the state. "The more we communicate as Georgia, the more we'll understand one another," Perdue said. A spokesman for Lewis said the forums should also include general discussion on race. "We're looking for meaningful discussion, both on race and politics. We're looking for some type of reconciliation," said Michael Collins, Lewis' chief of staff.

The governor has not said what questions a state-wide flag referendum would ask or when it would be held, but Perdue said he hopes to announce those details this week. The referendum could be as simple as a yes-no question on keeping the current flag, or it could give voters a choice of flags, including the pre-1956 banner with the state seal next to three horizontal bars. The question is a tricky one for the new governor. Black legislators have vowed to boycott the referendum if the Confederate emblem is a choice. Confederate heritage groups promise they will make Perdue a one-term governor if it's not. Democrats say Perdue is in a pickle. "Democrats and Republicans alike would like to see this issue just go away," said Rep. Calvin Smyre, head of the Georgia Democratic Party. "It's a cloud, it's a dark cloud hanging over all of us."

Smyre said Democrats haven't decided how to approach Perdue's referendum proposal. Many don't want to return to the Confederate version, but neither do they want Perdue to blame them if the question never makes it to voters. "We're going to have to wait and see what the referendum says," Smyre said. Perdue urged Democrats to approve his bill. He said the Confederate flag question will never be settled until the people get to vote. "We as Georgians have to come and resolve those issues together," he said.

Phil Nelson, 10 February 2002

According to News Reports, the State of Georgia will hold their flag preference(s) election during the March 2004 presidential primaries. Voters will be given a two-part question, one as to whether to keep the current flag and another on the voter's preference on the 1956-2001 flag or the pre-1956 flag. In order for the vote to count, both questions must be answered. And there is the rub. According to WXIA-TV in Atlanta, current voting machine software will not kick out a vote as invalid if all questions are not answered. Given the announcement, election officials are now trying to determine if the governor's proposal is feasible.
Phil Nelson, 13 February 2002

News sources in Georgia are reporting a plan by the Georgia Democratic party in regards to the upcoming referendum. The proposal would be a straight up or down vote on the current flag in March 2004. If the flag is rejected, then the proposal would be for a second referendum in July 2004 on two options to replace the flag. Both referenda would be binding. The proposal is designed to prevent a boycott of the March referendum by the NAACP (referred to in other posts on the referendum).
Sources: WXIA-TV (Atlanta) and WSB-TV (Atlanta)
Phil Nelson, 13 February 2002

From the March 18, 2003, Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

None of the three flags proposed for the referendum has a lock on popularity. The current flag, which drastically reduced the Confederate emblem and passed the Legislature in 2001 at then-Gov. Roy Barnes' urging, led the pack with 35 percent. The pre-1956 flag, which was based on a lesser-known Confederate flag but is often held out as a compromise, polled second with 22 percent. The flag with the Confederate battle emblem, or St. Andrew's Cross, was the choice of only 13 percent of the respondents. An unnamed fourth alternative was supported by 20 percent.

Support for the flag with the Confederate battle emblem seems to be slipping. The flag garnered 23 percent support in an AJC poll in December, compared with 13 percent in the current poll. The battle-emblem flag fared poorly even among white people outside of metro Atlanta, where it is believed to enjoy its strongest base of support. Outside metro Atlanta, 18 percent of those polled said they support that flag. None of the 143 African-Americans questioned throughout the state favored the flag with the Confederate emblem. William Boone, a professor of political science at Clark Atlanta University, said he thinks the poll shows that a return to the old Confederate-dominated flag is "just an issue for the people who voted for Perdue because of the referendum." Still, a 51 percent majority said the flag with the Confederate battle emblem should be an option in any referendum. Some black legislators and business leaders have suggested Perdue remove that flag from his referendum. About 41 percent of those polled said the St. Andrew's Cross should not be an option. Opinions of how Perdue has handled the flag issue were mixed. About 31 percent said it was good or very good, while 32 percent said poor or very poor.

The poll conducted by Zogby International reportedly has a margin of error of 4.5%.
Phil Nelson, 18 March 2003

It seems the Georgia (U.S.) flag issue proposals are growing. This is to keep everyone up-to-date. The information below includes all proposals. Whether or not they go before the legislature or which one will be reportedly decided by early April:

  • House Bill 380 - provides for a nonbinding referendum on the three flags under consideration - Governor Purdue's proposal.
  • House Resolution 1 - proposes referendum to amend the state constitution to return the 1956 flag.
  • Proposed binding referendum in March 2004 on whether to retain current state flag, and if defeated, a follow-up referendum in July 2004 on the 1956 and pre-1956 flags. Both referendums would be binding. Proffered by some Georgia Democrats.
  • Proposed bill to return to the flag used prior to 1956. As the information is sketchy right now, support is unknown.
  • Proposed bill by Georgia House Republicans to design a new flag for the state of Georgia (planned for introduction next week). This would mean that the pre-1956, 1956-2001, and current flag would not be considered on a ballot. As the information is sketchy right now, support is unknown.
As far as I can tell, at this point only the first two appear to have been formally introduced.

Phil Nelson, 22 March 2003

[Proposed/New/Old Flag of Georgia] located by Greg Biggs at, 4 April 2003

I was just in Atlanta, GA over the weekend and last week's newspaper had a variant of the above flag proposed. It is the CSA First National with a blue canton.  In the canton is the state coat of arms.  On the white stripe is "In God We Trust". The pre-1956 flag did not have a canton - just a vertical blue bar with the state coat of arms.
Greg Biggs, 25 March 2003

Debate continued...

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