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Debate on the Georgian (U.S.) flag, 2001-2004: Part 3

The New Flag Appears

Last modified: 2016-03-24 by rick wyatt
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[Flag of Georgia] image by Ed Jackson, 7 May 2003
Adopted 8 May 2003

See also:

The Proposals

Newspapers in Georgia are reporting this morning that the Georgia legislature will be considering today the legislation on the upcoming flag vote. According to The Savannah Morning News and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, state legislator Calvin Smyrna is predicting the legislation will not include the 1956 flag. Five proposals are presently under consideration by the House Rules Committee which will begin debate today on the proposed referendum, with the measure anticipated to go to the full legislature next week.

The current proposals (some previously reported here at FOTW) in addition to the vote on the current, 1956 and pre-1956 flag proposed by the governor include:

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

  • A bill backed by white Democrats from South Georgia that would be similar to Perdue's, but would be binding. Perdue's vote would be advisory, and the Legislature would retain final say.
  • A bill sponsored by state Rep. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) to immediately adopt the pre-1956 state flag. There would be no referendum.
  • A bill sponsored by state Rep. Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta) to adopt a flag closely modeled after the original Stars and Bars adopted by the Confederacy in 1861 -- more closely than the pre-1956 flag. There would be no referendum.
  • A bill sponsored by state Rep. Larry Walker (D-Perry) that would immediately adopt a flag similar to the pre-1956 flag. A state-wide vote ratifying or rejecting that flag would then be held in March 2004.
Phil Nelson, 3 April 2003

The Franklin Proposal

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

From and New York Times:

Georgia Officials Endorse Change to Flag
By KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA - After months of debating Georgia's flag, state lawmakers struck a surprise compromise Friday -- an entirely new flag that echoes an old Confederate flag but does not include the divisive Dixie battle emblem. Gov. Sonny Perdue, who had proposed a state-wide referendum on the flag dispute shortly after his upset victory last November, is now endorsing a completely new design that is similar to the national flag of the Confederacy, the so-called "stars and bars," rather than the more familiar battle flag. And the plan calls for no referendum until next year. The Legislature, led by former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes, had voted in 2001 to shrink the Confederate battle emblem on the state flag. It had been added in 1956 after the federal government ordered public schools to desegregate. The change shrank it from two-thirds of the design to the size of a postcard.

Public fury over the hasty flag change helped Perdue beat Barnes last November. He became the state's first Republican governor in 130 years. But his proposal for a referendum to let Georgians choose between the 1956 flag and its replacement drew the strong opposition of Georgia business leaders, who said they feared it will hurt the state's image and could cause black organizations to boycott Georgia. 

The new flag design, approved by the House Rules Committee on Friday, resembles the first national flag of the Confederacy -- three red and white stripes, with a blue field in the top left corner. The state seal would be in the blue corner, and the words "In God We Trust" would be written in the middle white stripe.

Perdue's bill calls for the Legislature to change the flag to the new design immediately. Then, in March 2004, a public referendum would be held to let voters decide whether they want to keep that flag. Only if the Perdue flag was rejected by voters would a second referendum be held, this time in July 2004, asking voters if they want to return to the Georgia flag dominated by the Confederate battle emblem. "We believe this represents a compromise," said Rep. Glenn Richardson, who sponsored Perdue's flag bill. "This will bring this to a conclusion." Perdue did not take questions about the new flag at a Friday morning appearance.

The new design comes from an unlikely corner, Rep. Bobby Franklin, a conservative Republican. He was once a strong supporter of the Confederate battle emblem, but he gave a speech to the Rules Committee this week saying he had changed his mind. Franklin repeatedly cited biblical passages and said the rebel "X" has been ruined forever by white supremacists. "Can't you honor heritage in a manner that's not offensive?" Franklin said after his flag was adopted Friday. Franklin originally wanted no public referendum, saying it would strain race relations. Now he says he understands why Perdue wanted a follow-up vote. When the flag was changed in 2001, the public was given no say. "This compromise gives everyone a voice," he said. Several Democrats in the committee disagreed, saying they liked Franklin's flag but wanted to prevent any chance of the Confederate cross making it to a public vote. Rep. Calvin Smyre, a black Democrat from Columbus, said it would be "total havoc" if the new flag failed its first test. Another Democrat, Savannah Rep. Tom Bordeaux, wondered why "In God We Trust" would be on the banner. "I'm a Christian ... and I believe the laws we pass are men's laws, not God's," he said. 

The flag bill passed 18-7 and heads to the full House next week, which could make changes. The Senate must also sign off on the new flag. Southern heritage supporters were miffed the bill doesn't set up an automatic vote on the rebel emblem. Dan Coleman, spokesman for the Georgia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (news - web sites), was not mollified by the Confederate roots of the proposed new flag. "That was the flag of the state. We prefer the one that was the flag of the soldiers, the veterans," Coleman said. "
Zachary Harden, 5 April 2003

Here's a problem. From the news reports, the flag approved by the committee yesterday will, should it be approved by the legislature and governor, become the state flag upon receiving his signature. But, in March 2004, the voters will have a referendum to determine if the flag should continue to be used as the state flag. If they vote no, then in July 2004, they will be asked if the 1956 flag should be returned. Imagine the confusion that will follow if the voters decide not to approve the design that was passed by the legislature, but months later decide not to return the 1956 flag to use.
Phil Nelson, 5 April 2003

Some additional news articles have come to light to clarify the issue. Apparently the July 2004 election, if needed, will feature the 1956 and pre-1956 flags.
Phil Nelson, 6 April 2003

From WTVM-TV, Columbus, Georgia:
House Approves Flag Referendum
The Georgia House voted 111-67 Tuesday night for a two-part referendum on the state flag. The vote followed almost seven hours of debate, and came 20 minutes before the deadline for at least one house of the General Assembly to pass a bill in this session. The proposal, which was criticized by African-American lawmakers, would set up a vote during next March's Presidential primary on a three-striped flag with the state seal. If voters reject that, a second vote would occur in July 2004 on the pre-2001 flag (between the 1956 and the pre-1956 flags), which has the controversial Confederate battle emblem. The flag debate now goes to the Georgia Senate.
Phil Nelson, 9 April 2003

A little background here. The current proposal was proposed by Rep. Bobby Franklin who is being credited as being the designer of the proposed flag. The Franklin plan will retire the 2001 flag on the date the governor signs the legislation or July 1, 2003 depending on if the Governor signs the bill or lets it become law automatically. The current flag would remain the state flag only if the bill is vetoed. Under the modified Purdue plan, the "Barnes banner" would have been continued as the state flag and been on the ballot in March 2004. Under the Franklin plan, the proposed flag becomes the focus of the referendum. If the public decides to reject it then there is a second referendum in July 2004. There the two proposals are the same. The July ballot would be between the 1956 flag and the pre-1956 flag.

In other words, the State of Georgia will have a new flag soon if the Senate passes the bill next week, which at present appears likely. The effective date depends upon the governor's action, but the flag itself could be a temporary flag to be replaced at some time in the future (depending upon what the final legislation reads).  But the time frame for 2003 action is getting slim. I understand that the legislature meets for only 40 days. Tuesday was day 33 (important because the bill was approved by the House at 11:40 PM; at midnight the legislation would have been tabled under Georgia law because Georgia law kills bills that have not been acted on by one house or the other by the 33rd day).
Phil Nelson, 10 April 2003

The following is from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia.


A majority of Georgians (53 percent) want the chance to vote on which flag should represent their state, and 52 percent believe that a referendum will help "heal the state." At the same time, three in five Georgians (60 percent) agree with the statement that "there is no problem with the current state flag." Clearly the process by which the current flag was adopted is more of an issue than the flag itself; 52 percent of the public either strongly oppose (34 percent) or somewhat oppose (18 percent) the way the current state flag was adopted in 2001. While more than three-quarters of respondents (76 percent) to a recent Peach State Poll survey say they follow news about the state flag, about two-thirds (67 percent) are more likely to say that the flag controversy is more of a distraction from important state issues than it is an important issue in its own right, worthy of debate (26 percent).

The Peach State Poll is a state-wide quarterly survey of public opinion conducted by the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Other survey results:

  • When given the options of the pre-1956 state flag, the 1956 to January 2001 flag, or the current flag, 35 percent of the public have no preference at this point for one state flag over any other.
  • Of those who have a preference among those three flags, a plurality (42 percent) prefer the pre-1956 flag, followed by the current flag (35 percent); only 18 percent of respondents expressing a preference choose the flag that flew over the capitol from 1956 to 2001.
  • Seventy-nine percent of African-Americans surveyed either strongly agree (59 percent) or somewhat agree (20 percent) that the flag adopted in 1956 is "a symbol of Georgia's segregationist history." Only 47 percent of white respondents shared that view.
These data are taken from a Peach State Poll survey conducted between March 31 and April 6, 2003. The poll included 800 telephone interviews of randomly selected adults in Georgia. For a sample of this size, the margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level is +/- 3.5 percent.
Phil Nelson, 11 April 2004

The Final Flag

[Flag of Georgia] by Ed Jackson, 7 May 2003

Yahoo! News Story reports a variant of the flag with the words In God We Trust underneath the old coat of arms.
Zachary Harden, 17 April 2003

Georgia lawmakers have reached a compromise over the controversial state flag that bears the Confederate symbol, and redesigned the banner to display a less divisive symbol. But it may not be a permanent solution. A statewide referendum in March 2004 will allow voters to decide if the flag stays. The state Senate now must approve the compromise flag. The new design comes from Rep. Bobby Franklin, a conservative Republican. He was once a strong supporter of the Confederate battle emblem. However, in a recent speech to the state Rules Committee, he had changed his mind.
Kristian Söderberg, 17 April 2003

It should be born in mind that Georgia does not permit laws to be created by public vote. If the courts rule that the prohibition includes state flags, then both flag votes would be called off, and the Stars and Bars flag would become a permanent fixture.
Source: article in Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Kristian Söderberg, 20 April 2003

That is correct - but what would most likely happen is that the results of the flag votes would then be emplaced into law by the state legislature in the following session (the GA legislature is a part-time body typically meeting only from mid-January to early April) - no matter what the state supreme court rules.
    What the AJC article has conveniently left out is that black support for the 1956 flag was hitting as high as 25 per cent in polls (for whatever their reasons) and so when people like Mr. Brooks states his "facts" they must be looked at with an eye to what is really happening in Georgia.  I recall back in the 1980's a tables set up in front of a store in Stone Mountain, GA that had petitions for keeping the 1956 flag in place - and one of the table runners was a black man!
Greg Biggs, 20 April 2003

What size is it?

A discrepancy over dimensions may stand in the way of Georgia's new state flag. Legislation that would clear the way for the new flag is up for a vote Tuesday. The bill does not list specific measurements for the flag, but it does define proportions for three stripes and a blue square that encompasses the state seal and 13 stars. A historian says those proportions would throw the state flag out of proportion with the standard American flag by making Georgia's a foot longer.
Source: Washington Times
Kristian Söderberg, 19 April 2003

Let's talk proportions and not feet. The official ratio for the U.S. flag is 1:1.9. The most common manufactured flag in the U.S. is 3 feet by 5 feet, for a ratio of 1:1.67. 
If we were to use the common proportions as the baseline for the Georgia flag, then the "canton" bearing the state seal and stars would be 2/3 the hoist measurement and 2/5 the fly measurement. But the legislation specifies that the canton would be 1/3 of the length of the fly. Therefore the flag as prescribed would have a 1:2 ratio. Will the proportions make the flag a foot longer? Not necessarily. If they used the official U.S. flag size, the difference is a matter of a few inches. But then not everyone uses the official proportions and that depends upon the procurement office in Georgia. Of course, the legislation does not specify sizes of the flag, leaving a lot in terms of potential for variation for "official flags." For instance, I don't believe that all of the recommended ratios for government purchase of the U.S. flag come out to a 1:1.9 ratio, but I don't have the specs handy right now.
Phil Nelson, 19 April 2003

Approval in the State Senate

The Georgia Senate passed the new state flag - but not before changing the dimensions of the proposed new flag to the standard 3 feet by 5 feet. Language in the legislation would have made the flag a foot longer. Should the Georgia Lower House pass the flag bill, State of Georgia may have a new flag on Friday.
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Kristian Söderberg, 22 April 2003

In summary, the bill as amended last night includes not only changes regarding the size of the flag, but other changes as well. According to the AJC article, the "In God We Trust" logo would be moved to the blue canton (precise location not described) and the seal to be replaced by the state coat of arms. It appears that the legislature will meet again on Friday (according to reports), meaning that if the House approves the amended bill a new flag would only be approved after Friday (giving the bill time to be engrossed for the governor's signature). But in the interim, the bill appears to go to a conference committee which could change it even more. It also means that manufacturers of the flag who have started production in advance based upon the concept of favorable passage by the state senate now have to deal with a new flag design v. the one proposed earlier. But, as noted in all articles, the black caucus is threatening a filibuster, meaning that the issue may be dead this year.

Or maybe not: Some news wires are predicting that if the state does not pass a budget, the flag could be on the agenda for a special legislative session that Governor Purdue could call to resolve the budget crisis. In other words, the story may be far from over.
Phil Nelson, 23 April 2003

This is just an update on the status of the Georgia flag issue:
Today is supposed to be Day 40 in the Georgia legislative session. There are supposedly only 40 days in the session, but the tactical delays caused by various issues other than the flag have extended the 40 days over a longer period making this the longest Georgia session according to news sources. Today, the Georgia House takes up the flag issue resulting from changes by the Senate earlier this week. Included is a compromise plan that would do away with the second July vote if the new flag is not adopted in the March vote. There are no projections on the potential of success. [By my count, the plan that was being proposed last night is the sixth or seventh since the beginning of the year.] I'm not familiar enough with Georgia legislative procedure to determine if it is feasible to have an amended amended measure go through both legislative bodies on the same day. Nor is there any indication as to the Governor's stand on the latest proposal. Reports are that it is likely the legislature will be called into special session to tackle some major issues that are unresolved and speculation that the flag could be included on the agenda if not resolved today.
Phil Nelson, 25 April 2003

A short while ago the Georgia Legislature approved the flag under discussion this past few days. The measure was passed by both the Senate and the House. News sources note there will be a referendum in March between the temporary flag (2003) and the 2001 flag. There will not be a second referendum at this time and the 1956 flag is not being considered in the referendum. The NAACP has a meeting scheduled in Macon on Saturday and will determine at that time whether to call for a boycott on the flag referendum citing the Confederate origin of the 2003 flag.
Phil Nelson, 26 April 2003

While it's too soon for anyone to begin making predictions on the Georgia flag and when (or if) Governor Purdue will sign the legislation passed yesterday by the Georgia State Legislature, history from the 2001 flag debate can serve as a guide as to what to expect. First, I am making a dangerous assumption that like the previous legislation, unless vetoed, the new flag will become effective when the bill is signed by the governor or on July 1, whichever comes first. Given the fact that there is some differences between this flag and any prior flag flown over Georgia, the final specifications will have to be developed. In 2001, this was done by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia. Second, as noted in the list over the past few weeks, Georgia flag manufacturers had begun to prepare the now-defunct "Franklin Flag". Therefore it will take some time to ramp up manufacturing for the compromise flag. If the specifications are delayed, as the case in 2001, then it will take literally months to re-flag the state of Georgia, including distributing official versions to the state officials in Washington, DC. According to news sources this week, the state itself will require some 25,000 flags. Then there is the March 2004 referendum between the 2001 and 2003 flag. While I haven't seen the legislation yet, it sounds like the flag that receives the most votes will be the permanent flag probably using the same effective date that was reported earlier. And if the 2001 flag is returned, then the re-flagging will start again. And then there's the fact that already there is opposition to the legislation as the 1956 flag has been eliminated from any potential vote, meaning that there might be repercussions in subsequent elections, at least by those that favor the 1956 flag over any other.
        So is the flag debate over? Too soon to tell. As one who has followed this issue for a few years, it appears that it may become a full time task.
Phil Nelson, 26 April 2003

According to a New York Times report, Gov. Perdue agreed moments after the vote to sign the new plan. The new flag will become permanent only if voters choose it over the current flag next March.

And from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Q: "Do you feel like you fulfilled your pledge to folks with the flag referendum?"
A: "I did what I told people I was going to do, and we put a proposal out there. I've said all along one of the cultural changes I think needs to be made in Atlanta is that we need to acknowledge that there are other branches of government beside the governor and the executive branch. And I don't regret having empowered the Legislature to express their ideas on many issues. I wish we had come closer to my proposal regarding the choices people are going to have. There are going to be people who are frustrated by this. But essentially what I committed to the people of Georgia was they were going to get an opportunity to choose the flag that represents them. I regret that the Legislature has limited their choices, [but] I still think the people of Georgia will make a good choice for Georgia. I believe they'll choose the flag that has a degree of heritage and history in it."
Kristian Söderberg, 27 April 2003

The New Flag Flies

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
"Gov. Sonny Perdue signs legislation Thursday, May 8, establishing a new state flag for Georgia for the second time in three years. One of the new banners also may be unfurled and raised at the 10 a.m. bill-signing ceremony, Perdue spokeswoman Kim King said. But she said flag makers were still at work Wednesday."
Kristian Söderberg, 7 May 2004

The Legal Description
Section 1(a)

"The flag of the State of Georgia shall consist of a square canton on a field of three horizontal bands of equal width. The top and bottom bands shall be scarlet [see note below] and the center band white. The bottom band shall extend the entire length of the flag, while the center and top bands shall extend from the canton to the fly end of the flag. The canton of the flag shall consist of a square of blue the width of two of the bands, in the upper left of the hoist of the flag. In the center of the canton shall be placed a representation in gold of the coat of arms of Georgia as shown in the center of the obverse of the Great Seal of the State of Georgia adopted in 1799 and amended in 1914. Centered immediately beneath the coat of arms shall be the words 'IN GOD WE TRUST' in capital letters. The coat of arms and wording 'IN GOD WE TRUST' shall be encircled by 13 white five-pointed stars, representing Georgia and the 12 other original states that formed the United States of America. Official specifications of the flag, including color identification system, type sizes and fonts, and overall dimensions, shall be established by the Secretary of State, who pursuant to Code Section 50-3-4 serves as custodian of the state flag."
Here is a pdf of the signed Executive Order.

submitted by Kristian Söderberg, 7 May 2003

Note on color

A classic illustration that you should never take a politician's poetic description of flag colors as scientific evidence of the intended shade. Note that the draft specifications prepared by the Secretary of State's office in implementation of the law stipulate Old Glory red (which we've agreed in the past is RGB 204:0:0), a slightly dark red rather than scarlet. (Although considering Georgia literary history, perhaps the red just had to be described as Scarlett.) And the "gold" is designated to be "Spanish yellow," which is a slightly dark yellow that for our purposes is probably just Y, maybe Y+, but nothing like Au.
Joe McMillan, 7 May 2003

Concerning the shade of yellow on the seal, reported:

"Jackson [Ed Jackson, of the Carl Vinson Institute] faced numerous challenges while designing a flag that would be both historically accurate and aesthetically pleasing.(...)
"He also wrestled with the coloring of the coat of arms (...) Although Jackson preferred two shades of gold for the arch, when he contacted flag printers, he was told that one shade of gold on a blue background would be easier to produce."
Santiago Dotor, 6 May 2003

What's interesting is not what is said in the quote from Kristian but what was not quoted. I believe the intent of the final act is slightly different from the earlier versions of the bill, in that it doesn't appear that the flag that emerges victorious from the March 2004 election will be the state flag. The Secretary of State will certify the results to the Governor and the General Assembly. In the earlier versions of the bill, the selected banner would be the state flag.
        Further there is the severability of Section 2 from the rest of the bill (stated in Section 3). If there is a challenge to the election that is successful, then Section 1 would be enacted regardless. That pretty much is consistent with the earlier version of the bill. So is it going to be a selection or a beauty contest in March?
Phil Nelson, 7 May 2003

I just looked through the different versions of the bill and I found the the statement "It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to tabulate and certify the results of the referendum election and report said results to the Governor and the General Assembly immediately following such certification" is included in all versions leading up to the final bill. Maybe this standard phrase is regarded necessary to follow the rules in the Georgia State Constitution on non-binding referendums.
        In some versions this statement was added: "The General Assembly finds and determines that under our form of government, where the people rule and where the representatives in the legislature are but the agents of the people, when the wishes of the people as to whether a proposed Act should become law can be clearly ascertained by an election, this mode is consonant with the genius and form of our government. The General Assembly recognizes that it can neither delegate its powers nor bind future legislatures but believes that the submission to the voters of definite and complete propositions with their effectiveness contingent on the voice of the voters and the outcome subject to further legislative enactment is constitutionally permissible."
        The intention in this case is likely to put pressure on the State Assembly to recognize the "wishes of the people", although no formal delegation of power to a referendum formally can be done.
Kristian Söderberg, 7 May 2003

For the record, the new Georgia flag was officially reported hoisted this morning at 10:54 AM.
Phil Nelson, 8 May 2003

Photos of the first flag can be seen at
Paige Herring, 8 May 2003

Georgia officially began replacing the flags after the start of the fiscal year, which I believe began on July 1. It took several months before they were able to replace the flag in 2001 (in instances where the state provides the flag) and the transition will likely be as long for the 2003 flag. I recollect there were postings on the list months afterwards that the flag still had not made it to Washington for the congressional offices and displays at common locations, such as the display in front of Union Station.
Phil Nelson, 8 August 2003

The Debate Continues...