JACKSON, Miss. – Will it be the shield or the magnolia? A nine-member commission responsible for choosing a design for the new Mississippi state flag narrowed the field to two options on Tuesday after watching five finalist designs fly in front of the Old Capitol in Jackson.
One finalist bears a shield with red stripes and waves. The other features a magnolia flower surrounded by a circle of stars, bordered by red stripes. Both showcase the words "In God We Trust."
The final designs were selected out of about 3,000 proposals submitted to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for consideration. Earlier this summer, lawmakers voted to remove Mississippi's previous flag, which featured the Confederate battle emblem, a symbol associated with white supremacy.
The Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag will meet again on Sept. 2 to choose a winner. The public will vote on whether to accept the final design as the new Mississippi state flag in November.
The commission has steadily narrowed the number of design options. On Aug. 18, they selected five finalists, which were raised on a flag pole and flown in front of the Old Capitol Tuesday.
Afterwards, commission members met to discuss the merits and drawbacks to each option.
Chairman Reuben Anderson said flying the flags was a "great idea."
"When you run a flag off a flag pole, it sure looks different than on paper," he said.
Commissioners wanted to eliminate all but one of the magnolia flag designs, which they said they feared would split the vote in an online nonbinding poll used to gauge the public's preferences. Votes can be cast at mdah.ms.gov/flagpoll. The commission does not have to select whichever design gets the most online votes.
They voted to ax a design that featured a magnolia tree on a blue background and another that showed a magnolia flower and a portion of the border of Mississippi. A third option was voted out because it was almost identical to the magnolia flag chosen to be in the final two designs.
The remaining magnolia flag design will be slightly amended following recommendations by Clay Moss, a flag expert. Moss suggested for the red stripes and yellow border to be made broader. The amended design will be printed full-size before the next meeting of the commission.
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History provided the following descriptions for the flag designs.
Great River flag
Designer: Micah Whitson
The design features a shield based on the 1798 seal of the Mississippi Territory below a five-point star on a blue banner. There are twenty marks on the shield: eighteen vertical lines in red representing the three nations that occupied the Mississippi Territory (Spain, France, and Great Britain), and two white river waves representing the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. “In God We Trust” is written in a typeface that would have been used when Mississippi became a state in 1817. Blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice; red presents hardiness and valor.
Each of the five flag designs incorporate a segmented star comprised of diamonds, a reference to the eastern diamondback rattlesnake which is revered in Native American cultures. The star was the added by the commission members. In “The Great River Flag,” the star also represents the five regions of the state.
Whitson wrote, “The Great River Flag endeavors to capture as much of that into one unique image that supports Mississippi’s other meaningful symbols—the mockingbird, magnolia and others—while standing on its own.”
Designers: Hunter Jones, Sue Anna Joe and Kara Giles
The flag features a magnolia flower on a blue banner with red bars on the hoist and fly side of the flag. A gold strip separates the outside bars from the rest of the banner. The magnolia is encircled by twenty five-point stars and the words “In God We Trust.” Mississippi is often referred to as “The Magnolia State.” In 1952, the state legislature designated the magnolia as the official state flower.
Sue Anna Joe wrote, “The magnolia is the central element as it is our state flower and tree. Because its fossils date back 100 million years, it symbolizes longevity and perseverance.”
Hunter Jones wrote, “The original inspiration for my flag design came from the old Mississippi license plate. I recreated the Magnolia flower from the license plate flower in a way that I thought kept the same flower but made it more applicable across mediums with bolder lines.”
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This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Mississippi state flag commission narrows options: Shield, magnolia