In six years as your Mayor, this is my second open letter to our community. In light of the recent tragedy in South Carolina and the renewed concerns from many of our citizens regarding the Mississippi state flag and the depiction of the Confederate battle flag in its canton, I would like to add my voice to those who advocate for a less divisive symbol.
In discussions with a distinguished historian who is a retired University of Mississippi professor, it became clearer to me how once a symbol of loyalty and valor has been hijacked today to stand for things the vast majority of Mississippians vehemently repudiate.
Let me be clear, no one in this community and few people in the South have deeper ties to the Confederate military service than I do. A portrait of Colonel James D. Lester, MD, my great-great grandfather, in his Confederate uniform, sketched by his daughter, Kate Lester Lamar; an accomplished artist and L.Q.C. Lamar’s daughter-in-law, hangs in my study at home. It is one of my most prized possessions. I donated L.Q.C. Lamar’s office desk to his museum on North 14th in honor of my family. I think my heritage speaks for itself.
This past April, I was on the Square for a family-oriented event with my buddy, Jack Busby, age 7. It was a beautiful spring morning when several dozen protestors wrapped in the Confederate Flag “marched” around the Square in protest. I’m still not in sure of what. There were many families and children at this event. The protest absolutely took the air out of the whole day. “What are they doing?” Jack asked me. It was a difficult question to answer.
Do I believe there are people using this tragedy for their own personal advantages and to advance their own agenda? Absolutely. Do I believe the vast majority of people today look at the flag of the State of Mississippi and wish for the return of the Old South and all the human suffering it brought ? Absolutely not.
As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently stated, “I prefer the dreams of the future to the stories of the past.” It is my opinion that going forward we should seek a new state flag that we could all be proud of – without question; a flag that represents what and how the vast majority of people in Mississippi try to think today.
Will changing the flag change people’s hearts? Of course not. Only God can do that. But it will let the rest of the world know that in this day and time we are concerned about how other people feel and how many others view our state and what its current flag symbolizes.
I believe from the bottom of my heart this is the position Dr. Lester would support if he were alive today.
Thank You for the Great Honor and Privilege of being allowed to serve You.
George G. Patterson