In an attempt to answer the many questions, the GEORGIA FLAG FACTS COMMITTEE has researched the development of the official GEORGIA FLAG from its first mention in the official records of the state government to present. The findings are presented here so the citizens of Georgia might form their opinions concerning the GEORGIA FLAG based upon FACTS.
Following the American Revolution, it was decided that all of the sovereign states should adopt a flag design. Although no official action has ever been found in the record, a common design was seen shortly thereafter and was used frequently until 1879. It was a blue field with a white Georgia State Seal in the center. (Authority: Hon. Ben Fortson, Secretary of State of Georgia, June 1973.)
During the 1879 session of the Georgia General Assembly "... an Act to declare and establish the flag for the State of Georgia ..." was introduced by a prominent Senator from Waynesboro named Col. Herman H. Perry. Col. Perry was a well-known lawyer and former colonel in the Confederate States Army. His design was an adaptation of the first national flag of the Confederate States of America, commonly know as "The Stars and Bars". It was shown as a vertical blue bar on the flag staff third of the flag with the remainder covered by three horizontal bars of equal width. The middle bar was white with the upper and lower bars red. In 1905, the State Coat of Arms, or seal, was added in the middle of the blue bar. Col. Perry's purpose was clearly to remember the Confederate States of America, the fallen nation of which Georgia had been a part. Other former Confederate states also adopted variations of the "Stars and Bars". (Authority: Georgia Official and Statistical Register, 1954-1955 published by the Georgia Secretary of State and Miss Carol Hart, Director of Archives.)
It was changed during the 1956 session of the Georgia General Assembly. (Authority: Acts of the Georgia General Assembly, 1956 session.)
The 1956 design is an adaptation of the Cross of Saint Andrew. The version used in the official flag of Georgia was taken directly from the field or battle flag of the Provisional Army of the Confederate States of America. The design was used by the Army of the Confederate States of America - of which Georgia was a part - during the War Between the States.
The Stars and Bars proved to be much too similar in design to the Stars and Stripes of the United States. Since the two nations were at war in 1861 when the design was created, needless casualties on both sides were encountered at the first Battle of Manassas due to the confusion caused by the similarity. The Confederate generals ordered a new design. The Cross of Saint Andrews, the ancient symbol of Scotland, was used by a Virginia regiment during the battle. A general suggested that it was sufficiently unique to serve the purpose. It was then adapted in square fashion so as to allow it to flow easily in the breeze. The flag was the carried by the combat troops of the Confederate nation for the remainder of its existence. (Authority: 'The Flags of the Confederacy' by Devereaux Cannon.)
Senator Willis Neal Hardin and Senator Jefferson Lee Davis introduced the bill that was drafted by the same man who designed and created the Present State Flag, State Democratic Party Chairman and Civil War buff John Sammons Bell. The new design was created because the old Confederate design had become "meaningless" in the words of Bell. He wanted to forever perpetuate the memory of the Confederate soldier who fought and died for his state. (Authority: Interview with John Sammons Bell by Vivian Price published in the 'DeKalb News/Sun,' page2-F 13 July 1988.)
Judge John Sammons Bell, former Chief Judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals and designer of the current flag stated that the purpose of the change was "to honor our ancestors who fought and died and who have been so much maligned." (Authority: Interview with John Sammons Bell by Vivian Price published in the 'DeKalb News/Sun,' page2-F 13 July 1988.)
Concerning those who claim that the flag was "... designed as a last desperate gasp of defiance against integration," Judge Bell said "Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth ... every bit of it is untrue." He further stated that "Anybody who says anything to the contrary is wrong or perpetuating a willful lie." (Authority: Interview with John Sammons Bell by Vivian Price published in the 'DeKalb News/Sun,' page2-F 13 July 1988.)
These gentlemen denied any such impropriety. In the year 1956 several newspaper accounts of the proposed change in the GEORGIA FLAG were published. In none of the articles was there any hint that the flag change was for any reason other than that stated by the gentlemen who proposes the change. (Authority: The Atlanta Journal, 2 Feb. 1956, page 6; The Atlanta Constitution, 2 Feb. 1956, page 8; The Atlanta Journal/Constitution, 5 Feb. 1956, page C-1; The Atlanta Constitution, 10 Feb. 1956, front page; The Atlanta Journal 10 Feb. 1956, page A-4.)
In letters to the Flag Facts Committee, the sons of both senators unequivocally stated that their fathers never mentioned any purpose for the redesign of the Georgia Flag other than as a means of honoring their ancestors who fought for Southern independence. They specifically stated that their fathers were disturbed that anyone would claim that they were using the flag change as a political issue. (Authority: Letters to the committee dated 17 Sept. 1990 from Willis Hardin, Jr. and letter to the committee dated 1 Feb. 1990 from Jefferson L. Davis, Jr.)
Any reading of the newspapers in 1956 shows those politicians who believed in defiance of integration were not at all reluctant to say so in the news interviews. In fact some thought that political advantage could be gained by such positions. (Authority: The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution during the period 1954 to 1956.)
It must be remembered that Confederate patriotism was running high in 1956. On January 20 1956 it was announced that the Civil War Centennial Committee would be formed to plan commemorative events for the 100th anniversary of the War Between the States. This coincided with the deaths of the last remaining Confederate veterans. The last soldier in Georgia died in 1952. The last soldier of the entire Confederacy died in 1959. In the years between, the old veterans were one by one passing away. A great deal of sympathy was felt throughout the South for the old soldiers and many commemorative activities took place. (Authority: The Atlanta Journal, 20 Jan. 1956, page A-5; 'The South's Last Boys in Gray' by Professor Jay S. Hoar, University of Maine.)
Until the mid 1980s, the issue was brought up twice by a lady representing a portion of Sumter County. In 1970 a motion to postpone the resolution was overwhelmingly passed. When it the issue came to the floor of the House of Representatives in 1972 it was defeated 139 to 20. Clearly, the General Assembly did not want to change the flag.
Few polls have been done concerning public opinion about the flag. However, in February 1988 the Gwinnett Daily News, a newspaper covering the Metropolitan Atlanta area, published a poll, which indicated that 92% of those polled wanted the state flag to stay the same. (Authority: The Gwinnett Daily News, 7 Feb. 1988, front page.)
It is hoped that this information will help the citizens of Georgia become more familiar with their flag and how it was developed, researched & authored by Charles Kelly Barrow
Stiles Akin Camp #670