"I don't apologize for being emotional," Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee said when signing an order to remove the Mississippi State Flag from all city-owned buildings

By Ally Mauch
June 27, 2020 12:45 PM
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Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee (right) signs order to take down state flag
City of Laurel/Facebook

A Black Mississippi mayor was overcome with emotion as he signed an order to remove the Mississippi State Flag — which contains a symbol of the Confederate battle flag — from all city-owned buildings.

Johnny Magee, the mayor of Laurel, Mississippi, teared up when signing the order into effect on Tuesday.

"I don't apologize for being emotional," Magee said in his emotional speech, according to WLOX News. "I have lived through some things with this flag and as they told Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] to wait. Time for waiting is over."

"It's also been used by some as an image of hatred, divisiveness and violence, none of which in any way represents the ideals and principles of our great nation, our proud state, or our vibrant city," he continued.

Magee has served as the mayor of Laurel for eight years, but he told Newsweek that he has wanted the flag gone for much longer.

"I was born here in Laurel, I grew up here in Laurel, went to school here, and all the time of my growing up here, there was this flag and there was this attitude," he said. "And so, when I was doing the executive order, all these thoughts and all these feelings just came rushing back and I began to reminisce about some of the things I endured here in Laurel and I had gone from that position to be in a position of the mayor, to be able to take that flag down and I wanted to do it to bring the people of Laurel together."

Magee added that he has wanted the state flag to be changed "since 1972, at least.”

“When the schools were 'integrated.' We had a Black high school that was closed and we had to go the all-white high school and trucks were riding around the parking lot with [Confederate] flags in the back and I knew then that I wanted a change," he shared.

Mississippi flag being taken down in Laurel
City of Laurel/Facebook

His order follows similar decisions made in several other counties, cities and institutions in Mississippi. Six counties, 25 cities, all eight public universities, all 15 community colleges and seven private universities have decided to not fly the flag.

Magee told WLOX that the flags in Laurel will be "respectfully retired" and given to the local library, “or other agency that will accept it."

According to the Associated Press, Mississippi is the only state across the U.S. to still have the Confederate emblem on its flag. It was originally added to the flag as backlash for the political power that African Americans gained during Reconstruction after the Civil War, the outlet reported.

Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves announced this week that if the state legislators vote to change the flag, he would not stand in the way. "If they get those votes, a veto would be pointless," Reeves wrote on Facebook, according to the AP. "The debate would be over, and the flag would change."

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