Betsey Hamilton had visions of a green and white Mississippi banner billowing alongside Old Glory.
Like the catfish, the river and numerous other color schemes, that idea fell by the wayside on the journey to a proposed new state flag.
During a Monday evening talk hosted by Northeast Mississippi Community College, Hamilton, who was part of the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag, discussed elements of the proposed flag and why some popular design submissions were kicked to the curb. A Tupelo native and real estate broker who lives in New Albany, she was one of only two voices from north Mississippi included on the nine-member flag commission.
Her inclination for a green and white flag came from her son mentioning that he associates green with Mississippi. And, viewing all of the state flags together, one sees predominantly blue.
“So, I didn’t want a blue flag,” said Hamilton. “That’s how I kind of began in the selection process. I just had this vision in my mind that we needed to have a flag that, if they were all lined up down Pennsylvania Avenue, a child or anybody could easily pick out the Mississippi flag.”
When gardening personality Felder Rushing talked to the commission about the importance of the magnolia as an icon of the state, the idea of the blossom as the anchor of the flag took root for Hamilton.
“It’s been on our state highway welcome signs,” she said. “It’s on our state quarter. It is on top of all of our historic markers. We’ve used it everywhere we could except on our flag.”
More than 2,000 of the submissions from the public featured the magnolia in some form.
“That was pretty defining for us,” she said.
Some of the ideas that were most popular among residents were rejected for practical reasons. One of the most popular designs was the “river” flag with the image of the curving state border. The problem with that, said Hamilton, is it looks like the border of Alabama when viewed from the other side.
A flag anchored by a shield was also very popular, and the state seal appeared on numerous submissions.
“The bicentennial flag has the seal on it,” she said. “A lot of people love that flag. But seals, they’re very intricate, so from a distance you can’t see the small things. It’s hard to determine one state seal from another, and they really are designed to be flat. We see them a lot on stationery. We see them on certificates and things like that.”
As Hamilton waded through the 3,000-plus entries submitted by the public, she eliminated designs featuring a solitary star, which she found too reminiscent of Texas’ lone star flag. Also immediately struck were those featuring primarily words, which is frowned upon in flag design.
“The reason that words are not good on flags is because they’re hard to read from a distance and they are backwards on the other side,” she said.
Nevertheless, the Legislature mandated the inclusion of “in God we trust.”
Hamilton said the commission considered every angle from which a flag could be viewed.
“It not only flies but it hangs, it flaps, it drapes,” she said.
A circle of stars was a popular element among the submissions and found its way into the final design, incorporating “in God we trust” into the circle.
Hamilton explained the reasoning for the vertical gold bars.
“I’ve seen a lot of comments about, ‘I wish they didn’t have the gold in it,’” she said.
Those are necessary to separate the red and blue fields, Hamilton said. Called “fimbriations,” the small stripes of contrasting color are common in heraldry and flag design. White bars would not work because of the color of the stars and magnolia, she said.
If the flag gets the nod from Mississippi voters on Tuesday, it will become only the second state flag with a vertically oriented design alongside the banner of Iowa.
Hamilton believes the commission succeeded in its mission to design a flag that will “honor the past while embracing the promise of the future.”
“I think the red, white and blue on this flag looks just handsome and stunning flying together,” she said.