COLUMBIA — The NAACP expressed outrage Saturday over Missouri Gov.
Matt Blunt’s order to fly the Confederate flag over a state historic
site, and asked the public to rally against it.
Blunt ordered the flag flown today, for one day only, at the
Confederate Memorial State Historic Site near Higginsville in honor of
Confederate Memorial Day.
The order came after Rep. Mike McGhee, an Odessa Republican, made the request on behalf of local residents.
Mary Ratliff, the president of the Missouri State Conference of the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said she
had already written the governor to ask him to reconsider.
“We were very much surprised and hurt and appalled,” Ratliff said
during a break from the group’s regularly scheduled meeting Saturday in
Blunt could not be reached Saturday for comment.
Ratliff said the Missouri State Conference was asking for approval
from NAACP officials in Washington to hold a small informational rally
at 1:30 p.m. today at the governor’s mansion in Jefferson City.
“I hope that he will see our resilience” and use legal means to make sure the flag is not raised, Ratliff said.
Ratliff and other NAACP members are asking the public to voice their
objections to the order, urging them to contact Blunt or their state
They also asked Missouri residents to fly the American flag Sunday.
“We are one country, one nation,” Ratliff said. “We should have one flag expressing that nation.”
Ratliff said the group was planning a protest at the governor’s
mansion instead of the Confederate memorial because the group did not
oppose the ceremony, only the raising of the Confederate flag.
The Rev. Gill Ford, NAACP Region IV director, acknowledged that
individuals have the right to free speech, but spoke against Blunt’s
“The reality is that when government becomes involved, then you get an endorsement,” Ford said.
He called the Confederate flag a symbol of hatred and terror.
McGhee said Saturday that he asked the governor to lift a
two-year-old ban on flying the flag after receiving a request from
residents in Higginsville.
“It’s not a racist thing,” McGhee said. “Those soldiers died for
that flag. They earned it, whether you agree with their cause or you
don’t agree with their cause.”
The site was founded several years after the Civil War as a home for
Confederate veterans. The property eventually came under state control.
The Confederate flag flew at the Confederate memorial and Fort
Davidson State Historic Site at Pilot Knob until 2003, when Gov. Bob
Holden ordered it taken down.
McGhee compared flying the Confederate flag over the memorial to the
Mexican flag flying over a Texas memorial for Mexican soldiers killed
in the Mexican War, the British flag flying over a Revolutionary War
memorial on the East Coast, and the American flag flying in France over
the graves of U.S. soldiers who were killed there.
“I did what I thought was the right thing to do,” said McGhee, who
added that he believed the memorial was the only place the flag should
be displayed. “Anybody who thinks we can change history is mistaken.”
During the 2005 legislative session, McGhee sponsored a bill that
would have created a special parks board with the power to decide
whether Confederate flags could be placed on headstones or flown over
state historic sites. The measure met stiff resistance from Democrats,
and legislators did not act on it.
McGhee said any decision on whether the flag should be allowed to
fly at the memorial for more than a single day should be made by others.
“I probably would have been a Northerner,” he said.