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Confederate flag may return to Missouri

February 02, 2005
By: Ben Welsh
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Dixie may fly again.

A government board would be given the power to restore the confederate flag to two Missouri civil war memorials under a bill reviewed at a Senate hearing Wednesday.

Confederate flags were lowered from state parks in Pilot Knob and Higginsville in Jan. 2003. The flags were ordered down by former Gov. Bob Holden's press secretary Mary Still after they caught Missouri Democrat Richard Gephardt in a controversy during his failed presidential campaign.

The Senate agriculture committee heard a proposal by Sen. Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) that would give control over state memorials to the Missouri State Park Advisory Board, an eight member panel appointed by the governor. They would have to approve future changes to any memorial. That includes flags and any monuments which bear the ten commandments.

Right now, Gov. Matt Blunt has the power to order the flags raised. That is something that, so far, he has not elected to do. Engler's bill would put that power in the hands of the park board, which Blunt controls indirectly through appointments. The board could then restore the confederate flags by a vote of its eight volunteer members at one of its quarterly meetings.

A spokesman for Blunt said he would not comment on the bill until they had reviewed it more closely.

"The issue hasn't come up with the governor," said Paul Sloca, a spokesman for the governor's office. "The governor is going to follow this issue closely."

Sloca said he did not know the governor's position on confederate flags and a promised phone call resolving the matter was never received.

Ed Stegner, a member of the current board, said that while he could only speak for himself, he felt confidant that the board would vote to return the flags.

"I know one board member who would do it," said Stegner. "That has nothing to do with racism. That has to do with history. Those soldiers fought for what they thought was right. I don't agree with them, but they believed it's right and it's history."

However, the makeup of the board may change if Blunt signs the bill into law. The legislation requires that at least two members reside in counties which contain a "historic site of significant military history." The governor would have ability to appoint any replacements.

The bill also contains a clause that would require an annual inspection of each memorial in the state. Senators at the hearing expressed interest in removing the clause to avoid its costs.

Autry Brick, the curator at the Fort Davidson Memorial, where a confederate flag was removed two years ago, said he'd like to see it fly again but he wasn't celebrating just yet.

"We're just kind of waiting to see," Brick said. "We do what we're told."