In an effort to improve the historical accuracy of its county seal, the Baldwin County Commission voted 3-1 to change four of the six flags represented on the seal, including removing the representation of the Beauregard Confederate battle flag and replacing it with the seven-star First National Flag of the Confederacy.
The changes followed an inquiry from resident Sam Crosby, who approached the commission about the factual accuracy of the battle flag on the seal at its Aug. 11 work session. Subsequent presentations followed at work sessions in September.
While investigating the accuracy of the battle flag, Archives Director Felisha Anderson found that three other flags on the county seal were inaccurate as well. In addition to changes to Confederate representation, the 3-1 vote also approved changing the Spanish flag to the Burgundy Cross flag, which was used in 1519 when Spanish explorers first landed in Alabama. The blue fleur-de-lis flag of France will be changed to the white fleur-de-lis flag used when the French settled Baldwin County in 1702.
A fourth change is to the flag of the United Kingdom, which was not established until 1801. England ruled Baldwin County from 1763-1780. The county will instead use the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, which was adopted in 1606.
Commissioner Frank Burt was the lone vote against the move, saying he felt the changes were being made to appease “politically correct” people in Montgomery. He noted that the governor, lieutenant governor and state archives seals and logos all contain Confederate representations.
“People in Montgomery tell us we need to change to be politically correct, but those very same people have the same things in their coat of arms and seals,” Burt said. “In Baldwin County we are honest, hard working, caring people but we get picked on and beat upon so much. I can’t support these changes.”
Commissioner Chris Elliott said the changes were not about being “politically correct” but historically accurate. He also said the changes would not have an immediate financial impact because many changes to stationery could be made on a county computer. Many changes, like those to flags and signs bearing the county seal, could be made over time as older versions are replaced.
“No one is trying to hide history here,” Elliott said. “Instead, we need to talk about our history. This helps us acknowledge where we came from.”
Before the vote, the commission opened the floor for a public hearing. Baldwin County NAACP President Alec Barnett Jr. said the issue wasn’t historical accuracy, but allowing the county to keep what he called a symbol of hate in government offices.
“The whole United States talks about Alabama because Alabama is always dragging its feet, always the last to make positive changes,” Barnett said. “This flag isn’t history, it is hate. If it is history, then put in a museum. But that flag shouldn’t be flying in a federal, county, or city building.”
Bert Blackmon, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Military Order of the Stars and Bars, said he understands the changes reflect historic accuracy. He said the battle flag has been grossly misrepresented by hate groups over the years.
Local author and historian Hudson McDonald agreed.
“As a Christian I do not want to offend my brethren, black or white, rich or poor, and we have sadly allowed groups of radicals to misuse the battle flag,” McDonald said.
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