MOBILE — The room fell silent when Mobile County Commissioner Merceria Ludgood asked for a second on a motion to remove the Confederate Flag from the flag courtyard at Government Plaza, and as a result, the display will remain unchanged.
Like the City of Mobile’s official seal, which was changed earlier this month, the historic display showcases the various flags of several governments Mobile existed under including French Louisiana, the Republic of Alabama, Great Britain, the Confederate States of America, Spain and the United States.The flag in question features elements of the controversial “battle flag” on a white field with a red stripe. Over the years, the battle flag itself has been displayed by white supremacists groups like the Ku Klux Klan, which coupled with its origin in the Confederate South, has made it the object of controversy for a number of years.
Prior to today’s meeting, Ludgood submitted an agenda item to have the flag removed or replaced in addition to a separate motion requesting the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office remove the Confederate Flag from its vehicles, badges and seal. That effort too was defeated when it failed to garner a second from commissioners Connie Hudson and Jerry Carl.
As a Southerner, Ludgood said she has no problem with heritage, but she questions what exactly is behind the heritage supporters of the flag often bring up.
“I don’t consider it part of my southern heritage that this was a symbol of a battle fought for states’ rights,” Ludgood told reporters after the meeting. “It was the states’ right to maintain to slaves, and there’s just no way I can get around that.”
During the meeting, several spoke in support of keeping the flag, while none attended the meeting to lobby for its removal. In support of the flag on Monday were Joe Ringhoffer, commander of the Admiral Raphael Semmes Camp #11 Sons of the Confederate Veterans; Arnold J. Dupree; Diane Havens-Owens and David Toifel.
Despite losing in her efforts to have the flag removed, Ludgood was she was excited over Gov. Robert Bentley’s decision to remove the Confederate Flag from the grounds of the State Capital and the Mobile City Council’s decision to remove it and four other flags from the city’s official seal.
She was also confident in saying that, despite Monday’s vote, “(the flag) is going to change” at some point in the future.
“This is the county, and every (governmental) body is different,” Ludgood said. “Now, I think we just go back to work doing what we’ve been doing. I just hope that I’m around when there’s a body here that is willing to make the move to take down that flag.”
When asked, Ludgood said she didn’t feel any “political pressure” to move for the flag’s removal, though she did say she’d received somewhere around three emails related to its presence on MCSO vehicles and in the flag courtyard.
Ludgood instead said her decision spawned from a misunderstanding of comments she made about the display in previous news reports. When interviewed during the weeks the Mobile City Council was debating the Confederate Flag’s removal, Ludgood told reporters it had “always flown over the courthouse,” which she says led to some confusion to as to her position.
“What was read into my comments was that I supported the flying of the flag,” Ludgood said laughing. “And so, in order to clear the record and to make sure that my position was clear, I felt like the thing to do was bring it to this body, which would have the ultimate decision.”
Ludgood didn’t mention any plans to revisit the issue anytime soon, but she did make it clear that Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran could still take it upon himself address the issue the Confederate battle flag’s depiction on his department’s cars, badges and seal.
“The sheriff still has option to change it,” Ludgood said. “He’s an elected official, and If he wants to do that, he certainly can.”
Prior to the meeting, Cochran’s office said they would not release a statement on the issue until the commission approved or denied the measure. As of Monday, the department had not returned calls for comment on this report.