JACKSON — A Mississippi man with a history of trying to enshrine Old South symbols in the state constitution is trying again, this time hoping to change the state song to “Dixie” and require officials to fly a Confederate battle flag outside the Capitol.
But getting a constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot can be difficult, with signatures required from more than 107,000 voters. Most initiatives started in Mississippi never make it to the ballot because organizers fail to find enough people to sign petitions.
The proposal’s sponsor, Arthur Randallson, fell short of signatures for his 2012 initiative that would’ve required the University of Mississippi restore Col. Rebel as its mascot. The school retired the character about a decade ago because critics said he resembled a plantation master.
Randallson revives the Col. Reb proposal in his new initiative and adds other items, including requiring the state to recognize April as Confederate Heritage Month. It would also ban any redesign of the state flag, which has the Confederate battle emblem in its upper left corner. Mississippi voters in 2001 chose to keep the flag, which has been used since 1894.
Although Mississippi flies its state flag above the Capitol, it does not fly a separate Confederate battle flag on the Capitol grounds. The proposal would require a battle flag be placed near an existing monument to Confederate women that sits on the south side of the building.
The 19th century tune “Dixie,” closely identified with the Old South, can be a flashpoint between those who regard it as racist and others who value it as a nod to heritage.
If Randallson manages to gather enough signatures, the earliest his proposal could be on the statewide ballot is 2016.
Randallson’s cellphone message said he was unavailable to take calls yesterday. His proposal is listed on the secretary of state’s website.
State Sen. David Jordan, a member of the Legislative Black Caucus, said the proposal appears designed to grab attention for Randallson and to unfairly portray Mississippi’s 3 million residents as backward and unrepentant for the state’s troubled racial history.
“It sounds like stumbling into the future backward, still fighting the Civil War,” Jordan said.
Jordan’s prediction for the proposal: “It’s going to bite the dust, like all the other extremist things.”
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