LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - On June 23, Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee had all state flags removed from city-owned buildings.
“My mother, my grandmother, my grandfather, all these things that they had to endure under that flag, I was able to say, ‘Now your son, your grandson, can remove this flag from the properties in the City of Laurel, Mississippi,’” Magee said.
The mayor says he is grateful for the lawmakers that voted this weekend to change the design of the flag. He remembers growing up on South 4th Avenue and says the confederate emblem was often displayed by white supremacist Sam Bowers.
“He was the only white person there, but he was the grand wizard to the Ku Klux Klan,” Magee said. “They used to ride around with the, not the state flag on their vehicles, but the rebel flag. They drive through the black neighborhoods and it was always intimidating because we felt subservient. We felt that we were not equal, and they tried to show us that as often as they could.”
He says the state flag is just a painful reminder of his past and how the black community was treated.
“The driver would be in the front seat, nobody else in the front seat, but my mother, the best person in the world, had to get in the back seat of the car, because of Jim Crow,” Magee said. “Jim Crow tied to this flag, which was tied to slavery.”
The mayor also ties the flag to the things he could and couldn’t do growing up.
“You could go to Woolworth’s, you could buy anything in the store, paper, pencils, record albums, anything you wanted, except going to the lunch counter and buying a hamburger,” Magee said. “It hurt so much that we couldn’t buy a hamburger. They smelled good, but we never knew what they taste like.”
While there are painful reminders throughout, the mayor says he is glad the flag is changing.
“I believe this is a show to the rest of the nation that if Mississippi can get together and do then the entire nation can,” Magee said.