Mississippi Power, Entergy to fly bicentennial banner

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A bicentennial banner is displayed Wednesday at the Mississippi Coliseum.

Adam Ganucheau | Mississippi Today

A bicentennial banner is displayed Wednesday at the Mississippi Coliseum.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Mississippi Power was flying the banner in place of the state flag.

Two of Mississippi largest electric utilities are the latest corporations opting to fly a bicentennial banner.

On Monday, Mississippi Power Co. and Entergy Mississippi said the would fly the banner, unveiled by the Mississippi Economic Council in October to commemorate the state’s upcoming 200th birthday in 2017.

The banner features the state seal in the middle of three horizontal red, white and blue bars. The left side of the flag reads, “Established 1817” and on the right side, “2017 Bicentennial.”

Mississippi is the last state in the nation to fly the Confederate battle flag in an official capacity. Mississippi Power joins large corporations operating in the state such as BancorpSouth, Huntington Ingalls shipbuilding and Sanderson Farms in flying the banner.

“The MEC, our state chamber of commerce, had the banner designed to help draw attention and raise interest in our state’s bicentennial,” Mississippi Power President and CEO Anthony Wilson said in a statement. “This will be a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase Mississippi and celebrate all of the things that make our state so great.”

Entergy will also display the flag, a spokesman told Mississippi Today.

“As an MEC partner, Entergy Mississippi decided to join with other members in flying the Bicentennial flag beginning on Dec. 10 to celebrate our State’s 200th birthday through 2017,” said Joey Lee, a communications manager.

Politicians, business leaders and Mississippi citizens have debated the merits of the current state flag for more than 15 years. In 2001, a ballot initiative sponsored by the Mississippi Economic Council led to a divisive campaign. Mississippians at the time voted almost two-to-one to keep the state flag in place.

But, nationally, the politics surrounding the Confederate battle flag have changed since then – most notably in 2015, when gunman Dylann Roof killed nine people worshipping in a black church in South Carolina. The shooter had posed for photos with the Confederate flag.

Determining how to handle the flag in Mississippi was widely considered a key issue going into the 2016 legislative session after House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said the state should change the flag. But during the session, 19 bills that dealt with the state flag died in committee without making it to the floors for votes.

Commenting on the recent support for the bicentennial banner last week, Gunn said he is committed to changing the state flag. The issue is expected to be taken up again in the 2017 regular session, which begins Jan. 3.

“This clearly shows that there is a desire among a growing number of Mississippians and entities to explore other options than the current state flag,” House Speaker Philip Gunn said in a statement. “The statement I made before is the same way I feel today. I want to find a solution that represents all Mississippians.”

Mississippi Today is compiling a list of entities that have chosen to fly the bicentennial banner. We will update this post as organization announce their intentions to display the banner:

• Mississippi Power

• Huntington Ingalls

• Barksdale Management*

• Sanderson Farms

• BancorpSouth

• Delta State University

• University of Mississippi

• City of Tupelo (for new police headquarters)

(*Editor’s note: The president of Barksdale Management, Jim Barksdale, serves on Mississippi Today’s board of directors)

Contributing: Kendra Ablaza