House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann have named appointments to the nine-member commission tasked with redesigning the Mississippi state flag.
But despite a Wednesday deadline for appointments, Gov. Tate Reeves — who had pushed for voters and not lawmakers to decide whether to change the flag — on Wednesday afternoon said he hadn’t gotten to it, but he would “hopefully today, if not really, really soon.”
Lawmakers last month, after decades of debate, retired Mississippi’s old flag, the last in the nation to include the divisive Confederate battle emblem. The legislation they passed set a Wednesday deadline for the speaker, lieutenant governor and governor to appoint three people each to a commission to redesign the flag.
Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill
“Robyn’s background as a businessperson in the marketing industry, and as a community leader in north Mississippi makes her a perfect member of the commission,” Gunn said. “She is known for her passion for Mississippi and for having a forward-thinking vision for her community and our state. I’m confident that she will be a vocal and active member of the commission.”
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College President Mary Graham
“Dr. Graham has proven herself to be a visionary leader for the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast region,” Gunn said. “Her dedication to preparing our students for jobs in the 21st century through focusing on and growing workforce development initiatives is exemplary. Everyone admires the work of Dr. Graham and she will be a great voice for Mississippians on the commission.”
House staffer TJ Taylor of Madison
“TJ Taylor has been a member of my staff for five legislative sessions,” Gunn said. “He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi College Law School. He has served as policy advisor, general counsel and currently serves as policy director for my office. He has been a key figure in the success of the effort to build support and ultimately pass legislation to change the state flag and ultimately form this commission. His passion for this issue and his calm demeanor will add much to the commission’s process while representing the voice of a younger generation of Mississippians.”
Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson
Anderson served as the first African American Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court from 1985 to 1991. He received his undergraduate degree from Tougaloo College, and law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law. Anderson currently serves as president of the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Attorney Mack Varner of Vicksburg
Varner currently practices family and business law in Vicksburg. He received his undergraduate degree from Millsaps College, and law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law. He is the past president of the Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Vicksburg Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and formerly served on the Board of Trustees for Millsaps College.
Marketing and communications veteran Sherri Carr Bevis of Gulfport
Bevis was recently named Community Relations Liaison to the Singing River Health System. She received her bachelor’s degree in communications from Mississippi State University and a master’s degree from George Washington University. She previously worked as Assistant Secretary of State for External Marketing for the Secretary of State’s Office, and as a public school teacher in the Bay-Waveland and Hancock County School Districts. Bevis is the current national president of the Mississippi State Alumni Association.
Hosemann said the commission has “a heavy responsibility to bear in coming weeks.” He said he has confidence the commission “will come to a conclusion which will be respectful of our past and reflect a bright future.”
“Ultimately, the people of Mississippi will decide whether this design, or some other design, should be the flag of our future,” Hosemann said.
The law passed in late June requires that Reeves’ appointments be members of the Mississippi Economic Council, the Mississippi Arts Commission and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Reeves on Wednesday noted lawmakers placed “very tight, very limiting” restrictions on his picks, but no such restrictions for Gunn and Hosemann.
Gunn and Hosemann pushed for the Legislature to remove the Confederate-themed flag that had flown since 1894 over arguments by some GOP leaders including Reeves that voters should decide whether to remove it in a referendum.
The new commission has a deadline of Sept. 14 to select a design to put before voters in November for an up-or-down vote. If voters reject the new design, the commission will go back to the drawing board, and put a new design before voters in 2021.
The law stipulates the new design must include the words “In God We Trust,” and that it cannot contain the Confederate battle emblem.
The state Department of Archives and History on Monday put out a call for public submissions of flag designs. The deadline for public submissions is August 13.