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Wed Aug 19, 2015, 11:17 PM

Oxford joins Starkville, Hattiesburg in furling Mississippi state flag.

By Clay Chandler
Clarion Ledger

Officials in Mississippi's big three college towns have taken action to remove the state flag from city property.

Oxford aldermen unanimously voted Tuesday night to remove the flag, which has the Confederate emblem in its canton, from city property.

Starkville aldermen did the same in late July, though that vote was split 4-3. In June, Hattiesburg mayor Johnny Dupree ordered the flag removed from that city's police and fire stations. The flag hasn't flown over city hall there for several years.

Oxford aldermen also unanimously passed a resolution asking state leadership including Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves to join efforts to change the state's official banner. Both have indicated a preference for the issue to be decided by a popular vote like in 2001, when more than 60% of those who cast a ballot chose to keep the flag.

Mayor Pat Patterson said he was on board, but would have preferred the resolution been available for public inspection until the Sept. 1 meeting before aldermen acted on it. By mid-morning Wednesday, the flag had been removed from most city installations, including city hall, Patterson said.

The flag still flies at county buildings, including the courthouse on the Oxford Square.

Oxford Ward 1 Alderman Jay Hughes, who supports the move, has qualified as a Democrat against incumbent Republican District 12 Rep. Brad Mayo. Mayo was one of a handful of Republicans to support changing the flag after House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, became the first elected GOP official to publicly call for its removal in late June. The move came days after a gunman, who had peppered social media with images of him holding the Confederate battle flag, killed nine worshippers in a Charleston church.

Mayo, first elected to the statehouse in 2011, said then that his family had flown the magnolia flag, adopted in 1861 as the state's first official flag, "for more than 20 years. It is historical unique and has not been co-opted by those preaching hate and violence because of one's skin color, religion or belief system."

At: http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2015/08/19/oxford-remove-state-flag/31985357/

For those not familiar with Mississippi, Oxford is the home of the University of Mississippi. A prosperous and ethnically diverse town of around 20,000, it's known for its culture and architecture - and for being one of the most progressive in the state.

Starkville and Hattiesburg are home to Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi, respectively. Like Oxford, these two college towns also contrast fairly sharply with their more conservative surroundings.

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