In case you weren’t paying attention in history class, the Confederate states lost the Civil War. But yet over 150 years after Robert E. Lee surrendered, we’ve still got folks that just can’t let go of that flag. Now, after a lengthy two-year process, a Tennessee county finally got the go ahead to remove the Confederate flag from its seal. A unanimous vote by the state’s Historical Commission at an April 22 hearing gave Williamson County permission to redesign its 54-year-old seal.
In 2020, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery inspired county resident Dustin Koctar to launch a change.org petition to have the symbol of slavery removed from the county seal. The petition, which Koctar said was intended to urge county officials to “do something to show a commitment to diversity, unity, equity, and justice,” received nearly 12,000 signatures.
The Williamson County Commission responded by voting to appeal to the Tennessee Historical Commission for permission to remove the flag from its seal. But the state’s Heritage Protection Act, which limits the removal or changing of historical memorials, gave those who opposed the change an argument to keep things status quo.
Attorneys for a local chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans argued that each part of the seal, including the part with the Confederate flag, represents parts of the county’s history. The county responded that the Heritage Protection act did not apply to the county seal because the seal is not a memorial. Plans for the new seal design have not been finalized.
Williamson County’s seal was adopted in 1968, the same year Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and the height of the Civil Rights movement. But while some were fighting for change and equality, several southern states embraced the Confederate flag during this time as a sign of resistance to the Civil Rights movement.
Dustin Koctar, who was at the hearing, said he was happy to see that his petition inspired real change. “I know members of the community look forward to working with Williamson County and the Board of Commissioners to provide feedback and recommendations on what can be done with our county seal to show that we are a community that is welcoming, compassionate, inclusive and safe for everyone,” he told the Tennessean.