The Tupelo City Council yesterday discussed a policy that would keep the controversial Mississippi state flag flying at municipal facilities where two or more flag poles are present. Read my full reporting on the issue here. The policy is expected to come up for a vote tonight.
During yesterday’s discussion, City Council President Lynn Bryan made several remarks about a private meeting last week with Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant. The Mississippi state flag was apparently discussed at that meeting. My story linked above mentions this and includes a statement issued in response by the governor. Below, I’ve reproduced fuller quotations from Bryan’s original remarks and embedded some audio.
Full disclosure: the comments transcribed from the first audio clip are from slightly different parts of a conversation. I’ve edited out some comments by other speakers to make Bryan’s comments easier to follow. In the transcribed comments below, I’ve used comments in brackets and ellipses to indicate where I’ve removed material.
The first speaker in the audio is Council President and Ward 2 Councilman Lynn Bryan. The second speaker is Ward 7 Councilman Willie Jennings. The last speaker is Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton.
Context: Bryan is discussing a potential resolution to be voted on by the Tupelo City Council.
Bryan: “The resolution is still to come before the state legislature goes into session which will be in January …[Jennings interjects] The resolution will go to the state legislature … It will ask the state legislature to adopt a flag that fairly represents the state of Mississippi.”
[At this point, Jennings suggested that such a resolution would have little influence.]
Bryan: “I disagree. I sat in a meeting with the governor on Thursday and he basically said he would like to see done what we’re going to ask to be done.”
Jennings: “So he’s agreeing to this if it comes to the legislature?”
Bryan: “He agreed and actually brought out exactly what the resolution is going to ask for. Is that not correct mayor?”
Shelton: “I don’t think any of us have any prerogative to speak for the governor.”
The following exchange occurred much later in the conversation. The transcription removes a few stray comments, but the audio is raw and unedited.
Bryan: “If the legislature sees fit to get around to changing this thing … we’ll fly whatever is adopted. Like I said earlier, the governor hopped into town. Jason [Shelton] called me and said the governor’s going to be here in 15 minutes would you like to talk with him So I raced up here and saw him. The mayor, the governor, myself and Chris Traylor, president of the Tupelo-Lee County NAACP, we met in the mayor’s office and Mr. Traylor brought up a number of issues that he would like the governor to address. I thought the governor was very frank and forthcoming in his discussion, and one of them was the flag. Mr Traylor stated that there’s a right way and a wrong way to get the flag changed. Mr. Traylor said that taking that flag down and defying what his organization has worked so hard to do to get the vote was the wrong way to change the flag and I believe that the governor agreed with him. And the governor said we ought to get both sides together, come up with a deal, come up with a flag that fairly represents all 3 million people in the state of Mississippi that everyone can rally around and let’s look at it again. And I agree with him. And I would hope that the mayor who was in that meeting would start that conversation in Tupelo, Mississippi and it would spread throughout the rest of the state so we could move in that direction.”
Bryan went on to say that though he supports a new flag the city should continue flying the Mississippi state flag, whatever design that flag contains. He referenced the governor again in these comments.
Bryan: “But right now, the issue we’ve got is I don’t want to defy the governor or the legislature because we’re a charter organization under them and they’ve asked us not to do that.”
Presumably, Bryan is at least in part referring to comments Gov. Bryant has made criticizing universities that have chosen not to fly the Mississippi state flag.
The Daily Journal reached out to the governor’s office for comment. In response, Gov. Bryant described comments he made to Tupelo leaders as consistent with his previous public remarks on the flag.
The governor’s full statement was as follows:
“As I have said many times before, the voters of Mississippi should decide at the ballot box what the state flag is or is not. I reiterated that to Mayor SheIton and Rev. Traylor. The issue will not be among my priorities for the upcoming legislative session.”