Confederate flag flown at Capitol moved quietly to museum


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Confederate battle flag flew on the grounds of the new Capitol in Tallahassee until 2001. It's removal marked a five-year effort by black legislators and civil rights advocates to see it sent to a museum.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush did not publicize the flags removal, nor did he issue a news release. But the Sons of Confederate Veterans said at the time they felt "betrayed."

Florida was the third state to join the Confederacy. The battle flag has been a presence in Tallahassee ever since.

It was at the 1996 march on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday that one of the marchers noticed the Confederate flag flying with the other flags that have flown over the state. Black legislators called for it's removal.

"I don't believe it needs to become a No. 1 priority for the state to get rid of the flag now, but I feel it does need to come down," Sen. Kendrick Meek said.

But nothing happened -- until one day in early 2001, just a month after the bitter 2000 election was settled, that the flag poles on the west side of the Capitol were gone.

"We went to him and said, 'Governor, this flag must come down.' And he brought the flag down -- the Confederate flag that is -- without major dissension," the Rev. RB Holmes said.

At the time, Jeb Bush said the flag no longer represented modern Florida.

"We should be proud of our past," Bush said in February 2001. "We should not ignore it. We should learn from the lessons of history, but we are a progressive state that is moving forward."

Not everyone believes Bush's motives were pure. The NAACP had been pushing for an end to the flag's display since 1999.

"Even Sen. Meek, who at the time was a state senator, thought it was for other reasons in that Jeb actually did it in preparation for his run again in 2002," Dale Landry, the NAACP Criminal Justice chair, said.

The flag ended up at the state museum just a few blocks away, where construction will keep it from being see by anyone for at least another month.