Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

Sonny Perdue, David Scott and a slightly adjusted history of the Georgia state flag

The history lesson may have been a little off, but one of the more amazing moments in Georgia politics occurred this morning in a U.S. Senate hearing room in which former Gov. Sonny Perdue was vetted as President Donald Trump’s secretary of agriculture.

U.S. Rep. David Scott, a Democrat, gave a passionate defense of his former state Senate colleague and told Senate Agriculture Committee members that he wanted to make sure that Perdue made it through the process with his “record unblemished.”

Scott then gave a history of Georgia’s effort to shed its ’56 flag and its Confederate battle emblem. Watch here:

Scott walked senators through Gov. Zell Miller’s failed attempt to change the flag, then Gov. Roy Barnes’ successful effort to bring it down.

In his enthusiasm for Perdue, Scott glossed over two points. He reported to senators that after Barnes’ defeat, the issue “fell” into Perdue’s lap. Which is slightly off. Perdue actively sought the support of those calling for the return of the ’56 flag – rural white voters,in particular -- by promising a referendum on the Confederate battle flag. It was one of the reasons for his 2002 victory.

Scott’s portrayal of the subsequent referendum as a Perdue-inspired olive branch for the state also was a little shy of the mark. As stated, Perdue called for a referendum on the ’56 segregation-era banner. The Legislature (and Georgia business leaders) saw that as a civic disaster, and removed the ’56 flag as a choice. State lawmakers also made the referendum a non-binding one, to be quietly held the next year.

The two people most responsible for defusing that bomb: State Sen. Tom Price, R-Roswell, who is now Trump’s secretary of health and human services. And state Sen. Kasim Reed, D-Atlanta, who went on to become mayor of that city. Read about it here.

Misinformation aside, Scott’s closing was epic, even biblical. Said the congressman:

“God chose three people to get us to the promised land. Jacob, which was our Zell Miller. ‘Cause Zell Miller had to go up and wrestle with this issue. And then came our Moses, Roy Barnes, who provided the leadership right to it. But then we had our Joshua that got us across the Jordan River.”

With that last statement, Scott put his right hand on Sonny Perdue’s shoulder. Game over.

Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.