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Another View Editorial: A debate that could bring S.C. together

on Tuesday, 02 February 2021. Posted in Editorials, Opinions

Another View Editorial: A debate that could bring S.C. together

From the The Post and Courier of Charleston. 

South Carolina is a very independent-spirited and business-minded state, so it’s not necessarily surprising that the design of our state flag has been outsourced to the private sector for decades. 

But South Carolina is also a state where one motivated, impassioned person can make a difference, so we’re pleased to learn that a team of respected historians appears close to settling on a design for an official state flag. 

This design looks very much like the state flag we’ve known all our lives, but its exact color and the size of its crescent and palmetto tree do vary slightly from many other versions made, sold and flown. 

Years ago, those variations got under the skin of Scott Malyerck, a Newberry political consultant who led the charge to create a standardized version of South Carolina’s flag. If the Legislature and Gov. Henry McMaster agree — which we hope they do this year — Mr. Malyerck will have a vexillological victory. 

“It’s an important symbol for our state,” Mr. Malyerck recently told reporter Avery Wilkes, “and we ought to get it right.” We agree. 

The most recent official version was approved in 1910: It was influenced strongly by Ellen Heyward Jervey of Charleston, who corresponded with a leading state historian regarding its design. Her work included a study of palmettos near her home at 71 Rutledge Ave. and possibly field research on the Isle of Palms. 

Even earlier versions with the palmetto tree and crescent were approved as South Carolina seceded ahead of the Civil War, but a half century later, many had forgotten what the flag looked like, triggering work on a new official version. Around 1940, however, that version was repealed by state lawmakers — not because of any controversy over its design but as part of a bill rescinding a requirement that Clemson University manufacture the flags at cost (no, unfunded state mandates are nothing new). 

For the past 80 years, the state has had no formal template: Its agencies have ordered flags from at least five different vendors. 

Eric Emerson, director of the S.C. Archives and History Department, eminent South Carolina historian Walter Edgar and others researched the flag’s history to arrive at a recommendation for a new standard design. It features Pantone 282 C — the indigo color of the uniforms worn by Col. William Moultrie’s 2nd South Carolina Regiment in the Revolutionary War. Its crescent shape is based on badges worn by Col. Moultrie’s soldiers during the war. And the palmetto tree — a tribute to Moultrie’s June 1776 victory over nine British warships during the Battle of Sullivan’s Island — is based largely on Ms. Jervey’s 110-year-old pencil sketch. 

Even without an official version, the simplistic yet historical design of South Carolina’s flag has made it one of the nation’s best state flags. And while the Legislature has held its share of passionate flag debates in recent decades, we hope 2021 will be a banner year for those seeking a peaceful, unifying resolution to the state’s best-known symbol.

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