Park board not eager to make Confederate flag decisions

Sunday, October 9, 2005

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Legislation that would allow the state park board to decide whether the Confederate flag should again fly over Missouri's historical gravesites has some board members worried.

"I could see something like this bogging us down tremendously," said member Wayne Morton of Osceola, Mo., during a meeting Friday in St. Joseph. No official action was taken on the subject.

A bill tabled earlier this year would have granted the State Parks Advisory Board decision-making powers to determine any changes to state historical military sites, including whether to display the Confederate flag. The bill also would have prohibited any other state agency from making changes to the sites without first getting approval from the eight-member board.

The Legislation, which is expected to be reintroduced next year, was drafted in response to a January 2003 decision by Missouri Department of Natural Resources director Stephen Mahfood to remove Confederate flags that had long flown over the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site, a cemetery in Higginsville, and the Fort Davidson State Historic Site in Pilot Knob.

The board, which commissioned an independent study earlier this year to examine the issues surrounding the display of the flag, spoke in favor of educating people about the various flag meanings.

"Maybe we could get rid of the myth surrounding the flag somewhat," said member Larry Russell of Springfield.

However, Jim Rehard, supervisor of the Northern Missouri Historic District of the Department of Natural Resources, said he has struggled to find a historian or an academic willing to take on the project.

"It will be a little bit of a political hot potato," he said.

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