USA Official State Flag of Georgia

Georgia (GA) 

The history of flags that have flown over or were intended to fly over the state of Third National Flag of the Confederate StatesGeorgia is a long and twisted one with many unanswered questions. Many intended designs were never implemented. Many statutory designs were altered in practice either by design or misunderstanding.

Two days after the election of President Lincoln, on November 8, 1860, perhaps the first of the "Secession Flags" was raised in Savannah, Georgia. The flag depicted a coiled snake on a white background and was in scripted "our Motto, Southern States, Equality of the States, Don't Tread on Me"

As the sentiment of the Georgians embraced the idea of seceding from the Union, unofficial Secession Flags appeared all over the state, generally depicting a single star on a solid background. Each state being represented by a star on the Stars and Stripes, the single star on the Secession Flags indicated that the state had withdrawn from, or intended to withdraw from, the Union. The most well known of these single-star flags is the "Bonnie Blue Flag" immortalized in song. This flag reportedly consisted of a single white star centered on a blue field. More evidence exists for a flag with a red star centered on a white field.

After the war broke out, Georgia flew one of two Confederate National Flags from 1861 to 1865.

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First National Flag: Stars & Bars 1861

 
Second National Flag: Stainless Banner 1863

 
 

The First National Flag, the Stars and Bars, was used from 1861 to 1863. Concern over the similarity of the Confederate flag to the flag of the United States led to a change in design and the Second National Flag. The so-called Stainless Banner was used beginning in 1863. Difficulty distinguishing the Stars and Bars from the Stars and Stripes from a distance, particularly in battle, is one reason given for the change.

 In the late months of the Civil War, Jefferson Davis signed a bill creating a third design for the Confederate National Flag, but it is not certain how many of these flags were made or how many were actually raised. This third flag's width was designated to be two thirds its length. The field remained white, however the outer half of the field consisted of a vertical red band.

In 1879, the Georgia General Assembly passed a law regarding volunteer troops. A provision was included that "Every battalion of volunteers shall carry the flag of the State, when one is adopted by Act of the General Assembly, as its battalion colors."

 The next day, Herman H. Perry introduced legislation giving Georgia its first official state flag. A Confederate veteran, Colonel Perry's proposal was strongly influenced by the First National Flag of the Confederate States, the Stars and Bars. His design was to take the Stars and Bars, remove the stars and extend the blue canton to the bottom of the flag. Governor Colquitt approved this flag on October 17, 1879.

First official Georgia State Flag

Georgia embarked on a major reorganization of its state militia laws in 1902. As part of this effort the Georgia General Assembly made a change to the flag design and stipulated that the State Coat of Arms be stamped on the plain blue field of the canton. It is not clear if this flag was ever made. What does exist today are flags that show the coat of arms on a white shield and a red ribbon below that with the state's name on it. How and why this departure in design became the standard is not known.

In 1914, the General Assembly changed the date on the flag from 1799 (the year the state seal was adopted) to 1776 (the year of independence). Sometime in the 1920s, the state flag began appearing with the state seal depicted instead of the shield or the coat of arms as stipulated in 1902. Again, it is not known how or why this change came into being.

1956 Georgia state flag
LARGE FLAG   

In early 1955, an Atlanta attorney proposed a new flag design, one that would incorporate the Confederate Battle Flag. At the 1956 session of the General Assembly, state senators Jefferson Lee Davis and Willis Harden introduced a bill to change the state flag design again. This bill was signed into law on February 13, 1956. For over 45 years this flag flew over the state of Georgia; the state seal depicted on a blue field and a representation of the Confederate Battle Flag to the right. 

Some Georgia residents were not please with the 1956 design, however, and found the inclusion of the Confederate Battle Flag offensive and representative of a distasteful segment of Georgia history. For years the design of the flag was challenged and in January, 2001, the Georgia House and Senate voted on a new design intended to recognize the Confederate Battle Flag's historical significance while minimizing its prominence as representative of the state of

Georgia state flag
LARGE FLAG   
Georgia.  Governor Roy Barnes signed the legislation that had made its way through the Georgia Legislature in only six days and a new flag was quietly raised over the state capital on January 31. 

This flag depicts the Great Seal of Georgia centered on a blue field. Thirteen stars circle the seal representing Georgia's position as one of the 13 original colonies of the United States.  Under the seal and the stars, a banner titled GEORGIA'S HISTORY shows five of the flags that have flown over the state.

  • The first flag is that of the United States, with its 13 stars, one for each of the colonies, circled on the blue canton.
  • The next design is a pre-1879 design that features the Coat of Arms from the 1799 seal. No one knows who was responsible for this design.
  • The third flag is one that began to appear in the 1920s. This design built upon the 1879 design of Colonel Herman H. Perry by adding the Great Seal of Georgia to the blue canton.
  • The fourth flag flew over Georgia from 1956 to 2001.
  • The final flag on the banner is the current flag of The United States.

Printed on the bottom of the flag, under the ribbon, are the words IN GOD WE TRUST.

Perhaps cursed from the beginning, the new flag was consistently targeted for criticism. Over the next two years, controversy seemed to follow the Georgia flag wherever it went. While some Georgians were satisfied that the new flag offered a viable representation of the state, others criticized the flag's design. Some Georgians were quite vocal in their distaste for the new flag and called it an assault on their heritage. Others simply criticized the flag as "bad design." Arguments over the Georgia State Flag continued.

When Governor Sonny Perdue took office in 2003, he promised to end the controversy once and for all by offering a referendum on the flag to the people of Georgia. His intention was to put the question to "the people" of the state. He ran into a snag however. The Georgia Constitution states that the flag is to be determined by the "General Assembly." Compromise was reached and a bill was passed by the Georgia Legislature that specified another new flag design. The bill specified a design reminiscent of the First National Flag of the Confederacy, the Stars and Bars. On May 8, 2003, Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law a bill designating a new state flag.

 

2003 Georgia state flag
LARGE FLAG     COLOR ME FLAG

The flag consists of a square canton on three horizontal bars of equal width. The top and bottom bands are scarlet and the middle band is white. The bottom scarlet band extends the entire length of the flag. The top two bands extend from the canton to the end of the flag. Centered in the square blue canton is a gold representation of the Georgia coat of arms. Directly under the coat of arms are the words "IN GOD WE TRUST" in upper case letters. Thirteen white five-pointed stars circle the coat of arms and the wording symbolizing Georgia and the 12 other states that formed the United States of America.

 

The bill signed by Governor Perdue also called for a non-binding "advisory referendum" to determine whether the people of the state wished to keep the new, 2003 flag. The referendum, scheduled to be held on the date of the 2004 Presidential Primary, offered two choices to Georgians; keep the 2003 design as the Official Georgia State Flag or revert to the 2001 design.

On March 2, 2004, the people of Georgia voted 3-1 to keep the 2003 Perdue flag flying over Georgia.

If you want more information on the State Flags of the United States, you might want to check How Proudly They Wave: Flags of the Fifty States by Rita D. Haban. This book is geared toward kids... and for adults like me who want to know about the history and design significance of the flags of all fifty states but can't find this information in an expensive encyclopedia.