State Flag Re-Design, Act II
Unofficial South Carolina state flags flap in the wind across the Palmetto State. But a proposal for an official flag has caused a flap of its own.
The state flag has not been official since 1940 (it's a long story), and a panel of historians has been tasked by the General Assembly to correct that oversight. Scott Malyerck of Newberry noticed that several different flag designs were flown at various state buildings. They all contained the familiar white crescent and palmetto tree on a blue field, but because the flags were made at different times by different manufacturers, the palmetto trees varied quite a bit.
"If you went to the State House today and you looked up at the dome, there's one version flying there," said Malyerck. "If you go to the governor's office or the House chambers or the Senate chambers, there's another version of the flag. And there's one or two other versions that fly over government buildings."
The saying goes "if you see something, say something." Malyerck did, and soon found himself on a committee appointed by the legislature to submit a design for an official, standardized flag. The committee turned in its proposal last March, but COVID and other more pressing issues have delayed consideration of the proposal.
Recently, however, the proposed design was published online and an opinion poll was conducted by the Post and Courier in Charleston. The response was swift and overwhelmingly negative. People didn't like the tree the committee used, even though it was a design with historic weight. "The public didn't have a problem with the idea that we need a uniform flag or with the color or the crescent. Their issue was with the tree itself," said Malyerck. Some called it a "Charlie Brown tree" or said it looked like it had weathered a few hurricanes.
State Department of Archives and History Director Eric Emerson, who chairs the committee, was not all that shocked by the negative reaction. "I anticipated that we could very well be in the place where we are right now," he said. "But that's fine. I don't mind going back to the drawing board, but I do want to get it right, and I think the members of the committee want to get it right, and that's what we're looking forward to."
Malyerck also expected some difference of opinion because, historic as the proposed tree design was, it was not as pretty as people were used to. "Beauty's in the eye of the beholder, and everybody has an opinion. So I knew there would be different opinions on it, and I knew once we offered up a design that there'd be commentary on it. I was pleasantly surprised that people actually care." Malyerck said he and the committee want an attractive flag, but also one with elements based in the state's history.
The committee was disbanded when it turned in its proposal in March, but will re-constitute itself when asked by the General Assembly. Emerson said it will be ready with alternative suggestions. "There are certainly historic palmettos that look more like the palmettos people are used to seeing, they're just not as historic. But people want to see something akin to something they're used to seeing. And we can do that, and we will do that."
The historian said Archives and History has identified three tree designs that are historic that he thinks will appeal to viewers, and that the committee should be able to come up with an alternate design as soon as the legislature requests it.
Both men hope the project can be done before the end of the legislative session in June, so that soon all flags flying on state property will be uniform and, after 81 years, official.