KILGORE — An incorrect banner in the city of Kilgore’s “six flags over Texas” display was ultimately sorted out this past week after a brief but contentious dialogue between a local couple and City Hall.
The flag in question is one of three official banners flown by the Confederate States of America, in power from March 1861 through 1865. For at least several weeks, another flag was flying in its place in the six flags display in front of Kilgore Police Department — the so-called “Betsy Ross flag,” which has a similar design.
It was a mistake, according to city officials. It was one that needed to be rectified immediately, according to Kiefer and Cody Bounds.
Ahead of the flag being replaced, the Boundses contend they were insulted when they brought the issue to the attention of Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck. He counters the argument has been misrepresented on social media and before Kilgore City Council members Sept. 10.
In the midst of that disagreement, the correct flag was raised Wednesday afternoon — provided by the Boundses at Selleck’s invitation.
According to Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin, speaking ahead of public comments Sept. 10 during the council’s regular meeting, the wrong flag was placed in the display about three weeks ago on schedule with the replacement of the other weathered flags.
“You can say it was similar but not correct,” Spradlin said.
The standardized display of “six flags” includes those of nations that have had sovereignty over Texas between 1519 and the present day including (in order) Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America and the United States of America.
Notably, the designated flag among the Confederacy’s three official banners is the “Stars and Bars” design finalized in 1861 — 13 white stars in a circle on a blue square with three horizontal stripes — two red with one white in between.
It’s similar in design to the Betsy Ross flag of the United States from the late 18th century — 13 white stars on a blue rectangle with 13 stripes (seven red and six white).
Both flags spark controversy and have made recent headlines.
In this instance, though, the substitution was an innocent, unnoticed mistake, Spradlin said, one the city started to correct when it was brought to officials’ attention.
“We’ve been buying them as a group of six flags for a number of years from a local vendor,” he said last week, and the fresh set included the Betsy Ross flag instead of the Confederate banner.
A resident had since informed the city of the issue and a replacement flag was on back order.
“We have made efforts to replace it as soon as it came to our attention that it was not the correct one. It will be the correct flag as soon as we can get one to Kilgore,” Spradlin said.
“There’s been no vote, there’s been no desire, there’s been no effort not to have the correct six flags of Texas,” he said.
Both Cody and Kiefer Bounds spoke during public comments at the council meeting.
According to Cody Bounds, after she uploaded posts about her husband’s dispute with Selleck, “Mr. Selleck posted on social media that we aimed to intentionally misinform readers about our post,” she said. As the disagreement escalated, “When acting as a city official, you have crossed the line of professionalism in my opinion. A citizen is entitled to their opinions and freedom of speech even if a city government disagrees with that.”
In his remarks, Kiefer Bounds acknowledged the negative connotations of the Confederate flag.
“There’s all sorts of just terrible atrocities that were committed under that. I’m not by any means saying I support that or that I think it’s something that should be done nowadays or should have ever been done,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do that can ever make up for that, in my opinion. On that note, however, the six flags are flowing to represent the history to Texas.
“Regardless of people’s feelings of the legitimacy of the Confederacy, it’s still a part of our history. Every other flag out there represents a part of our history as Texas. … I even offered to pay for this flag myself.”
Speaking after their public comments, Selleck said he wanted to avoid a “public spectacle” about the error and maintains the issue has been largely misconstrued.
“Our goal was (to use) these flags that had been back-ordered since we ordered them weeks ago. What I rejected earlier, I’m more than happy to take you up on,” he said, inviting Bounds to provide a replacement flag if he was willing. “My whole goal was to avoid public discourse on something that’s so sensitive it could potentially harm our community.”
Using a flag donated by the Boundses, the swap was made Wednesday afternoon.
Mayor Pro Tem Harvey McClendon echoed the mistaken nature of the issue after the Boundses spoke, noting a resident already had brought up the error and the correction was underway.
“If it had been for some other reason I would have been really aggravated,” he said. “It’s a mistake. It will be corrected. I’m proud of Texas, for sure, and we’ll make sure that the proper flag is up.”