A Texas town says down with LGBT flag, up with the Confederacy

Confederate battle flag flew over UT Arlington

History professor Gerald Saxon on the flag's time on campus. Video by Kayla Stigall, special to the Star-Telegram
Up Next
History professor Gerald Saxon on the flag's time on campus. Video by Kayla Stigall, special to the Star-Telegram

The Confederate flag once again is flying outside the Mills County Courthouse in Goldthwaite — and it will stay.

That wasn’t so certain until this week, though.

A flag fracas erupted in this Central Texas community last month after County Judge Ed Smith removed the Confederate first national flag that had been flying on the courthouse lawn for around six years and replaced it with the “Come and Take It” flag on March 2.

“It was to celebrate Texas Independence Day,” Smith said.

But some apparently didn’t like that.

Others began to “vandalize” the flagpole near the Confederate War Memorial on the courthouse grounds, Smith said.

By vandalize, Smith — a former Fort Worth man who moved to Mills County when he retired in the mid-2000s — means that people began to fly different flags.

One day, the LGBT pride flag, or the gay pride flag, was flown from the pole.

Another day, a different Confederate flag was found flying there.

This week, the flag controversy came to a head during a Mills County Commissioners Court meeting.

Smith, who became county judge in January, explained that there was never formal written approval from the county government for the Confederate flag to fly on the flagpole.

That’s why he didn’t think there would be any problem flying the “Come and Take It” flag last month.

But county commissioners voted Monday 3-1, with Smith being the dissenter, to fly the Confederate flag on courthouse grounds 365 days a year.

“It’s done,” a dejected Smith said Tuesday. “Nothing is forever. There can be other votes and other elections.

“But the commissioners court voted. For now, it’s decided.”

Goldthwaite is about 140 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

Confederate controversy

Communities across the state have been removing symbols of the Confederacy, from Dallas, where officials voted to remove a Confederate War Memorial near Dallas City Hall, to Austin, where State Preservation Board officials removed a Children of the Confederacy plaque from the Texas Capitol earlier this year.

Fort Worth even removed two Confederate historical markers memorializing “Major” K.M. Van Zandt and Confederate Brig. Gen. H.P. “Hinchie” Mabry.

“Jesus Christ forgave us our mistakes, why can’t Judge Smith forgive our ancestors for the part they played in the Civil War and leave that part of our county history alone,” Connie Partin Sliger posted on Facebook. “What is to be gained except to say he won the argument? Focusing on the negative history doesn’t change it.

“Removing the reminders of our ancestors’ mistakes doesn’t change history. Leaving the reminders might prevent similar mistakes in the future. Who knows?”

Smith said he has other issues to focus on that need his attention now, such as the county’s budget and proposed tax rates.

“I’m frustrated but I’m also busy,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans posted a photo on Facebook Tuesday declaring “a victory for Texas history” at the Mills County Courthouse.

“The First National flag is up and flying again as it has for the last 6 years,” the post stated.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.