The Williamson County community is getting closer to finding out whether or not the Confederate flag will be removed from the official county seal.
After the county sent a petition to the Tennessee Historical Commission in November requesting the alteration of the Williamson County seal, the commission voted unanimously during its meeting Thursday on a list of stakeholders that must receive written notice about the potential alteration. That list included the following persons and groups:
• The African American Heritage Society of Williamson County
• Descendants of Virginia Bowman, one of the creators of the original seal
• The Heritage Foundation of Williamson County
• The Tennessee Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans
• The United Daughters of the Confederacy
• Williamson, Inc., which serves as the county’s chamber of commerce
• Visit Franklin, the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Many of these stakeholders will already be aware of the request for alteration, as last year the county formed a community task force to determine whether or not there is “substantial need” for the removal of the Confederate flag from the seal.
This task force voted unanimously to request the county sent a petition to the Tennessee Historical Commission for the flag’s removal, and the Williamson County Board of Commissioners subsequently voted 16-7 in approval.
That nine-member task force included Matt Largen, CEO of Williamson, Inc.; Hewitt Sawyers, pastor of West Harpeth Primitive Baptist Church and cofounder of the Fuller Story initiative; Emily Bowman, daughter-in-law of Virginia Bowman; Paula Harris, general member of the Heritage Foundation; Inetta Gaines, board member of the African American Heritage Society; Lisa Campbell, director of external affairs at Mars Petcare, who represents an African American business manager; Chris Williamson, pastor of Strong Tower Bible Church and cofounder of the Fuller Story initiative; Ellie Westman Chin, then-CEO of Visit Franklin; and Rick Warwick, the county historian.
The months-long process began with an online petition formed by Williamson County resident Dustin Koctar in June that received over 11,000 signatures. Community members also sent numerous emails to Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson and county commission members, both requesting the removal of the flag from the seal and requesting for the seal to remain untouched.
While the seal is county property, because the request for alteration revolves specifically around the Confederate flag, Williamson County Attorney Jeff Moseley said the request requires state approval. The flag is a symbol of a historic conflict, the Civil War, it is considered a “memorial” under the state’s jurisdiction.
The county seal was designed by the late Virginia Bowman, a county historian, and James Armistead, a journalist, and adopted by the county in 1968. The seal contains four quadrants: the upper-left featuring a battle cannon and the Confederate flag to represent the county’s Civil War history, the upper-right featuring a lamp to represent education, the lower-left featuring a stained-glass window and Bible to represent religion, and the lower-right featuring a cow and horse to represent agriculture.
During its meeting Thursday, the Tennessee Historical Commission didn't discuss or vote on the request for the flag’s removal. This will be accomplished at a later meeting, where the request must receive two-thirds approval from the 29-member commission to move forward.
The commission is scheduled to meet again for its next regular meeting on Friday, June 18.