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Landmark Case

Holmes v. Hunt

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Bringing down a symbol of hate
It took three lawsuits and a forgotten piece of legislation, but lawmakers and lawyers finally forced an Alabama governor to stop flying the Confederate battle flag over the capitol dome.

Many saw it as a symbol of oppression, though for some it was a symbol of pride. The Confederate battle flag had flown over the Alabama state capitol since 1963. Raised by then-Governor George Wallace, it flew as a symbol of his defiance during the struggles of the 1960s to end segregation. Nearly thirty years later, the Center won a lawsuit to remove the flag from the capitol dome.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three African-American state lawmakers who had made several attempts to get the flag removed, including two prior lawsuits. In 1992, using a forgotten statute enacted in 1891, the Center's lawyers and the black legislators succeeded.

The 1891 statute required that the only flags that could legally be flown over the state capitol were the state and national flags. Therefore, the Confederate flag had to be removed.

The state court judge agreed with the Center's interpretation of the statute and enjoined then-Governor Guy Hunt from flying the Confederate battle flag. The governor appealed but the appeal was later dropped.