S.C. State Legislator Hopes To Remove Confederate Flag This Summer NPR's Melissa Block speaks with South Carolina State Rep. Doug Brannon, who says he wants to fast-track a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.
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S.C. State Legislator Hopes To Remove Confederate Flag This Summer

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S.C. State Legislator Hopes To Remove Confederate Flag This Summer

S.C. State Legislator Hopes To Remove Confederate Flag This Summer

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And we're joined now by South Carolina State Rep. Doug Brannon. He's a Republican who represents parts of conservative Spartanburg County. And before today's move by Governor Haley, he was committed to introducing a bill to remove the Confederate flag in the next legislative session. Representative Brannon, welcome to the program.

DOUG BRANNON: Thank you for having me.

BLOCK: And I gather you have personal reasons behind this. You were friends with Pastor Clemente Pinckney, who was also a state senator and was shot and killed.

BRANNON: I was. I was. He was a wonderful, incredible man.

BLOCK: Tell me about him and your relationship with him and how that motivated you here.

BRANNON: He was huge. He was - I'm a short guy. I'm 5-foot-7, and Senator Pinckney was 6'5 or 6'6. I mean, he was a mountain of a man. But when he walked into a room, the smile just lit the room up. It - you know, as big as he was, he always - he was so inviting. He never felt ominous. It was - he was just a welcome sight. And if you've ever imagined what God's voice sounded like, Clemente's voice was that. His voice could shake the room.

BLOCK: Yeah. Well, you've been in the South Carolina House for five years. Had you thought about doing anything about the Confederate flag before this?

BRANNON: I'm ashamed to tell you, no. I should have done it five years ago. It shouldn't have been the death of the nine incredible people. I should've done it, but I didn't, and I apologize for that.

BLOCK: Well, Governor Haley wants to fast-track this debate, wants it to happen this summer, not next session. What are you hearing from your colleagues? Do you think there's an appetite for this?

BRANNON: Oh, absolutely. I mean - and the momentum has changed overnight. I believe that there will be a motion to amend the sine die resolution, sine die resolution being the end-of-session bill. I think we'll amend that to allow the filing of another bill, a new bill, which would be to take the flag down. So, yes, I think that we're going to debate this bill and take the flag down this summer.

BLOCK: You need two-thirds of the members to vote to do that, right? You think you have those votes?

BRANNON: I think we do in the House, and I'd like to think we do in the Senate. I mean, I'm relatively confident that we do in the House. I think we do in the Senate, but I don't know the Senate as well, OK?

BLOCK: Is this a vote that you think might cost you your job, knowing what you know about your constituents?

BRANNON: I don't know. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to do my job until I lose my job. And if I lose it over this, I will lose with a smile.

BLOCK: Yeah. Have you been hearing from folks back home who say, look, this flag is not a racist symbol to me. It represents my family's heritage, my personal history.

BRANNON: Yeah, certainly. I've heard some of those comments. Of the thousands of comments that I've gotten, 99 percent of them have been supportive and wonderful. I have heard the heritage, not hate arguments. I've been told to start packing, that I'm going to get beat in the next election. I've been called ignorant. And I'm fine with all of those things. I believe that I'm doing the right thing.

BLOCK: I'm curious, Mr. Brannon. Before this shooting, when you walked by that Confederate flag on the grounds of the state capital, what did it mean to you?

BRANNON: I got asked that question yesterday. And I have to tell you that I walk past it on a somewhat regular basis, but I don't look at it. It - that may sound ridiculous, but I don't look at it. So it didn't mean anything to me.

BLOCK: And when you see it now?

BRANNON: When I see it now, I see it on a license plate on the front of a car, driving to a church where nine people died.

BLOCK: You can't shake that connection?

BRANNON: No, no.

BLOCK: You know, I was struck by something that Governor Haley said today when she said, 150 years after the end of the Civil War, the time has come to take down this flag. A lot of people would say the time came well before that. What do you think?

BRANNON: Well, here's what I think. And please - I respect Governor Haley. I'm so thankful for her announcement and for her request, but that flag didn't get placed on the capital grounds until 1962. And it got placed on the capital dome in response to desegregation.

BLOCK: Yeah.

BRANNON: So, yeah, it's 150 years after the end of the war, but that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about a flag that got placed on the capital dome by a bunch of white guys who were mad about desegregation.

BLOCK: Mr. Brannon, we're going to have to stop right there. I appreciate your thoughts. Doug Brannon, a Republican state rep. in the South Carolina House. Thanks for talking with us.

BRANNON: Thank you.

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