Politics & Government

SC has no official state flag design, so flag makers make it up. That could change

Why lawmakers need to choose an official design for the SC state flag

Politics consultant Scott Malyerck explains why he wants lawmakers to decide on an official design for the SC state flag
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Politics consultant Scott Malyerck explains why he wants lawmakers to decide on an official design for the SC state flag

S.C. lawmakers need a little longer to figure out what South Carolina’s state flag should look like.

If you didn’t realize that was an issue, look a little closer at the flags atop the State House dome, in county offices and at your local Motor Vehicles office.

You might find, as Newberry political consultant Scott Malyerck noticed last year, varying designs for the iconic palmetto tree and crescent.

That is because S.C. state law includes no written specifications for the shape, size, design or placement of the flag’s two historic symbols. As a result, competing flag makers just made it up.

The result? One flag, which flew atop the State House for decades, features a palmetto tree with a voluminous set of fronds and a crescent that easily could be mistaken for a moon. (It’s not).

Another flag, visible from the state flag’s Wikipedia page, features a tree with a smaller spread of fronds and a thicker crescent that more resembles its inspiration, the Revolutionary War gorget — or insignia — worn by S.C. troops.

“To me, our state flag is very historical,” Malyerck said Wednesday, after testifying before a group of state senators. “This (crescent) means something. That (palmetto tree) means something.

“Let’s make it consistent. It shouldn’t be up to a flag manufacturer to tell us what flag we’re flying atop the State House dome.”

The Senate panel Wednesday delayed moving forward with a bill that would standardize the flag’s design. The panel’s chairman, state Sen. John Scott, D-Richland, said the issue needed more research, but he hopes the Legislature can resolve it before the end of its session this spring.

“This is a pretty tall task if we mess this up,” Scott said. “They may run us out of the state.”

Malyerck brought to the meeting a poster with four common but differing versions of the flag, including one that flew atop the State House for years and another that replaced it last year, when a new flag manufacturer over took the job of making state flags.

The state Department of Administration says state agencies order their own, varying versions of the flag from different manufacturers.

The state does have stipulations on the quality of materials used and the flag’s color: blue for the background and white for the crescent and tree – both Revolutionary War symbols. But the law never set requirements for the exact placement or shape of the crescent or the tree, leaving room for varying versions.

Malyerck acknowledged the issue likely won’t affect the lives or checkbooks of everyday S.C. residents. But that’s not altogether bad.

“I was hoping this flag would not be as controversial as other flags that have flown over the State House,” Malyerck said.

Avery G. Wilks: 803-771-8362, @averygwilks