BELTON — Don’t be shocked if you see a Confederate flag flying on the northwest corner of the Bell County Courthouse grounds Saturday.
Every year, the Stars and Bars flag — which is similar to the U.S. flag with red and white stripes, a field of blue on the left and stars in a circle formation — is raised outside the courthouse on Jan. 19. That day is a Texas holiday: Confederate Heroes Day.
The flag has been allowed to fly on a pole next to the Confederate soldier statue since at least the late 1990s. In the past, the Sons of Confederate Veterans have placed the flag.
“As long as Confederate Heroes Day is recognized by the state, we have allowed an outside group to come in on that day and fly that flag at the northwest of the courthouse property,” Bell County Judge David Blackburn told the Telegram on Friday.
Confederate Heroes Day has been a state holiday since 1973.
Blackburn stressed that an outside group that is unaffiliated with the county government places the flag.
“County employees don’t raise or lower and don’t participate in the raising or lowering of the flag,” he said. “But we have allowed it since it is recognized as a state holiday.”
Former Bell County Judge Jon Burrows, who retired last month after serving 20 years as the county’s top elected official, said last year that the Sons of Confederate Veterans would randomly raise the Stars and Bars flag.
“I told them, ‘On those days that were on the Texas holiday calendar, I would allow them (to fly it),” Burrows said, explaining the solution to the group randomly placing the flag outside the courthouse.
This is not the battle flag that most people associate with the Confederacy.
In the past, some residents have expressed to the Commissioners Court that they would like to see the Confederate soldier statue to a more appropriate location where it can be placed in historical context. Others have suggested a plaque explaining the history behind the statue. There are no plans to move it.