Blue Flag Flying at Local Business Draws Controversy

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PANAMA CITY - A Panama City business owner is coming under fire for a flag he's chosen to fly outside. The owner of James Auto Center claims the Bonnie Blue flag, which was used by confederates during the Civil War.

Hundreds of cars pass James Morris' auto repair shop off East 11th Street everyday. Right below the American flag is a small blue flag with a white star.

It's called a "bonnie blue". The flag was first flown over the Mississippi state capital when the state seceded from the union during the Civil War.

Many confederate states incorporated parts of the Bonnie Blue into their own state flags. Morris says says he's had the flag for years and has never had a complaint.

As a "Son of the Confederacy," Morris believes the flag is part of his heritage.

"It's all about heritage, not hatred. If I'm offending somebody, it's not meant to offend anybody. It's meant to state that we're independent. I'm an independent repair shop, very independent," said Morris.

The local Rainbow PUSH Coalition, recently discovered the history of the Bonnie Blue and is surprised Morris flies it, especially in a predominantly black neighborhood.

"Once I educated myself as to the meaning of the flag, that's when I became insulted and looked at the surrounding area where it was being flown at," said Gregory Dossie, a member of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Although he has not contacted Morris about the flag, Dossie says he wants Morris to remove it.

"Now that he knows people are offended by it, now that we know what the meaning of it is, i hope he does what i consider the right thing is remove it," said Dossie.

"I've had people ask me what it was and I say it's the Bonnie Blue. Rhett Butler's child was named Bonnie Blue in Gone With The Wind. Billy Idol's daughter is named Bonnie Blue, if you like Billy Idol. It's a pretty flag that represents independence," said Morris.

Morris says he is willing to take down the flag knowing that is offensive to some.

The Bonnie Blue is also identical to the banner of the flag of the Republic of West Florida. That flag first appeared in 1810, when the Florida territory broke away from Spain. The U.S. annexed the territory just 90 days later.