WillCo Seal in Franklin

The Williamson County seal as it appears in the meeting place of the County Commission in Franklin.

The final hearing of the Tennessee Historical Commission regarding the alteration of the Williamson County seal, which bears the image of a Confederate flag, has been delayed from October to February of 2022 due to a request from the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Background

Shortly after the George Floyd protests in 2020, renewed pressure was placed on Williamson County leaders to consider altering the county’s seal to remove the Confederate flag.

Opponents of removing the flag from the seal, such as Williamson County Commissioner Bert Chalfant, argue that “it is simply history.” Supporters of removing the flag, such as Nolensville teacher Jocelyn Taylor, argue that the seal is not a true historic relic given its adoption in 1968, just two years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Tennessee.

Studies have shown that erections of public displays of Confederate symbols skyrocketed during the Civil Rights movement, with similar spikes appearing to correlate with advancements in the black community.

The Williamson County Commission eventually commissioned a task force to evaluate the merits of altering the county seal to remove the Confederate flag. That task force produced a report recommending the seal be altered, with the County Commission voting to approve the recommendation in a 16-7 vote.

Tennessee Historical Commission hearing delayed

Since the seal is protected from alteration by Tennessee state law, the Tennessee Historical Commission would be required to grant a waiver to the Williamson County Commission before its seal is altered. That commission held its first hearing over the seal’s alteration on Feb. 16 this year, and had scheduled to hold its second hearing on Oct. 8.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), however, had vowed to oppose the seal’s alteration of the seal through taking legal action.

Last week on Thursday, a judge approved a request of the SCV to delay the hearing until Feb. 18, 2022, due to a claim that the organization’s attorney had a scheduling conflict due to a planned medical procedure, and that more time was needed for the discovery process.

Franklin resident Dustin Koctar, who created an online petition calling for the seal’s alteration that as of Aug. 30 has received more than 11,000 signatures, called the delay “disappointing” in an email to the Home Page.

“This delay is obviously unfortunate, and an appeal is unlikely,” Koctar said.

“It has already been a year since the Williamson County Commission voted to create the task force to address the issue, and next month marks the one year anniversary of when the County Commission voted in favor of accepting the task force's unanimous decision to remove that flag from the seal.”