Patron again buys flag for bridge, looks for help

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 5, 2001

Blanche Millsaps stands near the U.S. 80 and Interstate 20 bridges over the Mississippi River. Waving in the background is the newest Old Glory she has bought for the U.S. 80 bridge. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[07/05/01] Blanche Millsaps has heard compliments from around the country about the American flag atop the old Mississippi River Bridge in Vicksburg.

“Everywhere I travel, from New Orleans to Memphis, when people hear where I’m from, they talk about the great big flag on top of the bridge here,” said Millsaps, the Vicksburg woman who led the effort to raise Old Glory over the U.S. 80 span in 1994. “It’s gotten attention from people everywhere.”

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The only place where she hasn’t seen appreciation for the 40-by-40-foot flag, she said, is at the Warren County Bridge Commission. The commission does not fund new flag purchases, sometimes leaving it up to Millsaps to come up with the money to replace weathered banners.

The 412th Engineer Command has also provided replacement flags in the past.

Raymond Ray, former chairman of the bridge commission, said the commission appreciates the presence of the flag atop the bridge. But he said buying new flags does not fall within the commission’s duties.

“All we could spend money on was repairs and other things directly related to the bridge,” Ray said. “It would be illegal for us to buy new flags.”

Millsaps said she has bought three flags since the first one went up. She took her most recent purchase to the bridge last week.

“I knew the Fourth of July was coming up, and I couldn’t bear to see the bridge without a flag on the Fourth of July,” she said.

The flags normally cost $600 each and have to be sewn by special order, Millsaps said, but she said she buys them for $400 through the office of U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi.

The commission now has $6 million in the bank, board attorney Bobby Bailess said, and Millsaps said the panel could easily afford to buy new flags.

“They fund studies all the time,” she said. “Why can’t they spend some money on something that’s going to be an asset to our bridge, our county and our city?”