JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is defending his decision to again name April as Confederate Heritage Month, but one previous governor of the state took to Twitter to distance himself from what he called a “hateful” tradition.
Reeves signed a proclamation honoring Confederate veterans Friday. It does not mention that trying to preserve slavery was Mississippi’s stated reason for trying to secede in 1861.
Reeves responded to questions Wednesday, saying previous governors have issued Confederate Heritage Month proclamations. He said he didn’t think this was the year to stop.
“For the last 30 years, five Mississippi governors — Republicans and Democrats alike — have signed a proclamation recognizing the statutory state holiday and identifying April as Confederate Heritage Month,” the governor’s office said in a statement to WREG.
But Ray Mabus, who served as Mississippi’s 60th governor from 1988 to 1992 and is also a former Secretary of the Navy, said on his verified Twitter account that he never issued any such proclamation and suggested it was time to end the practice.
“I absolutely did not issue anything like this,” Mabus said. “It started with Fordice, an overt White supremacist. My question for Gov Reeves is ‘so what’ if 5 Governors have signed it. Doesn’t make it right.”
He continued: “Scores of Mississippi governors were ardent segregationists but the fact it was a ‘tradition’ or the ‘status quo’ didn’t make it right or less hateful. The only heritages of the Confederacy as far as I can tell are slavery and treason.”
Mississippi has taken steps in recent years to distance itself from Confederate symbols. Reeves signed a law in 2020 that retired the last state flag in the U.S. that featured a Confederate battle emblem.