COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Fifty-three years of history comes to a close on the State House grounds on Friday as the Confederate flag, once a lightning rod of controversy and history, was permanently removed from its prominent location in front of South Carolina's seat of government.
Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill Thursday to remove the flag atop the flag pole in front of the Confederate Memorial and move it to the Confederate Relic Room at the State Museum.
A short 15-minute ceremony was held at the State House to remove the flag. It was an image many, including Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, thought would eventually happen one day.
"What happened today was finally the collective political will of the leadership," Riley said. Fifteen years ago, I knew the collective wishes of South Carolina was that we didn't leave the flag on the dome, but to translate that to political will just took longer. I always felt we would. I didn't support it, I didn't think it would be forever, now it's gone."
Representative Wendell Gilliard represents the district in Charleston where Mother Emanuel church is located, the church where nine African-American parishioners were killed in a racially-charged shooting, and he expressed profound joy with the flag's removal.
"Truly, I can truly say now that this is a great day in the state of South Carolina. We've shown the world, by working together, people of all creeds and color, we can go places and make things happen for the betterment of all," Gilliard said.
The flag was furled by an Honor Guard from the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Cpl. Rupert B. Pope and Lt. Derrick Gamble were two of the men assigned to the guard.
"I really thing it has been and it really gives me a sense of hope to have a small role in it. Again I'm humbled to be a part of it," Pope said.
"I think the biggest thing to see is just how the people of South Carolina came together during a tragic time," Gamble said. "I think that's the biggest gratification I got just to see how the people of this state came together."
The flag was then taken to the Relic Room where it was taken in by curator Alan Robinson.
"I mean that sort of goes back to the American Civil War. The honor that Confederate legion generals furled the flag so I felt like somebody asked me what I felt like, so I felt like that was part of the ceremony that the flag was being furled by them," Robinson said.