Former Ole Miss cheerleader who refused to carry Confederate flag reacts to new law

Never thought he'd live to see the day the state flag changed

Former Ole Miss student reacts to flag change

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - More often than not, it’s the young people who are the catalysts for change. That is the case now and it was the case 40-years ago when a simple act of defiance by an Ole Miss student set off a chain of events that led to the university disassociating itself with the Confederate flag.

John Hawkins says he really wanted to play basketball for Ole Miss, but became a cheerleader instead.

Hawkins said, “It was never my goal to be an Ole Miss cheerleader. I didn’t wake up one morning and say this was something I aspired to do. I was not political. I was a regular student.”

In 1982, the 19-year-old made a decision that set off a chain of events that would change history at the University of Mississippi. He broke with tradition and refused to carry the state flag onto the football field.

Hawkins said, ”I was not going to carry that flag. I understood what it represented. I understood that for some students, for some people who embraced the flag that it was the symbol of school spirit for them. I also knew that there were other motives, in terms of people that supported the flag that were more consistent with the original intent which was an oppressive symbol representing slavery and I did not want to be a part of that; I do not want to be associated with that and was thankful that the university supported me in my efforts to say no, with respect to that, and of course a subsequent, proceeded to disassociate itself with that flag.”

Hawkins said he didn’t think he’d live to see the day the whole state disassociates itself with the controversial symbol and he’s heartened by the historic action, but....

”It’s a little disappointing that it’s been..if you think about it, it’s been 40-years since Ole Miss started the effort to disassociating with that flag and for the state of Mississippi to only now be making that move really does speak to the fact that, yes, change can happen, change takes time, but for the state of Mississippi to be progressive and to be inviting and inclusive and welcoming to business and industry, for people who want to be a part of what the state has to offer. Needless to say, I think that goes without saying that they’re going to have to be more progressive and move in a much faster time to benefit from those types of things.”

Hawkins is a Water Valley native who has managed billion dollar companies all over the world and now owns his own management firm.

He said he still has family here and hasn’t ruled out Mississippi his home again, someday.

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