The driving force behind changing the state flag was pure humanity soaked in prayer and humility.

Sunday’s vote was a historic and unifying day for Mississippi with a rare bipartisanship emerging to propel the Legislature’s stunning vote to change the flag, a move few had imagined possible a week earlier.

The Confederate emblem on the flag, beloved and respected by many, was co-opted by the Ku Klux Klan and used during the civil rights era as a symbol of segregation, oppression and hate.

The fearful images were stark across the South and other parts of the country as television was coming of age and mobs raged about race and terrorized black communities that, unless you lived in that part of town, you may not know.

Few crimes of that era stand out like the “Mississippi Burning’’ murders on Father’s Day June 21, 1964. Under a plan hatched by the Ku Klux Klan with assistance from law enforcement officials, three young men, part of a massive black voter registration effort, were murdered by a mob on a lonesome road in rural Neshoba County.

They had been in town investigating the Klan’s burning five days earlier of the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church out east in the Longdale community where a mob that included law enforcement — likely hooded and carrying the Confederate battle flag — beat some parishioners nearly to death.

To many black Mississippians and others, the state flag, with that emblem co-opted by the Klan, represents that era and the oppression and sin of slavery like terror in the night.

Racism was systemic in the 1960s and black people were horribly mistreated. Not just horribly mistreated, beaten and murdered, but men in business suits, young people and “proper’’women carried the battle flag in support of segregation symbolizing their resistance to the law of the land.

Mississippians had never voted on a flag until 2001. The flag legislators voted Sunday to remove was approved by the Legislature in 1894 and that law sunset in 1906.

The state had no official flag until 2001 when a Democrat Legislature with Democrat Gov. Ronnie Musgrove held a vote because they didn’t have the courage to do what is right. The GOP’s courage ought to cost the Dems a few votes.

A direct vote this year on removal might have satisfied some, but the Legislature is well within its constitutional bounds to take the bold and decisive action it did.

Interestingly, there is no provision under the Mississippi Constitution or the Mississippi Code that permits a legislatively-directed referendum or ballot initiative to change the law.

Even before Sunday one thing was evident: more and more Mississippians are for changing the flag because it’s the right thing to do. The Legislature did what leaders are supposed to do and led.

We elect representatives to vote on the state bird, budgets, flags, roads and so on.

Your vote still counts because of representative government.

Republican Speaker of the House Philip Gunn in 2015 expressed his opinion that the flag needed to be changed to a good bit of fanfare, but the votes were not there and he pulled back.

Sen. Chad McMahan, R-Guntown, acknowledged he’d had a recent change on the flag. Like many, McMahan said he grew up in the 1980s with a somewhat innocuous understanding of the Confederate flag.

“When I look at that Confederate flag, I must confess that I think of ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ and my first love, Daisy Duke,” McMahan said on the Senate floor.

A conversation with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann over Oreos convinced him to change his mind. “I’m a Republican. Personally, I’m not going to support a Democrat battle flag,” McMahan said.

As much of the rest of the country collapses into chaos and rioting over George Floyd’s unjust murder and ANTIFA demands, it is no small accomplishment that the Mississippi Legislature could have such a passionate and heartfelt discussion and come out with the result they did.

The flag measure is not a response to the explosion of cultural Marxism and the cancel culture pulling down statues. It’s a sincere movement of the heart led by the Republican Speaker of the House and Lt. Gov. Hosemann in the Senate perhaps nudged by current events but Providentially so.

Republican leaders can take this newfound bipartisanship and work harder to unite all Mississippians.

The Mississippi GOP has demonstrated a sincerity of heart with the flag vote that we can only hope gives others confidence about the good motives of our statewide elected officials in the party of Lincoln who can’t in good conscience stand for as part of the state flag a Democrat battle flag that was the poster child of segregation 60 years ago.

Any lingering remnants of racism must be stomped out, yet we sense a re-kindling in the clumsy rush to defend the flag.

The Legislature did not capitulate to the left. Out of love and respect for those who suffered terror under the battle flag, children of God, one in the human race, removing the flag was the right thing to do.