Hardin-Simmons University Retires Confederate Flag from its Six White Horses
ABILENE, TX — Hardin-Simmons University said it will cease using the Confederate Flag for its Six White Horses. The horse team is a tradition dating back to the 1920s for the Abilene university. It leads parades, participates in HSU football games, and rodeo events. The Confederate States of America flag, not the Rebel Battle Flag, was used traditionally as a commemoration of the six flags of Texas.
"In the late 1920s, Will "Sheriff" Watson, a loyal supporter of the University, decided to ride his white horse, Silver, at the head of the Cowboy Band in a parade. Attired in full Western dress to mirror the image of the Western-clad band members, Watson set an important pattern," the university states on its website. "The idea proved so popular that the famous Six White Horse parade unit was born," states the Six White Horses Facebook page.
Hardin-Simmons University was founded in part with a $5,000 donation from Dr. James B. Simmons (1827-1905), a northerner transplant to Abilene and pre-Civil War abolitionist. Dr. Travis L. Frampton, a professor of Biblical Studies at the Baptist university, explained in a 2014 biography article about Simmons that he was driven by witnessing a black slave being gunned down in the street by the marshal. The slave had escaped a trial.
"In 1858, just three years before the Civil War commenced, Simmons was threatened with a “coat of tar and feathers” and subsequently lost the meeting house of his church in Indianapolis, which burned to the ground in 1861, because of what he was preaching from behind his Baptist pulpit," Frampton wrote.
It is in light of that legacy that the current University Administrative Leadership Team at Hardin-Simmons decided to retire the use of the flag of the Confederate States of America. "HSU examined how the practice of using any flag of the Confederacy reflected misalignment with the university’s history, core values, and future goals," HSU stated in a press release.
The entire statement from HSU regarding the elimination of the Confederate flag from its Six White Horses:
Since its founding in 1891 in part by abolitionist Baptist pastor Dr. James B. Simmons, Hardin-Simmons University’s commitment to unity in the purpose of Christ’s love has been a central value.
For nearly 90 years, Hardin-Simmons University’s Six White Horses Program has provided leadership for parades, rodeos, and other official civic and community functions. Beginning with two men, two white horses, and the flags of the United States of America and the State of Texas, this program has grown in notoriety as horses and student riders have served as global ambassadors for HSU.
Born out of a desire to entertain crowds and educate audiences about Texas culture, the parade unit has routinely displayed the six flags of Texas as part of their exhibition. This has included use of the first national flag of the Confederate States of America.
“Each flag carries with it a context,” said HSU President Eric Bruntmyer in a letter to HSU faculty and staff. “In ideal circumstances, flags are unifying symbols, serving as common representations of purpose and pride. In other cases, however, flags can be divisive symbols which create conflict and disunity.”
Beginning with the 2017-18 Academic Year, HSU’s Six White Horses Program will not use any flag representing the Confederate States of America.
Bruntmyer, the HSU Board of Trustees, and the University’s Administrative Leadership Team recently began exploring ways HSU might speak to racial reconciliation in our community. During this exploration, HSU examined how the practice of using any flag of the Confederacy reflected misalignment with the university’s history, core values, and future goals.
“More than anything, we look to scripture to inform us on how to live as faithful Christ-followers. “We desire to do what is right – to be family together and good neighbors to all. We want to stand in unity with the image of God reflected in every person,” said Bruntmyer.
“In making this decision,” Bruntmyer said, “I want to acknowledge the proud history and significance of our Six White Horses Program, its leadership, and the riders over the years who have served so faithfully as global ambassadors.”
HSU’s Six White Horses will continue to proudly and prominently feature the flags of the United States of America and the State of Texas in their performances.
It took nearly 100 years to reach this conclusion.