south carolina confederate flag removal haley sot lead _00000909.jpg
south carolina confederate flag removal haley sot lead _00000909.jpg
Now playing
01:09
Gov. Haley: Time to move Confederate flag
durham protest confederate monument torn down_00001415.jpg
durham protest confederate monument torn down_00001415.jpg
Now playing
00:45
Protesters tear down Confederate monument
Silent Sam UNC
@ssiddiqui83/Twitter
Silent Sam UNC
Now playing
00:52
Protesters knock down Confederate statue at UNC
WJLA
Now playing
00:46
Baltimore removes Confederate statues by night
A statue of a Confederate soldier constructed in 1911 in displayed in a downtown park and will be moved to a nearby cemetery after it was decided in a hearing with supporters and protestors of the statue, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/AP
A statue of a Confederate soldier constructed in 1911 in displayed in a downtown park and will be moved to a nearby cemetery after it was decided in a hearing with supporters and protestors of the statue, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Now playing
00:54
Confederate monument in Tampa will stay put
Confederate Memorial, outside the State Capitol Building in Montgomery. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)
Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group Editorial/UIG via Getty Images
Confederate Memorial, outside the State Capitol Building in Montgomery. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:34
Confederate monuments that still exist in the US
A statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee sits in Emancipation Park, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va. The deadly rally by white nationalists in Charlottesville, over the weekend is accelerating the removal of Confederate statues in cities across the nation.  (AP Photo/Julia Rendleman)
Julia Rendleman/AP
A statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee sits in Emancipation Park, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va. The deadly rally by white nationalists in Charlottesville, over the weekend is accelerating the removal of Confederate statues in cities across the nation. (AP Photo/Julia Rendleman)
Now playing
02:16
Trump in 2017: Removal of Confederate statues is sad
cnnee pkg ione respuesta trump charlottesville critica ceos abandonan consejo presidencial_00005422.jpg
cnnee pkg ione respuesta trump charlottesville critica ceos abandonan consejo presidencial_00005422.jpg
Now playing
02:40
Backlash continues over Trump's comments
statue
CNN
statue
Now playing
01:14
US Capitol home to several Confederate statues
Confederate statues Kate Bolduan stop talking ath_00000000.jpg
Confederate statues Kate Bolduan stop talking ath_00000000.jpg
Now playing
01:57
CNN anchor to guest: Stop talking
charlottesville confederate monument nd_00023519.jpg
CNN
charlottesville confederate monument nd_00023519.jpg
Now playing
02:36
What led to Charlottesville protests?
CORRECTS TITLE FROM PRESIDENT TO GENERAL Workers prepare to take down the statue of Robert E. Lee, former general of the Confederacy, which stands in Lee Circle in New Orleans, Friday, May 19, 2017.  The city is completing the Southern city's removal of four Confederate-related statues that some called divisive. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/AP
CORRECTS TITLE FROM PRESIDENT TO GENERAL Workers prepare to take down the statue of Robert E. Lee, former general of the Confederacy, which stands in Lee Circle in New Orleans, Friday, May 19, 2017. The city is completing the Southern city's removal of four Confederate-related statues that some called divisive. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Now playing
00:49
'Lost cause of Confederacy' comes to end
Alt-right march in Charlottesville, Virginia
phedlund/Instagram
Alt-right march in Charlottesville, Virginia
Now playing
01:02
Torches brought to Confederate statue protest
confederate flags found Ebenezer Baptist Church MLK king_00003824.jpg
confederate flags found Ebenezer Baptist Church MLK king_00003824.jpg
Now playing
01:06
Confederate flags found at MLK's church
387975 02:  The Mississippi State flags flies April 17, 2001 in Pascagoula, MS. Voters will decide whether to replace the state's old flag, which sports the Confederate battle cross, with a new flag that would have 20 white stars on a blue square.  (Photo by Bill Colgin/Getty Images)
William Colgin/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
387975 02: The Mississippi State flags flies April 17, 2001 in Pascagoula, MS. Voters will decide whether to replace the state's old flag, which sports the Confederate battle cross, with a new flag that would have 20 white stars on a blue square. (Photo by Bill Colgin/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:06
Ole Miss students want state flag taken down
Now playing
02:04
Mayor's moving Confederate monuments speech
CNN —  

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Monday called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the State House.

“Today we are here in a moment of unity in our state without ill will to say it is time to remove the flag from our capitol grounds,” said Haley, a Republican and the state’s first non-white governor, while flanked by a diverse group of South Carolina politicians.

“This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state,” she said.

The flag can only be removed from its location in front of the State legislature with the approval of two-thirds of that body. And Haley said if the state’s General Assembly doesn’t convene on the matter in this last week of the legislative year, she would call up lawmakers to the capital “under extraordinary measures.”

Hundreds of people gather for a protest rally against the Confederate flag in Columbia, South Carolina on June 20, 2015.
MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images
Hundreds of people gather for a protest rally against the Confederate flag in Columbia, South Carolina on June 20, 2015.

READ: Inside the battle over the Confederate flag

Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina were also alongside Haley at the announcement that came amid growing calls for the state to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the State House.

The two senators did not speak at the announcement, though sources earlier in the day told CNN the pair were endorsing the decision to remove the flag from the state legislature’s grounds.

Graham said in a written statement after the news conference that “after the tragic, hate-filled shooting in Charleston, it is only appropriate that we deal once and for all with the issue of the flag.”

“In the worst of tragedies, we have seen the best of South Carolina. Today, I am urging that the Confederate battle flag be removed from statehouse grounds to an appropriate location,” Graham said the statement. “I hope that, by removing the flag, we can take another step towards healing and recognition – and a sign that South Carolina is moving forward.”

The shift from the state’s top elected officials marks a momentous milestone in a decades-old debate that was reignited and quickly gained momentum in the wake of the deadly, racially motivated shooting that killed nine African-Americans last week.

Less than a week after the shooting, calls for the Confederate flag to be taken down have quickly snowballed from local officials and civil rights activists to the upper echelons of South Carolina politics.

“We cannot have the Confederate flag waving on the grounds of the state capitol,” NAACP president and South Carolina native Cornell William Brooks said Friday during a press conference. “That symbol has to come down. That symbol must be removed from our state capitol.”

The calls from top South Carolina politicians to take down the flag will quickly reach beyond the Palmetto State and into the politics of the 2016 presidential election.

GOP presidential candidates late last week hesitated to weigh in on whether the Confederate flag should remain on the grounds of the state legislature – a state that is home to an early and crucial primary contest – with most saying the decision was up to the people of South Carolina.

The South Carolina and American flags flying at half-staff behind the Confederate flag erected in front of the State Congress building in Columbia, South Carolina on June 19, 2015.
MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images
The South Carolina and American flags flying at half-staff behind the Confederate flag erected in front of the State Congress building in Columbia, South Carolina on June 19, 2015.

But cover from the heights of the South Carolina GOP political establishment quickly freed up the GOP presidential field to cut their tacit support of the Confederate flag’s presence on state property and instead back Haley’s decision.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, both popular in establishment circles, quickly expressed their support for Haley, hailing her calls for the flag’s removal as the right decision. Just days earlier, they had waffled on the question, deferring to the will of South Carolinians.

Graham, also a presidential candidate, may be credited with moving the needle as he spent the past few days quietly urging fellow South Carolina politicians to take action, the source close to Graham told CNN.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama will head to the state on Friday to deliver the eulogy at the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the state senator who was killed in the church shooting. Vice President Joe Biden will join Obama.

Local news outlets and a South Carolina politics blog reported Monday morning that Haley would call for the removal of the flag during the 4 p.m. news conference.

The debate took new meaning after images surfaced online of white supremacist and avowed church shooter Dylann Roof holding a Confederate flag and a gun. Roof, 21, confessed to law enforcement that he carried out the killing, telling them he wanted to start a “race war.”

Haley has previously rebuffed efforts to remove the flag from the grounds of the state legislature and has spoken out in support of the compromise in 2000 that saw the Confederate flag removed from the top of the state capital dome and moved to a memorial to Confederate soldiers just a few hundred feet away.

CNN’s Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.