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This is written with apologies to the memory of Miss Willie Kavanaugh Hocker, the school teacher from Wabbaseka (Jefferson County) and the chief designer of our current state flag which manifested itself to her in a dream while a guest in nearby Pine Bluff and is about to be changed again.

Oh, there will be no noticeable redesign of the field of red with the 25 stars in a blue diamond. No changes are planned to the word Arkansas in the middle of a field of white, framed by the blue diamond filled with 25 stars (which signifies Arkansas' entry into the United States as a state). And, lastly and more importantly, no changes are planned to the blue star over the top of the word Arkansas or in the three blue stars underneath the word Arkansas.

So what will change?

Just what that top star represents on paper, we are told by a bill from state Rep. Charles Blake, D-Little Rock, the sponsor of a bill once already beaten back from a committee vote not advancing the bill out of committee.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The 1923 controversy brought to light by this bill shows a sly deed done by that year's Legislature.

The state had adopted and adapted Miss Hocker's initial design until a bill was designed to add a fourth star (above the word "Arkansas") to represent Arkansas' membership in the Confederate States of America. The House Concurrent Resolution 4, asserted that (the change) was "proper and fitting respect to the memory of the heroic men and women of that period who, by their matchless sacrifice and unprecedented feats of heroism on the field of battle, deserve due and proper recognition as does the cause they served so well.

Bull hockey, I say.

That segregationist drivel comes from an all-white, all-male Legislature serving 58 years following the Civil War and almost a century (96 years) after this House Concurrent Resolution -- so placed a star to honor the Confederacy -- on the state flag.

In all transparency, I served as the president of the Washington County Historical Society. I am a life member and board member of the Arkansas Historical Association, and I am indeed a life-long Arkansan and proud of that fact.

No one, no organization has asked me to weigh in on this topic. But here I am.

State Rep. Charles Blake's bill, HB 1487, seeks to undo this wrong. This bill needs to be passed.

I do side with Rep. Blake, who wants to place the emphasis on the top star to the Native Americans who were in Arkansas long before Hernando DeSoto crossed the Mississippi River to claim these lands for a foreign power.

But after the narrow defeat in the House Committee, our Gov. Asa Hutchinson, finally spoke out -- a full week after a House committee fell short of votes to approve a bill that would remove symbolism for the Confederacy from the state flag.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson once said he "supports the idea."

The bill, by Rep. Charles Blake, D-Little Rock, would not change the flag's design.

Hutchinson who had not taken a stance on the bill told The Associated Press saying, "It's the right thing to do."

It was a short and sweet statement from the Governor, but now Hutchinson needs to step up and help Rep. Blake and others pass this bill.

Remember readers, Gov. Hutchinson stood on the sideline in a past session when an effort to separate the state holiday honoring the co-joined holidays of Dr. Martin Luther King and Confederate General Robert E. Lee had all but stymied the Legislature and began opening old wounds.

It took a stem-winding speech from former House member and now mayor of Fort Smith, George McGill, to achieve a separation of these holidays and bring peace and order to the issue.

Perhaps Blake can do the same.

But someone needs to step up and fix this mess.

• • •

Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 03/13/2019

Print Headline: State flag changes no more than an asterisk in history books

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