Saturday, September 14, 2013

Arkansas Flag

Diamonds are a girl's best friend! 
At least, they certainly were for the designer of the Arkansas state flag, the Diamond Spangled Banner!

Designed by a history teacher, this flag's design is not only clear and bold, but rich in the symbolism of the state's history. The flag's story begins in a Camden, NJ shipyard...

USS Arkansas (Photo: E.M. Mitchell)
On January 14, 1911, a new battleship is launched. She is the largest in the US Navy: She holds over 1,000 crew members and has a maximum speed of 20.5 knots. 

The new ship was commissioned on September 17, 1912 and named after the 25th state. This is the USS Arkansas!

Meanwhile, back in Arkansas...
The Pine Bluff chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution wants to present the new ship with a state flag, but the state Secretary of State informs them that Arkansas does not have an official state flag! Not that easily daunted, the ladies hold a contest.

Miss Willie K. Hocker (Photo: Arkansas History Commission)
According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette archives, there are 65 entries, some arriving as drawings and some as miniature, silk samples. The winning design, however, came from a D.A.R. member and area history teacher, Miss Willie Kavanaugh Hocker. Miss Hocker, from  Wabbaseka, AR, also belonged to the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the  
Colonial Dames Society 
She is, apparently, only one of two women state flag designers (

Being a history teacher, Miss Hocker embued her flag with a great deal of symbolism.

• She chose our national colors as her palette, letting the red, white and blue emphasize that Arkansas is part of the United States.

• She knew that Arkansas is the only state to mine diamonds, a fact that was as true in 1913 as it is today. To celebrate this, Miss Hooker used a large, white diamond as her central motif. (According to, Arkansas has only one active diamond mine remaining. It is located at Crater of Diamonds State Park.)

• She put 25 stars inside a blue border outlining the central diamond. These represent Arkansas' place as the 25th state in the Union. It also is a design element similar to the Confederate flag.

In the middle of the diamond is the state's name and 4 diamonds organized into 2 groupings, one above and one below the state name. Originally there were only 3 stars. These represented France, Spain and the United States, the 3 founding countries to lay claim to the territory from the Louisiana Purchase that would become Arkansas. When the territory was divided, it created 14 different states (in whole and in part). Arkansas was the third state created. The 3 stars also symbolize this piece of the state's history.

During the Civil War, however, Arkansas joined the Confederacy. In 1924, it was decided that this needed to be recognized in the flag so a fourth star was added. The final placement shows the original 3 stars below the state name and a 4th star above it. This 4th star represents Arkansas' membership in the Confederacy.

This is the final version of Arkansas' state flag:

The Diamond Spangled Banner of Arkansas by Miss Willie K. Hocker

(Poem:  Arkansas History Commission)