Can you imagine Arkansas' flag with an ocean steamer? Can you imagine Arkansas' flag with a dancing bear? Instead of the handsome and dignified red flag centered with a diamond and stars, such flags could have flown over the twenty-fifth state if a 1913 committee had not acted with wisdom.
Before 1913 there was no state flag. The battleship U.S.S. Arkansas was to be commissioned and the Pine Bluff chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution voted to present a state flag to the ship. But first, the flag committee of the chapter had to learn about the state flag.
A committee of three, Mrs. C.W. Pettigrew (whose idea it was in the first place), Mrs. W.A. Taggart and Mrs. Frank Tomlinson, sent a letter to Secretary of State Earl W. Hodges. Before long they had the answer: There was no state flag.
The Pine Bluff group decided to correct the situation by holding a statewide flag contest. Mr. Hodges was asked to act as custodian for entries. Sixty-five separate designs were entered in the contest. Some were crayon drawings and some were flag miniatures on silk. As the state flower, the apple blossom appeared on a number of designs. One centered with the flower was scattered with stars representing the United States. There were thirteen rays on it for the original states and the colors were red, white and blue. One flag used just the apple blossom, four of them in colorful blocks. One design used the outline of Arkansas and the state seal with red, white and blue.
Mr. Hodges was chairman of the committee to select the flag and he chose a distinguished list of members: Dr. Junius Jordan, the chairman of philosophy and pedagogy at the University of Arkansas; Mrs. Julia McAlmont Noel, a member of the John McAlmont Chapter of the D.A.R. in Pine Bluff; Miss Julia Warner, a teacher in the Little Rock school system, and Mrs. P.H. Ellsworth, a former president of the Arkansas Federation of Women's Clubs.
In the early days of 1913 the committee gathered in Mr. Hodge's office and worked on choosing a flag. As a winner they chose the red, white and blue design of Miss Willie Hocker of Wabbaseka, a member of the Pine Bluff chapter of the D.A.R., where the search originated.
On a rectangular field of red, Miss Hocker had placed a large white diamond bordered by twenty-five white stars on a blue band. Three blue stars in a straight line were centered in the diamond.
Miss Hocker explained that the colors in her design meant that Arkansas was one of the United States of America. The three blue stars had three meanings: Arkansas belonged to three countries - France, Spain and the United States - before attaining statehood; 1803 was the year of the Louisiana Purchase when the land that is now Arkansas was acquired by the United States; and Arkansas was the third state created from the purchase by the United States.
The twenty-five stars mean that Arkansas was the twenty-fifth state to be admitted to the Union. Two stars positioned in the corners of the diamond are parallel, representing Arkansas and Michigan, which were both admitted to the Union about the same time. Arkansas was admitted on June 15, 1836, and Michigan was admitted on January 26, 1837. The diamond represents Arkansas as the nation's only diamond-producing state. The committee decided the flag needed to include the state's name. Miss Hocker agreed and suggested that the three blue stars be arranged with one above the name and two below.
On February 26, 1913, the legislature made it the state's official flag. The U.S.S. Arkansas received her flag from the Pine Bluff Chapter of the D.A.R.
Then there was trouble - there was no indication on the flag that Arkansas had been a member of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865. To correct that, the legislature in 1923 added a fourth blue star above the letter "R" in Arkansas and moved the single blue star to a position above the last "A". But, a furor arose and many claimed that the original symmetry and meaning of the design were destroyed. So in 1924 the legislature approved the design placing three blue stars below the word "Arkansas", which have the original meaning of Willie Hockers design, and one above to represent Arkansas being in the Confederate States, the way the flag is today.