In 1912, Secretary of State Earle Hodges (1911-1917) and the Pine Bluff chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution sponsored a competition to produce a design for Arkansas’s first state flag. Since 1819, Arkansans had lived, fought, played and legislated under a variety of flags and banners, but none of these enjoyed official recognition.
Some sixty-five designs were submitted for consideration. Several incorporated diamonds, while others highlighted cotton, trees, apple blossoms or even bears. One distinctive design combined a yellow crescent moon with steamboats sailing on a river. Another featured a cotton boll on a field of blue, adorned with “I’ll Try, Sir!,” the motto of territorial governor James Miller.
In the end, the Flag Selection Committee chose a simple diamond design created by Jefferson County schoolteacher Willie Kavanaugh Hocker. She explained the flag’s multiple symbols thus:
- Red, white and blue – the colors of the U.S. flag.
- 25 stars in the diamond border – Arkansas was the 25th state admitted to the Union.
- Diamond – Arkansas is the nation’s only diamond-producing state.
- Three stars, in a single centered horizontal line – Three nations have ruled Arkansas: Spain, France and the United States – Arkansas was the third state created from the Louisiana Purchase (1803).
The selection committee modified Miss Hocker’s original design, rearranging the stars and including the word “Arkansas.” This made possible another symbolic reference: the traditional “twin” relationship of Arkansas and Michigan, which are admitted to the Union within approximately seven months of each other, maintaining the balance between free and slave states in Congress. On February 26, 1913, the state legislature approved the design as the state’s official flag.
The flag remained unchanged until 1923, when the Arkansas Legislature added a fourth star to commemorate Arkansas’s membership in the Confederacy. In 1924, at Miss Hocker’s suggestion, they were rearranged, one above, and three below. This created the Arkansas flag that flies today, the proud ensign of the Natural State.
Secretary of State Earle Hodges called Miss Hocker’s design “one of the most beautiful flags imaginable, and at the same time…simple and easily made.”