The Arkansas state flag — which originated in Jefferson County — will soon mark its 100th anniversary.
The Willie Kavanaugh Hocker-designed banner was selected as the state flag on Feb. 13, 1913. It was officially adopted by a state senate resolution five days later.
Hocker had residences in both Pine Bluff and Wabbaseka, according to late Pine Bluff historian James W. Leslie.
In his 1981 book “Pine Bluff and Jefferson County: A Pictorial History,” Leslie wrote that the roots of the flag actually date to 1912, when the Pine Bluff Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution found that Arkansas did not have an official flag. The group took aim at obtaining the adoption of a state flag during the following general assembly.
At the chapter’s urging, Secretary of State Earl W. Hodges initiated a contest seeking potential designs for an official Arkansas banner. Hodges oversaw formulation of a legislative committee to select a winning entry. Hocker’s design was the unanimous choice from among 65 entries. Hocker’s design was altered twice in later years.
Hocker — who received her early education here and in Kentucky and then attended the University of Virgina and University of Colorado in obtaining a teacher’s certificate — said the inspiration for her design came in late 1912 when she was a guest in the Frank B. Tomlinson home here. She sketched her vision on school drawing paper with crayons.
Hocker, a published poet and short story author who was born in Kentucky in 1862 and moved with her family to near Wabbaseka in 1870, taught school in Pine Bluff and Wabbaseka for 34 years. A respected educator, she was honored by the Wabbaseka School Board in 1938 when it named a new high school building there in tribute to her.
Hocker died Feb. 6, 1944, in Wabbaseka. She was buried at Pine Bluff’s Bellwood Cemetery. In 2005, a historical marker honoring Hocker was placed at Wabbaseka United Methodist Church.
North Little Rock writer Jason Irby — a Wabbaseka native who attended school in the building named after Hocker — announced at a Jan. 1 news conference at Wabbaseka City Hall that he intends to establish a memorial in the city to honor her.