Publisher’s Letter: Flag Day — And a Young Student of Vision

The first American flag at the Musuem of American History in Washington D.C.; Photo by Blaine Howerton
By Blaine Howerton, Publisher
North Forty News

June 14 is Flag Day but have you ever wondered who designed our current American Flag?

In 1958, it seemed certain that Alaska would be admitted to the Union. So designers got busy creating a flag with 49 stars. More than 1,500 different designs were eventually submitted to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Meanwhile, Lancaster High School teacher Stanley Pratt assigned his junior-year students an American history project. One of his 17-year old students, Robert G. (Bob) Heft, was certain that Hawaii was going to join the union very soon so he didn’t even bother with a 49-star flag as his American history project — he designed a 50-star flag. And, later, optimist that he must have been, he also designed a 51-star flag.

Young Bob borrowed his mother’s sewing machine and (and he’d never sewn before) and took apart his parents’ 48-star flag that they’d gotten for a wedding present (hopefully, he asked them first), and reassembled it with 50 stars in a proportional pattern.

His teacher was unimpressed and gave him a B-, advising that if his flag design was selected in Washington, he’d change that grade to an A.

Undaunted, Bob then sent the flag to his congressman, Walter Moeller. What foresight this young man had. Two years later both Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union and Congressman Moeller presented the flag to President Eisenhower — Eisenhower selected Bob’s design.

Vindication! The President of the United States called Bob inviting him and his teacher to Washington, DC for a ceremony adopting his 50-star flag — true to his word, Bob’s teacher changed his grade to an A!

On July 4, 1960, President Eisenhower and Bob Heft, (now, about 19 years old), stood together as the 50-star flag was raised for the first time. And later, his 51-star flag was also approved for future use.

Bob Heft went on to craft a life of service to his community, starting out as a teacher, later becoming a college professor, and serving as the Mayor of Napoleon, Ohio for 28 years. Unfortunately, his life was cut short when in December 2009 he died at 67 after years of battling diabetes. But it seems to me that he did a lot in the time he was given because he was paying attention and obviously, even as a teen, he had vision!



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