Fly It! Flags of the Ozarks
The hows and whys behind four of southwest Missouri's most prominent town flags.
Simplicity ItselfSpringfield’s flag was created in 1938 by a seamstress named Phoebe Hensley, a member of the Community Business and Professional Women’s Club who got the commission. The red and blue bars stand for cooperation and civic pride, while the white bar, according to the City, stands for “the renown Springfield has received for its achievements, which are represented by the four stars of: Religion, Home, Education & Industry.” SPRINGFIELD MISSOURI is emblazoned on the white bar.
Tourism TreatmentAs is typical with town flags, Branson’s was a community project. In 1999, the town’s city manager, John Pinch, decided it was time the town have a logo. Jerry Adams, the city’s spokesman, helped organize a committee that chose among citizen-submitted designs, tweaking and combining them to create the final. The goal: represent Branson’s land, lakes and musical surroundings. The star symbolizes the stars of Branson’s shows.
No FishRepublic’s flag is the controversial one. Its original design featured a seal with the location of Republic in Missouri, a helping hand, a traditional family and the Christian fish symbol, the icthus. Jean Webb, a resident and practitioner of Wicca, objected. With the help of the ACLU, the flag wound up in federal court in 1999. Judge Russell G. Clark ordered the city to remove the ichthus, saying that the fish was explicitly Christian, could not be construed as “a universal symbol of religion” and so violated the Establishment Clause. Ever since, the secular blank spot reigns.
Ahead of the CurveOzark beat Branson by more than a decade. “I just thought we needed some identity,” is former Mayor Neal Grubaugh’s explanation for why he started an eight-month campaign for an Ozark flag in the mid-‘80s. “Springfield had one. Of course, I’ve been kinda hip on flags anyway.” The flag, designed by then-resident Jack Weins in a citizen competition, symbolizes the Finley River running through Ozark, and the bridge is a historic one near the town’s old mill.
Flag illustrations by Melinda Kinslow
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