A red, white and blue Springfield city flag is posted on the third floor of Historic City Hall outside the Springfield City Council chambers. On March 7, 2022, the city council will consider a bill to designate the flag, designed by high school students in 1938, as the official “historic city flag.” (Photo by Rance Burger)

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An old Springfield flag stands posted in a building on Boonville Avenue as the Springfield City Council will consider an olive branch move to honor it on March 7.

On Feb. 22, the city council took up the introduction of a bill to designate a historic city flag. A movement for a new city flag started in 2017 with the Springfield Identity Project, a grassroots group that proposed a new design for an updated flag. On Jan. 10, 2022, the Springfield City Council adopted the new flag.

The new flag has a white stripe against a light blue backdrop, meant to symbolize the Ozark plateau and Route 66. In the center, a “compass rose” symbolizes Springfield’s place as a national crossroads and a crown, a reference to the city’s nickname “Queen City.” The three stars, according to the flag’s proponents, represent innovative spirit, connection with nature and Ozarks culture.

The origin of Springfield’s old flag

The first Springfield flag was chosen in 1938 from 26 designs by art students at Springfield Senior High School, today Central High School. On March 13, 1938, Phoebe Hensley, secretary of the Springfield Commercial Club, finished sewing the first Springfield flag.

Springfield City Attorney Rhonda Lewsader explained a bill that would create a designation and protections for the old flag.

“Many citizens continued to cherish the 1938 flag, so to honor that flag for its many years of service and promotion of civic pride, this bill would designate the 1938 flag as the ‘Historic City Flag,'” Lewsader said.

According to a city council bill describing the flag, the red, white and blue bars of the flag are made to be of equal length and width. The red bar symbolizes cooperation, the blue bar symbolizes civic pride, and the white bar symbolizes Springfield’s achievements. Four stars symbolize four areas of the city.

The red, white and blue flag was Springfield’s official flag for more than 83 years. One stands posted on the third floor of Historic City Hall outside the Springfield City Council chambers.

“The bill also provides that the flag shall be displayed in an exhibit in a city building, and that continuing education about the flag’s place in the city’s history shall be provided,” Lewsader said.

Petition to overturn new flag decision failed

On Feb. 22, Springfield City Clerk Anita Cotter explained to the city council that a petition to overturn the council’s decision to adopt a new flag failed. Section 14 of Springfield’s charter spells out that voters may petition to reject any ordinance that the city council adopts through a petition that must be submitted within 30 days of the ordinance’s adoption. The process is called a referendum. According to the charter, a referendum petition requires, “at least ten percent of the total number of persons voting in the last general municipal election in April.”

Cotter quoted from Section 14.2 of the city charter and explained her examination of a referendum petition submitted to her office.

“The number of signatures required for the petition to be sufficient was 1,568. The petition contained 760 signatures. Based on this, I certified this petition as insufficient,” Cotter said.

There were 15,591 votes cast in Springfield’s mayoral election in April 2021, but the percentage needed for a referendum is based on the total number of ballots cast — including blank ballots — in the municipal election.

Rance Burger

Rance Burger is the managing editor for the Daily Citizen. He previously covered local governments from February 2022 to April 2023. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 17 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@sgfcitizen.org or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger