Today, June 14, is Flag Day, and on this day in 1777, by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress, the United States adopted its official flag with the statement that “the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes of red and white” and “the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” Popular legend decrees that the flag was designed by seamstress Betsy Ross, and commissionedby none other than George Washington himself. This legend, however, can neither be confirmed nor denied by historians.
While the United States may have adopted its flag a mere year after declaring independence, Paducah waited a bit longer. While the city was platted by William Clark in 1827, it would take over 130 years for a proud Paducahan to finally design its flag. Enter Mrs. Sara Smith Campbell, president of the Woman’s Club and widely published poet, who in 1960 began to wonder why Paducah didn’t have its own flag. After all, four other Kentucky cities had already adopted flags. So, she drew up a plan and her proposal was adopted by the city commission.
The flag (not only designed but purchased for the city by Mrs. Campbell) is red on the ends with white in the center. On the field of white is a picture of Chief Paduke surrounded by 15 stars in honor of Kentucky being the 15th state to enter the Union. Under the portrait of Chief Paduke, is the date of Paducah’s naming, 1827. Of the choice to include Chief Paduke’s image, Mrs. Campbell said, “We want this to be everybody’s flag, so Chief Paduke was selected as the person to be honored on the banner. He, of all the famous persons connected with Paducah, really belongs to all Paducahans.” Intent on consistency, Mrs. Campbell made sure to model the bust of Paduke’s face after the statue of Paduke that stands on Jefferson Street.
The flag was officially adopted by the City of Paducah in 1961, and Mrs. Campbell’s flag hung outside city hall, was used in the City Commission chamber and graced police and fire department ceremonies. Miniature replicas were purchased to put in every classroom in the city.
Mrs. Sara Smith Campbell died in 1965, but her flag still waves, not only in the City Commission chamber, but also proudly in the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public library. On September 14, 1967, Paducah posthumously honored Mrs. Campbell’s efforts by officially proclaiming her the “Betsy Ross of Paducah” stating that she “exhibited high qualities of civic leadership and used her rare artistic and literary talents to serve the city.”
For more about honorable Paducahans, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library; if you like this story, make sure to “like” our Facebook page.