In 1958, 17 year old Bob was like most teenagers. He was a fairly dedicated student and as such, he was particularly distressed to learn his teacher had given him a B- for a class history project on which he had worked very hard. He had borrowed his mother’s sewing machine and labored twelve hours trying to get everything just so.
When he protested the low mark his stubborn teacher smugly retorted that only an “Act of Congress” would compel him to change it to an “A.”
The future small town mayor was not deterred and, taking his teacher literally, promptly petitioned The United States Congress. Not long after, Congress did indeed approve of his labor and none other than President Dwight D. Eisenhower phoned him to tell him so.
On this day in 1959 President Eisenhower signed an executive order welcoming Hawaii as the 50th state in the union and accompanied it with the approval a new American flag design.
The history project that the teacher had stubbornly gave the determined student a B- was the redesign of the American flag to incorporate Hawaii’s star. There were 1500 design entries and Bob’s design was the one chosen to be official 50 state flag of the United States.
Robert G. Heft would see the fruits of his labor realized on July 4th 1960 when his class history project was unfurled to great fanfare above the same storied fort where Mary Pickergill’s Star Spangled Banner flew during the 1814 British attack on Fort McHenry.
Young Bob’s work endures to this day.
Congress codified Bob’s flag in the official United States Flag Code making it an official Act of Congress. True to his word, Bob’s teacher raised his grade to an “A” just as he’d as promised.
The flag that Bob made in his living room has flown over the White House in every administration since; over every state capital, and over a hundred U.S. Embassies all over the world, including the U.S. Embassy in Saigon in 1967 when the flag was slightly damaged in an attack.
Bob was there with his flag, smiling gleefully through it all. The enterprising and forward-thinking student didn’t stop there. He subsequently copyrighted his designs to incorporate 51 to 60 stars.
Bob died in 2009 and thus did not see the day (if it is to come) when more stars are added to the Star Spangled Banner.
On this day in 1959, a star was born.
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