"Chattanooga must always see her star—her own star, in the east, guiding her on her wonderful way. The dogwood is the city flower, as adopted by all the women's clubs. The red symbolizes the minerals of East Tennessee, the white, the cotton."
That was the description offered by Mrs. Carl White as she proposed the Chattanooga City Commission adopt a new city flag in July 1923. The flag, which was immediately adopted, has been an official emblem of the city ever since.
On Tuesday, the city's little-known symbol for nearly 90 years could be shelved for a new flag design championed by former city councilman and former director of the Office of Sustainability David Crockett. The new design, first discussed by Crockett in 1994, will be put before council members for a vote at tonight's council meeting.
The new flag features the seal of both Hamilton County and the city of Chattanooga, imposed over a blue stripe representing the Tennessee River. It is flanked by two forest-green stripes at the flag's top and bottom, representing the leafy flora typical of the city and East Tennessee.
While reviewing final tweaks to the proposed flag Monday, Crockett said his intention was to replace the current flag, which had become long-forgotten and was often confused with the similar-looking Tennessee state flag. Crockett provided several archived articles from the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga News Free Press to back up his claim.
According to a 1950 Chattanooga Times article, the city's flag had become irrelevant to the point that there was not a flag on hand at City Hall.
"Jack Trimble, secretary to the mayor, had to tell Mrs. Smith earlier that, so far as he knew, City Hall did not have a city flag," the article reads. "It still does not, but Trimble is making efforts to get a new one."
After being proposed to the council last week, a handful of city representatives indicated they were unsure of approving a new flag without significant public input. Councilman Andraé McGary, among those who said he would prefer to see more public discussion on the matter, told Nooga.com Monday he had received several phone calls and emails regarding the new flag—many of which were less than complimentary.
"There was more than one email expressing their concerns that the city flag as proposed would be an embarrassment to our community," he said. "At least five people said they would want to volunteer with helping with an open process for a new flag."
Among citizens supporting an open process for discussing and potentially selecting a new flag was Leslie Inman-Jensen, a local designer and educator. Inman-Jensen said that although she was not upset by the design of the currently proposed flag, she though the process of selecting a symbol that would represent the city should be put through a more public vetting process before being approved.
"We probably need to make sure we go through with a process to make sure how we're identifying ourselves visually meshes with our words," she said. "… I think the community should be involved in figuring out our strengths and values and have those represented. It should represent our city, where we are and where we want to go."
The council will vote on the flag resolution during its regular meeting tonight at 6 p.m. in the City Council Building, located at 1000 Lindsay St.