Online voting of possible names for the new 5-acre green park in downtown Johnson City ended last week. City commissioners will soon decide what this space should be called. There are some good suggestions out there, among them are Blue Plum Greenway, Founders Park and Johnson Commons.
There is one other name, however, that should also be given some consideration. It is that of a man buried in Oak Hill Cemetery overlooking the new park. More than a century ago, LeRoy Reeves, a Johnson City resident and captain in the Tennessee National Guard, sat down and sketched out a design for a state flag that would become one of Tennessee’s most enduring symbols.
Its distinctive three white stars have become a common sight on flagpoles and on official letterheads of governments and businesses across this state. With his simple design of a red banner with a wheel of three white stars, Reeves managed to do what others had failed to do for more than 70 years — create a flag that actually looked good atop a flagpole.
“The three stars are of pure white, representing the three grand divisions of the state,” Reeves once wrote in explaining the intent of his design. “They are bound together by the endless circle of the blue field, the symbol being three bound together in one — an indissoluble trinity.
“The large field is crimson. The final blue bar relieves the sameness of the crimson field and prevents the flag from showing too much crimson when hanging limp. The white edgings contrast more strongly the other colors.”
The “grand divisions” that Reeves refers to are the three uniquely contrasting geographical areas of the state: The Great Smoky Mountains and Cumberland Plateau of East Tennessee; the rolling landscape carved by the Tennessee River in Middle Tennessee; and the cotton plantations that dot the bottom land of the Mississippi River.
Reeves certainly knew what he was doing when he sketched out his design for the Tennessee flag. More than 40 years after his death, his creation is still considered one of the best flag designs in the country.
That’s why we think LeRoy Reeves Park should be among the names considered for the city’s newest park.