Boy Who Changed Alaska Would Be 97 Today



Jay Barrett/KMXT

Yesterday was the 97 anniversary of the birth of Kodiak’s most famous resident, Benny Benson, who every schoolchild knows designed the Alaska State flag when he was just 13, providing inspiration to generations of Alaskans.

Benson, born in Chignik, was living at the Jesse Lee Home orphanage in Seward when the territorial governor announced a contest to design a flag for the Alaska Territory.

Kodiak Historical Society Executive Director Katie Oliver.

(Benson 1 39 sec "Flag design contests weren’t … and swept it.")

Though Benson’s design proved popular with the ultimate judges, Oliver explains that he didn’t come in first during the preliminary judging of Seward entries:

(Benson 2 27 sec "So there were about 142 … once he got to Juneau.")

Benson described his design of eight stars of gold on a field of blue this way, "The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaskan flower. The North Star is for the future state of Alaska, the most northerly in the union. The Dipper is for the Great Bear-symbolizing strength."

(Benson 3 22 sec "It frequently is recognized … and elegant flag.")

The flag Benson designed was the inspiration for the state anthem, called simply "The Alaska Flag Song," written by Marie Drake and Elinor Dusenbury.

Benson died in Kodiak in 1972, at the age of 58, and is buried here. Today a building on the campus of Kodiak College is named after Benson, and the school itself is located on Benny Benson Drive.


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