Lee Roy Reeves

Lee Roy Reeves, designer of the Tennessee State Flag, was born in Johnson City in June 1876, the son of Elbert Clay and Alice D. Robeson Reeves. After graduating from the local high school and normal school, Reeves taught in the Johnson City public schools from 1896 to 1898. He then was admitted to the bar in 1899 and practiced in Johnson City with his father until 1905.

Reeves became interested in creating a state flag during his years as an officer in the Tennessee National Guard. In June 1903 he organized a company for the National Guard's Third Regiment, based in Johnson City, and was commissioned a captain. Two years later, Reeves approached several legislators with his flag design and asked them to sponsor legislation to have the flag designated as the official Tennessee State Flag. The general assembly approved the bill on April 17, 1905. As described in the Tennessee Blue Book, Reeves's design is straightforward but effective: “The three stars are of pure white, representing the three grand divisions of the state. They are bound together by the endless circle of the blue field, the symbol being 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 the other colors.” (1)

After the approval of the state flag, which was flown first in Johnson City, Reeves went on to have a distinguished legal and military career. He resigned his captaincy in 1906 after service in Virginia and Tracy City and subsequently was appointed major and judge advocate for the Tennessee National Guard. During the Mexican border crisis of the 1910s, Reeves served as acting brigade adjutant and assistant division adjutant. With the entrance of the United States into World War I, Reeves left the National Guard to volunteer for the U.S. Army in January 1918. He was commissioned a major, and after general demobilization he remained in the army, serving in the office of the judge advocate general. In 1920 he was commissioned a major in that army department, and he advanced to the rank of colonel before his retirement in 1940. Reeves died in 1960 and is buried in Johnson City's Oak Hill Cemetery.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Lee Roy Reeves
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date June 17, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018