The so-called “Betsy Ross of Missouri” has joined 49 others in the Hall of Famous Missourians. Marie Watkins Oliver, of southeast Missouri’s Cape Girardeau, played a key role in designing and crafting the Missouri State Flag.

During a ceremony today at the state Capitol, House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, said the statue of Oliver has been in the basement of the Capitol for some time. He said Oliver deserves to be sitting in the Hall of Famous Missourians.

“Her resulting masterpiece integrated red, white and blue symbolizing various federal ties while embodying local autonomy and self-governance. The central coat-of-arms denotes Missouri’s geographical significance, while the 24 stars and the blue band signify Missouri’s 24th place in the union,” said Plocher.

He said each color carries “profound significance.” The blue stands for vigilance, permanency and justice; the red, valor; and the white, purity.

The original Missouri flag that she made is on display at the Kirkpatrick Building in Jefferson City.

Her great great grandson, Jack Oliver, attended the ceremony in the Missouri House of Representatives.

“We have a funny thing in our family,” said Oliver. “We always say the men had the titles but the women had the testimonies. And this is just another great example of the leaders in our family. Like my great great grandmother, who did the flag, and my great grandmother was a big part of starting Meals on Wheels, we’re very honored to have been a very, very small part of Missouri history.”

He said he’s honored that her work is being celebrated so that Missouri has a state flag. Oliver said she was a “force of nature” and “a gentle giant.”

“One of my great old friends and bosses said, ‘You know, you’re usually gone by the time they figure out whether or not you did something of value and she’d been gone a long time. So, I’m glad we all figured out she did something of value,” Oliver told Missourinet.

Oliver’s family raised the money privately to make the bust become a reality.

A statue of Oliver is in the hall, on the third floor of the Missouri Capitol Rotunda. She joins other famous Missourians, such as “Price Is Right” host Bob Barker, newsman Walter Cronkite, Walt Disney, and President Harry Truman.

“I also think it’s great for these young people when they come to this amazing Capitol to see the different stories that make up the mosaic of who we are as a state. Many of them are people that had incredible lives, wherever they were, wherever they went on to have their lives happen. Some of them are small roles that no one knows. But what they did was an important part of it,” Oliver said.

Plocher said he does not know why the statue was in the basement or how long it was there.

“I met Jack a few years ago. And all of a sudden, he mentioned, ‘Well, my great great grandmother was Marie Watkins Oliver.’ And by happenstance, my daughter, who was in the fourth grade, had to do a report on a famous Missourian. Ironically, she chose Marie Watkins Oliver. He said, ‘Well, you know, we had a bust commissioned years ago’ for this very occasion we’re having today. I did some inquiries. It’s been down there. I’ve contacted several speakers. They’ve all denied anything to do with it,” Plocher chuckled.

Below the statue says former House Speaker Todd Richardson selected Oliver. He served as Missouri House Speaker from 2015 to 2018.

Copyright © 2024 · Missourinet