Investigation finds Alaska flag designer was 14

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The state of Alaska has issued a corrected birth certificate for the designer of the Alaskan flag after researchers examining his heritage found records indicating he was born older than a year earlier than previously believed.

The change means he designed the flag with the Big Dipper and the North Star on a blue field when he was 14, not 13.

Superior Court Judge Adolf Zeman last week ordered the state to issue a birth certificate for John Ben Benson Jr. with the birth date of September 12, 1912, and to correct his mother’s maiden name.

The order follows a petition from researcher Michael iqyax Livingston, who was part of the team studying Benson’s legacy that uncovered the church and other records supporting the changes.

Benson is known as Benny Benson, and in 1927 he won a territory-wide competition with his flag design, which became the state flag after Alaska was admitted to the Union in 1959. Benson is believed to be the only Native American to design a state flag. He died in 1972.

According to a University of Alaska webpage on the flag’s history, Benson explained his design in his written submission for the contest: “The blue field is for the Alaskan sky and the forget-me-not, a flower from Alaska. The North Star represents the future of Alaska, the northernmost state in the Union. The ladle is for the Big Dipper – symbolizing strength (sic).

Zeman’s order notes that a panel of historical experts, convened at the request of the Vital Statistics Section, reviewed the documents submitted by Livingston and voted unanimously to recommend changing the Benson’s date of birth.

A birth certificate filed in 1940 listed Benson’s date of birth as October 12, 1913. The timing of the filing coincided with a period when men of a certain age were required to enroll in the draft, and it is possible that Benson was told he needed his birth certificate when he checked in, the report said.

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