Le Roy Reeves: Johnson City’s Youthful Patriot
"Some eighteen or twenty years ago a small boy in the public schools of a small East Tennessee town found to the humiliation of his youthful patriotism that while history told him of many State flags, some older than the United States flag, his own State had no flag. He determined that when he became a man he would design a flag. And so he did."
~ C.E. Rogers, "State Flag at Normal School" The Johnson City Staff (Wednesday February 21, 1917), p. 4. ~
Le Roy Reeves was born on June 23, 1876 in Johnson City, Tennessee. He was the oldest of five children born to Elbert Clay Reeves (a lawyer and an early mayor of Johnson City) and Alice (Robeson) Reeves.
Reeves graduated from Johnson City High School in 1894 and took courses at the short-lived Johnson City College and Normal Institute the following year. After working as a teacher in the Johnson City public schools for two years, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1899.
Reeves practiced law in Johnson City with his father until 1905, before beginning a long career in the National Guard and the Army. On June 30, 1903, Reeves was commissioned as Captain of Company F of the Third Infantry, a company which he helped to organize. He served in the National Guard as private, sergeant, captain, and major until 1918, when he moved into the regular Army at the rank of major. In 1938, two years prior to his retirement, he achieved his final rank of colonel in the Judge Advocate General's Department.
In 1951 Reeves published a book on his family's history titled Ancestral Sketches. He died in Washington, D.C. on May 25, 1960 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Johnson City, in a family plot alongside his mother and father.
Reeves is best known as the designer of Tennessee's state flag, a task that had fascinated him since his childhood. He first worked in 1903 with S.E. Miller, Washington County's representative to the Tennessee House of Representatives, to propose his flag design. It was two years later, on April 17, 1905, that the Tennessee General Assembly passed an act adopting Reeves' design as the official flag of the State of Tennessee.