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Flying High

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Man makes history with high school project.

By Patrick Keefe

In 1958, Bob Heft, then a 17-year-old high school junior, turned a history class project into a history-making event when he designed what is now America's flag.

Heft was in Campbellsville on Saturday, traveling with Bill Johnson, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senator.

When he was in high school, Heft said, there had been talk about making Alaska the 49th state, but he didn't think that made sense since Alaska was a Democratic state and then President Eisenhower was a Republican.

"Why would a Republican President want to admit a Democrat state and swing the balance of power when the Nixon-Kennedy elections were coming up?" Heft said. "I just took a chance there would be one more Republican state added."

And he was right ... eventually. Alaska was made a state in January 1959, while Hawaii was added in August.

Heft's design for a 50-star flag had six stars in the first row and five in the second, shifted over half a space. The current flag has a total of nine lines and 50 stars.

He started with a 48-star flag that had been a wedding gift to his parents 27 years earlier. He took the flag, along with a pair of scissors, and pulled it apart where the blue field met the red and white stripes.

"Since I didn't know how to sew, I used tape to put it back together, hoping I could convince my mom to sew it for me," Heft said. "But when she saw what I had done to her wedding present, she almost kicked me out of the house. That flag was meaningful and she was upset at what I had done to the family flag."

Read more on this story and others in Thursday's print edition.