Flag salute monument to be dedicated

Freedom New Mexico: Eric Butler Jane Hilliard, 89, checks over a monument honoring Portales women who created the salute to the flag of New Mexico in 1963. Hilliard was part of the effort and will be on hand when the monument is dedicated.

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

I salute the flag of the State of New Mexico, the Zia symbol of perfect friendship among united cultures.

Current students in New Mexico’s public school systems are likely very aware of the salute to the flag of New Mexico, having to recite it along with the pledge of allegiance when classes begin each day.

Likewise, adults who grew up in the state are still in the habit of extending their right hand, palms up, and reciting the words to the salute before government meetings start.

The salute was created by a group of women in Portales and it was adopted by the state in 1963, making New Mexico only the third state to come up with a unique pledge to its own flag.

On Saturday, the surviving members of the Ellen W. Jones chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) will gather at the west side of the Roosevelt County Courthouse to see the official dedication of a monument in honor of the salute. The dedication ceremony will begin at 11:00 a.m. and will include special presentations and speakers with a reception to follow.

“This is really to make people aware that there is a Portales connection to the flag salute,” said Jan Compton Ross, granddaughter of Lora Vale Oldham, — who is generally credited by group members as the creative force behind the salute.

“She was kind of the driving force in getting it done. She helped, but she wouldn’t want credit for (writing it),” insists Compton Ross, who now lives in Clovis.

The granite monument, which Oldham’s name at the top of the list, was erected just under a month ago. Its $25,000 price tag was funded by a general funds appropriation from the 2008 state legislature.

Jane Hilliard, just a week shy of her 90th birthday, is one of the speakers on Saturday. She and Margaret Smith are the only living members of the UDC chapter in Portales to have actively played a part in the creation of the salute.

“It was (Oldham) primarily and there were others who played a part, myself included,” Hilliard said. “The monument is a perfectly wonderful thing and a great tribute, I think. The fascinating thing is that originated in Portales.”

Janelle Foster, current president of the local Ellen W. Jones chapter, said Oldham originally got the idea for a salute while she was participating in the establishment of monuments for the Jefferson Davis Highway, now known as I-10, in the early 1960s.

“She said, ‘We need a pledge to the New Mexico flag,’” Foster said. “One of the senators said, ‘Well, write one.’ Well, they got busy and did.”