By Karl Terry: Freedom New Mexico
It takes strong bricks to build strong buildings. It takes strong women to build a strong community.
That’s what I heard Tuesday at a reception honoring the women of the Ellen W. Jones Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
If that’s true, and I believe it is, it’s no wonder Portales has survived and remained strong and true to its own. The women honored Jane Mauk Hilliard, Margaret Smith and Jan Ross-Compton as great examples of the strong women it took to build this community.
The reception and honors were in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the creation of the salute to the state flag by the local chapter of UDC. It was great to honor the ladies and great for everyone to be reminded, or perhaps find out for the first time, that those eloquent and very meaningful words came out of our community.
The salute was adopted in 1963 and evidently was immediately incorporated into the regular classroom day of New Mexico’s children, at least in Portales. I started school at L.L. Brown in 1965 and we never missed a morning in grade school reciting the words.
I’m not sure if every Portales grade school class still says the salute to the New Mexico flag but I bet most still do. I also say it at least once a week at Rotary and often at other public meetings each month.
I interviewed Hilliard, whom I’ve known all my life, and Smith prior to their excursion to Santa Fe to be recognized on the floor of the Roundhouse. I was curious as to why many people say the salute with an outstretched right hand with the palm up, so I asked them if the UDC had recommended it be done that way.
I didn’t know I had innocently opened a can of worms. The ladies didn’t know where that came from and didn’t say it that way themselves. They informed me they preferred to place their hand over their heart when reciting it. But they specifically said it was important to relax the hand briefly at the side after saying the pledge to the U.S. flag and before the salute to the state flag.
True to their style, that’s the way they led the pledge Tuesday in front of the crowd gathered at the Memorial Building in their honor. Most of the rest of the room had palm outstretched, but the women of the UDC had it over their heart.
A strong symbol from a strong group of ladies. They’re eager to give but uncompromising on the fine points of how they believe.
What strikes me most about these matrons of Portales is what they’ve done in the way of service to the community. For years, if there was a need in the community these women, along with those they associated with, looked for a way to meet it. If the library needed books, they found the books. If young people needed scholarships to go to college, they supported the foundation that could provide them. If the state needed a salute to its flag, they wrote one.
There is no doubt we wouldn’t live in such a strong community with all the amenities we enjoy if these ladies hadn’t been busy working on the details for decades.
The next time we salute the state flag, we need to all say a silent salute to strong women.
Karl Terry is managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at 356-4483 or by e-mail: