History of the regional symbol
The flag of Hampton Roads is named for one of the finest natural harbors in the world and the surrounding Southeastern Virginia metropolitan area of the same name. The flag was created in 1998 in a highly public process sponsored by the Hampton Roads Regional Identify Task Force. As one of a number of measures to promote recognition of the region’s historic name, Task Force Chairman Jim Babcock proposed a contest among high school students to create a regional flag. Assisted by noted vexillologist Peter Orenski—(vexillology is the study of flags)—the contest produced over 1,000 designs which were winnowed by the region’s seventeen school districts to 83 finalists. From these, a jury of twelve citizens appointed by the region’s mayors selected three final designs that were then voted on by the general public through the media.
The design of flags is an art form unto itself. Flags have to be the right size and shape. Simple is good, busy is bad. There should be no writing; first, because the words on flags can generally not be read and second, because that which may read properly on one side will be reversed on the other. Great flags have no more than three colors, and it's not enough to just look good hanging on a wall like a picture. Flags must wave, and drape, and look good hanging loosely from a pole. Finally, flags must have meaning—they must say something about that which they represent. No small task for a high school student or for the panel of judges assembled at ODU in the fall of 1997.
The flag was to represent the region of Hampton Roads. It would be the first of its kind. Nations have flags. Cities and counties have flags, as do armies, sports teams, businesses, and fraternal organizations. But metropolitan regions, those ephemeral areas defined by geography, history, unity of thought and purpose, a shared vision, and generally ignoring political boundaries, have never had a flag.
Of the three flag designs published in local newspapers, the preferred design drew a clear majority of the over 2700 persons who voted in the poll. At a celebration on 15 June 1998, the contest winner, sixteen year-old Andrew J. Wall of Frank W. Cox High School in Virginia Beach, raised the new regional flag for the first time to the mast of the Spirit of Norfolk, moored in the Harbor. Used for several years by the ship, the first flag was subsequently framed and donated to the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, which displays it in the lobby of the Regional Building at 723 Woodlake Drive in Chesapeake, Virginia. A local company, U.S. Flag and Signal, manufactures the flag in various sizes for residential and business display.
As the flag of America’s First Region, the flag of Hampton Roads is itself historic: It is the first flag ever created for a metropolitan region of the United States.
The symbolism of the flag
The blue panel evokes the predominantly maritime character of Hampton Roads, which is the largest naval base in the world and the East Coast’s second largest seaport. It recalls the first European settlers at Jamestown in 1607, the first battle between ironclad ships in 1862, the importance of its shipbuilding and ship repair industry to the nation, as well as maritime commerce, fishing, recreational boating, and the major military and government installations around the region’s shores.
Agriculture, the environment, tourism, industry, and a healthy quality of life are symbolized by the lower panel of green.
The white wavy line represents the sand dunes and surf that help make the region one of the nation’s most visited tourist destinations—from Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown to Norfolk’s Chrysler Museum and the famous resort area at Virginia Beach. The three crests in the wave suggest past, present, and future.
The sixteen white stars, symbolizing the region’s cities and counties, are displayed in a circle, the classic symbol of unity, all pointing inward to represent regional cooperation.
Water is the central theme. It touches all components and binds them together, as we are bound together as a region.
The flag as a whole stands for the strong sense of community and unity shared by the region’s 1.7 million residents.
To purchase the Hampton Roads Flag:
Visit the Web site of U.S. Flag and Signal Company, Portsmouth, Virginia: