Blue Star Memorial Highways
Markers for Blue Star Memorial Highways, which honor members of the armed forces, are located along highways across the United States, including several examples in Arkansas.
Members of the National Council of State Garden Clubs envisioned creating “living memorials” for members of the armed services who served during World War II, rather than monuments or buildings. The first Blue Star roadway was established in New Jersey in 1945 following work completed the previous year. A five-and-a-half-mile section of road was named Blue Star Drive, and dogwood trees were planted along the road. The state legislature designated the roadway a memorial and banned the posting of billboards along the route. The project was well received and approved by the National Council in 1945 before being adopted as a National Council project the following year.
The project expanded in 1951 to include service members from all wars and to honor those currently serving or who would serve in the future. When established, the program allowed local garden clubs to lobby their respective state legislatures to designate a section of a highway as a Blue Star Memorial Highway. Once approved, the club purchased a marker and put in plants that would be suitable for the area. The local highway department office would be responsible for the upkeep of the area. By 1979, each state included at least one Blue Star Memorial Highway, with almost 37,000 miles of roads in the country holding the designation. Markers denote the area as a Blue Star Memorial Highway and include information about the purpose of the marker and the names of any sponsoring organizations.
The first marker installed in Arkansas was sponsored by the Arkansas Federation of Garden Clubs and dedicated on June 9, 1959. The placement of a marker by the Blytheville Garden Club on May 4, 1978, designated Interstate 55 between West Memphis (Crittenden County) and the Missouri state line as a Blue Star Memorial Highway. The marker was located at the Arkansas Tourist Information Center near the city.
Markers are located in a variety of areas near highways. Along Interstate 30, a marker is present at a rest stop between exits 91 and 97. Placed by the Ridgeway Garden Club of Little Rock (Pulaski County), it was installed on April 19, 1984. Other examples of markers include one in Greenwood (Sebastian County) located on the town square. A marker in Harrisburg (Poinsett County) is located in Veterans Park.
A marker was installed on April 10, 2018, in Conway (Faulkner County) on the grounds of the Faulkner County Library, sponsored by the Conway Garden Club and the Conway Evening Garden Club. This marker was the twenty-ninth to be installed across the state since the beginning of the program. One replacement marker was installed in Bella Vista (Benton County) to replace a damaged marker.
The Blue Star Memorial Highway program continues to be an active part of the National Garden Clubs, Incorporated, the current name of the National Council of State Garden Clubs.
For additional information:
“Blue and Gold Star Memorials.” National Garden Clubs, Inc. http://gardenclub.org/projects/blue-star-memorials.aspx (accessed August 21, 2020).
Crosby, Eleanor. Fifty Years of Service, 1929–1979: History of the National Council of State Garden Clubs, Inc. St. Louis: National Council of State Garden Clubs, Inc., 1979.
“Marker to be Dedicated Sunday.” Blytheville Courier News, July 7, 1978, p. 9.
Henderson State University
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