It has been decades since John Muller lived in Minnesota, but the 83 year old who grew up in Mankato said he still considers himself a Minnesotan.
He’s hopeful that people in his home state will sense that native pride in his design for a new state flag.
Muller is among six finalists in consideration for the flag’s redesign. His flag features a white eight-point star at the top, with blue and green wavy imagery in the bottom half.
Members of the State Emblems Redesign Commission will review it Tuesday as they consider which designs should advance. They have a deadline at the end of the year to present the new state flag. That design will replace the current one in May barring a legislative veto.
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Muller moved to Texas for Air Force training ahead of the Vietnam War. He met his wife there and decided to stay. They now live in Tyler, Texas.
He spoke with MPR News about his creative process, the decision to center the North Star and what it would mean for him to win.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What inspired your design and how did you hear about the redesign process?
I subscribe to the Dallas Morning News and several months ago there was an article in there about Minnesota planning to redesign their state flag, which I said, “Well, that’s a wonderful thing,” because I was familiar with the state flag of Minnesota that is currently in existence. And it is not a very good representation for the state of Minnesota. It’s very complicated and has a lot of verbiage on it. And it’s also kind of racist in a way.
So I thought, “Well, I’m just gonna submit an idea that I might be an improvement.” And I thought that, first of all, my ideal was to have something that was much more simple. And a relatively small number of colors, limited to three different colors: green, blue and white. And also a very simple design, but I wanted the design to have something that represents the state of Minnesota.
I started out with the idea, first of all, I felt that Minnesota should be represented. In Texas, you may be familiar with the idea that Texas always holds itself out to be the Lone Star state. Well, I thought, well, that’s a separate thing.
But Minnesota is the North Star state. And it’s the only state that can proclaim themselves to be the North Star state, which I think is an attribute for the state of Minnesota. So I thought that Minnesota should emphasize the fact that they are the North Star state.
I wanted to have something really unique. I said Minnesota is a unique state. And I thought that the star should be eight points rather than five. And it should be white, not yellow, and it should be featured on the top center of the flag.
I represent the fact that Minnesota is the North Star state. And the top portion of the flag is blue, with a white star in the middle of it is blue to represent the sky blue waters and the 10,000 lakes.
And I thought that would be appropriate to have that blue. And then also below that is a green field, which I thought would represent the state's green forests, this natural wilderness and courses, abundant agricultural crops that are produced in the state of Minnesota.
Then there’s a white band that separates and I thought that would represent the many, many winter activities that are available in the state of Minnesota.
All six finalists depict the North Star. Why do you think that symbol sticks out?
I think it’s important for Minnesota to identify themselves as the North Star state. I thought about the state bird is a loon. And I thought outside of Minnesota, I don’t think anyone knows what the loon is.
And I also thought if they use a loon, I think that’s going to invite derogatory comments from people outside that Minnesota is the looney state or whatever. And I don’t think that’s very positive.
So I really wanted to emphasize the North Star. And I thought that was a very important thing to have on the flag. I wanted the flag to be unique. I wanted it to have eight points, not five. So that was basically the thought behind my process.
I never expected to be one of the finalists. I'll be honest with you, I was really flabbergasted when she called me and said, “Congratulations, you’re one of the finalists.”
What would you say to folks concerned about picking a design from someone who doesn’t live in Minnesota right now?
Well, yeah, I thought of that, too. When I submitted my design I made it clear to them that even though I live in Texas, I consider myself a native son of Minnesota. I was born and raised there. I was educated there. I just have strong, strong feelings about the state. And I have very fond feelings about the state.
I’ve never thought of myself as a full-fledged Texan. I don’t own a pair of cowboy boots, and I don’t wear a cowboy hat. And I’m basically the same guy I was when I left Minnesota because I was sent to Texas and I didn’t come here by choice. But anyway, I would hope that would not come into play.
What would it mean for you to win?
I would feel very proud. Actually, I talked to the president of our class yesterday. I just visited with him. He lives in North Mankato and I said, I don’t get any remuneration or any prize or anything like that for this but I told him if someone from our class, our high school class, could have a part in it, in establishing the flag for the state of Minnesota, I think that would be a feather in our class. There’ll be a feather in our hat, for someone in our class to have done that.