Origin of pledge hand salute unknown

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Almost immediately after the Legislature adopted the salute to the New Mexico flag, school children and public meetings immediately began making the pledge part of their day.

Most organizations, including public school classrooms, say the pledge with the right hand outstretched and the palm upward. Members of the Ellen W. Jones chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Portales, the group that was responsible for the salute, say they don’t know the origin of that practice.

Members Jane Mauk Hilliard and Margaret Smith say the chapter says the New Mexico pledge before its meetings with their hands over their hearts.

“At one point, I contacted the Legislature and asked them what their determination was for a proper salute to the state flag — that is a hand salute,” Hilliard said. “They said it was up to each group to make their own determination.”

Hilliard and Smith, who also belong to the Portales Woman’s Club say the members there end up using hands over heart and hands outstretched.

UDC chapter president Jan Compton-Ross, a school teacher in the 1960s in Clovis said she doesn’t remember doing it any other way than hand outstretched at school. She’s unclear where that tradition might have come from.

“I do wish that there was a set way on that,” Smith said.

Asked if she might use her time on the floor of the roundhouse Tuesday as an opportunity to clear the matter up, Hilliard laughs and says no.

“We’re going to be on that floor for 10 seconds, I would guess,” she said, “and we’re not going to have their ear.”

Pledge text:
“I salute the flag of the State of New Mexico, the Zia symbol of perfect friendship among united cultures.”