Carroll Charles Hollensworth (1900–1959)

Carroll Charles Hollensworth was a prominent member of the Arkansas General Assembly in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Serving as the Speaker of the House and then as the floor leader, he was a central figure in the legislature’s work throughout that period.

Carroll Charles Hollensworth was born in Warren (Bradley County) on January 6, 1900, to Presbyterian minister Eli Asa Hollensworth and Mary Elizabeth Lee Hollensworth. He had an older brother and a younger sister. He grew up in Bradley County and attended the local schools, but little is known about the specifics of his early life. He served in the U.S. Army during World War I and afterward married Mayme Bird Stevens. The couple had a son and a daughter.

In the 1920s, Hollensworth began a career as an attorney. Although he had a formal law degree, it is not clear from which institution he earned it. He soon entered the political arena, first winning election to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1930. He served on and off for almost eighteen years until his death in 1959. Over the course of his tenure, Hollensworth established himself as a thoughtful, careful legislator who was respected by his colleagues and responsive to his constituents.

In 1941, Hollensworth introduced a bill that sought to repeal the ninety-day residency requirement for divorce, a provision that had become law in 1931. He sought to restore the one-year residency requirement that had previously been the law. While the bill’s introduction reflected a growing concern about divorce, it ran into strong opposition from the border counties that profited from the ninety-day residencies of prospective divorce parties, as well as from the clerks who got a percentage of the fees from the divorces they processed. It was ultimately defeated.

Hollensworth’s command of—and respect for—the rules and procedures that governed the legislative process reflected his professional approach to his responsibilities as a legislator. In fact, in 1936, Hollensworth suggested to Julian Waterman, the dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law, that a short course in legislative procedures and bill drafting be given to all legislators. Waterman approved of the idea, and the first session of the Arkansas Legislative Institute was held in November 1936, with Hollensworth serving as one of the instructors. The program, a first-in-the-nation effort that garnered national attention, became a biannual event that helped prepare new legislators at the start of each new session.

Hollensworth served as the Speaker of the House in 1953, being the compromise choice among competing factions. When his term as speaker ended, he became the Democrats’ floor leader. During his career in the House, Hollensworth served as chairman of the Rules Committee and was vice chairman of the Legislative Efficiency Committee. In addition, he was a member of the Budget Committee. He was a consistent advocate of improved roadways, while also making provisions for allowing livestock in the agriculturally dependent state to have easier access to roads. He was also an advocate of greater governmental efficiency and transparency. He introduced legislation aimed at eliminating the Arkansas Tax Commission, proposing instead that its duties be assumed by the Public Service Commission. Meanwhile, in seeking greater transparency in governmental operations, Hollensworth proposed legislation that sought to limit secret sessions of public boards. While he was a recognized fiscal conservative who regularly opposed tax increases, he was also in the forefront of those opposing cuts in the basic welfare programs, being especially concerned about ensuring protection of the elderly. Hollensworth was also involved in the state’s early effort to regulate the developing television industry.

As the Democratic floor leader for much of the 1950s, Hollensworth worked closely with Governor Orval Faubus during the early years of his governorship. Upon learning of Hollensworth’s death, Faubus declared that “the legislature won’t be the same without him,” adding that he was “one of the most able men I have ever seen in the legislature.”

Hollensworth died on May 19, 1959, in Warren. He had suffered a heart attack at his home and was pronounced dead a few hours later after being taken to the hospital. The respected legislator had previously suffered a heart attack during the session of the General Assembly a few months before and had spent time in a Little Rock (Pulaski County) hospital. He had been under a doctor’s care since his release from the hospital. He is buried in the Oakland Cemetery in Warren.

For additional information:
“Arkansas Plans Legislators’ School.” The Evening Sun (Baltimore), September 18, 1936, p. 24.

“Carroll Charles Hollensworth.” Find-a- Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/127422603/carroll-charles-hollensworth (accessed November 19, 2020).

Hughes, William W. “Legislators Split on Unlimited TV.” Hope Star, December 1, 1954, p. 2.

———. “Proposed Bill Would Hike Welfare Roll.” Hope Star, December 7, 1954, p. 1.

“New Arkansas Legislators Go to School.” Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey), November 15, 1936, p. 2.

Stephens, Ray, “Senate Defeats Closed Door Ban.” Camden Times, February 24, 1955, p. 4.

William H. Pruden III
Ravenscroft School

Last Updated: 11/19/2020

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