Leona Troxell (1913–2003)
Leona Troxell was a political activist who played a major role in the development of the Republican Party in Arkansas, her adopted home. She was also involved with the Republican Party at the national level.
Leona Anderson was born on April 22, 1913, in Johnstown, New York, to Frank and Clara Anderson. When she was young, the family moved to Iowa, settling in LeMars. Her father was the executive secretary of the Iowa Baptist Convention for sixteen years.
Anderson graduated from North High School in Des Moines in 1930 and then attended Drake University in Des Moines. Active in the student community, she was president of the Drake University YWCA. She graduated from Drake in 1934 with a liberal arts degree in French. While earning a master’s degree, Anderson served as the assistant to the dean of women and also taught French and Spanish at the university. In 1936, she became assistant dean of women, a post she held until 1940, when she moved to New York City. There, she worked as an assistant house supervisor at the Katherine Gibbs School through 1941.
In 1942, she returned to Iowa, becoming service club director for the U.S. Army at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa. She worked there until 1944 and also spent some time in a similar capacity in Denver, Colorado. In 1945, she did Red Cross recreational work at Bruns General Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and later in Washington DC. With the war over, in 1946, Anderson returned to Drake to serve as women’s counselor and director of women’s residences. But she left Drake again at the end of the 1947–48 school year for Europe, where she became service club director for the U.S. Army. While in Europe, she met Colonel Nolan Troxell, whom she married in 1951. The couple moved to Arkansas, settling in Rose Bud (White County).
In Arkansas, Troxell became actively involved in the moribund Republican Party, playing an important role in its development as a competitive second party. She was an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention from Arkansas in 1964, the convention at which Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona defeated New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, an elder brother of Winthrop Rockefeller, for the nomination for president. Winthrop Rockefeller had led a sort of moderate revolt in 1963, and his forces took control of the Arkansas Republican Party. Troxell was a key ally of Rockefeller. She was president of the National Federation of Republican Women from 1963 to 1967 and also served as the Republican national committeewoman from Arkansas.
In 1968, when Winthrop Rockefeller won reelection as governor, Troxell was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for state treasurer, losing to Nancy J. Hall, the Democratic incumbent and the first woman ever elected to a state constitutional office in Arkansas, by a 62.6 to 37.4 percent margin. It was supposed to be the year of the great leap forward by the GOP, with major candidates running alongside Rockefeller for all six constitutional offices. However, only Rockefeller and Lieutenant Governor Maurice L. “Footsie” Britt won. Not long afterward, Rockefeller appointed Troxell as the director of the Arkansas Employment Security Division, a post she assumed in September 1969. She also chaired the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women.
With Rockefeller’s defeat in 1970 and death in February 1973, the Republican Party’s renaissance ended. In 1974, Troxell ran as the Republican Party’s candidate for lieutenant governor on a ticket headed by Ken Coon. They were defeated by a ticket headed by the enormously popular David Pryor, and Troxell won only twenty-three percent of the vote in her race.
In 1981, Troxell questioned Governor Frank White’s decision to appoint former governor Orval E. Faubus, a Democrat and segregationist, as director of the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs. She said she did not think the state wanted to hearken back to the type of government that Faubus represented. She was also a vocal critic of White’s refusal to support the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as it moved into its final stages in 1981.
Troxell was the Arkansas state legislative chairman of the American Association of University Women as well the chairman of the Arkansas Heart Association. She was also involved in the Rose Bud First Baptist Church, participating in the choir and the women’s programs. She established the Nolan and Leona Troxell Perpetual Scholarship at the church. In recognition of her efforts, in 1994 the church education building was named for her.
Her first husband died in 1971. She later married Russell Dodd. She had no children.
In the final years of her life, Troxell was the victim of fraud when Kevin Aaron Henson, a man she had known and trusted, stole from the investment account he was overseeing for her. The scheme was discovered, and Henson was sentenced to the prescribed maximum two years in prison and required to repay $40,000. Prosecutors believed that he had likely stolen as much as $400,000, but they were unable to make a definitive determination.
For additional information:
Friedlieb, Linda. “In Scam, Ex-Stockbroker Gets 2 Years.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 10, 1998.
“Leona Troxell Anderson Dodd.” Find-a-Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/16766075/leona-troxell-dodd (accessed November 19, 2020).
“What Has Happened to Them? Leona Anderson Troxell.” Des Moines Tribune, September 29, 1969.
William H. Pruden III
Last Updated: 11/19/2020