Theodore Lafayette Lamb (1927–1984)
Theodore Lafayette Lamb was a key participant in the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis in 1958–59. He was also a prominent civil rights and labor attorney from 1967 until his death.
Ted Lamb was born on April 11, 1927 in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Foster Lamb and Theodosia Braswell Lamb. His father was a butcher by trade and moved his family to Arkansas in the early 1930s; the family settled on a farm near Bryant (Saline County). Lamb was educated in the Little Rock (Pulaski County) schools. He was president of the student council at Little Rock High School, now Central High School in 1944. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was posted to Little Rock Junior College, Louisiana State University, and Yale University for short periods, until attending Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, after which he trained at Army Language School as a Japanese linguist. He served in Japan and the Far East until his discharge as Second Lieutenant in 1947. He then reentered Yale, working his way through school. On July 5, 1949, he married Ardella Fay Bullard in Little Rock. In 1950, he received his BA from Yale in economics and entered a business training program with General Electric Company in Syracuse, New York.
In 1952, Lamb established an advertising agency in Little Rock, Ted Lamb and Associates, specializing in financial advertising, with offices in Little Rock; Dallas, Texas; Princeton, New Jersey; and Milford, Connecticut. After Little Rock’s Central High School was desegregated in 1957, and all four Little Rock high schools were closed in 1958, Lamb ran for, and was elected to, the Little Rock School Board in December 1958. He became the outspoken leader of the move to reopen the schools, which was accomplished in August 1959. Lamb served on the school board until 1964. During his tenure, he was vocal in his opposition to segregationist forces and those on the board who shared their worldview. On March 4, 1961, following an appellate court’s finding that Little Rock officials had used the pupil placement law in a discriminatory fashion and an urging from the court to do better than token integration, Lamb excoriated his fellow board members, saying that they had paid more “attention to a handful of bigots and racists than to those who work for justice and righteousness in our city.” He accused them of wasting money filing futile litigation and said that the board had “never seriously sought to rally the forces of Christianity and goodwill in our town to enter into compliance with the court on a moral basis.”
His activities in connection with the school closings in Little Rock, and especially his public statements criticizing Governor Orval Faubus and the segregationists, almost closed down Ted Lamb and Associates. The agency lost twenty-one out of twenty-six Arkansas accounts, and the business moved from an overall profit to a net loss over an eighteen-month period. Lamb closed his East Coast offices, keeping only the almost defunct Little Rock office and the Dallas office.
The withdrawal of business was intended to force Lamb to cease his efforts for school integration. However, he became more adamant in his liberal positions. With a young family of four children, a large house and mortgage, and a severe drop in family income, Lamb maintained his strong leadership on the school board and began commuting regularly to Dallas to maintain as much of his business as possible.
After his two terms on the school board and the constant encounters with the segregationist forces, Lamb decided to change careers and become a civil rights lawyer. He started law school at Southern Methodist University in 1965. At the end of his first year, he transferred to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). For the next two years, he commuted between Fayetteville for classes and Little Rock and Dallas for business.
Lamb completed law school and became a member of the Arkansas Bar in 1967. He began practicing law in Little Rock, at first with Jim Youngdahl, the noted union attorney, and subsequently on his own, and he gradually phased out his advertising business. He was also appointed in 1965, while still in law school, as chairman of the Arkansas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The commission did not reappoint Lamb in 1967, probably due to his unbending and outspoken advocacy for school integration in Arkansas. In 1968, he was instrumental in forming the Arkansas affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He was the first Chairman of the Legal Panel for ACLU of Arkansas, and he personally litigated several civil liberties cases for ACLU as a volunteer attorney.
From 1967 until his death in 1984, Lamb built a successful labor law practice in Little Rock; during that time, he served for seven years as the general counsel for the Teamsters Union in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and east Texas.
Lamb’s marriage to Ardella Bullard ended in divorce in April 1975. He married his second wife, Deanna Jones Dudley, in February the following year.
Lamb died from cancer on September 6, 1984, at his father’s farm near Bryant, where he was living with his wife, and was survived by four children and two stepchildren. He is buried in Pinecrest Cemetery in Alexander (Pulaski and Saline counties).
For additional information:
“Ted Lamb Dies; Led Move to Reopen Schools, Told LR to Meet Responsibility.” Arkansas Gazette. September 7, 1984, p. 8A.
Williams, Nancy, ed. Arkansas Biography: A Collection of Notable Lives. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.
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During the time Ted was in advertising, he created the now famous smiley face. It was the yellow sun smiley face first appearing in Little Rock, Arkansas, and has stood the test of time. It caught on quickly, and Ted may never have gone about the procedure for owning credit for it. His ego didn’t ordinarily express itself that way, and he spent more time and energy with civil rights matters. He was a highly creative, sensitive man. [Editor’s note: He is indeed not on record as the inventor of the smiley face symbol.]