The germ of the Arkansas Creed was contained in House Concurrent Resolution 2 of 1969, introduced by state representative Roscoe Brown of Jonesboro (Craighead County). The resolution was approved, and the state historian, Dr. John Ferguson, was officially appointed head of the Creed Commission on March 3, 1970.
The committee first met on June 10 of that year. It included Ferguson, Maurice Dunn of Hot Springs (Garland County), Dr. Claude Babin of Monticello (Drew County), Education Commissioner Arch Ford, as well as Representative Brown himself. In December, the committee issued rules for a creed-writing contest. They solicited entries of 250 words, editable to eighty words or less. The deadline for submissions was initially February 1 but was later reset to May 1, 1971.
From a field of ninety-one entries, thirteen semifinalists were selected. Committee members, in addition to some interested outsiders, were asked to choose the best and rank the rest. One outside evaluator, Arkansas Gazette archivist Margaret Ross, thought little of any of the entries. After several meetings, the top three contestants were chosen: Charlotte Colston of Monette High School, Evelyn Archer of El Dorado High School, and Representative Brown. The committee decided that none of these would be declared the clear winner, and Dr. Ferguson accepted the task of composing a creed that incorporated “the best elements of certain of the contest entries.”
In July 1972, two copies were sent to Governor Dale Bumpers, along with a statement that read, in part, “The Committee held a public contest but none of the 91 entries was considered satisfactory. The Committee then drew up a creed which was adopted at a meeting of April 26, 1972.” In a public ceremony, Governor Bumpers unveiled the creed on August 1, 1972: “I believe in Arkansas as a land of opportunity and promise. I believe in the rich heritage of Arkansas and I honor the men and women who created this heritage. I believe in the youth of Arkansas who will build our future. I am proud of my state. I will uphold its constitution, obey its laws, and work for the good of all its citizens.”
The Arkansas Creed is not often recited, but it remains “official.” Perhaps the best last word on the subject of the creed was uttered by Representative Brown on the occasion of its official debut: “No creed is better than the practice of it.”
For additional information:
Arkansas Creed Selection Committee, 1969–1972. Small Manuscripts Collection. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.
“At Last Arkansas Gets Creed.”Arkansas Gazette. August 2, 1972, p. 3A.
“Committee Approves New Arkansas Creed.”Arkansas Democrat. August 1, 1972, p.5
Ware, David. It’s Official! The Real Story behind Arkansas’s State Symbols. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2015.
Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office
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