Betty Jeane Allen Tucker (1943–)

Betty Jeanne Allen Tucker is the wife of Jim Guy Tucker (the forty-third governor of Arkansas) and was the state’s thirty-eighth first lady. Outside of politics, she is best known for her work with the Arkansas Arts Center and Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock (Pulaski County).

Betty Jeanne Allen was born on February 28, 1943, in Jackson, Mississippi, to Emmett Allen and Gertrude Allen; she was raised in Brookhaven, Mississippi. Her father served during World War II as an aviator and later practiced law in Brookhaven. During the war, Allan lived with her mother’s parents, who owned a farm and had a lucrative cotton-trading business.

She married Lance Alworth in 1958 and came to Arkansas after Alworth signed on to play running back for the University of Arkansas (UA) Razorbacks. Alworth had sought to play at the University of Mississippi, but the university’s rules forbade married students from playing on the team. Betty Alworth passed a special entrance exam and went from high school freshman to college freshman at the University of Arkansas at age sixteen. She followed Lance through his college playing career and his career in the National Football League (NFL), where he played for the San Diego Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys. The Alworths had two children: Lance Jr. and Kelly. She and Alworth divorced in 1968, and she returned to school to earn a degree in elementary education, which she completed at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1971. She went to work as an elementary teacher in the Little Rock School District that same year.

Through mutual friends Wayne and Frances Cranford, she met Jim Guy Tucker in 1972; at the time, he was described as Arkansas’s most eligible bachelor. They married in November 1975, and Jim Guy Tucker was elected to represent Arkansas’s Second Congressional District the following year. For much of the next decade, she would be involved with her husband’s almost constant campaigning, for Congress, the U.S. Senate, and governor.

After her husband’s unsuccessful 1978 U.S. Senate race, she returned to school to earn her law degree, which she would finish by the time her husband first ran for governor in 1982. By this time the Tucker household had grown to six, with the additions of Anna and Sarah Tucker. While reestablishing a law practice, the Tuckers went into the burgeoning cable television market, starting their business in their garage with three employees, providing cable TV service in rural Pulaski County. In less than a decade, it had become a multi-million-dollar business that had spread to Texas, Florida, and even the United Kingdom. The Tuckers sold the firm in 1991.

Having earned financial security from the couple’s business and legal success, Jim Guy Tucker returned to politics in 1990 and was elected lieutenant governor. In the lead-up to Bill Clinton’s election to the presidency in 1992, Jim Guy Tucker became the forty-third governor of Arkansas and Betty Tucker assumed the role as the state’s thirty-eighth first lady. Betty Tucker was an active first lady, honored by the Arkansas Business Publishing Group as one of the “Top 100 Women in Arkansas.” She served on the boards of the Arkansas Arts Center, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the Campaign for Healthier Babies, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Race for the Cure, and the Board of Advisors for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. She was also chairwoman of the education committee at Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock.

After leaving the Governor’s Mansion, the Tuckers returned to their business and legal interests. Her husband battled chronic liver disease, which ultimately resulted in him receiving a liver transplant on December 25, 1996, from which he made a full recovery. As her husband transitioned into the role of elder statesman, Tucker became development director for the Psychiatric Research Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in December 2011. Her role was to raise funds and develop and enhance donor relationships for Arkansas’s only academic mental-health facility, a task for which her contacts in politics and business were invaluable. Beginning around 2015, she also worked with other Arkansas first ladies in fundraising efforts to preserve and upgrade the First Ladies’ Inaugural Gown Exhibit at the Old State House Museum in Little Rock, which reopened to the public in September 2018.

For additional information:
“Betty Tucker: A Woman of Accomplishment.” James Guy Tucker Jr. Papers Processing Project: University of Arkansas at Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture: Collections and Archives. https://ualrexhibits.org/tuckerblog/2016/02/24/betty-tucker-a-woman-of-accomplishment/ (accessed November 27, 2019).

Clifford, Garry. “After Some On-the-Job Training with Wife Betty, Jim Guy Tucker Heads Up the Conference on Families.” People, January 7, 1980.

James Guy Tucker Jr. Papers (UALR.MS.0004). Center for Arkansas History and Culture, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Revis Edmonds
Old State House Museum

Last Updated: 11/27/2019