Booker Worthen Literary Prize
aka: Worthen Prize
The Booker Worthen Literary Prize is awarded each year to the best work, fiction or non-fiction, by an author living in Arkansas. With a stipend of $2,000, it is one of the state’s most lucrative and prestigious literary prizes.
The Booker Worthen Literary Prize was established in 1999 in the memory of William Booker Worthen, who was a member of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) Board of Trustees for twenty-two years, as well as part of the Worthen Bank empire. The award is funded in part by interest from an endowment for the award donated by the Worthen family.
The Worthen Prize is awarded in a joint program with the Porter Fund Literary Prize. This generally occurred in October, but, in 2008, the year that CALS took over responsibility of the Arkansas Literary Festival (ALF), the reception was moved to coincide with the festival, although it was not an official part of the ALF. In 2012, however, the award ceremony returned to October. The winning book is selected by the Worthen Prize Committee. Originally, to qualify, authors had live in the CALS service area, which included over thirty counties in central Arkansas with which the library system had a lending agreement (called the “Gateway Program”). However, in 2020, after CALS withdrew from the Gateway Program, the award was expanded to cover the entire state of Arkansas. There is a three-year period of eligibility based on a book’s copyright year. Four authors—Mara Leveritt, Kevin Brockmeier, Grif Stockley, and S. Charles Bolton—have won the award twice.
|1999||Arkansas, 1800–1860: Remote and Restless||S. Charles Bolton|
|2000||The Boys on the Tracks||Mara Leveritt|
|2001||The Rumble of a Distant Drum: The Quapaws and Old World Newcomers, 1673–1804.||Morris S. Arnold|
|2002||Blood in Their Eyes: The Elaine Race Massacres of 1919||Grif Stockley|
|2003||Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three||Mara Leveritt|
|2004||The Truth about Celia||Kevin Brockmeier|
|2005||Communities of Kinship: Antebellum Families and the Settlement of the Cotton Frontier||Carolyn Earle Billingsley|
|2006||Promises Kept||Sidney S. McMath|
|2007||A Brief History of the Dead||Kevin Brockmeier|
|2008||Turn away Thy Son: Little Rock, the Crisis that Shocked the Nation||Elizabeth Jacoway|
|2009||The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey||Trenton Lee Stewart|
|2010||Ruled by Race: Black/White Relations in Arkansas from Slavery to the Present||Grif Stockley|
|2011||The Broken Vase||Phillip H. McMath and Emily Matson Lewis|
|2012||The Thousand-Year Flood: The Ohio-Mississippi Disaster of 1937||David Welky|
|2013||Civil War Arkansas, 1863: The Battle for a State||Mark K. Christ|
|2014||Fiat Flux: The Writings of Wilson R. Bachelor, Nineteenth-Century Country Doctor and Philosopher||William D. Lindsey|
|2015||Racial Cleansing in Arkansas, 1883–1924: Politics, Land, Labor, and Criminality||Guy Lancaster|
|2016||We Wanna Boogie: The Rockabilly Roots of Sonny Burgess and the Pacers||Marvin Schwartz|
|2017||Anti-Catholicism in Arkansas: How Politicians, the Press, the Klan, and Religious Leaders Imagined an Enemy||Kenneth C. Barnes|
|2018||Dardanelle and the Bottoms: Environment, Agriculture, and Economy in an Arkansas River Community, 1819–1970||Mildred Diane Gleason|
|2019||Just and Righteous Causes: Rabbi Ira Sanders and the Fight for Racial and Social Justice in Arkansas, 1926–1963||James L. Moses|
|2020||Fugitivism: Escaping Slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley, 1820–1860
||S. Charles Bolton|
For additional information:
“3 Authors Turn a New Page with Library Group Honors.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 12, 2003, p. 4D.
“Arnold’s Book, Poetry Collection, Win Honors.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 30, 2001, p. 5H.
“Laurels for State Literary Lights Make Dinner One for the Books.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 31, 1999, p. 10D.
Staff of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
Last Updated: 12/14/2020