Dianne Elizabeth Ferguson Hudson (1939–)
Dianne Elizabeth Ferguson was born in 1939 in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Ralph James Ferguson, who was a civilian employee at Camp Joseph T. Robinson, and Josephine Margurite Uekman Ferguson, a homemaker. She grew up in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), graduating from St. Patrick’s Catholic School in 1953 and Mount St. Mary Academy in 1957, and worked as a cashier at the Rialto Theatre. She later audited classes at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
She married Freddie D. Hudson in September 1958, and they had three daughters: Donna, Chris, and Connie. She was a homemaker and a bookkeeper at the family’s Sherwood Grocery, founded by her husband’s father in 1947 before Sherwood was incorporated. They were involved in the community, including sponsoring (through the store) a team in the Optimist Club Little League program. In addition, she was active in the Immaculate Conception Catholic School Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and Booster Club and the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce. She was president of the North Little Rock Jaycettes, and her husband served as president of the Jaycees, organizations to help young adults networking in the community and engaging in public service projects.
Hudson had been interested in politics from an early age. In 1968, her husband was a candidate for the state constitutional convention, and he served for a number of years as chair of the Sherwood Planning Commission. Both Dianne and Freddie were members of the Pulaski County Democratic Central Committee and were elected as delegates to the state Democratic Convention in 1976.
In 1978, after attending all Quorum Court and Budget Committee meetings prior to her campaign for justice of the peace on the Pulaski County Quorum Court, Dianne Hudson developed a platform that included improving county roads and public services, focusing on increased sheriff patrols and better equipment for rural fire departments. She was elected to the Pulaski County Quorum Court in 1978 and was appointed to serve on the Courts and Emergency Service Committee, where she was particularly interested in oversight of the Pulaski County sheriff’s office under Tommy Robinson and Carroll Gravett. Hudson eventually served nine terms and chaired the Finance and Administration Committee for twelve years before she became a candidate for the legislature.
Hudson announced in February 1996 as a Democrat for an open seat for state representative in District 63. Her campaign platform emphasized middle-class tax reform, economic development, increased education funding, crime prevention, highway improvements, and grants for rural fire departments. Unopposed in the primary, Hudson was elected to the House of Representatives with fifty-seven percent of the general election vote over her Republican opponent.
Hudson served on the City, County and Local Affairs Committee; the Public Transportation Committee; and the Joint Performance Review Committee. She sponsored legislation to assist counties in constructing parking facilities (Act 361), reduce the cost of prisoner telephone services (Act 520), and create a vehicle insurance database to check proof of insurance coverage and expedite motor vehicle registration (Act 991). Among the bills that she co-sponsored were those for Income Tax reform (Act 328), the ARKids First healthcare coverage (Act 407), the Health Care Consumer Act (Act 1196), and the Enhancement of Crime Victims’ Rights (Act 1262). After the session, she was appointed treasurer of the House Democratic Caucus and was recognized by the Arkansas Municipal League for legislation supporting local government. Hudson was also named Woman of the Year by the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce.
Hudson was a candidate for reelection in 1998, stressing her experience and accomplishments and pledging to continue working for education funding, economic development, and crime prevention. She was unopposed in the Democratic primary but lost in the general election by thirty-six votes to Republican David Rackley. Reflecting on her legislative service, Hudson said, “I tried to listen to concerns of constituents, study the issues, and make informed decisions about the policies and programs that affect their lives. Remembering that you are there to enrich their life, not yours.”
Hudson considered running again for the House of Representatives in 2000, but instead she and her husband retired.
For additional information:
Hudson, Dianne. “Biographical Information Sheet,” February 27, 2020. Women Legislators Files, Lindsley Armstrong Smith Papers, MC 1910. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“Quorum Court.” Arkansas Democrat, November 1, 1978, p. 38.
Waller, Mark. “Incumbent Gains 12 votes, Still Loses Seat in Recount.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 11, 1998, p. 14B.
Lindsley Armstrong Smith and Stephen A. Smith
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
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