Ginger Kay Croom Beebe (1949–)
Ginger Kay Croom Beebe is the wife of Mike Beebe, who was the forty-fifth governor of Arkansas. In 2007, she became the state’s fortieth first lady. Outside of politics, she has been best known for her efforts in adoption, literacy, and removing the stigma from mental illness.
Ginger Kay Croom was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on September 3, 1949. Adopted at the age of four, she was raised in Searcy (White County) by Buell and Virginia Croom. Her adoptive father was an Amoco Oil Company wholesale distributor, and her adoptive mother was a homemaker. She has no photographic record of life before her adoption, stating, “I was born in Little Rock, and then adopted at age 4 by a family in Searcy. I really don’t know the circumstances of why I was put up for adoption at that age. One of those things I’ll never know.” After graduating from Searcy High School, where she was on the drill team and served on the choreography board, she attended Arkansas State University–Beebe and the University of Central Arkansas.
She married David Powell Jr. of Bald Knob (White County) in 1968, and they had two children, David Powell III and Tammy Powell. The family lived in Dallas, Texas, while David Powell was in mortuary school and then moved to Judsonia (White County) before settling again in Searcy. After the couple’s divorce, Ginger met young attorney Mike Beebe while working with the Searcy Junior Auxiliary and other civic groups. They married in 1979 and had one son, Kyle Houston Beebe. Kyle Beebe’s middle name was taken from Mike Beebe’s former father-in-law, Houston Butler, with whom he maintained a close relationship following his divorce from Dawn Butler Beebe. In addition to Kyle, the Beebe household included Ginger Beebe’s two children from her first marriage.
During her husband’s earlier political career and eight years as governor (2007–2015), Ginger Beebe’s work was influenced in large measure by her personal journey as a child of adoptive parents. She was inspired to help families and children live happier and healthier lives, and thus make a positive difference on a statewide scale. In 2006, her daughter’s husband committed suicide, and a close friend of her family had done likewise. These twin tragedies led the Beebes in 2007 to work to reform the state’s mental health system, particularly to remove the stigma from mental illness, and to encourage people to access the help they need. She emphasized, “Mental illness is like any other illness…like cancer. We have to treat it that way and help children and adults get the care they need.”
She was also passionate about literacy and worked with organizations such as Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), Reach Out and Read, Read Across America, Read for the Record, and Together We Read. Ginger also had the opportunity to share her collection of “Flat Stanley” books that have traveled with her as far as the White House. She also told her story of adoption to promote the need for adoptive parents for foster children, saying in a 2012 interview, “Children add so much to your own life. You’ll be providing them with a home and a good life, and they would be, in return, such a blessing to you, so I would encourage anyone to let their heart lead them.”
After Mike Beebe left office in January 2015, they made their home in Searcy. While her husband practices law with the Roberts Law Firm of Little Rock and serves on the board of Tyson Foods, Ginger Beebe continues to work to advance the causes she championed as first lady and has actively worked with former first ladies in fundraising efforts to preserve and upgrade the first ladies’ exhibit, with its collection of inaugural gowns, at the Old State House Museum in Little Rock.
For additional information:
Bennett, Heather. “First Lady Ginger Beebe Shares Her Joys and Inspirations.” Little Rock Family, December 1, 2012. https://www.littlerockfamily.com/post/89096/first-lady-ginger-beebe-shares-her-joys-and-inspirations (accessed August 21, 2019).
Brock, Roby, and Bill Paddack, “First Priorities: Current and Former Arkansas First Ladies—Long Active with Various Causes—Are Working with the Old State House Museum Associates to Restore the Popular Gowns Exhibit.” Talk Business & Politics, (September/October 2015): 12.
“Embodiment of a Real-Life Princess Diary: Ginger Croom Beebe (First Lady, 2007–2015).” Old State House Museum Blog, October 19, 2018. http://www.oldstatehouse.com/blog/embodiment-of-a-real-life-princess-diary-ginger-croom-beebe-first-lady-2007-2015 (accessed August 21, 2019).
Lunsford, Scott. Interview with Ginger Beebe, March 17, 2008. David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History. http://pryorcenter.uark.edu/ (accessed August 21, 2019).
Scott, Dawn. “THV Extra at 10: First Lady Ginger Beebe Shares Her Adoption Story.” THV11 Little Rock, February 9, 2012. http://littlerock.thv11.com/news/news/85825-thv-extra-10-first-lady-ginger-beebe-shares-her-adoption-story (accessed August 21, 2019).
Old State House Museum
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