John Hugh Reynolds (1869–1954)
John Hugh Reynolds—Arkansas author, longtime president of Hendrix College, and founder of the Arkansas History Commission (now called the Arkansas State Archives)—was born near Enola (Faulkner County) on January 3, 1869. He was one of the seven children born to Jesse M. and Elizabeth Grimes Reynolds. His father was a carpenter, a mechanic, a blacksmith, and a county doctor.
After a stint as a rural schoolteacher, Reynolds graduated from Hendrix College, a Methodist institution in Conway (Faulkner County) in 1893. Four years later, he received an MA degree in political science from the University of Chicago. Returning to Arkansas, he became a professor of history and political science at Hendrix College. During his tenure, he also served for four years as college vice president. In June of 1895, he married Margaret Harwood. They became the parents of four children, Ruth, George, Elizabeth, and Margaret.
In 1902, he joined the facility of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Here, Reynolds’ interest in Arkansas history led him and a number of his students to organize the forerunner of the Arkansas Historical Association in 1903. From 1906 through 1917, he edited and published the Association’s only four volumes of Arkansas historical material.
Reynolds had a busy year in 1905. He wrote his Makers of Arkansas History, one of the state’s earliest Arkansas history textbooks, which went through three editions, the last one in 1918. He served as the president of the Arkansas State Teachers Association. In addition, he drafted the successful legislation that established the state archives, the Arkansas History Commission. and revised it in 1909. He served as agency’s secretary from 1905 until 1911.
In 1906, Reynolds was chosen to author the Arkansas section of the Public Archives Commission’s report on the state of America’s public records. In 1910, he found time to join his fellow facility member, Dr. David Yancey Thomas, in compiling and publishing a history of UA. In 1912, he was chosen as the acting president of the University. The next year, he was called back to Hendrix College, this time as president, a position he held until 1945. He received honorary Doctor of Law degrees from the University of Arkansas in 1913, from Southern Methodist University in 1935, and from Hendrix College in 1945. During his tenure at Hendrix, the value of its physical plant increased by many fold, and its endowment jumped from $200,000 to $1,000,000. In 1924, he secured accreditation for the college from the North Central Association. During this time, he actively sought out charitable foundations and organizations in order to obtain additional funds for his institution. In 1931, he obtained funds from the General Education Board of New York for a new college science building. During the 1930s, he invited many of America’s leading literary, scientific, and political figures to speak on his campus.
Throughout his life, Reynolds was active in the work of the Methodist Church. In 1920 and 1921, he was director of the Christian education movement from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and founded that denomination’s first Pastors School at Hendrix. He also served as a member of the Arkansas Constitutional Convention in 1918.
Reynolds died at his home in Conway on June 26, 1954, and is buried in Conway Oak Grove Cemetery.
For additional information:
“Death Comes to Former President Reynolds.” Hendrix College Bulletin. June 1954.
“Dr. John Hugh Reynolds.” Arkansas Methodist. July 22, 1954, p. 1, 3.
Rothrock, Thomas. “Dr. John Hugh Reynolds.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 25 (Spring 1966): 22–35.
Russell P. Baker
Arkansas History Commission and State Archives
Last Updated: 04/27/2021