Mary Beth Caldwell Green (1957–)
Mary Beth Caldwell was born on April 16, 1957, in Carlisle (Lonoke County) to Nettie Jean Park Caldwell and Edgar Eugene Caldwell. In 1958, the family moved to Brinkley (Monroe County). Her father worked at the rice mill, farmed, and was a maintenance engineer, and her mother was an optometrist.
Caldwell attended Partee Elementary School and Marion Anderson Junior High and graduated from Brinkley High School in 1975. In junior high, she was a volunteer for Winthrop Rockefeller’s gubernatorial campaign; acting in high school plays helped her overcome her shyness. She was selected for Arkansas Girls State, became a majorette, and was the 1974 high school homecoming queen.
She received a BS in communication disorders from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, attending college full time and working part time at Terminix and then Wycoff Color Corp. She graduated in 1979 and worked in the Brinkley public school system as a speech pathologist. She married colleague Steve Morris in 1980 and had a child before attending the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway (Faulkner County) in pursuit of her master’s degree in speech pathology. During this time, the couple moved to Russellville (Pope County) and had their second child. She graduated in 1988, and their third child was born in two years later.
Caldwell worked as a speech and language pathologist for public schools in Sebastian, Crawford, and Franklin counties from 1980 to 1996 and for Regional Rehab Systems Inc. of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) from 1996 to 1998. Her first marriage ended, and she later began dating former Crawford County circuit clerk Rick Green. In 1996, they married, she with three children and he with two from a previous relationship. She started a private practice in speech pathology.
Green was a member of the Van Buren Women’s League. After a county Republican Party county member encouraged her husband to run for the state legislature, he encouraged her to run for the position instead, which she did after a discussion with county committee chair Ruth Whitaker and other party members.
Mary Beth Green filed with the Republican Party for District 11 State Representative in 1998. “I had no intention of ever holding public office, but with term limits making more than half of the House of Representatives new members, I thought it was a part of history I didn’t want to miss,” she later said. Green did not have a primary opponent but ran against Democrat Lyn Brown in the general election, meaning that two women were vying for the District 11 seat that had been previously held by term-limited Representative Ed Thicksten. Green won 52–48 percent, making her the first woman and first Republican to represent Crawford County’s District 11 in the Arkansas House of Representatives.
Green began service in the House in 1999 and served on the City, County and Local Affairs, Joint Performance Review, and Public Transportation committees. The first bill she sponsored came from her private practice experiences with insurance companies extensively delaying or not paying claims and discovering similar stories from other occupational and physical therapists. The bill passed the House but failed in the Senate. She passed legislation authorizing municipal police departments to provide public housing authorities with applicants’ criminal background checks and to require an insurer settling a claim on an automobile as a total loss to state the amount attributable to the value and sales tax.
Green ran for reelection for the District 11 House seat in 2000 and had a Republican primary opponent, James Lane. Governor Mike Huckabee endorsed Green, who won the primary with sixty-six percent of the vote (484 to 245) and was unopposed in the general election. In 2001, she served on the Education; Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development; and Joint Performance Review committees. She worked to increase pay for teachers and to increase the signatures required to file a petition to levy, raise, reduce, or abolish a tax for a county library or city or county hospital (HJR 1015). She passed legislation amending the requirements for approval of a vocational center (Act 819), legislation authorizing an increase in school district bond debt (Act 1214), and legislation providing equal sales tax treatment for gift shops located in nonprofit and for-profit hospitals if the shops are operated by charitable organizations (Act 628). She also served as co-chair of the Arkansas Women’s Legislative Caucus. Five child advocacy groups honored her as one of the Grand Champions for Children in the 2001 legislative session.
In 2002, Green ran for reelection in the newly reapportioned House District 66 and was unopposed in both the primary and general elections. In 2003, she was on the Arkansas Legislative Council; the Education Committee; and the Aging, Children and Youth, and Legislative and Military Affairs committees. She was also vice chair of the Joint Committee on Energy. She was the only legislator to pass a major education reform bill in the 2003 session, the Omnibus Quality Education Act of 2003 (Act 1467), legislation that increased the State Board of Education’s authority to reorganize fiscally or academically distressed school districts. She also passed legislation removing confusion regarding school board membership (Act 1364), increasing the amount that school districts must give teachers for purchasing classroom supplies (Act 756), extending the time for filing civil action challenges to final decisions under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Act 1365), and amending Department of Human Services reporting on emotionally disturbed youths from quarterly to semi-annually (Act 278). She was not pleased with the lack of budget details provided to Republican legislators by legislative leadership, calling them “that little group of white Democrat men.” She voted with other Republicans and eight Democrats to end the 2003 session early before a budget was finalized, believing that adjourning was the only way to get Democrats to take the budget seriously. She was appointed to the Southern Regional Education Board and the Early Intervention Interagency Coordinating Council.
Green sponsored a bill in the 2004 special session that would have prohibited school districts from paying superintendents when they are lobbying at the Arkansas State Capitol and required superintendents to register as lobbyists if they spend over twenty-four hours lobbying during a legislative session. It was not enacted, but knowing the superintendents had a lobbyist at the Capitol throughout the session, she remarked, “We just want [school districts] to spend their money wisely. If a teacher wanted to come, he or she would have to take a personal day. It just seems a little bit odd that a superintendent would be paid for being at school, but yet he’s up here.”
After being term-limited in 2004, Green returned to her private practice and was appointed by Governor Huckabee as a member of the Arkansas Educational Television Commission from 2005 to 2010. Her husband, Rick Green, was elected to represent District 66, becoming the first husband to win his wife’s former seat in the Arkansas House of Representatives.
For additional information:
Blomeley, Seth. “Resentment Blamed for Session Shutdown—New Lawmakers Left Out of Process, Some Said.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 20, 2003, pp. 1A, 12A.
Green, Mary Beth. Video interview with Lindsley Armstrong Smith, October 25, 2007. “Women in the Arkansas General Assembly,” University of Arkansas Women’s Giving Circle and Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics & Society project. David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
Thompson, Doug. “District 11 Incumbent Gets Governor’s Backing; Primary Rival Cries Foul.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 18, 2000, p. 4B.
Stephen A. Smith and Lindsley Armstrong Smith
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Last Updated: 01/13/2022