Entries

White-Baucum House

The White-Baucum House at 201 South Izard Street in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) is a two-story, wood-frame structure that is one of the oldest examples of Italianate architecture in Arkansas (the house also has characteristics of Steamboat Gothic). The building’s distinctive features include balustraded balconies; a low pyramidal roof; paneled, square columns; side porches; and a half-hexagon front bay. For most of its history, the house was owned by individuals and families, but the building has housed various businesses since the 1960s. The original house was completed around 1871 by Robert J. T. White, Arkansas’s secretary of state. In 1876, Colonel George F. Baucum (pronounced “Bockum”), a Confederate veteran of the Civil War, bought the house for $5,000. Baucum …

White, Frank Durward

Frank Durward White was best recognized as the little-known Republican candidate who defeated Bill Clinton in 1980 after Clinton had served only one term as governor. White himself was limited to one term when Clinton reclaimed the office of governor in 1982. Though his tenure in office was marked mostly by his support of teaching “creation science” in schools, White later became the grand old father of the Grand Old Party (GOP), known for his expansive sense of humor and his ability to relate to people of all political leanings. Born on June 4, 1933, in Texarkana, Texas, to Durward Frank Kyle and Ida Bottoms Clark Kyle, White was given the name Durward Frank Kyle Jr. His father died when …

White, Hercules King Cannon

Hercules King Cannon White was a Civil War soldier and guerrilla, a prominent figure in the Brooks-Baxter War during Reconstruction, and a six-term mayor of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Hercules King Cannon White was born on April 4, 1845, in Louisville, Kentucky, the fifth of nine children of James M. White and Dorcas Trimble White. When the Civil War began, he ran away from home and, in March 1861, joined Company E of the Second Kentucky Infantry (CS), but his father found him and had him released from service on the grounds that he was only fifteen years old. The youth soon joined Company C of the First (Helm’s) Kentucky Cavalry, and he was captured at Louisville on November 26, …

Whiteley’s Mills, Skirmish at

Shortly after mustering into service, on orders of Brigadier General J. B. Sanborn, the Second Arkansas Cavalry (US) moved into the Buffalo River region in an attempt to kill or capture Confederate guerrilla forces and increase Union patrol activity in the area north of the Buffalo River. On April 5, 1864, a Union force attacked a band Confederate guerrillas at Whiteley’s Mills on the headwaters of the Buffalo River. The skirmish was part of a larger operation aimed at Union control of the northwest region of Arkansas in April 1864. The Second Arkansas, while encamped near the Buffalo River, had encountered some resistance from Confederate guerrilla forces in the area before the Skirmish at Whiteley’s Mills. Major James A. Melton, …

Whiteside, John Garrett

John Garrett Whiteside was a congressional secretary who served many of Arkansas’s delegation of U.S. representatives and senators from 1907 through 1947. In the era when ninety-six senators represented the forty-eight states, he was often called “the ninety-seventh senator.” In a twist of history, he also participated in the declaration of both world wars. Garrett Whiteside was born in 1885 in Nashville (Howard County). Whiteside’s father, John Elkanah Whiteside, was a clerk in Robert Burns’s store at Moscow (Nevada County). Whiteside served for a time as a court reporter, but little is known of his early life until he arrived in Washington DC on March 4, 1907, as secretary to Representative Ben Cravens of Fort Smith (Sebastian County), from Arkansas’s …

Whitewater Scandal

“Whitewater” was the popular nickname for a series of investigations of President William Jefferson Clinton that lasted nearly seven years and concluded with his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives and acquittal by the Senate, making him the second U.S. president to be impeached. The investigations began in 1994 as an inquiry by an independent U.S. counsel into the propriety of real-estate transactions involving Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in 1978, when he was attorney general of Arkansas and shortly before he became governor. It morphed through many phases until the independent counsel looked into allegations of illicit sexual encounters when Clinton was governor and president. The term “Whitewater” originated from the Whitewater Development Corporation, a company …

Whitfield, Inez Harrington

Inez Harrington Whitfield, noted for her community work in Hot Springs (Garland County), was nationally recognized for her paintings of Arkansas wildflowers. She was one of forty Arkansans to appear in American Women in 1935. The publication was a who’s who of feminine leaders in America. Inez Whitfield was born May 25, 1867, in German Flatts, New York, to James and Ida Dota Whitfield. She received her early education in Ilion, New York, and graduated in 1889 from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, with a bachelor of letters degree. After graduation, she taught at the Gardner Institute for Girls in New York City. Whitfield later left the school and formed the Whitfield-Bliss School for Girls in New York City with …

Whitman, Essie Barbara

Essie Barbara Whitman was a member of the renowned Whitman Sisters Company. The group of African-American sisters, who were entrepreneurs as well as entertainers, developed their own musical, dance, and comedy performing arts company. From 1901 to 1943, the group performed throughout the United States, becoming the longest-running and highest-paid act on the Theater Owners Booking Association (TOBA) circuit. Essie Whitman was born on July 4, 1882, in Osceola (Mississippi County) to the Reverend Albery Allson Whitman, who was a bishop in the Methodist Church, and Caddie A. Whitman; she was the second of four sisters who included Mabel (1880–1942), Alberta (1887–1963), and “Baby” Alice (1900–1969). Rev. Whitman, later known as the “Poet Laureate of the Negro Race,” is said to have taught …

Whitmore’s Mill, Skirmish at

aka: Skirmish at Whitten's Mill
Fought on the same day as the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry (April 30, 1864), the Skirmish at Whitmore’s Mill took place in Grant County as part of the larger Camden Expedition. On April 28, 1864, Brigadier General Joseph Orville Shelby ordered Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Elliott and the First Missouri Cavalry Battalion (CS) to reconnoiter in and around the village of Princeton (Dallas County) to ascertain if all of Major General Frederick Steele’s force had left Camden (Ouachita County). Elliott began his operation by sending First Lieutenant W. B. Walker and Company B toward Princeton, with orders to report as soon as possible. Elliott also sent scouting parties on the roads leading from Tulip (Dallas County) to Princeton. Elliott arrived at …

Whitney’s Lane, Action at

aka: Skirmish at Searcy Landing
The Action at Whitney’s Lane was the first major contact between Federal and Confederate forces in Arkansas after the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 6–7, 1862. This action and subsequent events led the Union army to give up its objective to capture Little Rock (Pulaski County) in May 1862. Little Rock did not fall under Federal control until September 1863. Union Major General Samuel R. Curtis’s defeat of the Confederate forces under Major General Earl Van Dorn at the Battle of Pea Ridge had not been altogether decisive, but he could claim victory. Consequently, Confederate command staff in the east conceded much of the western region of the Confederacy known as the Trans-Mississippi and ordered Van Dorn to take …

Whittington Park Historic District

The Whittington Park Historic District in Hot Springs (Garland County) is located between West Mountain and Sugarloaf Mountain in the northwestern part of the city. This historic neighborhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 19, 2012, for its significance in community planning and development, ethnic heritage, and social history. It held an important place in the growth of Hot Springs as a health resort, while also reflecting the contributions of African Americans to the area’s health resort industry and serving as an exemplar of a successful racially diverse, working-class neighborhood. It further holds significance for its array of architectural styles, including Craftsman, Queen Anne, and ranch-style homes, as well as for evidence of the work …

Whittington, Hiram Abiff

Hiram Abiff Whittington was a businessman, politician, and philanthropist. He established the state’s first lending library, ran several businesses in Hot Springs (Garland County), and served as a state representative. He donated land to both the First Presbyterian Church and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hot Springs. His letters to his family provide a wealth of information about life in early frontier Arkansas. Hiram Whittington was born January 14, 1805, in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Whittington Jr., a Puritan schoolmaster, and Hepsabeth Lincoln. He had four brothers and five sisters. At age fifteen, Whittington learned the printing trade and found a job with the Nantucket Enquirer, where he stayed three years. He moved to Brooklyn, New York, where …

Whittling

The term whittling refers to “the making of useful things.” It is a folkway with roots deep in the heritage of the people of the Ozarks country of Arkansas and parts of southern Missouri. In the heyday of whittling, pocket knives were given to boys at a young age as a rite of passage. A son given a pocket knife by his father learned “facts of life,” such as how to sharpen a knife properly. Only as recently as the 1960s has whittling been considered a vintage activity. The required tools for whittling are a pocket knife, a piece of wood, an idea, and the knowledge of how to sharpen a knife. The choice of wood varies; cedar, linden, catalpa, …

Whitworth, Donna Axum

Donna Axum Whitworth was the first Miss Arkansas to win the title of Miss America. She retained the distinction of being the only Miss Arkansas crowned Miss America from 1964 until 1982, when Elizabeth Ward was crowned. Donna Axum was born in 1942 in El Dorado (Union County) to Idelle and Hurley B. Axum. Her father was a banker. She said she began entering beauty pageants because, as a young person, she had an inferiority complex about being too thin and not having “a figure.” She was determined to work at improving herself and enhancing her feeling of self-worth. She won her first title, Miss Union County, in 1958 as a high school senior in El Dorado when she was …

Whitworth, William Alvin

William Alvin Whitworth began his newspaper career in Little Rock (Pulaski County) when he was a high school student. He has come to be recognized as one of the nation’s most reputable journalists, having been a writer and associate editor of the New Yorker and editor-in-chief of the Atlantic Monthly. Bill Whitworth was born on February 13, 1937, in Hot Springs (Garland County). He attended Central High School in Little Rock, where he also spent time working as an advertising department copy boy for the Arkansas Democrat. He attended the University of Oklahoma (OU) at Norman. During summers and a year he took off from school, Whitworth continued to work at the Democrat with editor Roberta Martin and photographer Will …

Wickes (Polk County)

  Wickes is a city in southern Polk County. Built along the Kansas City Southern Railway (KCS) around the beginning of the twentieth century, Wickes is now dominated by the poultry industry. The 2010 census noted its population as more than fifty percent Hispanic. Western Arkansas was heavily forested and sparsely populated until late in the nineteenth century, when the growth of railroads promoted the success of the timber industry. In the last decade of that century, Arthur E. Stilwell was head of the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad (later the KCS). His company created and acquired a network of railroads linking various locations in Missouri, Oklahoma (then still called Indian Territory), Arkansas, and eventually Texas and Louisiana. The …

Widener (St. Francis County)

Widener is a town in St. Francis County between Crowley’s Ridge and the St. Francis River. It is on State Highways 38 and 50 and is crossed by the Union Pacific Railroad. Widener was the birthplace of blues legend Luther Allison. Between the Louisiana Purchase and the Civil War, the area around present-day Widener was not attractive to American settlers, being swampy lowlands. Surveyors passed through the area while planning a railroad to connect Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Memphis, Tennessee. Although work was done on the eastern and western portion of the railroad before the Civil War, the central portion of the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad was not built until after the war was over; it was completed …

Widner-Magers Farm Historic District

Located near Dell (Mississippi County), the Widner-Magers Farm Historic District is a collection of structures that represent a typical farm in the Arkansas Delta during the Great Depression. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 29, 2007, the district is privately owned. A total of three buildings and three other structures contribute to the district. The land on which the district sits was purchased by Thomas Blackmore on June 17, 1855. This purchase was made due to the passage of the 1850 Swamp Land Act. Blackmore did not reside on the property and eventually sold it. The property had several other owners over the years before W. B. Sizemore bought it in 1878. His son Robert also …

Wiederkehr Village (Franklin County)

  With a population of thirty-eight citizens, Wiederkehr Village is the smallest city in Arkansas. Incorporated in 1975 to prevent the area from being annexed by nearby Altus (Franklin County), Wiederkehr Village is best known as the home of Wiederkehr Wine Cellars. The Arkansas River Valley of western Arkansas remained sparsely populated until after the Civil War. For a time, the land was given by the U.S. government to the Cherokee, who had been removed from eastern states. Later, the Cherokee were moved farther west, and the land was opened for settlement by families of European origin. The population did not begin to grow, though, until the railroad industry and the coal mines attracted working men. Particularly in Franklin County, many of …

Wiederkehr Weinfest

Wiederkehr Wine Cellar’s Weinfest is one of the oldest and best-attended festivals in western Arkansas. The first Wiederkehr Weinfest was in 1963, and the event continues to be an annual attraction for locals and tourists. Weinfest celebrates the heritage of the Swiss-German immigrants who settled in Wiederkehr Village atop St. Mary’s Mountain near the city of Altus (Franklin County) during the 1880s. Al Wiederkehr, the winery founder’s grandson, initiated the festival after he returned from an oenological (relating to the study of wine and winemaking) research trip to Europe. During his expedition, he traveled to wine- and grape-producing countries, including France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, and attended a variety of local festivals. When he came home, he realized that having a …

Wiederkehr Wine Cellars, Inc.

Wiederkehr Wine Cellars is the oldest operational winery in the state, having been continually in business from 1880 to present. During Prohibition, when wine was outlawed, Wiederkehr was allowed by the state to produce sacramental wine for use in religious services. This winery was founded in the late nineteenth century by Johann Adreas Wiederkehr, an immigrant from Switzerland who settled in Altus (Franklin County), which he found similar to his own homeland and ideal for growing grapes; it is now one of the largest wineries in the region and is well regarded throughout the nation for the quality of its wines. One of the first things that Johann Wiederkehr did after he arrived in Altus was to start construction on …

Wilburn Brothers

The Wilburn Brothers were among the most successful and influential sibling duos in the country music industry during the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. Brothers Virgil Doyle (“Doyle”) Wilburn (1930–1982) and Thurman Theodore (“Teddy”) Wilburn (1931–2003), who hailed from Hardy (Sharp County), were stars of the Grand Ole Opry, recording artists with over thirty albums, recipients of the only “Lifetime Recording Contract” ever given by Decca Records, and hosts of their own nationally syndicated country music show for eleven years. In addition, they were talent agents who helped launch the careers of many other legendary country music stars, including Loretta Lynn, Patty Loveless, and the Osborne Brothers. Their Surefire Music, formed in 1957, is the only remaining family-owned music-publishing house …

Wild Haws Expedition

aka: Strawberry Creek Expedition
Ordered to screen the movements of Colonel W. D. Wood of the Eleventh Regiment of Missouri Cavalry through the Izard County area, Captain Edward Lawler of Company K, First Nebraska Cavalry Volunteers, moved through Wild Haws (Izard County) to the Strawberry River (named “Strawberry Creek” in the reports) before returning to Batesville (Independence County) from March 10 to March 12, 1864. While completing this assignment, no enemy contact was made. On March 10, 1864, Capt. Lawler received orders to move with a detachment toward Wild Haws, which was renamed LaCrosse (Izard County) in 1869. Lawler’s detachment, whose strength was not identified in official reports, was to aid in the movement of six squadrons from the Eleventh Regiment of Missouri Cavalry under …

Wildflowers

The varied ecosystems in Arkansas enable a large variety of wildflowers to grow within the state. From the river deltas to the mountaintops, Arkansas boasts an abundant array of over 600 native wildflowers. The majority of wildflowers in Arkansas are along rural roads and secluded areas. Due to the growing population and changes in the environment, the areas in which wildflowers grow are in constant fluctuation. Although highways and the development of land have eliminated a majority of the state’s native wildflowers, programs are under way to preserve these flowers and bring them back to the roadways. Common WildflowersThe most common wildflowers on Arkansas highways today are as follows: An in-depth list with descriptions of Arkansas wildflowers was written by …

Wildlife Management Areas

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) oversees the state’s wildlife management areas (WMAs), which are places for public hunting at little or no cost to the participants, though they also have year-round potential for bird watching, seeing wild animals, picnicking, camping, and just enjoying the outdoors. There are more than 100 WMAs, large and small, around the state. The WMA system encompasses 3,195,875 acres of the state, including tracts owned outright by the AGFC, cooperative areas, and leased lands. The largest portion of the WMA total acreage is in the Ouachita National Forest. Other cooperative WMA land is administered under agreements among the AGFC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, …

Wildwood Park for the Arts

Wildwood Park for the Arts is a 105-acre botanical garden and arts center. Located at 20919 Denny Road in the Chenal Valley area of western Little Rock (Pulaski County)—about a twenty-minute drive from downtown—the nonprofit organization hosts cultural programming and educational projects along with displaying its scenic woodlands and gardens. The park is open seven days a week with no admission fee except for special events. Providing a peaceful sanctuary of trees, flowers, water, and wildlife, Wildwood has lush gardens and a lake. Its spaces are popular for conferences, corporate events, educational programs, parties, and weddings. Wildwood was the brainchild of Ann Chotard, who was instrumental in founding the Arkansas Opera Theatre (AOT) in 1973. AOT performed at several locations …

Wilhite Cemetery

aka: Sims Cemetery
The Sims family graveyard is the oldest known cemetery near what later became the community of Pine Ridge, then Waters (Montgomery County). It is in the woods on unmarked private property off of Arkansas Highway 88, approximately two miles east of the Montgomery–Polk County line. The cemetery has about sixty-five graves. In the twenty-first century, access is limited. The Sims and Wilhite families were among the settlers who traveled by wagon train during the mid-1800s to what is now the Ouachita National Forest. Most were southern farmers looking for wooded hills with game and fish to feed their families. Many of the Sims women married Wilhite men, and the Sims Cemetery became known as the Wilhite Cemetery, although it remained …

Wilkerson v. State

The 1947 landmark case of Wilkerson v. the State of Arkansas, in which two African-American men were prosecuted after a deadly highway shooting incident, ended the exclusion of African Americans from Jefferson County juries, marking the first time black jurors had served in the state since Reconstruction. The case also received extensive media coverage because the defense attorneys—William Harold Flowers, who was a leading figure in the civil rights movement in Arkansas in the 1940s, and Zephaniah Alexander Looby, a civil rights leader and attorney from Tennessee—directly attacked unfair and discriminatory Jim Crow laws and practices in open court. On February 9, 1947, off-duty Jefferson County special deputy sheriff George Cletus Bryant, his brother Archie Bryant, and C. W. Winston …

Wilkins, Gina Ferris Vaughan

Gina Ferris Vaughan Wilkins is the author of more than 100 books. A life-long resident of central Arkansas, Wilkins obtained a journalism degree from Arkansas State University (ASU) and worked in advertising and human resources until she sold her first book in 1987 to Harlequin. Gina Vaughan was born on December 20, 1954, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Vernon Vaughan, an electrician, and Beth Vaughan, an executive secretary. She has three younger brothers. In February 1972, she married John Wilkins, a wood turner. They have three children. When she sold her first book, he used his savings to buy her a typewriter. She returned the one she had borrowed from her mother-in-law. After graduating from ASU in May 1976, …

William Frazier House

aka: Frog Level
Originally called the Frazier Plantation House, the William Frazier House near Magnolia (Columbia County) was constructed in 1852 by William Frazier, a native of Ireland who was born in 1805. According to some, the frivolous name of “Frog Level” was suggested by B. F. Askew, a young attorney in the area, because of the noise created by the numerous frogs in the river bottoms near the house. Others suggest that the plantation house may have stood at the center of a settlement named Frog Level, much like similar settlements in North Carolina and other southeastern states, and that as the settlement declined due to the growth of Magnolia, the name was transferred to the one house. The Frazier House, or …

William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park

aka: Clinton Library
The William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park is located on a thirty-acre city park in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County). The center comprises the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation, the Clinton School of Public Service, Café 42 (an on-site restaurant), and the Rock Island Railroad Bridge. The Clinton Museum Store, also part of the center and managed by the Clinton Foundation, is off campus a few blocks away in downtown Little Rock. The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum is maintained, managed, and staffed by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 provided that presidents may raise funds for building their libraries with no …

William L. Terry House

The William L. Terry House (also known as the Terry-Jung House) is an example of the Queen Anne architectural style, notable for its jigsaw decorative trim. It is eclectic in its details, such as the porch posts, which are Dravidian, a style imported from India. Built at 1422 Scott Street, now within the Capitol Zoning District and the MacArthur Park Historic District in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the home received a National Register of Historic Places designation on January 1, 1976. Exterior alterations have been modest. Interior alterations have been less restrained, but many features have been preserved. The house was constructed in the mid-1880s by William Leake Terry as a family home. Terry was born in North Carolina, but …

William Looney Tavern

aka: Looney-French House
The William Looney Tavern stands on the west bank of the Eleven Point River near the rural community of Dalton in northwestern Randolph County. The one-and-a-half-story log structure with a central breezeway, often called “dogtrot” style, was constructed circa 1833 and is one of the finest examples of vernacular architecture in the state. Thought to have been built as a rural tavern or inn, it may have served area settler William Looney’s distillery as well. It is the only surviving structure on the farmstead Looney established prior to 1815 on land that would become Arkansas. In 1816, Looney was appointed to the first of several civil appointments he held over his lifetime. When he died in 1846, he was one …

William Woodruff House

The Woodruff House, located at 1017 East 8th Street in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was built between 1852 and 1853 by William Woodruff, the founder and first publisher of the Arkansas Gazette; the Gazette was the first newspaper in Arkansas and the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi River. The house is significant because of its association with Woodruff and because it is one of only a few extant antebellum homes in Little Rock. The Woodruff House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 21, 1989. The Woodruff House is a two-and-a-half-story home built in the Greek Revival style, using mostly local materials, including cypress and bricks made on site. The original house had ten rooms, …

Williams Baptist University

Williams Baptist University is a comprehensive liberal arts institution owned and operated by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Founded in Pocahontas (Randolph County) in 1941, the college was moved to Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County) in 1946. The university is one of two institutions of higher education affiliated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, the other institution being Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) in Arkadelphia (Clark County). The impetus for the establishment of the university was first provided by Dr. Henry E. Watters, former president of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, who had hoped to revive Jonesboro Baptist College, an institution that had failed during the early years of the Great Depression. During the mid-1930s, Watters attempted to enlist support for the …

Williams, C. Fred

Dr. C. Fred Williams was a professor of history who chaired the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock) history department through its largest expansion. Williams authored several works on Arkansas and served in many capacities at UA Little Rock; he also volunteered his services as a consultant for the Little Rock School District, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Society, the Old State House Museum, Ouachita Baptist University, the Arkansas Humanities Council, and the Historic Arkansas Museum. Williams was the recipient of the Arkansas Historical Association’s lifetime achievement award. Charles Fredrick Williams was born in Allen, Oklahoma, on December 24, 1943, to Charles H. Williams and Willie Mae Williams. He had two brothers and five sisters. Williams married Glenda …

Williams, Claude Clossey

Claude Clossey Williams was a Presbyterian minister and human rights activist who was long involved in the civil rights movement. In addition, he was an active labor organizer and served as national vice president of the American Federation of Teachers. Claude Clossey Williams was born on June 16, 1895, in Weakley County, Tennessee, to Jess Williams and Minnie Bell Galey Williams. His parents were tenant farmers and sharecroppers who were members of the fundamentalist Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In 1910, he left his family and moved in with cousins, working on their farm. During the winters, he worked as a railroad laborer, carpentry assistant, and painter. He also heaved coal for Mississippi River steamboats. In 1916, with the United States on …

Williams, Harold Gene

Harold Gene Williams was a promoter of country music, a radio and television personality, and a businessman, becoming the host of the most widely syndicated country music television show outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Gene Williams was born on January 3, 1938, in Tyronza (Poinsett County) to Abe Rubel Williams and Myrtis Elease Williams, both Mississippi natives. He was one of three children. His father was a farmer and carpenter. As a boy, Williams helped his family in the cotton fields. Williams and his family moved to Dyess (Mississippi County), where they had purchased land, in 1943. Williams attended high school in Dyess, where he began his lifelong obsession with music. He also excelled as a basketball player and wrote for …

Williams, Hubert Ethridge (H. E.)

Hubert Etheridge Williams was a twentieth-century religious, educational, and civic leader. He founded what is now Williams Baptist University and made an unsuccessful race for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1960. In 1941, he became the youngest college president in the nation. Hubert Etheridge (H. E.) Williams was born on April 8, 1913, in Casa (Perry County) to Robert L. Williams and Anna Emma Williams. Robert Williams, who was a Baptist deacon, had progressive leanings, which he instilled in his son. Williams graduated from Casa High School and enrolled at Arkansas Polytechnic College—which later became Arkansas Tech University—in Russellville (Pope County). He also attended Ouachita Baptist College—which later became Ouachita Baptist University—in Arkadelphia (Clark County), and the George Peabody …

Williams, J. Mayo “Ink”

J. Mayo “Ink” Williams was the first African-American producer at a major record label and the most successful record producer of music by black performers, particularly blues and jazz, from the 1920s through the 1940s. The son of Daniel and Millie Williams, J. Mayo Williams was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on September 25, 1894. He left Pine Bluff with his mother at age seven after his father was murdered in a shooting at the local railway station. After moving to Monmouth, Illinois, he attended public schools, where he excelled in academics and football. In 1916, he enrolled at Brown University, where he became a star athlete. In the early 1920s, Williams became one of the first black players in the National …

Williams, J. Paul

J. Paul Williams made notable contributions to the field of church music. His catalog of published lyrics exceeds 925 songs, running the gamut of sacred and secular texts. A leader of choral clinics and composer symposiums, he was also a member of the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP). James Paul Williams was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on December 29, 1937. He was the only child of Ferris Woodrow Williams (a taxi driver) and Violet Simonton Williams (a bank supervisor). He was a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Oklahoma City until he left for college. Williams admired the church’s minister of music, and he decided to pursue that career, even though he had never had a …

Williams, Jack

Jack Williams was a U.S. Navy corpsman from Harrison (Boone County) who received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in ministering to wounded U.S. Marines during the fighting on Iwo Jima in 1945. Jack Williams was born on October 18, 1924, in Harrison, the son of blacksmith and machinist William O. Williams and Dorothy Lee Williams. He had a younger sister, Fern. The Williams family lived at 420 North Second Street in Harrison, and Jack Williams worked at the Lyric Theater. He attended Harrison High School, where he was a member of the Future Farmers of America. He graduated in 1943. Eighteen-year-old Williams registered for the World War II draft on December 23, 1942. He did not …

Williams, Jason Donald

El Dorado (Union County) native Jason Donald Williams is a pianist, singer, and songwriter based in Memphis, Tennessee, whose music combines elements of rockabilly, boogie-woogie, rock and roll, country, and jazz. Often compared to Jerry Lee Lewis, Williams is known for his dynamic piano-playing style and outlandish stage antics (including balancing items on his head and tap-dancing). Williams’s inspirations include Leo Kottke, John Fahey, and Memphis Slim. Jason D. Williams was born on January 28, 1959, in El Dorado and is the adopted son of Henry J. Williams Jr. and Dorothy Carpenter Williams. Williams learned to play the piano by ear when he was two years old and received a piano at the age of three. He took lessons from …

Williams, Jeff

aka: Thomas Jefferson Williams
Thomas Jefferson (Jeff) Williams was a farmer, preacher, and Union officer in the Civil War. He serves as an example of mountain Unionists, and his experiences show how the Civil War affected farm families in northern Arkansas. Jeff Williams was born in Caswell County, North Carolina, the son of Nathan Williams and Rebecca (Jackson) Williams, a Cherokee Indian. During his childhood, the family moved to Franklin County, Tennessee. Williams married Margaret Ann Hill there in 1832, and the couple had thirteen children. Williams saw Arkansas for the first time in the spring of 1838, when he and two of his brothers formed part of a Tennessee militia company that escorted several hundred Cherokees west to Indian Territory. Six years later, following …

Williams, John Gilbert

A champion of the modern approach to architectural design, John Gilbert Williams was an architect, landscape architect, and the founding faculty member of the Department of Architecture at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). John G. Williams was born on April 30, 1915, in Van Buren (Crawford County) to Vera Jane Wallace Williams and Charles Bunyan Williams; he had one older brother. He studied engineering at Arkansas Polytechnic College (now Arkansas Tech University) in Russellville (Pope County) before pursuing his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Oklahoma State University). After graduating in 1940, he returned to Russellville to teach drawing and math at Arkansas Polytechnic College for two years. While in Russellville, he …

Williams, Lenny

Soul singer Lenny Williams is an influential rhythm and blues (R&B) artist who is best known for his time as the lead singer of funk band Tower of Power in the mid-1970s. He pursued a solo career after leaving the band. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2012. Leonard Charles (Lenny) Williams was born on February 6, 1945, in Little Rock (Pulaski County); his family later moved to Oakland, California. He learned to play trumpet in elementary school. He started singing in church and considered becoming a minister before deciding to pursue a career in secular R&B. Williams made connections with Bay Area musicians, the most notable being Sly Stone (who fronted the legendary R&B …

Williams, Lucinda

Lucinda Williams is one of America’s most critically acclaimed songwriters and recording artists, as well as the daughter of poet Miller Williams. She has won three Grammy Awards and is considered a leading light of the so-called “alt-country” movement. Her songs, with their simple chord structures and gorgeous melodies, incorporate elements of rural blues, traditional country, and rock and roll. They are distinguished by evocative, plain-spoken lyrics that investigate the human mystery. In 2002, Time magazine called her “America’s best songwriter.” Lucinda Williams was born on January 26, 1953, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Her mother was Miller Williams’s first wife, Lucille Day. With her professor father moving from job to job, Williams grew up in southern towns such as Vicksburg, …

Williams, Miller

aka: Stanley Miller Williams
Stanley Miller Williams, known professionally as Miller Williams, was one of the foremost American poets of the post–World War II era. For thirty-three years, he was a professor of English, foreign languages, and comparative literature at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and was a key figure in the university’s nationally known programs in creative writing and translation. He was the author, editor, or translator of over thirty volumes of poetry, literary criticism, and fiction. Miller Williams was born on April 8, 1930, in Hoxie (Lawrence County) to Ernest Burdette and Ann Jeanette Miller Williams. In his early years, he lived in five Arkansas towns, where his father served as a Methodist minister. After graduating from high …

Williams, Robert Lee, II

Robert Lee Williams II is a leading figure in American psychology known for his work in the education of African-American children and in studying the cultural biases present in standard testing measures, especially IQ tests. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2011. Robert Lee Williams was born on February 20, 1930, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). His father, Robert L. Williams, worked as a millwright and died in 1935; his mother cleaned houses. He had one sister. He graduated from Dunbar High School at age sixteen and attended Dunbar Junior College for a year before dropping out, discouraged by his low score on an IQ test. He married Ava L. Kemp in 1948. They have …

Williams, Samuel Woodrow

Samuel Woodrow Williams was an African-American Baptist minister, college professor, and civil rights activist who had a major impact on race relations in the city of Atlanta, Georgia, from the mid-to-late 1950s until his sudden death in October 1970. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2009. Samuel Woodrow Williams was born on February 20, 1912, in Sparkman (Dallas County), the oldest of the eight children of Arthur Williams and Annie Willie Butler Williams. As a child, he enjoyed hunting, fishing, and playing baseball and basketball, but nothing gave him as much pleasure as reading; over his lifetime, he amassed a collection of more than 1,000 volumes. Lessons about racism came early for Williams. Before he …