Entries - Starting with D

Das Arkansas Echo

aka: Arkansas Echo
Das Arkansas Echo was a weekly German-language newspaper published out of Little Rock (Pulaski County) from 1891 to 1932. It promised an “allgemeine Zeitung für Wahrheit und Klarheit auf dem politischen und sozialem Gebiete” (general newspaper for truth and clarity in political and social realm). At the time of its establishment, it was one of three German-language newspapers in the state; the Arkansas Volksblatt of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and the Arkansas Staats-Zeitung of Little Rock also provided news to German-speaking immigrants. The Echo reported a circulation of 850 in its early years, with circulation eventually reaching around 1,300. The Echo’s predecessor was Der Logan County Anzeiger (Logan County Gazette), which was published by Conrad Elsken and had a circulation …

Dassault Falcon Jet

aka: Falcon Jet
The Dassault Falcon Jet Corporation is one of Arkansas’s largest private employers and is largely responsible for the state ranking eleventh in the nation in annual aviation exports. The company’s Little Rock (Pulaski County) site houses both completion and service centers for Dassault Aviation, Dassault Falcon Jet’s parent company based in Paris, France. Falcon jets are manufactured in France and then flown into the Little Rock site at Adams Field near the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport for painting of exteriors and installation of optional avionics and custom interiors. In 1971, FedEx founder Fred Smith purchased a company called Arkansas Aviation Sales that was located at the site of the current completion center. Smith acquired the company Little Rock …

Datto (Clay County)

Datto is a town in Clay County situated just north of U.S. Highway 67. Created when the railroad was built through the area at the beginning of the twentieth century, Datto is five miles from Success (Clay County). Although most of Clay County is farmland today, it was once heavily forested. Four rivers flow through the county, providing early transportation corridors. Osage, Shawnee, Delaware, and Quapaw tribes—as well as French explorers—are all known to have visited the area. A military road known as the Southwest Trail was constructed through the area during Arkansas’s territorial period, linking Missouri to the southwestern corner of the territory, which was then Fulton (Hempstead County). Isaac Day came to the area late in the nineteenth …

Daughters of the American Revolution

aka: Arkansas Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (ARDAR)
The Arkansas Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (ARDAR) is a member of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), which has 2,975 chapters in the United States and twenty-two international chapters. The NSDAR was founded on October 11, 1890, by Eugenia Washington, a grandniece of George Washington, along with Mary Desha, Mary Lockwood, and Ellen Hardin Walworth. In December 1893, the first Arkansas chapter of the DAR was founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Georgiana Washington Smith, another grandniece of Washington’s, was one of its earliest members. The first ARDAR State Conference was in February 1909 at the Marion Hotel in Little Rock (Pulaski County). ARDAR members have made lasting contributions to the …

David O. Dodd Memorial

The David O. Dodd Memorial is a monument erected at the Old State House in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1923 to honor a young Confederate spy executed by Union authorities in 1864. David Owen Dodd was a seventeen-year-old boy who was captured by Union pickets near the Ten Mile House south of Little Rock in late 1863 with coded papers outlining Union forces in and defenses of the capital city. Dodd was tried, convicted, and hanged on the grounds of St. Johns’ College in Little Rock on January 8, 1864. In the years following the war, as monuments were erected around the state in memory of the Arkansas men who had fought for the South in the Civil War …

Davidson, John Wynn

John Wynn Davidson was a United States army officer who led the cavalry contingent of the Union army that captured Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1863 and who subsequently feuded with Major General Frederick Steele about Federal policy in the state. John Wynn Davidson was born on August 18, 1824, in Fairfax County, Virginia, the son of William B. Davidson and Catherine Davidson. His father was a West Point graduate and veteran of the Seminole wars in Florida, and his grandfather was a general officer in the American Revolution. John Wynn Davidson followed his father into the army, graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1845. He served frontier duty in Kansas and Wisconsin before fighting in …

Davidsonville (Randolph County)

Davidsonville, founded in 1815, was perhaps the most important frontier settlement in northeast Arkansas. Though abandoned by the 1830s, it was the site of several Arkansas “firsts.” While a part of Missouri Territory’s Lawrence County, it was the location of the first post office in what would become Arkansas. In 1820, Arkansas Territory’s first federal land office was also established there, and the first Arkansas courthouse was built in 1822. For approximately fifteen years, the town was an important gathering place for local politics and commerce. The area was first occupied during the Archaic Period (9500–650 BC) and as late as the early 1700s by the Osage, Shawnee, Delaware, and others. Modern archaeological evidence confirms that the town was built …

Davidsonville Historic State Park

Davidsonville Historic State Park is a 163-acre park located on the Black River in southern Randolph County. The park preserves the site of the town of Davidsonville, which housed the first postal stop, the first courthouse building and county seat of Lawrence County, and the first federal land office in what is now the state of Arkansas. The town was created from a few log cabins in 1815, when the Act of Lawrence County was written; it was briefly known as the town of Lawrence. Strangely, this town of “firsts” was also the first county seat to be bypassed by a major road connecting Missouri to the Great Southwest. By 1829, Davidsonville had lost the courthouse to Jackson and the …

Davies, Ronald Norwood

Ronald Norwood Davies was the U.S. district judge who presided over the litigation involving the 1957 integration of Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Ronald N. Davies was born on December 11, 1904, in Crookston, Minnesota, to country editor Norwood S. Davies and his wife Minnie M. Davies. In 1917, the family of seven moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where Davies completed elementary school. In 1922, he graduated from Central High School in Grand Forks and went on to attend the University of North Dakota. Davies received his BA degree from the University of North Dakota, College of Liberal Arts, in 1927 and, three years later, earned a law degree from Georgetown University in Washington DC. Davies …

Davis, Alford (Lynching of)

In early January 1894, Alford “Alf” Davis, an African American man, was hanged by a mob in Lonoke County for allegedly stealing hogs. Alford Davis was possibly the thirty-year-old farmer who was living in Pettus Township, Lonoke County, in 1880. He was born in Alabama and was living with his wife, Emma, and three small children. In many accounts, Davis is described as an “old negro.” There were brief reports of the incident in newspapers across the country, and they differ on whether the lynching happened on January 4 or January 5. The Bolivar Bulletin indicates that Davis had been known for stealing and killing hogs “whenever it suited his convenience, regardless of the ownership of the hog.” Apparently, the …

Davis, Anthony (Lynching of)

Anthony Davis, an African-American man, was lynched in Texarkana (Miller County) on October 9, 1906, reportedly by other local black residents. The alleged crime was the assault of a teenaged girl. Davis was described in news reports as a “negro hack driver” (driver of a hackney carriage for hire) who was forty years old and had a wife and three children. A week before his murder, he was arrested for reportedly assaulting a “fifteen-year-old mulatto girl,” according to the Arkansas Gazette, though national newspapers placed her age at sixteen. The unnamed girl was en route from Baxter (Drew County) to Crockett, Texas, and had asked Davis to ferry her from one depot to another. However, he drove her outside the …

Davis, Chick (Lynching of)

On July 24, 1899, an African-American man named Chick Davis was shot by a posse near Wilmot (Ashley County). While the incident was covered briefly in numerous national newspapers, coverage in Arkansas was no more detailed. As is often the case, given that the enumeration sheets for the 1890 census were lost to fire, there was no information in public records on Chick Davis or his victim. Newspaper reports indicate that a respected area farmer named Will Grin (sometimes spelled Grinn) suspected Davis of stealing and riding his horse at night. Grin went to Davis to “expostulate” with him, and Davis shot him in the forehead, killing him instantly. Davis then fled and was pursued by a posse composed of …

Davis, Danny K.

Danny K. Davis is an Arkansas-born politician who has represented the Seventh District of Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives for almost two decades. First elected in 1996 to the 105th Congress, he began his congressional service in 1997. In 2014, Davis was reelected to the 114th Congress, beginning his tenth term in January 2015. Davis was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1998. Daniel K. Davis was born in Parkdale (Ashley County) on September 6, 1941, to Hezekiah Davis and Mazzie Davis. He received his early education in the local schools before graduating from Savage High School in 1957. After earning his BA in history from Arkansas AM&N College (now the University of Arkansas at …

Davis, Ellis CeDell

Ellis CeDell Davis was a blues musician and recording artist who helped bring blues from its rural Southern roots into the twenty-first century. He employed a unique slide guitar style and performed the traditional Delta blues he learned growing up in and around Helena (Phillips County). Although he was a longtime professional musician, recordings of his music were not available until 1983. In the late twentieth century, he recorded several albums and became a favorite with a new generation of blues fans. CeDell Davis was born on June 9, 1926, in Helena, where his mother worked as a cook but was also known as a faith healer. At age four, Davis went to live with relatives on the E. M. …

Davis, Erma Lee Glasco

Erma Lee Glasco Davis is a historian, civic leader, and educator. She is best known for preserving and communicating the legacy of her alma mater, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and Junior College (the building is in use in the twenty-first century as Dunbar Magnet Middle School), and highlighting the impact this historically black institution had in Arkansas. She is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Erma Lee Glasco was born on December 31, 1928, in Eagle Township of Pulaski County, near Keo (Lonoke County), to Anderson Glasco and Rodelia Glasco. Her father was a stone and masonry contractor, a deacon at Mount Zion Baptist Church, a member of the Arkansas Minority Contractors Association, and a former …

Davis, Gail

aka: Betty Jeanne Grayson
Gail Davis was an Arkansas-born actress who starred as the legendary sharpshooter in the groundbreaking TV Western series Annie Oakley, which ran from 1954 through 1956. She appeared in thirty-two feature films, was guest on a number of TV shows, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and was a role model for young women. Gail Davis was born Betty Jeanne Grayson on October 5, 1925. Her mother was a homemaker and her father, W. B. Grayson, was a physician in McGehee (Desha County), which did not have a hospital, so her birth took place in Little Rock (Pulaski County). When her father became the state health officer, the …

Davis, Gregory A.

Gregory A. Davis is the founder of Davis Broadcasting, a regional media company that owns several radio stations in Columbus and Atlanta, Georgia; the stations range from urban contemporary and gospel to sports and Spanish-language formats. Davis serves as the president and CEO of Davis Broadcasting. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2016, the same year that marked the thirtieth anniversary of the company he founded. Gregory Davis was born in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in 1948. His mother was an educator at the local black school, and his father worked in a bakery before opening a shoeshine parlor. He attended twelve years of Catholic school, graduating from St. Anne’s Academy, where he was the …

Davis, Herman

Herman Davis was an outstanding marksman who distinguished himself in the U.S. Army during World War I. General John J. Pershing listed Davis fourth on a list of the greatest heroes of World War I. Herman Davis was born on January 3, 1888, at Big Lake Island, which later became Manila (Mississippi County), the son of Jeff and Mary Ann Vance Davis. The family operated a country store and supplemented its meager income with hunting, fishing, and farming. Davis quit school after the fourth grade to help support the family. He grew up in the woods and became a hunting guide at an early age, thought to be in his teens. Davis was an accurate shot and in the period …

Davis, Hester Ashmead

Hester Ashmead Davis was an internationally known archaeologist, administrator, writer, and professor. She was Arkansas’s first state archaeologist, serving from the creation of the position in 1967 until her retirement in 1999. She was among the first academically trained archaeologists working in Arkansas. She took an unconventional route to a career in archaeology at a time when few employment opportunities existed for women in the field. The centerpiece of her career was teaching and educating the public about archaeology. With Charles R. McGimsey III, she cofounded the Arkansas Archeological Survey in 1967. Hester Davis was born on June 4, 1930, in Ayer, Massachusetts, to Edward Mott Davis and Dorothy Canning Thomas Davis. She was the youngest of five children. Her …

Davis, Howard (Lynching of)

On October 25, 1914, a mob in Newport (Jackson County) took an African-American man named Howard Davis from county authorities and hanged him for allegedly murdering Marshal James S. Payne. Davis was supposedly assisted in the murder by an accomplice, John Woodard. Some national reporting indicates that there may have been at least one more accomplice. While there is no information available on Davis or Woodard, or on Bob Griffin, to whose house Davis fled after the shooting, Payne was apparently a popular resident of Newport. He was forty-three years old at the time of these events and had a wife and five children. Born in Missouri in 1871, he married Parlee Belford in 1892, and by 1900 they were …

Davis, Jeff

Jeff Davis was a populist governor who railed against corporations and often resorted to race baiting in his campaigns. His tenure in office proved extremely divisive, creating for him many enemies. However, Davis dominated Democratic politics in the state in the early years of the twentieth century, being elected to the office of governor three times and going on to become a U.S. senator. Jeff Davis was born on May 6, 1862, near Rocky Comfort (Little River County) to Lewis W. Davis, a Baptist preacher, lawyer, and county judge, and Elizabeth Phillips Scott. Named for the president of the Confederacy, Davis enjoyed a relatively privileged childhood. In 1869, his family moved to Dover (Pope County) and then, in 1873, moved …

Davis, Jim (Trial and Execution of)

Beginning in the 1880s and increasingly as Jim Crow laws were instituted across the South, newspapers across the United States began to expand their coverage of Southern lynchings. In addition, publications like the Chicago Tribune and organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama began to keep annual lists of lynchings. In her 1895 book The Red Record, Ida B. Wells-Barnett also attempted to include a comprehensive list of lynchings. Further examination of some newspaper accounts, however, shows that subsequent articles, particularly local to the site of the lynchings, later corrected these stories to indicate that no lynching had indeed happened. Other events that were described as lynchings were actually …

Davis, L. Clifford

L. Clifford Davis is an attorney whose active participation in the legal challenges of the civil rights movement began when he first sought admission to the all-white University of Arkansas School of Law. That effort was the precursor to a distinguished career in the legal profession, one that included two decades of service as a judge in the Texas court system. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2007. L. Clifford Davis was born on October 12, 1924, in Wilton (Little River County). The youngest of seven children of Augustus Davis and Dora Duckett Davis, he was raised on the family farm and received his early education in the Wilton schools. As the town’s educational offerings …

Davis, Lawrence Arnette, Sr.

Lawrence A. Davis Sr. served as president of Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (AM&N) from 1943 until his resignation in 1973. During his tenure, he oversaw the school’s 1972 transition from college to university status as part of the University of Arkansas System. The merger entailed a name change to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), and Davis served one year as UAPB’s first chancellor. During his long tenure, Davis, whom Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) residents and students at AM&N affectionately called “Prexy,” was among the most prominent heads of a historically black college (HBC) in the country. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1996. Lawrence Arnette Davis was born on July …

Davis, Lovett (Lynching of)

Early on the morning of May 25, 1909, an African-American man named Lovett Davis was hanged in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) for an alleged assault on a young woman named Amy Holmes. Although the Arkansas Gazette reported that Davis was from Atlanta, Georgia, and had relatives there, public records provide no information to confirm this. Amy Holmes was living in Pine Bluff with her uncle, railroad conductor H. Knowlton Padgett. Holmes was the daughter of Knowlton’s older sister, Harriett, who died in Batesville (Independence County) in 1893. She was still living with the Padgetts in 1910. According to the Pine Bluff Daily Graphic, Davis, described as a “big burly negro,” was a suspect in several robberies in Pine Bluff. Intent …

Davis, Miller (Execution of)

On some occasions, the names of individuals who were legally executed find their way onto lists of lynching victims. This is the case with Miller Davis, executed on November 10, 1893, who appeared on the Chicago Tribune’s annual lynching list, in Ida B. Wells’s The Red Record, and on at least two other lynching lists. In addition, Wells describes Davis as a Black man, when in fact he was white. According to public records, Miller Davis was a native of Tennessee. In 1880, he was living in Lawrence County, Tennessee, with his parents and a number of siblings, including his brother, Mannon. By 1892, he was living in Sevier County, Arkansas, where he married Hardie Hannah on October 9. Davis …

Davis, William Delford (Willie)

Willie Davis was a millionaire business executive, civic leader, and former football standout who grew up in Miller County. Davis achieved athletic success in football at the high school, college, and professional levels. After retiring from a National Football League (NFL) career of twelve seasons (1958–1969), he moved into the business world, where he attained equal success. Davis was a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. William Delford (Willie) Davis was born on July 24, 1934, in Lisbon, Louisiana, to David and Nodie Davis. After his parents separated when he was eight, his mother moved the family to Texarkana (Miller County). His mother supported the family by working as a cook at the Texarkana Country Club. Willie Davis …

Davis, William Emmet

Photographer William Emmett Davis distinguished himself as a commercial photographer for forty years and, beginning in 1983, worked as a fine art photographer. Davis had aesthetic connections with photographers on the West Coast and worked almost exclusively in Arkansas. William E. Davis was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on October 14, 1918, to E. N. Davis and Mayson Wise Davis; he had no siblings. His father was a physician. Davis attended local schools and then the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). There, he took two years of pre-med courses. The course of study was interrupted when Davis enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II. From 1941 to 1945, he was a fighter pilot aboard …

Davis, William Henry (Willie)

William Henry (Willie) Davis was a professional baseball player who spent eighteen years in the major leagues before retiring at the end of the 1979 season. Spending most of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Davis played a key role on the franchise’s 1963 and 1965 World Series championship teams, and, while he finished his career with the California Angels, Davis held a number of Los Angeles Dodgers batting records at the time of his retirement. Willie Davis was born on April 15, 1940, in Mineral Springs (Howard County), but he grew up in Los Angeles, California. A multi-sport athletic star at Theodore Roosevelt High School, Davis was a world-class performer in track and field, specializing in the 100-yard dash …

Dawson, Ethel Beatrice Ross

Ethel Dawson was a civil rights leader in Lincoln County who emphasized the necessity of self-sufficiency and political independence among African Americans. She held various roles during her career, including serving as a home demonstration agent, holding a leadership role in the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America, and working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Ethel Beatrice Ross was born on a farm in Lincoln County in 1907. She married Oscar G. Dawson on May 6, 1933; they had no children. She graduated from Arkansas AM&N College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) in 1940 with a degree in home economics and began serving as a home demonstration agent in Gould …

Day It Came to Earth, The

The Day It Came to Earth is a 1977 horror/science fiction feature film directed by Arkansan Harry Thomason. It was filmed in and around Little Rock (Pulaski County). Running at eighty-eight minutes and rated PG (for violence), the movie features a number of local Arkansas actors, such as Little Rock advertising executive Robert (Bob) Ginnaven (1937–2008) in addition to comedian George Gobel near the end of his career and actress Rita Wilson at the beginning of hers. The story, written by Paul Fisk, begins with a glowing meteorite falling into a secluded pond. Gangsters have dumped the body of one of their victims into the pond. The water takes on rejuvenating powers from the meteorite, causing the dead body to …

Day, Clyde “Pea Ridge”

Known as the “hog-calling pitcher” in a baseball career spanning the 1920s and early 1930s, Clyde Henry “Pea Ridge” Day transported his considerable talents, his hometown’s name, and a slice of the lively culture of the Arkansas hills onto the national scene. Day’s fun-loving showmanship and competitive spirit brought rare publicity to his hometown and home state. Clyde Henry Day was born on August 25, 1899, the second child of James (Jim) and Elizabeth Day. Day’s family lived on a farm and operated a steam-powered sawmill three miles north of Pea Ridge (Benton County), near the Missouri state line. His birthplace is taken to be Pea Ridge, although family members think the actual birth may have taken place in McDonald …

Day, Patrick Alan (Pat)

Patrick Alan Day is a retired thoroughbred jockey with 8,803 victories, many of which came at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs (Garland County). Born on October 13, 1953, in Brush, Colorado, Pat Day wrestled in high school, once winning the state championship for his weight class. After graduating, he participated briefly in professional rodeo bull riding before turning his attention to thoroughbred horse racing. Standing four feet eleven inches tall and weighing about 100 pounds, Day adapted quickly to the sport, riding Foreblunged to his first career victory on July 29, 1973, at the Prescott Downs Racetrack in Prescott, Arizona. Day dominated thoroughbred racing throughout the Midwest in the 1970s and secured his first major win on the East …

De Ann Cemetery Historic Section

The De Ann Cemetery Historic Section is part of the Prescott City Cemetery located in Prescott (Nevada County). The original cemetery, the De Ann section, was created in the 1870s and officially opened in 1880. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 1, 2005. The cemetery is located on U.S. Highway 371/Greenlawn Street to the west of downtown Prescott. The original section is located south of the highway, and an addition is located to the north. Only the original section was added to the National Register. It is named for Prairie D’Ane (or De Ann), on which it rests. The earliest dated grave in the cemetery is for an infant who died on December 18, …

De Queen (Sevier County)

De Queen, a railroad town founded just a few years before the start of the twentieth century, is the county seat of Sevier County and also the county’s largest city. De Queen is located at the intersection of two major U.S. highways: U.S. 71, which runs north to south, and U.S. 70, which runs east to west. Post Reconstruction through the Gilded Age De Queen owes its existence to the arrival of what eventually became the Kansas City Southern Railroad, which connects Kansas City, Missouri, with Gulf Coast ports at Port Arthur, Texas. The railroad was the vision of Arthur E. Stilwell, a Kansas City businessman who wanted to build a line from Kansas City to the Gulf of Mexico …

De Queen and Eastern Railroad Machine Shop

The De Queen and Eastern Railroad Machine Shop, located in De Queen (Sevier County), was built in 1905 for repairing and maintaining train engines. It is one of the only buildings constructed during the early years of the Eastern Railroad Company and by 2019 was also the only remaining railroad shop in that area of the state. The shop was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 20, 1996. A long, one-story building with brick masonry and tall glass windows on its façade, it is notable for its Italianate architecture, rare for buildings with an industrial use. Its large curved windows remain intact. On top of the building is a monitor roof with small windows for more …

De Queen Bee

The De Queen Bee was established by printer Walter A. Boyd and lawyer J. W. Bishop of Nashville (Howard County). The newspaper has been serving De Queen (Sevier County) and the surrounding areas since June 4, 1897. Some sources report that the partnership began when Boyd and Bishop were sitting on the courthouse steps in Nashville discussing the future of the developing railroad town of De Queen. Seeing the new town as an opportunity, they decided to start a newspaper, naming it the De Queen Bee. A subscription was one dollar a year, with the paper being published every Friday. The partnership lasted for only three issues before the paper was sold to E. C. Winford. Leadership of the paper …

De Queen Commercial Historic District

The downtown buildings of what is now the De Queen Commercial Historic District were built from 1900 to 1961. The district is locally significant under Criterion A on the National Register of Historic Places as the original commercial center supporting the city of De Queen (Sevier County). The district was listed on the National Register on January 26, 2012. The district boundaries encircle thirty-five buildings. Contributing buildings retain many of their historic features, with the historic integrity of this community at fifty-five percent intact. The identity of the area is defined through its proximity to the courthouse and its remaining historic structures. Historically, the buildings in this district were related to commerce, healthcare, recreation and culture, and government. There were …

De Soto Expedition, Route of the

When the Spanish expedition of Hernando de Soto crossed the Mississippi River on June 28, 1541 (June 18 on the Julian calendar, which was used at the time), it entered what is now Arkansas. It spent the next eleven months roaming around the state until de Soto’s death on May 31, 1542 (May 21 on the Julian calendar). After his death, the survivors made their way to Mexico. There have been many attempts to identify the expedition’s route through Arkansas, using information from the four written accounts of the expedition. Three of these were written by men who had accompanied the expedition, and the fourth was authored forty or fifty years later, based on interviews with survivors. The route reconstructions …

de Soto, Hernando

Hernando de Soto was a Spanish explorer who led an expedition into the southern United States. He and his soldiers were the first Europeans to set foot in what is now Arkansas. Four written accounts of the expedition provide details about his trek through the state. De Soto was born in the Extremadura region of western Spain around 1500, but the exact date is uncertain. He probably was born in the town of Jerez de los Caballeros. The second son of Francisco Méndez de Soto and Leonor Arias Tinoco, he had at least two younger sisters and an older brother. Although the family was of noble heritage, de Soto was poor and borrowed money to travel to the New World …

de Tonti, Henri

aka: Henry de Tonty
Henri de Tonti helped establish the first permanent European settlement in the lower Mississippi River Valley in 1686. It was called the Poste aux Arkansas, or Arkansas Post (Arkansas County). As a result, de Tonti is often called the “father of Arkansas.” Although Italian by birth, de Tonti is associated with French exploration. He received notoriety as an explorer in the Great Lakes Region and Mississippi River Valley with his friend, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, at a time when the French were establishing trade monopolies in parts of North America to compete with the English and Spanish. Henri de Tonti was born around 1649 near Gaeta, Italy, to Lorenzo de Tonti and Isabelle di Lietto. The family moved …

Dean, “Dizzy”

aka: Jay Hanna Dean
Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean was a professional baseball player and radio and television baseball broadcaster who was later inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. Dean and his younger brother, Paul, pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals during the team’s “Gashouse Gang” era of the 1930s. Along with the aging Babe Ruth, “Dizzy” Dean was considered baseball’s major drawing card during the Depression years of the 1930s. Born in Lucas (Logan County) on January 16, 1910, Jay Dean was the son of Albert Monroe “Ab” Dean, a tenant farmer and sawmill worker, and Alma Nelson Dean. His Arkansas childhood was not an easy one. His mother died in 1918 from tuberculosis, and …

Dean, Arthur (Lynching of)

On September 9, 1911, a twenty-three-year-old African-American man named Arthur Dean was lynched in Augusta (Woodruff County) for a crime spree that ended in the alleged murder of a white woman named Mrs. Albert Vaughan. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Dean had earlier been convicted of assault and had been released from the penitentiary two weeks before the crime spree. On the morning of September 8, he went to the home of Tom Ligon, an African-American farmer who lived five miles east of Augusta. This was perhaps Thomas Ligon, listed on the 1920 census as a tenant farmer living in Augusta with his wife, Mary, and six children aged thirteen and under. While at Ligon’s home, Arthur Dean encountered an …

Dean, Paul

aka: Paul Dee "Daffy" Dean
Like his brother, Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean, Paul Dee “Daffy” Dean was a baseball player who enjoyed his greatest success as a teammate with his brother on the St. Louis Cardinals. Due to injuries, Paul Dean had only two truly successful years in the major leagues, though he attempted numerous comebacks. However, the Dean brothers’ 1934 and 1935 seasons are well remembered by baseball historians. Paul Dean was born on August 14, 1913, in Lucas (Logan County) to sharecroppers Albert Monroe Dean and Alma Nelson Dean. He became a professional baseball player in 1932 by signing with Houston of the Texas League. In 1934, he joined his brother on the pitching staff of the St. Louis Cardinals, prompting Dizzy’s famous …

Deane, Ernie

aka: Ernest Cecil Deane
Ernest Cecil (Ernie) Deane—journalist, teacher, historian, and folklorist—was best known for his newspaper columns, “The Arkansas Traveler” and “Ozarks Country.” He taught journalism at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington Couny) and was a proponent to restore Old Main to its historical character at the UA campus. Ernie Deane was born on October 29, 1911, in Lewisville (Lafayette County) to Ernest Deane, a railroad engineer, and Mabel Drew Deane. He attended public schools in Lewisville and Texarkana (Miller County). He received a bachelor’s in journalism in 1934 from UA, having served as editor of the Arkansas Traveler, the UA newspaper, and studied under the founder of the journalism department, Walter Lemke, whom Deane considered his mentor. Deane earned …

Dearmore, Thomas Lee (Tom)

Thomas Lee Dearmore was a nationally recognized journalist and newspaper editor. A native of the Ozarks, Dearmore focused on politics and music in his writing. He worked at newspapers in Washington DC and San Francisco, California, and was an editor at the Arkansas Gazette for two years in the 1970s. Like his contemporary Harry Ashmore, Dearmore was a new breed of southern journalist who sought to distance Arkansas and the South from a segregationist past. Tom Dearmore was born in Mountain Home (Baxter County) on September 11, 1927. He was the son of Benjamin Dearmore and Ethel Shiras Dearmore, both of whom were natives of Arkansas. During World War II, he was stationed in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he …

Death Stalks the Big Top [Murder, She Wrote Episode]

With its fictional setting in Arkansas, “Death Stalks the Big Top” was broadcast as part of the CBS television Murder, She Wrote mystery/drama series starring Angela Lansbury. The two-part episode was aired on consecutive Sunday evenings, September 28 and October 5, 1986, to kick off the show’s third—and highest-rated—season. Arkansas actress Lee Purcell played a significant role in the episodes. Running from 1984 to 1996, Murder, She Wrote was among the most successful long-running television shows in history, averaging more than 30 million viewers per week in its prime. “Death Stalks the Big Top” was its first two-part episode. Although it was a two-parter, “Death Stalks the Big Top” was not developed into a more extensive series, nor was Arkansas …

Decatur (Benton County)

Decatur is a second-class city in Benton County, not far from the northwestern corner of Arkansas. About fifteen miles west of Rogers (Benton County), Decatur is in the Ozark hills about halfway between Sulphur Springs (Benton County) and Siloam Springs (Benton County) on State Highway 59. The first known white settler on the land that would become Decatur was William F. Burrow, who was farming in the area before Arkansas became a state in 1836. Burrow chose the land because of its proximity to a fresh-water spring, later given the name St. Elmo Spring. He received a formal deed to his forty acres of land from the U.S. government in 1854. Burrow and his neighbors grew various crops, including tobacco …

Deckelman, Gene Darrell “Bud”

Gene Darrell “Bud” Deckelman was a country and rockabilly musician who had brief success in Memphis, Tennessee, in the 1950s. His most popular recording was “Daydreamin’,” which was issued on the Meteor record label in Memphis. While his output was relatively small, he toured with artists such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Wanda Jackson. Bud Deckelman was born in Harrisburg (Poinsett County) on April 2, 1927, to Louisiana native George Deckelman (1904–1984) and Arkansas native Lillian Agnes Ellezy Deckelman (1906–1999). He grew up in a poor farming family and with limited education in Scott (Poinsett County). He had four sisters and three brothers. According to the 1940 census, his father owned the family’s house, but it was valued at …

Deckelman, Joseph Dewitt “Sonny”

Joseph Dewitt “Sonny” Deckelman was a musician, songwriter, and record label owner active in the Memphis, Tennessee, and northeastern Arkansas rockabilly scene in the late 1950s and 1960s. While his artistic output was modest, his recordings were well received and have maintained a small but enthusiastic following. He is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Sonny Deckelman was born in Harrisburg (Poinsett County) on September 1, 1933. He was the son of Joe V. Deckelman and Nell Ellzey Deckelman, both natives of Arkansas. His father was a farmer and mechanic, and his mother was a housewife. Deckelman came from a poor family; the census of 1940 shows his father earning no income. He was the youngest of four …