Entries - Starting with R

Richland Creek, Skirmish at (August 16, 1864)

A running battle in northwestern Arkansas, this skirmish was typical of Federal efforts to keep guerrillas from establishing a foothold in the area. On August 15, 1864, Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison of the First Arkansas Cavalry (US) ordered Lieutenant Colonel Albert Bishop to lead an expedition against a band of bushwhackers operating near Fayetteville (Washington County) under the command of Tuck Smith. Departing at 1:00 a.m. the next morning, the Federals moved eastward and found signs of enemy activity about thirteen miles outside Fayetteville. Around 7:00 a.m., the unit approached a home on Richland Creek. Between ten and fifteen horses were tied up there. The guerrilla riders were inside eating breakfast, and the Union troops surprised the entire group, causing …

Richland Creek, Skirmishes at (April 13–14, 1864)

These separate Civil War skirmishes over two days in northern Arkansas were part of a Federal effort to keep Confederate forces from organizing in the area. By attacking guerrilla bands, Union troops were able to disrupt enemy efforts severely. Captain Samuel Turner of the Sixth Missouri State Militia (US) led a patrol along Richland Creek in April 1864. Finding evidence of enemy activity in the area, he located a guerrilla camp under the command of a Captain Watkins. Attacking the camp, which numbered about sixty-three people, the Federals completely surprised the enemy, killing five, including Watkins. Several others were wounded, and one Confederate was captured. The next day, several guerrilla bands numbering more than 100 joined forces. These groups were …

Richland Creek, Skirmishes at (May 3 and 5, 1864)

In March 1864, six companies and the headquarters of the Federal Second Arkansas Cavalry commanded by Colonel John E. Phelps were transferred from Cassville, Missouri, to Yellville (Marion County) to suppress Confederate guerrillas who were raiding southern Missouri. Other companies of the regiment were left at Berryville (Carroll County) in Arkansas, and Cassville and Springfield in Missouri. In addition to protecting Missouri, the Federals hoped that troops stationed in the northern tier of Arkansas counties would encourage Arkansas Unionists in the area to organize home-guard companies for protection. Immediately after being assigned to Yellville, however, headquarters were moved to Rolling Prairie (Boone County) in order to provide better forage for the horses. The camp was moved from time to time to …

Richland, Skirmish at

Providing enough food to the men assigned to them was difficult for the numerous Federal outposts spread across the Arkansas countryside late in the war. Gathering supplies could be dangerous work, as Union troops were vulnerable to enemy action while outside their heavily fortified outposts. This skirmish took place when Federal troops moved from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) as an escort to a beef contractor. On December 24, 1864, Lieutenant Thomas Stevenson received orders to escort a beef contractor to the post commissary. Departing at 5:00 a.m., the escort consisted of nineteen men of the Fifth Kansas Cavalry and twenty men from the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry. Leaving Pine Bluff, the Union troops moved toward Richland. Finding a bayou too deep …

Richmond, Ted

aka: James Theodore Richmond
James Theodore (Ted) Richmond was the founder of the Wilderness Library on Mount Sherman in Newton County. For twenty-five years, the library provided free reading material to citizens in northwest Arkansas. Ted Richmond was born in Ogallala, Nebraska, on May 26, 1890, the second of five sons of Albert, a pioneer physician, and Etta Richmond. Drafted in 1917, he served during World War I as a private in the infantry and helped establish an American library at the University of Toulouse, France, after the war. He attended several educational institutions: Iowa Business College, University of Chicago, and Missouri Teachers College (now Missouri State University). His journalistic career included editorial and reporting positions at many newspapers: the Quincy Whig, Gem City …

Richwoods (Clark County)

Richwoods is a community in Clark County located three miles south of Gum Springs (Clark County) and four miles north of Curtis (Clark County). The earliest settler in the area was Benjamin Dickinson, who purchased land in 1836. Dickinson moved to Clark County the previous year and was a native of North Carolina. Over the next decade, Dickinson acquired hundreds of additional acres of land to become one of the largest planters in the county. He owned two steamboats that transported his cotton down the Ouachita River, and according to the 1840 census, he owned forty-eight slaves. Upon his death in 1845, his estate was valued at approximately $40,000. The same day that Dickinson obtained his first parcels of property …

Ricks, Earl Thornton

Major General Earl Thornton Ricks served as chief of the Air Force Division, National Guard Bureau, in Washington DC and as mayor of Hot Springs (Garland County), helping end Leo McLaughlin’s political domination there. The Ricks National Guard Armory in Little Rock (Pulaski County) was named for him to commemorate his career, which spanned the most significant years of early aviation history. Earl Ricks was born on July 9, 1908, in West Point, Mississippi, the only child of Nancy Jordan and Earl Paul Ricks, an ice plant owner/manager. The family moved to Stamps (Lafayette County) in about 1916. After high school graduation at Stamps, Ricks followed his lifelong interest in flying at Parks Air College in St. Louis, Missouri. After …

Ricks, G. W. and Moses (Lynching of)

In June 1898, prosperous African-American farmer G. W. Ricks and his son, Rev. Moses Ricks, were lynched in southern Monroe County for the alleged assault of a white farmer’s wife. According to historian Terence Finegan, whose A Deed so Accursed is a study of lynching in South Carolina and Mississippi, prosperous African Americans were occasionally lynched because their success threatened the notion of white superiority. Census information both illuminates and confuses the story. In 1870, there was a black farmer named Jim Ricks living in Monroe County’s Duncan Township. He was twenty-seven years old, and living with him were his wife, Miriam, and several other family members, all of them too old to be the Rickses’ children. Ricks was a …

Riddle, Almeda James

Discovered by a ballad collector in the 1950s, Almeda James Riddle of Greers Ferry (Cleburne County) became a prominent figure in America’s folk music revival. Her memory of ballads, hymns, and children’s songs was one of the largest single repertories documented by folksong scholars. After two decades of concerts and recordings, she received the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts for her contributions to the preservation of Ozark folksong traditions. Almeda James was born on November 21, 1898, in the community of West Pangburn (Cleburne County). She was the fifth of eight children of J. L. James, a timber worker, and Martha Frances Wilkerson. In 1916, she married H. Price Riddle and started family life near Heber …

Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary

Opened in 1990 by Scott and Heidi Riddle, Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary, located on 330 acres outside of Greenbrier (Faulkner County), provides a permanent home for African and Asian elephants in need of sanctuary for any reason, regardless of age, sex, species, health, or temperament. Elephants come from private owners, circuses, or zoos. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit sanctuary—which raises money through grants and donations—houses up to a dozen elephants at any given time, with three baby elephants born at the facility as of 2010. Maximus, an African elephant born at the sanctuary in 2003, starred in Animal Planet’s television show Growing Up Elephant. Scott and Heidi Riddle met while both were working at the Los Angeles Zoo, and they married …

Rideout, Conrad Alfred

Conrad Alfred Rideout was an African-American man whose travels and controversial activities stretched from Florida and Arkansas to Seattle, Washington, to Africa and then back to the United States. His identity seemed to balance perilously on the border between activist and con man. With Rideout having left behind a trail of unverifiable claims and a legacy of unfulfilled hopes, the effort to chronicle his life becomes a lesson in separating fact from fiction. Little is known about Rideout’s early years. According to one source, he was born in Ohio, and he apparently stayed in the Midwest through college, as he is alternately reported to be a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor or the non-existent University of …

Ridge, Sarah Bird Northrup

Sarah Northrup Ridge, who married Cherokee leader John Ridge, was part of the forced removal of the Cherokee, culminating in the notorious Trail of Tears. Settling in Fayetteville (Washington County) after the murder of her husband, she was instrumental in establishing the town’s reputation as an educational center. Sarah Bird Northrup was born on December 7, 1804, in Cornwall, Connecticut, to Lydia Camp Northrup and John Prout Northrup, steward of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions School in Cornwall, which accepted Cherokee students. The Cherokee, primarily from Georgia, were assimilating in many cases into the white population. By the early 1800s, the Cherokee adopted Christianity, were residing in the same kinds of homes as the whites, raised the …

Riedel, Teddy DeLano

aka: Teddy Redell
Teddy DeLano Riedel was a professional musician and songwriter. He toured widely throughout the nation and world, and his songs were recorded by artists such as Elvis Presley and country music star Sonny James. Teddy Riedel was born on June 7, 1937, in Quitman (Cleburne and Faulkner counties) to Ted Wilson Riedel and Mabel Quinn Riedel. His parents were farmers, primarily growing strawberries, which were a major crop in the region. Riedel graduated from Rose Bud High School in Rose Bud (White County). While in high school, Riedel played piano on KWCB radio in Searcy (White County) and became a member of radio show host Lloyd Sutherland’s band. He was befriended by the harmonica virtuoso Wayne Raney, who recruited the …

Riggs-Hamilton American Legion Post 20

Riggs-Hamilton American Legion Post 20, located at 215 North Denver Avenue in Russellville (Pope County), is a Rustic-style structure erected in 1936 with assistance from the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a pair of Depression-era federal relief programs. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 15, 1994. In January 1919, veterans in Russellville organized an Army-Navy Club to serve as a civic organization for the veterans and their families, with members having to have received honorable discharges from the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps after serving overseas or on home guard duty and with honorary membership open to relatives of men who died in service. Robert A. Ragsdale, who came …

Riggs, John Andrew

John Andrew Riggs was a pioneer, politician, early aviator, patent medicine business proprietor, and father of women’s suffrage in Arkansas. Riggs’s Act 186 of 1917 allowed women to vote in the Democratic primary in Arkansas. This enfranchisement of women paved the way for Arkansas’s ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. John Riggs was born on November 5, 1867, in Shelby County, Illinois, the eldest of six children of Elbridge Marion Riggs and Sarah Ann Hubbartt. His parents were farmers and merchants. In 1877, the extended Riggs family moved to Sumner County, Kansas, the Southern border of which was Indian Territory. In 1889, Riggs was one of over 50,000 pioneers in a line stretching for 100 miles along …

Right to Work Law

aka: Amendment 34
In November 1944, Arkansas and Florida became the first two states to enact what are commonly known as “Right to Work” measures. These laws prohibit employers and employee-chosen unions from agreeing to contracts that require employees to join the union as a condition of employment. Thus, rather than simply granting an individual the right to work, such laws regulate the collective bargaining process to the detriment of unions. The effort to enact Right to Work laws originated on Labor Day in 1941, when Dallas Morning News editorial writer William Ruggles called for the passage of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting contracts that required employees to become union members. Soon thereafter, Vance Muse, founder of the Christian American Association, …

Riley, Billy Lee

Billy Lee Riley was a rockabilly musician whose career began in the Arkansas Delta and peaked in the 1950s after he signed a record deal with Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. He recorded many songs during his life, alternating between the rockabilly style that made him famous and the blues music that he loved. Billy Lee Riley was born in Pocahontas (Randolph County) on October 5, 1933, to Amos and Mae Riley; he was one of nine children. Although his father was a house painter by trade, the economic disparities of the time led the family into sharecropping. As a result, the Riley family moved frequently to different towns in Arkansas, at times living in intense poverty. Through this lifestyle, …

Riley, Bob Cowley

Bob Cowley Riley was a politician and educator who overcame debilitating World War II injuries to serve with distinction in both arenas. His career in state and local politics spanned four decades and culminated in two terms as lieutenant governor (1971–1975) and eleven days as governor (1975). He taught social sciences at Little Rock University (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock) and Ouachita Baptist University (OBU). On the political stump and in the classroom, Riley was a legendary raconteur. A black patch covering his blinded left eye was his trademark. Bob Riley was born on September 18, 1924, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the son of Columbus Allen and Winnie (Craig) Riley. He attended Pulaski County Rural School …

Riley, Sallie Irene Robinson-Stanfield

The earliest recorded Arkansas woman to use a hyphenated name after her marriage, Sallie Irene Robinson-Stanfield Riley, owned and edited the Cleveland County Herald in Rison (Cleveland County) during the 1890s and again early in the twentieth century. She exemplified the progressive spirit among Arkansas women. Sallie Irene Robinson was born in Tennessee on January 5, 1873, to William B. Robinson and Laura Pettey Robinson. One of her mother’s sisters, Adah Lee Pettey, married newspaperman Leon Roussan of the Osceola Times. Robinson lived with her aunt and received her early training in that office. In 1892 or 1893, she moved to Rison, where she set type for George H. Tisdale at the Cleveland County Herald and shortly thereafter purchased the …

Rimrock Records

Rimrock Records was founded by country music artist Wayne Raney and his son, Zyndall, in Concord (Cleburne County) in 1961. It is said to be Arkansas’s first and only record-manufacturing company. It was located on Rimrock Road off Heber Springs Road just west of the point at which Highway 87 from Banner (Cleburne County) intersects with Highway 25 at Concord. Such luminaries as the Stanley Brothers and Red Smiley made records, both 45 RPM and LPs, for Rimrock, and Elvis Presley and Ike and Tina Turner did dubbing and studio work there in the early 1970s. Big-name celebrities were often flown in to the Batesville Regional Airport at Southside (Independence County), slipping into Concord at night unbeknownst to the media. …

Ringo, Daniel

Daniel Ringo was the first chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court and helped to develop the foundation for the state’s legal system. Daniel Ringo was born on October 27, 1803, in Cross Plains, Kentucky, but little else is known about his life prior to his arrival in Arkansas. Ringo came to Arkansas in 1820, settling first in Batesville (Independence County) and then moving on to Clark County, where he served as a deputy clerk of the district court. He was elected clerk in 1825 and served most of three terms. He studied the law throughout this time and was admitted to the bar in 1830, at which time he moved to Hempstead County, where he established a partnership with …

Risley, Eleanor de la Vergne Doss

When the Arkansas State Library sponsored an event for supporters in 1939, librarian Vera Snook wrote Eleanor Risley, hoping to entice her to attend. Other honored guests were John Gould Fletcher, Charles J. Finger, and Charles Morrow Wilson. Risley’s inclusion on the list is an indication of the importance attached to her reputation as a nationally recognized Arkansas writer. Risley’s two novels, The Road to Wildcat: A Tale of Southern Mountaineering (1930) and An Abandoned Orchard (1932), had been published by Little, Brown and Company and were critically well received. Between 1928 and 1931, The Atlantic Monthly magazine published a series of Risley short stories about rural southern mountain life. The May 1931 Atlantic Monthly piece “Drought,” which was set …

Risner, James Robinson

James Robinson (Robbie) Risner, a native of Mammoth Spring (Fulton County), was a much-decorated fighter pilot famed for his resistance to his North Vietnamese captors as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Robbie Risner was born on January 16, 1925, in Mammoth Spring, the son of sharecroppers Grover W. Risner and Lora Grace Robinson Risner. He was the fifth of seven children. Risner apparently did not live in Arkansas for long, with census records showing the family living in Oak Grove, Missouri, in 1930, and in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by 1940. Risner joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 at age eighteen and served in Panama during World War II, seeing no action, although he trained as a …

Rison (Cleveland County)

The Texas and St. Louis Railroad gave rise to Rison. The county seat of Dorsey (later Cleveland) County was originally at Toledo. When the railroad was routed through the county in 1882, Rison did not exist as a place name. Samuel Wesley Fordyce of Huntsville, Alabama, a former Union army officer, was authorized to determine the route of the railroad from Texarkana (Miller County) to Birds Point, Missouri. According to unsubstantiated legend, when the leading citizens of Toledo snubbed his plans to route the railroad through that community, he planned a route three miles north through land that later became the town of Rison. Fordyce named the growing community in honor of William Richard Rison, his former partner in a …

Rison Cities Service Station

The Rison Cities Service Station is located at the corner of Main and Magnolia streets in Rison (Cleveland County). Constructed in 1938 in an English Revival style, the building was used as a location for the sale of gasoline and other related automobile products for more than thirty years. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 10, 2001. The growing popularity of automobiles in the early twentieth century led to the establishment of various businesses to supply gasoline and other products to drivers. With many located in residential areas, these buildings were often constructed to resemble nearby homes. The design of this station resembles that of several other stations in the state, including the …

Rison et al. v. Farr

The Arkansas Supreme Court decision in Rison et al. v. Farr overturned the “Iron-Clad” oath that had been passed by the 1864 session of the Union legislature in order to prevent ex-Confederates from voting. Since the case precipitated Radical Reconstruction, probably the most controversial period in Arkansas history, Rison et al. v. Farr stands as one of the most important decisions ever made at the state Supreme Court level. In 1864, Unionists, now in control of Little Rock (Pulaski County), wrote a new constitution for Arkansas. Section 2 of Article 4 provided that “every free white male citizen of the United States” aged twenty-one or over and a resident for six months “shall be deemed a qualified elector.” However, the …

Rison Texaco Service Station

The Rison Texaco Service Station is an Art Deco–style former gas station located in Rison (Cleveland County). Constructed around 1926 at the corner of Main and Third Streets, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 25, 2002. Little is known about the history of the building. An article appeared in the Cleveland County Herald on April 29, 1926, announcing the opening of the business. Part of the Texas-based Texaco company, the station was one of a chain that offered gasoline and automobile-related products in every state by 1928. Interviews with local residents conducted at the time of the property’s addition to the National Register indicate that the business operated as part of the Lion Oil …

Ritz (Scott County)

Ritz is an unincorporated community located in southwestern Scott County. The town was named for the Ritz family who settled in the area. Ritz was officially established in 1914 between Heath Creek and Clear Fork Creek. The agriculture and timber industries have traditionally contributed to the economy and way of life in Ritz. Prior to European exploration, the area surrounding Ritz was a wilderness. Several species of wildlife that no longer inhabit the area, such as elk and buffalo, were present throughout the region. Numerous archaeological sites and burial mounds are located along the banks of prominent waterways such as the Fourche La Fave River. Archaeological findings have provided evidence of early inhabitants dating to the Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian …

River Designations

aka: Wild and Scenic Rivers
aka: Arkansas Natural and Scenic Rivers System
Designation of rivers as a method of protection grew out of the environmental movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In discussions of designation, the terms “river” and “stream” are used interchangeably. At the national level, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 was landmark in recognizing that certain rivers have value and should be preserved in their free-flowing condition. This legislation served as a model for state initiatives. The federal and state models for designation concentrated on activities in the principal channel of the river, such as damming and dredging. At the time, these activities were the biggest threats to rivers. Issues such as gravel mining, minimum stream flow requirements, and property rights activism had not yet …

River Valley Arts Center

The River Valley Arts Center in Russellville (Pope County) offers art classes; week-long immersion art camps; more than forty exhibitions each year; and live performances in storytelling, music, and dance. The center receives small corporate and foundation grants and a grant from the Arkansas Arts Council but is supported mainly by memberships. The impetus behind the establishment of the nonprofit River Valley Arts Center was Richard Barton, who was born and raised in Russellville. After his military service, he studied and painted abroad for about ten years. After returning to Arkansas, he shared his passion for art with others. On June 27, 1981, Barton met with Charolette Doty, John Hlass, Sue Gray, Marge Crabaugh, Bonita Church, Bobbie Moore, Faye Crumpler, …

Riverfest Arts and Music Festival

Riverfest Arts and Music Festival was Arkansas’s premier summer event, offering three days of music on the banks of the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) and North Little Rock (Pulaski County). Operated by Riverfest Inc., a nonprofit organization overseen by a board of directors, Riverfest attracted more than 250,000 people in 2013, creating an economic impact of more than $30 million in the local community. Founded by the Junior League of Little Rock as the Summer Arts Festival in July 1978, the first Riverfest presented the American Wind Symphony and other activities at Murray Park. Following the event’s initial success, the date of the Summer Arts Festival was moved the next year to its well-known Memorial Day weekend …

Rivers

Arkansas has approximately 90,000 miles of rivers and streams. Thirty-three rivers are generally recognized as passing through Arkansas or along one of its borders; more than half of Arkansas’s rivers also enter or run along the borders of other states. While river travel has many hazards—including rapids and hidden snags—until the second half of the nineteenth century, the rivers of Arkansas often provided the best means of transportation for residents and visitors, and many cities and towns were established because of their proximity to rivers. A river is a narrow body of water with land on two sides, generally flowing downhill until it empties into another river or into a lake, sea, or ocean. All rivers are streams, but smaller …

Rivers, Diana

Diana Rivers is an author, artist, and promoter of women’s communities and art venues. Rivers has published numerous short stories and eight novels in the genre of speculative fiction, seven of which compose the Hadra series. Rivers lives in Madison County. Diana Rivers was born Diana Duer Smith on October 17, 1931, in New York City and grew up in suburban New Jersey near Morristown. Her parents, Schuyler Smith and Elizabeth Larocque, separated before she was three years old. Her mother wrote poems and stories, publishing a book of verse, Satan’s Shadow, in 1930. Rivers’s great aunt Caroline King Duer was a poet and an editor for Vogue magazine, and her other great aunt, Alice Duer Miller, wrote poems, stories, …

Rivervale Inverted Siphons

Completed in 1926, the Rivervale Inverted Siphons were a prerequisite to permanent settlement in eastern Poinsett County and adjacent areas in the St. Francis River and Little River basins. The siphons provided relief from overflow and outlet for runoff from Craighead and Mississippi counties and portions of southeastern Missouri. One of the first components in the comprehensive drainage plan devised for Drainage District Number Seven of Poinsett County, the Rivervale Inverted Siphons also permitted the immediate agricultural development and economic exploitation of parts of Poinsett County and those counties in Missouri and Arkansas tributary to District Seven. They were also a necessary response to the proliferation of organized drainage and levee districts in the early twentieth century. The siphons were …

Riviere, Paul

Paul Riviere served as Arkansas Secretary of State from 1979 until 1985 and was a candidate for Arkansas’s Second Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1984. Unsuccessful in that bid, he moved to Brentwood, Tennessee, in 1986, where he established himself as a respected and successful real estate professional in the central Tennessee area. Paul Riviere was born on July 17, 1947, in Monticello (Drew County) to Frank Riviere and Maybell Barnett Riviere. Raised in Monticello, he developed an interest in politics while campaigning with his father, who sought the position of Drew County tax assessor. While a student at Monticello High School, Riviere was elected student body president and selected to be a delegate to …

Roads and Highways

From the creation of Arkansas Territory to present-day Arkansas, road construction has been critical to the development of the state. The construction of roads helped to increase the population of the state in the early years by improving access to areas west of the Delta. The Delta, made up of swamplands, streams, and rivers located in eastern Arkansas, had always been a major obstacle to travel west from the Mississippi River. The earliest routes used for transportation in Arkansas were rivers and creeks due in large part to the number of open waterways in Arkansas and the fact that travel on foot was difficult in swampy areas. These waterways were used by Native Americans and early explorers. Later, Indian trails …

Roaf, Andree Yvonne Layton

Andree Yvonne Layton Roaf was an Arkansas attorney and jurist. A 1996 inductee to the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, Roaf distinguished herself in the fields of biology, law, and community service. Andree Layton was born on March 31, 1941, in Nashville, Tennessee. The daughter of William W. Layton, a government official, and Phoebe A. Layton, an educator, she grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and in White Hall and Muskegon Heights, Michigan. She had two sisters. She graduated from high school in Muskegon in 1958. Originally intending to pursue a career in the biological sciences, she attended Michigan State University and received a BS in zoology in 1962. While an undergraduate, she met, and subsequently married in July 1963, another …

Roaf, William (Willie)

Willie Roaf became one of the greatest football players in Arkansas sports history and one of the best offensive linemen ever in the National Football League (NFL). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. William Roaf was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on April 18, 1970, one of four children of dentist Clifton Roaf and attorney Andree Layton Roaf. (Andree Roaf was the first African-American female member of the Arkansas Supreme Court and the second woman ever to serve in that capacity.) Though he played football at Pine Bluff High School, graduating in 1988, he was not recruited by any major colleges. After he was told that he would need to gain more weight …

Roane, John Selden

John Selden Roane was a lawyer, planter, soldier, and governor of Arkansas. He is best known for his service in the Mexican War and his efforts to deal with the state’s financial crisis following the failure of its banking system. John Roane, the son of storekeeper and slaveholder Hugh Roane and Hannah (Calhoun) Roane, was born in Lebanon, Tennessee, on January 8, 1817. He was part of a prominent political family, and his uncle Archibald Roane served as governor of Tennessee from 1801 to 1803. John Roane was educated in a Tennessee common school and later attended Cumberland College in Princeton, Kentucky. Roane moved to Arkansas in 1837 and settled in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where he studied law under his …

Rob Roy [Steamboat]

The Rob Roy was a steamboat plying the route between Louisville, Kentucky, and New Orleans, Louisiana, when it suffered a fatal boiler explosion near Columbia (Chicot County) in 1836. This was not the first deadly accident involving the Rob Roy’s boilers. On July 19, 1835, the steamboat was approaching the shore to drop off a passenger about fifteen miles above New Madrid, Missouri, when it hit an underwater snag. The collision raised the Rob Roy’s bow several feet above the surface of the Mississippi River, causing a connecting pipe to break in two places and the boilers’ contents to spill out, scalding several deck passengers. At least four people died from the scalding, and three who jumped overboard to escape …

Robbins, Bob

aka: Robert Spears
Bob Robbins became a fixture of Arkansas radio in 1967, when he began working for KAAY in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1979, Robbins moved to KSSN 96 FM, Arkansas’s top country station. Robbins stayed with KSSN until the end of 2013. Since then, he has been heard on classic country station 105.1 “The Wolf.” In 1996, Robbins was named Broadcast Personality of the Year by the Country Music Association. In 2008, he was inducted into the Country Radio Broadcasters’ DJ Hall of Fame. Bob Robbins was born Robert Spears in Auburndale, Florida, on May 16, 1944. His father died from cancer when Spears was one month old. Spears, his siblings, and their mother were living on a farm in …

Roberts, Roy

Roy Roberts, a native of Magnolia (Columbia County), rose through the ranks of the automotive industry from management trainee to vice president of General Motors Corporation (GM), only the second African American to hold such a high position in the corporation. He was a pioneer in the field, and by the end of his over twenty-year leadership career with GM, he was one of the most powerful executives in the automotive industry. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2000. Roy Stewart Roberts was born in Magnolia on March 26, 1939. He was one of ten children of Turner Ray Roberts and Erma Lee Livingston Roberts. His father worked at several jobs, and his mother was …

Roberts, Terrence James

Terrence James Roberts made history as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed integration of the formerly all-white high school. Terrence Roberts, the eldest of seven children, was born on December 3, 1941, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to William and Margaret Roberts. His father was a World War II naval veteran who worked at the Veteran’s Administration (VA) hospital in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), and his mother ran a catering service from home. Roberts was a sophomore at Horace Mann High School when he volunteered to integrate Little Rock’s Central High …

Robertson, Frank (Lynching of)

There is much confusion about the lynching of alleged arsonist Frank Robertson, which occurred in late March 1903. Newspapers from the time give a variety of dates for the event, ranging from March 26 to March 28. Many of the reports were datelined Lewisville (Lafayette County), although other newspapers called it New Louisville or New Lewisville; this would be the present-day Lafayette County seat of Lewisville, which was referred to as “New Lewisville” after the town moved closer to the railroad line in the late nineteenth century. Adding to the confusion, when the U.S. Congress issued an apology in 2005 for its historical inaction on lynching, its report said that Robertson’s lynching occurred on March 27 just across the Louisiana–Arkansas …

Robertson, Irene

Irene Robertson was an interviewer and writer for the 1930s Federal Writers’ Project in Arkansas. She preserved the life stories and experiences of former slaves—or, in some cases, their children—then living in the counties of Crittenden, Lee, Monroe, Phillips, Prairie, and St. Francis. Using her straightforward style of reporting, she prepared 290 out of a total of 300 slave narratives produced in the above counties. She also prepared approximately 116 narratives from interviews with older white residents. Irene Robertson was born in May 1893, possibly in Troy in Greenwood County, South Carolina, near the “Hard Labor” section of Edgefield County, where her parents had lived. Robertson’s father, Samuel Elisha Robertson, a farmer, was born in Edgefield County; he was a …

Robertson, Thomas Arthur

Thomas Arthur Robertson is a painter known for portraits, abstract paintings, and screen prints whose works are included in numerous public and private collections. Three of his pieces—the watercolor Anthurium and the serigraphs The Orange Point and Flight—are in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC. Thomas Arthur Robertson was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on July 19, 1911. Robertson’s father, Thomas N. Robertson, was an attorney and secretary of the Arkansas Law School. Following graduation from Little Rock High School, young Robertson enrolled in the law school and began studying contract and real estate law. Soon, however, with his father’s blessing, Robertson decided against legal study in favor of a career in art. …

Robinson Center Music Hall

aka: Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium
aka: Robinson Auditorium
Built in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the Great Depression as a Public Works Administration (PWA) project, the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium—known since 1973 as the Robinson Center Music Hall—frequently hosts touring performances, including Broadway musicals, and is home to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Named for Lonoke County native Joseph Taylor Robinson, who was governor of Arkansas and a U.S. senator, the Art Deco building on Markham Avenue near Broadway Street is a major Little Rock landmark. Prior to the construction of the Robinson Center, Little Rock’s largest auditorium for concerts and other public events was at Little Rock High School (now called Central High School). Senator Robinson, a strong supporter of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, helped …

Robinson, Brooks Calbert, Jr.

Little Rock (Pulaski County) native Brooks Calbert Robinson Jr. made his debut as a major league baseball player with the Baltimore Orioles at the age of eighteen. By the time he retired as an active player after twenty-three seasons, Robinson was regarded by many as the best third baseman ever to play the game. Brooks Robinson was born in Little Rock on May 18, 1937, to Brooks Calbert and Ethel Denker Robinson. A brother, Gary, was born five years later. His father, a fireman, had played semiprofessional baseball and in 1937 was a member of the International Harvester softball team from Little Rock that played in the finals of the World Softball Championship in Chicago. Robinson began playing baseball at …

Robinson, Fatima

Fatima Robinson was described in the New York Times as “one of the most sought-after hip-hop and popular music choreographers in the world” and was once named by Entertainment Weekly as one of the 100 most creative people in the world of entertainment. Her dance choreography has been featured in numerous music videos, movies, and television shows. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2004. Fatima Robinson was born on August 29, 1971, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). At four years of age, she left Arkansas with her mother, Kadijah Furqan, and two younger sisters, moving to Los Angeles, California. She graduated from high school at age sixteen and started to work in her mother’s hair …

Robinson, Hester Buck

Hester Buck Robinson was one of the largest landowners in Prairie County when she died. Her husband once remarked to a friend that she had a “financial brain” and had made more money since they married than he ever made. Hester Buck was born in January of 1896, probably in Wattensas Township, near DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), to William Buck, a farmer, and his wife, Celia. Her father’s older brother, Thomas, had a grocery store at DeValls Bluff. She taught school for a time before her marriage to Elias Brooks (E. B.) Robinson on June 22, 1921. Her grandfather, Silas Buck, owned land a few miles above DeValls Bluff at a point on the west bank of White River that …