Entries - Starting with M

McKrell, Jim

Jim McKrell is a broadcast personality whose career spanned many decades and included work in radio, television, and film. From his work in commercials for both local and national television to hosting game shows and appearing in TV shows and films, he compiled a wide-ranging set of credits for work both behind and in front of the camera. Jim “Mac” McKrell was born James MacKrell Jr. on October 12, 1937, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to James “Mac” MacKrell Sr. and Bess Irene Townsend MacKrell. He later changed the spelling of his last name. His father was a prominent local radio personality before getting involved in politics. He graduated from Covington High School in Covington, Louisiana, in 1955 and returned …

McLarey, Myra Dell

Howard County native Myra Dell McLarey is a teacher and an author of a wide variety of works, many influenced by her childhood in southwest Arkansas. She is best known for her 1995 debut novel Water from the Well, a semi-autobiographical work of fiction set in the fictional town of Sugar Springs, Arkansas. Myra Dell McLarey, the youngest of five children, was born on September 5, 1942, in Okay (Howard County), the company town of the Okay Cement Plant, to Charles Drowns McLarey Jr. and Josie Earline Fincher McLarey. Her father was a supervisor at the cement plant as well as a deputy sheriff and the elected constable of the Saratoga-Okay township; her mother was a homemaker and later a …

McLarty, Mack

aka: Thomas Franklin McLarty III
Thomas Franklin “Mack” McLarty III was the first Arkansan to serve as White House chief of staff. A kindergarten classmate and lifelong friend of President Bill Clinton, McLarty served as Clinton’s chief of staff from 1993 to 1994 and, later, as his special envoy for the Americas. He is now president of McLarty Associates, originally Kissinger McLarty Associates, an international advisory firm created in partnership with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger. Mack McLarty was born on June 14, 1946, in Hope (Hempstead County) to Thomas F. McLarty Jr. and Helen Hesterly McLarty. He has one younger brother. His father owned and operated an automobile dealership started by McLarty’s grandfather. His mother, active in community and charitable endeavors, became the …

McLaughlin, Leo Patrick

Leo Patrick McLaughlin served as mayor of Hot Springs (Garland County) for almost twenty years, allowing the city to operate as an “open” town with illegal gambling permitted under official supervision. As mayor, he reigned as the undisputed boss of Garland County politics. During his time in office, many underworld characters frequented Hot Springs’ spas, and gambling became one of the town’s most popular forms of entertainment. Even today, many recall McLaughlin as one of Hot Springs’ most memorable personalities. Leo McLaughlin was born on June 5, 1888, in Hot Springs, the son of John Henry McLaughlin and Bridget Adela Russell McLaughlin. He graduated from Hot Springs High School in 1908, where he was a star athlete and president of …

McLaughlin, William Heber

William Heber McLaughlin was a Lonoke County farmer and politician who became one of the first American army officers to be wounded in action in France, participating in the first military engagement involving U.S. Army troops in World War I. William Heber McLaughlin, who was called Heber, was born on January 26, 1882, at Atoka, Tennessee, north of Memphis, to businessman William R. McLaughlin and Annie Gillespie McLaughlin. The family moved to Lonoke (Lonoke County) soon after his birth. Around 1907, his father purchased the Knapp Plantation, east of Scott (Lonoke and Pulaski counties) near Toltec, advocating that the mounds on the site be made into a public park to ensure their preservation. They eventually were acquired by the State …

McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education

The 1981–82 federal court case McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education constituted a challenge to the state’s Act 590, which mandated the equal treatment of creation science in classrooms where evolution was taught. On January 5, 1982, U.S. District Court Judge William R. Overton ruled Act 590 unconstitutional in light of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. His determination that creationism constituted a religious doctrine rather than a scientific theory had a profound impact on the nation, the ramifications of which are still being felt today. The draft of the model act which eventually became Act 590 originated in an Anderson, South Carolina, organization called Citizens for Fairness in Education. Its founder, Paul Ellwanger, working from a model prepared …

McMath, Betty Dortch Russell

aka: Betty Dortch Russell
aka: Betty Russell
Betty Dortch Russell McMath became Arkansas’s most prominent portrait artist during the second half of the twentieth century. Her commissions included governors, judges, literary figures, and numerous business, civic, and social leaders. Beyond portraiture, her paintings seized the everyday moments of small-town life in Arkansas and chronicled its plantation culture. She produced portraits of five Arkansas governors, including Sid McMath, who was her second husband. Betty Ruth Dortch was born on July 14, 1920, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the daughter of Steele Dortch and Mabel Wittenberg Dortch. She had one sister, Judith. The family lived on 1,200 acres near Scott (Pulaski and Lonoke counties) in a home her father built. The house was situated on Bearskin Lake about one …

McMath, Phillip Hal

Phillip Hal McMath is a Little Rock (Pulaski County) trial attorney, an award-winning writer, a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran, and an ardent advocate for preserving and promoting Arkansas literature and history. McMath has published four novels and numerous short stories and articles, along with producing two plays. His book Lost Kingdoms was the winner of the Arkansiana Fiction Award in 2009, while The Broken Vase received the Booker Worthen Prize in 2011 . McMath established the Porter Prize in 1984, which has made a significant contribution to literature in Arkansas. Phillip McMath was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Sidney Sanders McMath and Anne Phillips McMath on December 25, 1945; he has two brothers and two sisters. In 1948, McMath’s father was elected …

McMath, Sid

aka: Sidney Sanders McMath
Sidney Sanders McMath—who became a prosecuting attorney, decorated U.S. Marine officer, and governor—rose to national attention by prosecuting Hot Springs (Garland County) mayor Leo McLaughlin, and he used that exposure to launch a campaign for governor. He was a close political friend to President Harry Truman and a dedicated foe to the Dixiecrat movement that tried to control the Democratic Party in the South in the 1948 presidential campaign. Sid McMath was born on June 14, 1912, to Hal Pierce McMath and Nettie Belle Sanders McMath in Columbia County. McMath’s father inherited the family farm when his father, the county sheriff, died in a shootout with bootleggers. McMath’s father had a restless spirit and gave up the farm before McMath was …

McNab (Hempstead County)

McNab is a town on State Highway 355 in western Hempstead County. Created as a railroad depot, McNab is known in the twenty-first century for its Twin Rivers Festival, held every April. Caddo Indians inhabited the Red River valley when French and Spanish explorers first arrived in the region. Shortly after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, a boat landing and settlement named Fulton (Hempstead County) arose on the Red River. Settlers came to the town by boat or by land using the Southwest Trail, a military road that ended at Fulton. Some settlers cleared land a few miles north of Fulton, where the town of McNab would later appear. William McElroy and Thomas Reed both acquired land patents in the …

McNair, Evander

Evander McNair was a prosperous antebellum merchant in Mississippi and Arkansas, a Mexican War veteran, and a Confederate general who ranks among Arkansas’s most successful and respected Civil War commanders. Evander McNair was born to Scottish-immigrant parents John McNair and Nancy Fletcher McNair on April 15, 1820, in Laurel Hill, North Carolina. He and his parents moved to Simpson County, Mississippi, in 1821. By 1842, McNair had established a mercantile business in Jackson, Mississippi. During the Mexican War, he served as ordnance sergeant in Company E of the First Mississippi Rifles, a regiment commanded by Colonel Jefferson Davis (future president of the Confederacy). McNair fought at the Battle of Buena Vista and received an honorable discharge. After the war, he …

McNeely Creek Bridge

The McNeely Creek Bridge is a single Warren pony-truss bridge near the community of Beirne (Clark County). Constructed in 1923, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 26, 2004. Beirne is an unincorporated community founded in 1880 along the Cairo and Fulton Railroad. Settlement of southern Clark County progressed slowly before the establishment of the railroad, with few roads connecting the area with Arkadelphia (Clark County) or other communities. With an economy based on timber, the community grew as it became one of the best shipping locations for raw timber in southwestern Arkansas. The community was linked by road to nearby Gurdon (Clark County), about four miles to the northeast, likely shortly after construction of …

McNeil (Columbia County)

The community of McNeil in Columbia County emerged as a railroad depot in the 1880s. Just to the east of the community is Logoly State Park. One of the earliest families of European descent to settle the area was that of Ananias Godbold in 1845. Milton G. Kelso purchased two lots of Columbia County land on March 1, 1855, adding three additional lots five years later. Around 1855, William B. McNeill—a graduate of the University of North Carolina—arrived in the area and opened a school. McNeill married Mary Jane Kelso on December 21, 1859, and other families settled around the school, so that by the time of the Civil War, the area could be described as “thickly settled.” Because of …

McNeil, W. K.

aka: William Kinneth McNeil
William Kinneth (W. K.) McNeil was a prominent folklorist and historian of Arkansas and Ozark regional folk traditions, especially their folk music and songs, speech, tales, and legends. He published books and articles in both popular and scholarly outlets and produced widely disseminated recordings. Most of his research was conducted while he held the post of folklorist from 1976 to 2005 at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View (Stone County), from which he drew materials for his public programming as well as writing. W. K. (or Bill) McNeil was born near the town of Canton, North Carolina, on August 13, 1940, to William McKinley McNeil, a sales manager, and Margaret Winifred (Rigdon) McNeil, an office worker; he had one …

McRae (White County)

McRae is an incorporated city in southern White County, located about nine miles southwest of Searcy (White County). McRae has its origins in the construction of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad through White County in 1872, which entailed the use of abundant virgin timber and arable lands in the area, but McRae did not exist as a defined community until the establishment of its first post office in 1889. The construction of McRae’s own rail depot in 1897 enabled further development and robust growth, which allowed it to emerge as a local contender in timber and strawberry production. The community was named in honor of Searcy attorney and Confederate brigadier general Dandridge McRae. Two men instrumental in shaping McRae during …

McRae, Dandridge

Dandridge McRae was a Searcy (White County) attorney who during the Civil War rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate army and led troops in most of the major battles in Arkansas. Following the war, McRae held various state and federal government positions and was active in promoting the state. The town of McRae (White County) is named in his honor. Born on October 10, 1829, in Baldwin County, Alabama, Dandridge McRae was the eldest of eleven children born to D. R. W. McRae and Margaret Bracy McRae. His father was a plantation owner, a lawyer, and a member of the Alabama legislature. Young McRae was tutored on the family plantation. In 1845, he was admitted to …

McRae, Thomas Chipman

A lawyer, banker, and politician, Thomas Chipman McRae represented the Third Congressional District for eighteen years and served as governor from 1921 to 1925. During his governorship, he fiercely fought to revise the tax system to adequately fund Arkansas’s dilapidated highway and educational systems. McRae was the last Arkansas governor to have served in the Confederate forces. Thomas McRae, the eldest of five siblings, was born on December 21, 1851, in Mount Holly (Union County) to Duncan L. and Mary Ann (Chipman) McRae. Duncan McRae, a founder of Mount Holly, was a farmer. In 1863, McRae’s father died, leaving him to run the farm during the chaos of the Civil War. Before the conflict ended, McRae briefly served as a …

Meador, Eddie Doyle

Eddie Doyle Meador was a star defensive back for the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL) throughout the 1960s. A graduate of Arkansas Tech University in Russellville (Pope County), Meador was the recipient of numerous honors and recognitions over the course of a twelve-year career in the NFL. Eddie Doyle Meador was born on August 10, 1937, in Dallas, Texas, to Euell Meador, who was a mechanic, and Easter Meador. The family moved to Arkansas before his junior year, but a pre-season injury prevented him from playing for the school team that year. However, in 1954, as a senior, in his sole high school season, he led Russellville High School to the Region 3AA championship. A superb …

Measles

The measles virus, which is the pathogen that causes the measles disease, belongs to the Paramyxoviridae family of viruses in the Morbillivirus genus. It has worldwide distribution and, despite the availability of a vaccine, still causes about 100,000 deaths annually, mostly in developing countries. The virus has no animal reservoirs, with humans serving as the only host. It was not until 1757 that Scottish physician Francis Home demonstrated that an infectious agent was responsible for measles when he transmitted the disease to so-called virgin individuals (i.e., those who never had measles) using blood taken from measles patients. Compared to some other viral diseases, measles is a relatively recent disease and is thought to have emerged from an animal virus. The …

Mechanics’ Institute of Little Rock

In September 1858, a group of white workingmen in Little Rock (Pulaski County) formed one of the state’s first labor organizations, the Mechanics’ Institute, which sought to protect white workingmen from un-free or “degraded” competitors—free Negroes, slaves, and inmates at the state penitentiary—who were forcing down wages. The Mechanics’ Institute sought a political solution to the workingmen’s competitive troubles, calling on the Arkansas General Assembly to “stop permitting free negroes to reside among us,” limit the work of slaves to agricultural and domestic pursuits, and convert “the employment of convicts in our State prison more exclusively to the manufacture of such goods and articles as are not manufactured here.” In demanding these reforms, the Mechanics’ Institute enunciated a version of …

Medal of Honor Recipients

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest honor presented to military personnel for actions above and beyond the call of duty. The medal is awarded by the U.S. Congress and presented by the president of the United States; it is commonly known as the Congressional Medal of Honor, though this is not its proper name. Since the medal was first presented in 1863, 3,468 individuals have been honored. Of those, twenty-five have Arkansas connections. John Henry Pruitt, a World War I Marine from Newton County, is just one of nineteen soldiers to have been awarded the medal twice. Originally presented for both combat and non-combat heroism, it is today presented to a member of the military who “distinguishes himself …

Medearis, Mary Myrtle

Though she always considered herself a musician, Mary Myrtle Medearis was best known as the author of Big Doc’s Girl (1942), a novel that grew out of an assigned autobiographical short story in a creative writing class. It has the distinction of having stayed in print longer than any other work of fiction by an Arkansan. Ever tenacious, Medearis had great success as a writer and historian in spite of her humble beginnings—and partly because of them. Mary Medearis was born in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) on May 31, 1915. Her mother, Myrtle Hendricks, taught piano. Her father, Dr. Robert Medearis, practiced medicine. Mary, whose maternal grandparents had been vaudeville performers, inherited her family’s love for music. By the …

Medical Arts Building

The sixteen-story Medical Arts Building at 236 Central Avenue in downtown Hot Springs (Garland County) was the tallest building in Arkansas from its completion in 1930 until 1960, when the Tower Building was completed in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County). (The tallest building in Arkansas currently is the forty-story Metropolitan Tower in Little Rock, which was built in 1986.) The upper floors of the Medical Arts Building are now vacant. The Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas (HPAA) listed it in 2012 as one of the state’s most endangered places. The Medical Arts Building was constructed by general contractor G. C. Gordon Walker with work beginning on December 1, 1929. Investors from Little Rock and New Orleans, Louisiana, purchased the site, …

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is professional misconduct by physicians and surgeons toward a patient. Historically, malpractice falls into two categories: criminal malpractice covers actions contrary to or expressively forbidden by law; civil malpractice, the dominant form in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, refers to injurious treatment of the patient that includes unnecessary suffering or death that is due to professional ignorance, carelessness, a want of proper medical skills, and a disregard for established rules and practices. More rarely, malpractice can cover lawyers and other professionals. Medical malpractice suits emerged in the nineteenth century and came about only after the practice of medicine became informed by a scientific revolution that involved such discoveries as sepsis, immunization, and the germ theory. Suits were rare …

Meek, John Alexander

A doctor, minister, and landowner, John Alexander Meek was one of the leaders in establishing Baptist churches. He is credited by The Baptist Encyclopedia as being the founder of nearly all of the early Baptist churches in south Arkansas and north Louisiana. John Meek was likely born on April 16, 1791 (though some records show the years 1790 and 1792), in Laurens County, South Carolina, the sixth of seven children, three of whom became ministers and medical doctors. Details of his early education and medical training are not known. Meek married Sarah “Sally” Spraggins on December 12, 1809, in Abbeville District, South Carolina. Sally Meek died on December 13, 1825, in Laurens County; two of their five children also died …

Melbourne (Izard County)

Melbourne is Izard County’s second-largest city and has served as the county seat since 1875. Located near the county’s center, it serves as a governmental and commercial center. The home of Ozarka College, it is also a regional educational center. Louisiana Purchase through the Gilded Age The first settlers to the area near the present town arrived before 1820. A post office, named Mill Creek, was established about one mile east of the present town on January 14, 1854. William Sublett was the postmaster. With the creation of Stone County and Baxter County in 1873, county boundary lines were redrawn, and there was a push to locate the county seat more centrally. A special election in 1875 relocated the county …

Melody Boys Quartet

The Melody Boys Quartet was a Southern gospel music group based in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The Melody Boys Quartet officially disbanded on December 31, 2012, at the end of the group’s “Exit 63” tour, celebrating sixty-three years together. The group had its origins in the late 1930s when Herschel Foshee, aided by Joe Roper, created the Stamps-Baxter Quartet. The group was named after the music publishing company founded by V. O. Stamps and J. R. Baxter in 1926; the publisher was established in Texas but later opened an office in Pangburn (White County). The quartet’s original purpose was to sing and record the company’s publications exactly as printed and thus aid in selling Stamps-Baxter songbooks to interested musical groups …

Memorial Field Airport

Memorial Field Airport is located southwest of Hot Springs (Garland County), three miles from the city center. The airport is a mixed-use airport, with the majority of usage coming from general aviation. Its total economic impact to the Hot Springs area in 2015 included 703 jobs and over $52 million to the local economy. Memorial Field Airport has two runways. The primary runway is 6,595 feet, and the crosswind runway is 4,098 feet; the airport covers an overall area of 844 acres. In 2015, there were 132 aircraft based at the airport, and the airport saw approximately 37,500 flight operations. The construction of the Army and Navy Hospital in Hot Springs in the 1930s was the catalyst for upgrading the …

Memphis and Little Rock Railroad (M&LR)

The Memphis and Little Rock Railroad (M&LR) was the first railroad to operate in the state of Arkansas. The M&LR was a 133-mile-long railroad line that ran from Hopefield (Crittenden County), just opposite Memphis, Tennessee, to Little Rock (Pulaski County). A five-and-one-half-foot-gauge railroad, it was constructed between 1854 and 1871. At the beginning of the Civil War, only the eastern portion of the railroad between Hopefield and Madison (St. Francis County) was in operation. Construction on the eastern and western thirds of the railroad was complete in 1862, but the Civil War interrupted construction of the middle division of the railroad. During this period, the M&LR played a vital role for both Confederate and Union forces and was under Union …

Memphis to Little Rock Road

aka: Military Road (Memphis to Little Rock)
The Memphis to Little Rock Road was one of the first major public works projects in the Arkansas Territory. Spanning the swamplands of eastern Arkansas, the heights of Crowley’s Ridge, and the expanse of the Grand Prairie, it opened the state to emigrants from the east. The road was also a major route for Native Americans during the forced relocations of the 1830s. The Memphis to Little Rock Road, also known as the Military Road (as were most of the early Arkansas roads constructed under the auspices of the U.S. Army), was authorized on January 31, 1824, when the U.S. Congress passed an act for construction of a road opposite Memphis, Tennessee, through the swamps of eastern Arkansas to the …

Memphis-Arkansas Memorial Bridge

The Memphis-Arkansas Memorial Bridge on Interstate Highway 55 connects Arkansas with Tennessee at Memphis. Since its opening on the morning of December 17, 1949, the span has served as a vital link for automotive traffic to cross the Mississippi River. When the Frisco Bridge was built for railroads in 1892, automobile traffic was not a factor. The Harahan Bridge, the second bridge linking Arkansas and Tennessee, opened in the summer of 1916. Due to increasing numbers of automobiles on both sides of the river, carriageways were hung off both sides of the Harahan in 1917. These provided a single lane for traffic on either side of the bridge. Although Arkansas cars could cross the Mississippi River at Memphis beginning in …

Memphis-Arkansas Speedway

During a four-year span in the 1950s, the Memphis-Arkansas Speedway located near Lehi (Crittenden County) was the longest racetrack and one of the fastest racetracks on the NASCAR circuit. Only Darlington Speedway in South Carolina and the beach course in Daytona, Florida, saw speeds exceeding the Arkansas speedway’s. In the twenty-first century, approximately a third of premier NASCAR races are run on 1.5 mile, oval tracks; the Memphis-Arkansas Speedway was the first of this kind of track. The paper clip–shaped track, one and half miles in length, was made up of 550-foot-radius, high-banked turns, connected by 2,500-foot straights. “I remember going there a long time ago. We raced there in the summer and I went with Daddy,” said seven-time NASCAR …

Mena (Polk County)

  Mena was founded in the late nineteenth century as a railroad town in western Arkansas. Situated amid the Ouachita National Forest and surrounded by noteworthy state parks and trails, the city is now something of a tourist destination, though it also has a diversified economy based upon agriculture and manufacturing. Post Reconstruction through the Gilded Age Mena was one of many towns founded along the route of Arthur E. Stilwell’s Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf Railroad (later the Kansas City Southern), stretching from Kansas City, Missouri, to Port Arthur, Texas. The town of Mena takes its name from the nickname of Folmina Margaretha Janssen deGeoijen, the wife of one of Stilwell’s financiers (Janssen Park is also named after her). …

Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport

The Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport near the city of Mena (Polk County) in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas is located approximately 160 miles west of Little Rock (Pulaski County). It is an airport that focuses on private aircraft and, as of 2011, does not have scheduled commercial air service. Beginnings The first rough airstrip was located south of the town on the McBride family’s property, and a hangar and flying school opened in 1942, run by Hartzell Geyer. The initial runway was a grass one that a local farmer would mow and bale for hay. Due to increased commercial traffic, the Civil Aeronautics Commission (CAC) after World War II determined that Mena would be needed as an emergency landing …

Menard-Hodges Site

The Menard-Hodges Site, located in Arkansas County near Lake Dumond, is part of the Arkansas Post National Memorial. It has been widely considered to be the first location of Arkansas Post and also a location of the Quapaw village of Osotouy. Recent research indicates that the site is part of the historic eighteenth century landscape, but the precise location of the village and post have yet to be pinpointed. Archaeological research of the site has yielded many artifacts from both prehistoric and historic settlement of the region. Two large mounds and several smaller house mounds are still evident at the site, as are the locations of nineteenth-century French family farms. The location was strategically placed to take advantage of the …

Menifee (Conway County)

The town of Menifee has its origins in the 1820s when Dr. Nimrod P. Menifee bought property west of Cadron Creek and along the Arkansas River. The location was adjacent to the Cadron Settlement, once considered as the site for the capital of the new Arkansas Territory and for the seat of Pulaski County. After Little Rock (Pulaski County) was designated the territorial capital, Cadron declined in importance. However, the settlement on the western side of Cadron Creek developed and prospered as the Menifee plantation. The post–Civil War era created the community that continues into the twenty-first century as an incorporated city. Menifee and his son, Dr. Lewis Menifee, organized a large plantation in addition to a river crossing known …

Menifee High School Gymnasium

The Menifee High School Gymnasium, located on the northwestern corner of North Park and East Mustang streets in Menifee (Conway County), was built in 1938 with assistance from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era federal relief agency. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 6, 2002. Schools for African Americans in the Menifee area were available since at least 1919, and when the Great Depression struck these students were centered in East Side School District No. 5’s Conway County Training School, located on five acres about a mile south of Menifee. In 1938, the district succeeded in getting WPA funding to construct a gymnasium for the complex. Construction started in the spring of 1938, …

Menifee, Nimrod P.

Nimrod P. Menifee (spelled “Menefee” in some records) helped to found and settle Conway County, donating the land that was used for the seat of government in Lewisburg in 1831. He also was involved in some of the bitter disputes and duels that were the outgrowth of the early political tensions in the Arkansas Territory. He developed significant land holdings and was instrumental in the formation of several early settlements in central Arkansas including Lewisburg (later Morrilton), Point Remove, Oppelo, and the town that bears his name, Menifee—all in Conway County. Nimrod Menifee was born in 1800. The Menifee family first came to this area from Kentucky, beginning in 1818, when the oldest son, Jonas, bought a one-quarter interest in …

Mental Health

Prior to the opening of the Arkansas Lunatic Asylum (now the Arkansas State Hospital) in 1883, mentally ill Arkansans were cared for by their families or housed in jails, prisons, or poor farms. Since 1883, the Arkansas State Hospital (ASH) has been responsible for the treatment of thousands of Arkansans with a wide range of psychiatric diagnoses such as depression and schizophrenia. In the 1950s, the hospital’s census peaked at 5,086 patients. Since that time, the deinstitutionalization movement and advances in psychotropic medications have resulted in dramatically lower inpatient numbers. The current (as of 2010) ASH capacity of 234 beds represents a deinstitutionalization rate of 97.5% for the state. Most patients are admitted through a screening process conducted by the …

Mental Health Council of Arkansas

The Mental Health Council of Arkansas (MHCA) is a nonprofit organization that has been working to improve the overall health and well-being of citizens in Arkansas since 1972. It was originally founded under the Federal Community Mental Health Construction Grant. The MHCA is composed of fifty psychiatrists and approximately 2,000 healthcare professionals and is governed by a board of directors. Its members provide comprehensive mental health services to Arkansans through the fourteen community mental health centers in Arkansas. The centers provide a variety of mental health services, such as individual and group psychotherapy and medication management; psychological, personality, forensic, and intellectual evaluations; emergency/crisis treatment; consultation/education programs; and partial hospitalization programs. The MHCA is a member of the National Council for …

Mercer, Christopher Columbus, Jr.

Christopher Columbus Mercer Jr. was an advisor to Daisy Bates during the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. As field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), his legal background helped Bates understand and respond to the flood of litigation against the NAACP. Christopher Mercer was born Castor Mercer Jr. on March 27, 1924, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), to Castor C. and Tarvell Linda Mercer; his mother soon changed his name. His father worked as a mechanic for the St. Louis Southwestern (Cotton Belt) Railroad. His mother owned a dry-cleaning business. He has one brother and one half-brother. Mercer received his AB in social services from Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal College …

Merci Train

aka: Gratitude Train
aka: Train de Reconnaissance
Also known as the “Thank You” Train, the Merci Train was the response of the people of France to food shipments sent by Arkansas and other American states to post–World War II western Europe. In 1947, radio commentator and syndicated columnist Drew Pearson launched the effort to send food to Europe. Local efforts were organized through the Chamber of Commerce of North Little Rock (Pulaski County). Thanks to rice growers and farmers throughout the state, three and a half train boxcar loads of rice and half a boxcar load of wheat were collected, plus one boxcar load of canned goods gathered by Lions Clubs in northwest Arkansas. These five boxcars of food were shipped, free of charge, by Rock Island …

Mercury Mining

Mercury, which was first mined in Arkansas in 1931, is in most rock types in trace amounts, generally occurring at higher levels in shale and clay-rich sediments and organic materials like coal than in sandstone, limestone, or dolostone. Although mercury was widely used in the past for several applications, the market for products containing mercury steadily declined in the 1980s because it was recognized to be toxic. It still has important uses, however, in the chemical and electrical industries as well as in dental applications and measuring and control devices. The mercury-bearing district in southwest Arkansas occupies an area six miles wide by thirty miles long, extending from eastern Howard County through Pike County and into western Clark County. Surface …

Meriwether, John Thompson (Jack)

John Thompson (Jack) Meriwether was a city administrator whose later career in higher education channeled hundreds of millions of dollars to Arkansas colleges and universities. Meriwether was city manager—the city’s chief administrator—of Texarkana (Miller County) and then Little Rock (Pulaski County). He was an officer at a bank in his hometown of Paragould (Greene County) and was general manager of the Arkansas Gazette for several years. He also served as vice president for governmental relations for the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Jack Meriwether was born on November 23, 1933, to Ray Meriwether and Marie Thompson Meriwether in Paragould. His father and his uncle, Bill Meriwether, ran a hardware store started by his grandfather in 1883. Meriwether and his …

Merrell, Henry

Henry Merrell of New York was both an industrialist and an evangelical who contributed to the development of Arkansas and Georgia. He has been credited with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Arkansas, and he also served the state as a Confederate major and as an effective Presbyterian elder. Henry Merrell was born in Utica, New York, on December 8, 1816, to Andrew Merrell, an influential printer, and Harriet Camp Merrell; he had two brothers and two sisters. Merrell began working at the Oneida textile factory in Whitesboro, New York, when he was fourteen. He participated in the religious movement of “The Second Great Awakening” and attended the abolitionist Oneida Institute in Whitesboro. Concerning his 1856 arrival in Arkansas, …

Merrill, Joseph

Joseph Merrill was a successful philanthropist who made a difference for the lives of young people in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), primarily through his support of African-American schools in Pine Bluff. He was also the founder of the Merrill Institute. Joseph Merrill, the youngest child of William and Mary Merrill, was born in Rockingham County, New Hampshire, around 1810. He had two brothers and one sister. He started his trade of shoemaking at the age of eleven years old and worked until he was twenty-one years old in Boston, Massachusetts. Then he moved to Sidney, Ohio, and worked there for a few years. His health turned bad, and in December 1835, he moved south to Little Rock (Pulaski County) to …

Merryman, James Harold

James Harold Merryman was a pilot and three-star general in the U.S. Army who aided in the restoration of aviation as an army branch of service for the first time since the Army Air Corps ceased to exist in 1948. General Merryman’s military decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, two awards of the Legion of Merit, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, twenty-five Air Medals, and three Army Commendation Medals. James Merryman was born in Hot Springs (Garland County) on April 3, 1929, to Jim Merryman and Edith Agnes Dyer Merryman. His father was a mechanic and thirty-third-degree Mason, and his mother was a homemaker. He had one younger brother. As a youth, Merryman sold …

Meteorites

Meteorites are fragments of rock or metal that fall from space. Except for a few that have come from the moon or Mars, meteorites represent fragments of small non-planetary bodies within the solar system, such as the objects that make up the asteroid belt. Most meteorites are remnants from the formation of the solar system that have drifted in orbits between the primary planets for over 4.5 billion years. Meteorites are some of the most scientifically significant materials on earth. Sample return missions to find and recover these objects from their orbits in space are, in most cases, prohibitively expensive or impossible. It is extraordinarily good fortune for scientists when a new meteorite falls to earth, since each one offers …

Methodist Children’s Home

The Methodist Children’s Home, located in Little Rock (Pulaski County), began as a movement to create an orphanage in the denomination’s Little Rock Conference in 1897. The institution was incorporated on May 3, 1899, in Pulaski County and called the Arkansas Methodist Orphanage of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The trustees were Colonel George Thornburgh, Dr. James Thomas, Reverend J. A. Cason, and George Culberhouse. Soon afterward, the stockholders of the Women’s Industrial Home at Fifteenth and Commerce Streets offered their property, consisting of three lots and a two-story building, to the orphanage incorporators. Mrs. L. R. Tabor and Mrs. Logan H. Roots were the property’s largest stockholders. Orphanage officials accepted the property, and the home began receiving children. The …

Methodists

Methodism came into what is now Arkansas at least two decades before statehood, just as it had been brought to North America at least two decades before the American Revolution. Led by John Wesley, an Anglican priest; his brother Charles; and a few others, Methodism had begun as a movement within the Church of England in the 1720s. Wesley never considered himself anything but an Anglican priest, but after the Americans had won their independence, his followers here demanded a new and separate church. Structure of the Church Wesley’s followers studied and worshiped as small independent classes or societies until the Methodist Episcopal (ME) Church in America was officially organized in Baltimore in 1784. At that time, the church had …