Until the second half of the twentieth century, the visit of a president of the United States (or even of a former president) was a historic event in Arkansas. The ease and affordability of travel—and the election of an Arkansas native as president in 1992 and 1996—have made presidential visits less noteworthy. The following chart lists the visits of presidents and former presidents to the state of Arkansas from statehood in 1836 through the year 1990. The occasions when future presidents were in Arkansas, such as Colonel Zachary Taylor’s time in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) from 1841 to 1845, are not listed. President Bill Clinton’s numerous return visits to Arkansas are not included, nor are visits by Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, because of their frequency both during and after their terms of office. One significant event that should be noted, however, was the dedication of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park. The ceremonies, held on November 18, 2004, involved President George W. Bush and former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and, of course, Bill Clinton. Also, on May 7, 2014, President Barack Obama conducted his first presidential visit to Arkansas in order to survey tornado damage in the Vilonia (Faulkner County) area.
|DATE||PRESIDENT||YEARS IN OFFICE||LOCATIONS VISITED||EVENT|
|April 22, 1842||Martin Van Buren||1837–1841||Columbia (Chicot County)||Passenger on steamboat Nashville, which stopped briefly|
|April 14 & 15, 1880||Ulysses S. Grant||1869–1877||Little Rock (Pulaski County)||Parade and banquet as part of world tour|
|April 17, 1891||Benjamin Harrison||1889–1893||Little Rock||Train tour on way to Pacific Coast|
|October 25, 1905||Theodore Roosevelt||1901–1909||Little Rock||Parade and public meeting|
|October 24, 1909||William H. Taft||1909–1913||Texarkana (Miller County), Arkadelphia (Clark County), Little Rock||Brief remarks at train stations|
|October 27, 1909||William H. Taft||1909–1913||Helena (Phillips County)||Speech on waterways|
|October 10, 1910||Theodore Roosevelt||1901–1909||Hot Springs (Garland County)||Arkansas State Fair|
|April 20, 1912||Theodore Roosevelt||1901–1909||Fort Smith, Ozark (Franklin County), Clarksville (Johnson County), Russellville (Pope County), Conway (Faulkner County), Argenta (Pulaski County), Carlisle (Lonoke County)||Campaign tour|
|September 25, 1912||Theodore Roosevelt||1901–1909||Little Rock||Speech on waterways|
|February 8–9, 1918||William H. Taft||1909–1913||North Little Rock (Pulaski County)||Lectures at Camp Pike|
|June 10, 1936||Franklin Roosevelt||1933–1945||Hot Springs, Rockport (Hot Spring County), Little Rock||Arkansas State Centennial Celebration|
|July 9, 1938||Franklin Roosevelt||1933–1945||Booneville (Logan County)||Campaign tour|
|April 18, 1943||Franklin Roosevelt||1933–1945||North Little Rock||Visit to Camp Robinson|
|October 6, 1945||Harry S. Truman||1945–1953||Blytheville (Mississippi County)||Visit/stopover on way to Missouri|
|June 10–11, 1949||Harry S. Truman||1945–1953||Little Rock||Army Division reunion and dedication of War Memorial Park|
|July1 & 2, 1952||Harry S. Truman||1945–1953||Little Rock, Norfork (Baxter County), Mountain Home (Baxter County), Flippin (Marion County), Cotter (Baxter County), Batesville (Independence County), Newport (Jackson County)||Dedication of Bull Shoals Dam and Norfork Dam|
|October 29, 1961||John F. Kennedy||1961–1963||Fort Smith||Ceremony at Old Fort Smith|
|October 3, 1963||John F. Kennedy||1961–1963||Heber Springs (Cleburne County), Little Rock||Dedication of Greers Ferry Dam, Speech at the State Fair|
|September 25, 1964||Lyndon B. Johnson||1963–1969||Texarkana||Dedication of memorial at post office|
|December 6, 1969||Richard M. Nixon||1969–1974||Fayetteville (Washington County)||Arkansas-Texas football game|
|August 10, 1975||Gerald R. Ford||1974–1977||Fort Smith||Dedication of St. Edward’s Mercy Medical Center|
|October 22, 1980||Jimmy Carter||1977–1981||Texarkana||Campaign appearance|
|1983 and following years||Jimmy Carter||1977–1981||Newport, Weiner (Poinsett County)||Duck hunting|
|March 29, 1984||Gerald R. Ford||1974–1977||Conway||Speech at the University of Central Arkansas|
|May 12, 1984||Gerald R. Ford||1974–1977||Searcy (White County)||Campaign rally|
|November 2 & 3, 1984||Ronald Reagan||1981–1989||Little Rock||Political rally|
|October 27, 1988||Ronald Reagan||1981–1989||Little Rock||Political rally|
For additional information:
Gatewood, Willard B., Jr. “Theodore Roosevelt and Arkansas, 1901–1912.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 32 (Spring 1973): 3–24.
Greenwood, Ronald D. “President Franklin D. Roosevelt Visits Hot Springs.” The Record (2019): 7.1–7.10.
Ledbetter, Calvin R., Jr. “Presidential Politics in Arkansas from 1909–1912: The Visits of Taft, Roosevelt, and Wilson.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 53 (Summer 1994): 191–210.
Presidential Pathways in Arkansas. Little Rock: Destination Arkansas, 2004.
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Last Updated: 05/07/2014