Presidential Visits

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.

The April 22, 1842, visit by Martin Van Buren is attested to by later accounts, but no contemporaneous newspapers report the event, and so it is marked with an asterisk (*) in the chart below.

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
July 1 & 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.

Razer, Bob. “President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 Visit to Little Rock.” Pulaski County Historical Review 69 (Summer 2021): 50–56.

Steven Teske
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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