Rose Publishing Company, Inc.
Walter H. Nunn, who spent a long career teaching and researching Arkansas history, culture, and public affairs, started a company in 1973 to publish books on those subjects. Over the next forty-five years, until Nunn’s death in 2017, Rose Publishing Company in Little Rock (Pulaski County) published scores of books on the state and the subjects that consumed his interest. The most significant was Arkansas Odyssey: The Saga of Arkansas from Prehistoric Times to the Present, a massive history of the state printed in 1994.
Rose Publishing Company, Inc., became Arkansas’s most prolific publisher of books, film strips, and other materials—both written and visual—on the state’s history, governance, geography, culture, folklore, media, and literature. Nunn thought Arkansas lagged behind nearly every other state in publishing works on its history and culture and that the shortcoming was most strongly felt in its public schools and colleges in their teaching of Arkansas history. By the century’s end, Rose had published or created more than eighty titles, including software, guidebooks, and audio-visual productions for schools and colleges.
Nunn started the publishing venture in April 1973 out of frustration, trying to find a publisher for his own manuscript about state and local government in Arkansas. The Arkansas market was deemed too small for the national publishing houses, and so after twenty-six rejections he decided to start his own publishing company in Little Rock to print and market his book. Within a decade, he was producing a dozen or so publications a year. At its peak, Rose had three employees—himself; his wife, Gale Stewart, who was the editor-in-chief; and Mary Etta Madden, the executive editor. It was an after-hours undertaking for all three. Nunn was director of the Arkansas Council for International Visitors (later called Global Ties Arkansas), Stewart was a lawyer and farm and timber investor, and Madden was a teacher.
Nunn soon expanded his vision to overcome what he viewed as the state’s historical failings to educate its people on the state’s history and culture and sometimes children’s basic skills and knowledge. It produced many books on Arkansas history (example: Arkansas in the Gilded Age: 1874–1900 by Waddy W. Moore), as well as others on geography (examples: Arkansas: The Physical Landscape and the Historical-Cultural Setting by Hubert Stroud and Gerald T. Hanson and Matt Bradley’s Arkansas, a collection of iconic photographs of Arkansas wildernesses); sociology (examples: Jelly Roll by sociologist Charles E. Thomas about a Black slum in Union County and The American Spa by Dee Brown about the gambling and resort city of Hot Springs in Garland County); government (example: Readings in Arkansas Government); crime (example: Bouquet of Murder by Jan Meins about the notorious murder of Alice McArthur in 1982); healthcare (example: Improving Rural Health: Initiatives of an Academic Medical Center by Thomas Bruce and Richard Norton); and folklore, notably Arkansas Folklore, a revision and reprint of the 1942 book by James Masterson. Geography and nature were frequent subjects of books and booklets, such as Arkansas Geography by Stroud and Hanson, A Guide to Arkansas Mammals by John L. Sealander, Arkansas Wildlife by Susan Morrison, and Winter Twigs of Arkansas: A Field Guide to Deciduous Woody Plants by G. Thomas Clark.
Nunn taught political science at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and localized political history was a special interest of his publishing house. Rose published J. William Fulbright and America’s Lost Crusade: Fulbright’s Opposition to the Vietnam War by Lee Riley Powell and Call the Roll: The First 150 Years of the Arkansas Legislature by Arkansas state representative Jerry E. Hinshaw.
Among the more popular publications were collections from the media, notably the political cartoons of George Fisher published in the Arkansas Gazette and the North Little Rock Times. The Southern Legislative Dictionary, a collection of mangled words and phrases supposedly uttered by state legislators that was composed by Richard Allin, a humor columnist at the Arkansas Gazette, and illustrated by Fisher, had several printings. Arkansas: Colony and State, published by Rose in 1973, collected articles—written mostly by the Gazette’s Leland Duvall—that had run in the Gazette in 1969 for the 150th anniversary of the Gazette’s founding. The articles covered the history of government, politics, agriculture, banking, medicine, and other aspects of the culture. Rose also published Deering’s State of Mind, a collection of editorial cartoons by John Deering printed in the 1980s in the Arkansas Democrat. Deering continued to be the cartoonist for the paper’s successor, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, for more than two decades into the twenty-first century.
Schools and teachers were the audience for many productions, including study guides for the basic skills and a workbook on Arkansas history. They included computer software and audiovisuals on history and geography for elementary and secondary classrooms.
Rose’s largest undertaking was the voluminous history of the state from prehistoric times, Arkansas Odyssey, largely written by Michael B. Dougan, professor of history at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro (Craighead County). Nunn undertook an extensive and updated revision of the book before his death, and his wife worked to complete the revised edition, with publication set for 2023.
For additional information:
Obituary of Walter H. Nunn. ArkansasOnline, October 5, 2017. https://www.arkansasonline.com/obituaries/2017/oct/05/walter-nunn-2017-10-05/ (accessed January 11, 2023).
Walter H. Nunn Collection. University of Central Arkansas Archives and Special Collections, Conway, Arkansas. Finding aid online at http://uca.edu/archives/m88-12-walter-h-nunn-collection/ (accessed January 11, 2023).
Little Rock, Arkansas
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