Walter Harris Nunn (1942–2017)
Walter H. Nunn was a respected teacher, scholar, and author whose books on Arkansas politics were well regarded and widely read. He was also one of the leading authorities on the Arkansas constitution and, in the 1970s, founded Rose Publishing Company, which was for a time the sole press devoted to Arkansas-related material. In addition, Nunn was a local organizer dedicated to the creation and maintenance of inclusive neighborhoods.
Walter Harris Nunn was born in Monticello (Drew County) on February 17, 1942. His parents were Wallace Nunn, who worked as a cashier at a local cotton mill, and Ilene Wicker Nunn, a homemaker. He grew up in Crossett (Ashley County), where he attended the local schools. He earned a BA in political science from Hendrix College in 1964. In 1966, he earned a master’s degree in political science from the University of Kansas. One of his major areas of graduate research was constitutional revision. As director of the Interim Constitutional Convention Advisory Commission, which operated during the Arkansas Constitutional Convention that took place from 1969 to 1970, Nunn led the research efforts that were critical to the ultimate revision of the almost century-old document that had been written in the shadow of the Civil War.
Nunn wrote a number of books on Arkansas government and politics, including Political Paradox: Constitutional Revision in Arkansas and Arkansas’ Judge Pat Mehaffy. He also edited a volume, Readings in Arkansas Government. In the early 1970s, in an effort to foster greater distribution of his own work as well as other politically oriented titles, he established the Rose Publishing Company in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The company published dozens of well-received works about Arkansas. From 1974 to 1976, Nunn was the co-owner of the Arkansas Advocate, a liberal monthly news magazine.
From 1978 until 1981, Nunn served as executive director of the Arkansas Institute of Politics and Government, where, among other things, he helped teach prospective candidates for office about the nuts and bolts of the campaign process. He also served as state printing clerk in the office of the state auditor. As a community organizer in the 1970s, Nunn led a neighborhood association effort in the Little Rock Oak Forest neighborhood to promote integration.
The centerpiece of Nunn’s professional life was the over three decades he spent as director of the Arkansas International Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock). The center was dedicated to teaching visitors to the United States about the country’s government, business practices, and culture, and Nunn raised over $10 million over the years to bring more than 10,000 international visitors to Arkansas to learn about the United States. Nunn also took hundreds of Arkansas public school teachers abroad to expose them to foreign cultures in the hope that they would infuse their lessons with some of what they had learned about global societies and cultures. In addition, Nunn, who in 1992 earned a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), served as a professor of political science at UA Little Rock for over twenty years.
Nunn was active in the Little Rock Rotary Club for over forty years and also served as vice president of the Little Rock Racial and Cultural Diversity Commission in the early 2000s.
Walter Nunn was married to Gale Stewart, a Little Rock attorney. The couple had two children. Nunn died on October 2, 2017.
For additional information:
Obituary of Walter H. Nunn. ArkansasOnline, October 5, 2017. http://m.arkansasonline.com/obituaries/2017/oct/05/walter-nunn-2017-10-05/ (accessed May 3, 2019).
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 May 3, 2019).
William H. Pruden III
Last Updated: 02/19/2020