William Howard "Dub" Arnold (1935–2023)

William Howard “Dub” Arnold was a prosecutor, municipal judge, and chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Dub Arnold was born on May 19, 1935, in rural Clark County to Howard Arnold, who was a farmer and store owner, and Melvia Taylor Arnold. The Arnolds also had two daughters, both of whom died as children. Arnold attended school in rural Clark County and Gurdon (Clark County) before graduating from Arkadelphia High School in 1954. He had been elected student body president. The family had moved to Arkadelphia (Clark County) when Howard Arnold was elected as Clark County sheriff. The Arnold family lived in an apartment under the jail during his high school years. Arnold attended Henderson State Teachers College (now Henderson State University), earning an undergraduate degree in economics in 1957. He also participated in rodeos.

Arnold worked for the Southern Farm Bureau Insurance Company in Hazen (Prairie County) and Stuttgart (Arkansas County) while he attended the Arkansas Law School in Little Rock (Pulaski County), graduating in 1962. He passed the bar the next year and moved home to Arkadelphia to join a local law firm before opening his own practice.

After serving as a deputy prosecutor for two years, Arnold entered politics in 1966 when he ran unsuccessfully for prosecuting attorney for the Eighth Judicial District, comprising Clark, Nevada, Hempstead, and Miller counties. He won the seat two years later and served two terms, leaving the post in 1972.

In 1973, Governor Dale Bumpers appointed Arnold as the chair of the Arkansas Workers Compensation Commission, where he served a six-year term. Arnold’s next office was that of Arkadelphia municipal judge after he was elected in 1979. Resigning in 1980, Arnold was elected as the prosecuting attorney for the Ninth East Judicial District, which included Clark and Pike counties. Arnold prosecuted numerous felony cases, including several homicides, and also served as a prosecutor in nearby counties when a conflict arose for the regular prosecuting attorney.

Arnold returned to the bench as the circuit judge for the Ninth Judicial District in 1991. He was reelected to the position in 1994 and ran for chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1996. Chief Justice Jack Holt Jr. retired in 1994, and Governor Jim Guy Tucker appointed Bradley Jesson to fill the remainder of the term. Arnold was opposed by Lamar Pettus of Fayetteville (Washington County) and won with fifty-nine percent of the vote. Arnold took his seat on the court in January 1997, along with fellow new justices Annabelle Clinton Imber and Ray Thornton. Running unopposed in 2000, Arnold secured another term on the court.

Important cases heard during Arnold’s term as chief justice include the Lakeview case, which found the funding of public education in the state to be unconstitutional. Arnold ruled with the majority of the Supreme Court on the decision. Arnold dissented on Larry Jegley v. Elena Picado, et al., which found the Arkansas statute against sodomy unconstitutional.

Arnold chose to retire from the court in 2003, and Betty Dickey was appointed to complete the term by Governor Mike Huckabee. Returning to Arkadelphia, Arnold practiced law with the firm Arnold, Batson, Turner, and Turner. He retired from the firm in 2006.

The former chief justice received several honors, including being named a distinguished alumnus of Henderson State University. The Clark County Court Complex was named in Arnold’s honor after it was reconstructed following a 1997 tornado.

Arnold and his wife, Earlene Aud Arnold, had two daughters and a son. His papers are held by Henderson State University. He died on February 2, 2023.

For additional information:
Bowden, Bill. “Arnold, 87, High Court Ex-Chief Justice, Dies.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 3, 2023, pp. 1B, 8B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2023/feb/03/dub-arnold-former-chief-justice-of-arkansas/ (accessed February 3, 2023).

Dumas, Ernie. Oral History Interview with W. H. “Dub” Arnold. Arkansas Supreme Court Project. Arkansas Supreme Court Historical Society, December 13, 2012.

William H. “Dub” Arnold Collection. Huie Library Special Collections. Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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