Entries - Entry Category: Arts - Starting with B

Babcock, Lucille (Lucy)

Lucille (Lucy) Babcock was a noted actress in theater and television who established the first community theater in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She also fostered the literary organizations her grandmother, writer Bernie Babcock, founded. Lucy Babcock was born Lucille Thornburg on September 30, 1921, to Frances Babcock Thornburg and John Thornburg. She had one sibling. While she was still an infant, her father deserted the family. Her grandmother had purchased Broadview, a wooded acreage that overlooked Little Rock, and the family moved into her barn-cum-house. At school, she was often in trouble for defending the underdog, recalling, “No one ever told me fighting was wrong.” Her circumstances and the area where she lived branded her as “white trash.” She attended …

Baker House

Located at 109 5th Street in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), the Queen Anne–style Baker House was constructed in 1897 by A. E. Colburn. The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the last surviving Victorian houses in North Little Rock. This Victorian home was constructed in 1897 (completed by 1898), according to Arkansas Gazette articles in late 1896 and early 1897, by A. E. Colburn and Henry Glenn. The home is approximately 4,156 square feet in the twenty-first century, having undergone renovations and had a cottage added. Henry Glenn was a native of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and a contractor. Colburn was a native of Little Rock as well. Some sources incorrectly claim …

Ballet Arkansas

As Arkansas’s only professional ballet company, Ballet Arkansas has enjoyed much success in bringing professional dance to the region. While classical ballet serves as the core of the curriculum of the professional company, other forms such as contemporary, modern, and jazz are explored as well. Ballet Arkansas began with the work of Little Rock (Pulaski County) native Donald Cater Cranford, who moved back to Little Rock from Dallas, Texas, in the mid-1960s. In 1957, he and his wife Lorraine Albert Cranford had founded the Cranford House of Ballet, which developed dancers for the Dallas Civic Ballet. The Dallas Civic Ballet was anchored by an annual performance of the Christmas standard ballet, The Nutcracker. D. Cater Cranford founded the Little Rock Civic …

Band Museum

The Band Museum in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) housed an extensive collection of wind instruments and offered a history of the American band movement. Beginning as the personal collection of its founder, the museum grew to approximately 1,500 antique instruments and was, before its closure, the only museum in the United States devoted entirely to the history of band music and instruments. Jerry Horne, founder of the Band Museum and a member of the American Musical Instrument Society, began collecting unusual instruments when he purchased the Wallick Music Company in 1970. His first was an old helicon (similar to a sousaphone), made by the C. G. CONN Company in 1925, which he found in the Wallick family’s garage. Soon, he began scouring …

Bank of Malvern Building

The Bank of Malvern building is a historic structure located at 212 South Main Street in Malvern (Hot Spring County). Constructed in 1889, the building was renovated in 1896 after a fire. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 13, 1987. The Bank of Malvern was founded on June 4, 1889, and received a charter from the state on June 24. The bank prospered in the growing town and survived multiple so-called panics and economic downturns, leaving it the oldest chartered bank in the state by the mid-twentieth century. Founded by O. M. Nilsen and F. M. Smith, the bank was housed in a two-story building on the site of the present structure. The second …

Barnes, Bruce “Sunpie”

Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes is a musician, writer, naturalist, park ranger, ethnographic photographer, and actor from Saline County. He also played for National Football League (NFL) for a time. Along with his band, the Louisiana Sunspots, Barnes pioneered a unique mixture of zydeco (a créole musical style originating in Louisiana), blues, gospel, jazz, and African and Afro-Caribbean music into a musical gumbo that he dubbed “Afro-Louisiana” music. Barnes plays accordion, harmonica, piano, trombone, rub board, and various other instruments. Bruce Barnes was born on May 18, 1963, in Benton (Saline County). The tenth of eleventh children, (five whole and five half siblings), Barnes grew up in what is now Benton’s Ralph Bunche community. Barnes’s parents were sharecroppers who worked on various …

Bartlett, E. M.

aka: Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr.
With the exception of his protégé, Albert E. Brumley, no other Arkansas figure contributed more to the development of the Southern gospel music genre than singer, songwriter, and publisher Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr. E. M. Bartlett was born on December 24, 1883, in the small community of Waynesville, Missouri, according to Barlett’s World War I draft card, though historians have variously placed his year of birth in 1884 and 1885. He and his parents eventually relocated to Sebastian County, Arkansas. Educated at the Hall-Moody Institute in Martin, Tennessee, and William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, Bartlett received training as a music teacher. In 1917, Bartlett married Joan Tatum; they had two children. As an aspiring songwriter, Bartlett became an employee …

Basketry

Basket making is the process of interlacing short flexible fibers to form a container using a process of coiling, knotting, plaiting, or weaving. Early inhabitants of Arkansas such as the Caddo and Quapaw made and used baskets. Basket making has continued in modern times in Arkansas but for different reasons. At first, baskets were made for agricultural purposes; they later became objects of beauty—a fine craft acknowledged throughout the country and created for contemplation and decoration for museums and homes. Prehistoric baskets have been found in dry bluff shelters in the Ozark Mountains. Because traditional baskets are made of natural materials such as vines, grass, reeds, bark, or split wood, they are fragile and perishable and have not held up …

Bathhouse Row

Bathhouse Row Historic District extends along the foot of the mountain that gives rise to the thermal springs in Hot Springs National Park. Located in downtown Hot Springs (Garland County), the scene is dominated by the most recent of a succession of bathing buildings dating back to 1830. Bathhouse Row includes eight surviving bathhouses: the Hale, Maurice, Buckstaff, Fordyce, Superior, Quapaw, Ozark, and Lamar. The landscape features sculptured fountains, water displays, and the Grand Promenade. Bathhouse Row has become the architectural core for downtown Hot Springs. History The first structures in the area to take advantage of the thermal springs were likely the sweat lodges of local Native Americans, which were followed by an unplanned conglomeration of buildings subject to …

Baxter County Courthouse

The Baxter County Courthouse was opened the week of August 13, 1943. Designed by Fayetteville (Washington County) architect T. Ewing Shelton, who used a Plain Traditional style with minimal Art Deco influences, the building is minimalistic in nature, reflecting the “functional emphasis common to Depression-era projects.” The Baxter County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 26, 1995. Located at 1 East 7th Street in Mountain Home (Baxter County), the Baxter County Courthouse was constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) between 1941 and 1943. The exterior is cut stone with buff brick veneer, with the only decoration being marble panels in a variety of patterns resting between the basement and first floor, between the first …

Bazooka [Musical Instrument]

Although today it is more commonly applied to the anti-tank weapon widely used during World War II, or to a product of Topps Chewing Gum, the name “bazooka” was originally given to a novelty wind instrument created by native Arkansan radio and film personality Bob Burns. Spanning the musical gap between a trombone and a slide whistle, the bazooka produces a narrow range of notes with a tone that is more comical than dulcet. Burns developed the bazooka one evening, as early as 1905, during band practice at Hayman’s Plumbing Shop in Van Buren (Crawford County). Burns blew into a gas pipe that made a noise described as sounding like a “wounded moose.” Inspired by this, he developed a new …

Beatles, Stopover of the

In 1964, the world’s most popular music group, the Beatles, visited the Lawrence County town of Walnut Ridge. Though brief, their visit left a lasting impact on the community and has recently been the subject of a documentary movie. That year, the popularity of the Beatles was without rival. George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr were mobbed by teenage fans at each public appearance. The Fab Four, as they were dubbed, had five singles in the top five slots on the Billboard charts. Their first film, A Hard Day’s Night, appeared in 500 U.S. theaters. The group’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show drew an estimated seventy-three million viewers. In their legendary 1964 concert tour, they …

Beely-Johnson Post 139 American Legion Hut

Located in downtown Springdale (Washington and Benton counties), the Beely-Johnson Post 139 American Legion Hut was built in 1934 by American Legion members and local citizens. A kitchen was added to the building’s interior in 1937 by the Legion Auxiliary. The one-story building is constructed of rough-cut native stone quarried from a mountain east of Springdale. There have been no major changes to the building over the years. The Beely-Johnson Post 139 American Legion Hut was organized as the Clarence E. Beely Post in 1921, named in honor of Springdale’s first World War I casualty. An American Legion Auxiliary was established in 1922. In 1962, the post’s name was changed to include the name of Elmer Johnson Jr., the city’s …

Bell, Al

aka: Alvertis Isbell
Al Bell is considered the driving force behind Stax Records as a producer, songwriter, and executive during the company’s most productive period, from 1965 to 1975. He was responsible for promoting the careers of such talent as the Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes, and Otis Redding, among many others. Al Bell was born Alvertis Isbell on March 15, 1940, in Brinkley (Monroe County). One of his earliest musical memories was that of listening to his father’s Louis Jordan records. In an interview published in 2001, Bell claimed Jordan, also a Brinkley native, as a distant relative. Bell’s family moved to North Little Rock (Pulaski County) when he was five years old. After attending Catholic and Seventh-Day Adventist private schools, Bell attended Scipio A. …

Bellingrath House

The Bellingrath House, located in White Hall (Jefferson County), was listed on the National Register of Historic Properties in 1994 as an excellent and singular example of the English-Revival architectural style within White Hall. The house was commissioned by Ferdinand McMillan Bellingrath and his wife, Catherine Oudin Bellingrath, and it remains in the hands of the Bellingrath/Oudin family in the twenty-first century. Ferdinand Bellingrath was the son of Leonard Ferdinand Bellingrath and Mary Jane Castleberry Bellingrath, who originally resided in Georgia before relocating to the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) area in 1916 to expand their Coca-Cola bottling operation. Ferdinand Bellingrath eventually began helping his father operate the Pine Bluff bottling plant, started by his uncles in 1911, before finally taking over …

Bennett, Alvin Silas (Al)

Alvin Silas (Al) Bennett was a recording industry executive best known for his tenure as president and director of Liberty Records from 1958 to 1968. Known as a “music business wizard,” Bennett is largely credited with the transformation of Liberty Records from a struggling start-up operation to a dominant force in the recording trade. “Alvin” of Alvin and the Chipmunks was named after Bennett. Al Bennett was born in Joiner (Mississippi County) on September 21, 1926, to the farming family of Silas S. Bennett and Jessie Starling Bennett. The oldest of four children, he spent his early years working on the farm while attending Shawnee School, graduating in 1943. Bennett enlisted in the U.S. Army on November 5, 1945, for …

Bennett, Fran

Fran Bennett is an actress who has worked in theater, television, and films. She appeared on stage across the nation and in Europe, and she has played roles on television from the 1960s onward in such hit shows as Guiding Light, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Scandal. Bennett was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2005. Fran Bennett was born on August 14, 1937, in Malvern (Hot Spring County). Bennett earned a BS and an MA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and went on to earn credit toward a PhD there before leaving the program. She studied voice under Kristin Linklater, a Scottish actress who relocated to the United States in 1963 to work …

Benton County Courthouse

The Benton County Courthouse at 106 Southeast A Street in Bentonville (Benton County) is a three-story public building constructed in 1928 and designed in the Neoclassical style by prominent architect Albert Oscar (A. O.) Clarke. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 28, 1988. The first term of the Benton County court was held in the home of County Judge George P. Wallace in April 1837, and a small log courthouse was built on the north side of the Bentonville square in time to house the spring court session in 1838. This served until 1841, when John and William Walker were hired to build a brick building that survived until Union troops burned it in …

Benton, Thomas Hart

Thomas Hart Benton—painter, muralist, and writer from Missouri—developed, along with artists Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry, a style of painting in the 1920s that became known as regionalism. Benton was influenced early in his career by a sketching trip he took through northwest Arkansas in 1926. He returned to Arkansas to sketch and paint periodically, primarily in the Buffalo River area. Benton also enjoyed floating and fishing on the Buffalo River and opposed efforts to dam it during the 1960s. Tom Benton was born on April 15, 1889, in Neosho, Missouri. He was the oldest of four children born to Maecenus Eason (M. E.) and Elizabeth (Wise) Benton. M. E. was a lawyer and served as a congressman from …

Berryville Post Office

The Berryville Post Office at 101 East Madison Avenue in Berryville (Carroll County) is a one-story, brick-masonry structure designed in the Colonial Revival style of architecture and featuring a sculpture by Daniel Olney financed by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture (later renamed the Section of Fine Arts), a Depression-era stimulus project that promoted public art. The post office was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 14, 1998. In late 1937, Congress authorized $70 million for public works projects over a three-year period. The majority of those were post offices, and among four in Arkansas was a new post office for Berryville. The building was designed in 1938 and erected by 1939 by …

Betts, Louis L.

Louis L. Betts was a painter active in the first half of the twentieth century in the United States, especially noted for his portraits. His handling of paint and the subjects he chose gave his work a grand and conservative quality, recalling Old Master paintings from the Baroque era as well as styles popular in late nineteenth-century European art centers. Louis Betts was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on October 5, 1873, the son of Edwin Daniel Betts Sr., a landscape painter and his son’s first teacher. Young Louis’s mother died soon after his birth, and his father married one of her sisters. They did not remain in Little Rock long, however, for Betts’s three younger siblings (who all …

Big Flat School Gymnasium

The Big Flat School Gymnasium, located on State Highway 14 in Big Flat (Baxter and Searcy counties), was built between 1938 and 1941 with assistance from the National Youth Administration (NYA), a Depression-era federal relief agency. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 19, 1993. Though the town of Big Flat was not incorporated until 1939, the Big Flat School District existed before that, being the thirty-second district organized in Baxter County and hosting three teachers and 137 students by 1931. By 1938, local residents decided a gymnasium was needed to serve the students and community, and they sought support from the NYA, which hired people aged fourteen to thirty, both male and female, to …

Bill Clinton Boyhood Home

aka: Birnbaum-Shubetz House
The boyhood home of President Bill Clinton is today a private residence located at 1011 Park Avenue in the northern part of Hot Springs (Garland County). On May 18, 1995, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Also known as the Birnbaum-Shubetz House, it was constructed between 1896 and 1900, originally built in the Queen Anne style and redesigned in the Tudor Revival style in 1938. Although a two-story wood frame structure, it appears to be one and a half stories due to a steeply pitched gabled roof. Its exterior is stucco, stone, and wood half-timbers. The front porch has been described as Swiss Chalet style. The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program has termed it the area’s finest …

Billings-Cole House

The Billings-Cole House is located on East Page Avenue/U.S. Highway 67 in a mixed-use commercial and residential area in Malvern (Hot Spring County). The house was constructed in 1948 and added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 27, 2015. With details of both the Art Moderne and International styles, the Billings-Cole House is an example of an uncommon architectural style for small-town Arkansas. The home was designed by Irven McDaniel of Hot Springs (Garland County). The house was constructed for Dr. Ammon Alexander Billings, a local optometrist and jeweler. Billings resided in the home until 1950, when he sold it to Dr. John Walton Cole, a general practitioner. Cole lived in the home and used the basement …

Bishop Brookes House

The Bishop Brookes House is a Colonial Revival–style home located in De Queen (Sevier County). Constructed between 1922 and 1928, the home was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 18, 1999. The town of De Queen was laid out on April 26, 1897. Established along the route of the Kansas City Southern Railroad, the settlement grew quickly. Despite an early setback due to fire in 1899, the town quickly became an economic hub in southwestern Arkansas. By 1936, the town had more than 3,400 residents. Attracted by the economic opportunities in the area, Bishop Brookes moved to De Queen in 1909. A native of Wheatley (St. Francis County), Brookes attended pharmacy school at the University of …

Bittick, Helen Long

Helen Marie Long Bittick was an artist of the “primitive folk style,” meaning that she had no academic art training but developed her own unschooled, unique patterns of portraying her subjects. Helen Long was born on June 24, 1918, to Bette Ann Mangum and William Monroe Long on the Judge Level Farm between Washington (Hempstead County) and Hope (Hempstead County); she had three siblings. Her father ran a restaurant in Hope and farmed in McCaskill (Hempstead County). Long attended Brookwood School in Hope, the three-room schoolhouse in Friendship, and schools in McCaskill and Blevins (all in Hempstead County). She did not graduate from high school. She married Cloid Sykes Bittick on November 12, 1933, in Bingen (Hempstead County). They had …

Black Oak Arkansas

Black Oak Arkansas, a popular rock and roll band of the 1970s from rural Arkansas near Black Oak (Craighead County), was the first Arkansas rock band to have significant commercial success. Originally called the Knowbody Else, the band was formed in 1965 by singer James “Jim Dandy” Mangrum from Black Oak and guitarist Ricky Reynolds from Manila (Mississippi County). The band was signed to Stax Records and released an album, The Knowbody Else, on Enterprise, a Stax subsidiary, as well as Early Times, which was released on Stax. Despite the failure of these albums, the band continued touring the nation and was “discovered” in California by Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records, who signed the band in 1970. They changed their …

Black, James

James Black, popularly known as the maker of the bowie knife, was one of the early pioneers of Arkansas and settled in the town of Washington (Hempstead County) in southwest Arkansas. James Black was born on May 1, 1800, in New Jersey; the names of his parents are unknown. His mother died when he was young, and his father remarried. Black did not get along well with his stepmother and ran away from home at the age of eight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While in Philadelphia, he was taken in as an apprentice to a silverplater named Stephen Henderson. During that time, Black apparently became strongly skilled in the art of silverplating. In 1818, when he was eighteen years old, his …

Blackwell, Marlon Matthew

Marlon Matthew Blackwell is a professor of architecture at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and is recognized both nationally and internationally for his architectural design work. He also co-founded and conducts an international architectural program and is the principal architect in an award-winning private design firm. Marlon Blackwell was born on November 7, 1956, to a military family stationed in Munich, Germany. He was brought up in various locations including Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Montana, and the Philippines, and was a high school wrestler. Blackwell entered Auburn University in the summer of 1974, studying architecture and being selected as one of Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. In 1980, he was awarded a bachelor’s degree in …

Blade, Maxwell

Maxwell Blade is an illusionist and comedian based in downtown Hot Springs (Garland County) is a well-known attraction. He began holding Maxwell Blade’s Festival of Magic in 2013 and undertook the restoration of the city’s historic Malco Theatre. Maxwell Blade was born on January 24, 1962, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). As a child in the 1970s, he became interested in magic after watching magician and comedian Mark Wilson’s Funny Face Magic Show and Magic Circus on television. He began learning and practicing simple magic tricks as a hobby, in addition to teaching himself to play drums and piano. When he was eight years old, he began playing music at a local church. He graduated from Greenwood High School in …

Blaisdell, Frank M.

Frank M. Blaisdell was an architect and civil engineer who settled in Arkansas in 1905 and played a vital role in the growth of Little Rock (Pulaski County). While he was primarily a landscape architect, he left a permanent mark on the state by designing several buildings that still stand in the twenty-first century. Frank M. Blaisdell was born on September 17, 1855, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Mary A. Blaisdell and William Blaisdell. His father, who held the rank of general, was killed in battle at Petersburg, Virginia, during the Civil War in 1864. After his father’s death, Blaisdell became involved with the Massachusetts Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion. He attended West Point for three years …

Blakely House

The Blakely House was constructed as a dogtrot-style house in 1874 by the son of one of the early settlers in the Social Hill (Hot Spring County) area. Located on Arkansas Highway 84, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 3, 1976. Adam Blakely arrived in the area in the 1820s and, by 1837, owned almost 200 acres of land in the area. Over the next several decades, Blakely built a successful plantation near the Ouachita River and the waterway named for him, Blakely Creek. The house was constructed by Adam Blakely’s youngest son, Greenberry (or Green Berry) Blakely. Born on December 25, 1855, he married Martha Ingersoll (sometimes spelled Englesaw) on December 12, 1875. …

Blues Music

The origins of the blues are murky, but the state of Arkansas seems to have hosted the music and its creators since its beginnings in North America and helped spread it worldwide. Blues is acknowledged as the root from which sprang jazz, rhythm and blues (R&B), rock and roll, and hip-hop; in addition, it has informed the genres of country and western, gospel, and bluegrass. Blues and its offspring have long since crossed the globe, but its standard-bearers are largely confined to the Mississippi River Delta, especially eastern Arkansas and western Mississippi. Emerging in part from call-and-response “field hollers” dating from the slavery era, blues had practitioners originally belonging to many different groups with their own musical styles. Most scholars believe …

blurr, buZ

aka: Butler, Russell
Russell Butler (a.k.a. buZ blurr) is a visual and conceptual artist whose dedication to his post-postmodern artistic vision has placed him at the forefront of the contemporary mail-art, stamp-art, and conceptual art movements. Although internationally known, he remains rooted in the traditions of Clark County, where he resides. Russell Butler was born on August 23, 1943, in Lafe (Greene County). His father, Eugene H. Butler, was a track foreman on the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and his mother, Cleda Elmira Mullins Butler, was a restaurant manager in Forrest City (St. Francis County). Butler had one sister. The family moved often to follow his father’s railroad career in track maintenance. After attending seven different schools around Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana, Butler graduated …

Bobo, J. B.

With such a colorful name, it is small wonder that magician J. B. Bobo is known throughout the world. Adults across Arkansas and the country remember him for taking his magic shows to their schools when they were children. Magicians around the world own copies of his books on coin magic, which are universally agreed to be the best ever written. J. B. Bobo was born on February 11, 1910, in Texarkana (Miller County), where his family owned Bobo Grocery Store. He was christened with initials only, and he patiently explained this when anyone asked what they stood for. His French immigrant great-grandfather, Jean Beaubeaux, had anglicized the family name from the original spelling. Bobo never really knew his father, …

Bond, Barbara Ann Higgins

aka: Barbara Higgins Bond
Barbara Ann Higgins Bond—whose professional name is Higgins Bond—is a nationally recognized illustrator and commercial artist whose most important works have concerned the history and struggles of African Americans. A pioneer freelance artist since the early 1970s, she has designed and illustrated cultural heritage stamps published by the U.S. Postal Service and the United Nations. Her art has been exhibited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the DuSable Museum of African American History, and she is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Barbara Ann Higgins was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 14, 1951, the daughter of Henry Drew Higgins and Edna Washington Higgins. She grew up in Little Rock in a home on …

Boone County Courthouse

The Boone County Courthouse in Harrison is a 1909 Georgian Revival–styled red brick building designed by architect Charles L. Thompson of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and built by A. M. Byrnes and C. H. McCauley. The two-story structure is one of the most architecturally significant courthouses in Arkansas. A basic frame structure was used as the courthouse from 1873 until 1909, when the Boone County government hired Thompson to design a new courthouse for the community. Thompson was very well known throughout Arkansas as one of the most prominent and inventive architects in the region. The building itself is a two-story structure built of red brick with red tiling on the roof. Two chimneys rise from the gabled roof, which is …

Boone-Murphy-Moore House

The Boone-Murphy-Moore House, now located at 714 West 4th Avenue in downtown Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), was built in 1860 by Thomas A. Boone. The home played a significant role during and after the Action at Pine Bluff in 1863. Serving as the Union headquarters during the Civil War, the Boone-Murphy-Moore House was utilized as the residence of Federal commander Colonel Powell Clayton. The small wooden-frame home is a one-story, single-pile weatherboard house with one-story additions to the east and west. It is raised slightly above grade on concrete pier foundation (alteration) with a tin shingle gable roof and shed roofs on the additions. The house has flat-roofed porches with turned posts and sawn brackets that flank the building on …

Boston, Gretha Denise

Gretha Denise Boston is a celebrated mezzo-soprano and Tony Award–winning actress. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1991 in Mozart’s Coronation Mass and won the 1995 Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as Queenie in the Broadway revival of Show Boat; she was the first Arkansan to be so honored. The same role earned Boston the Theatre World Award as Outstanding Debut Artist. She was also nominated for the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Non-Resident Production for the 2000–01 season at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC for her performance in It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues. Gretha Boston was born in Crossett (Ashley County) on April 18, 1959, the …

Bowie Knife

The bowie knife, made popular in the 1830s, has evolved into a specific form in current use. The bowie knife was worn for defensive purposes; its primary function was for personal combat. It was designed to be part of a gentleman’s attire, and the key difference between the bowie knife and a hunting knife, a dagger, or a dirk was, initially, the quality of finish of the bowie. Bowie knives came in a variety of forms—with or without guards, with differently shaped blades—and often were adorned with silver and other decoration, sometimes including etching and/or engraving on their metal surfaces. The knife got its name from a pioneer family who settled in early Arkansas and Louisiana. Jim Bowie, the best …

Bozeman House

The Bozeman House is a wood-frame Greek Revival house in Clark County constructed around 1847. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The original owner of the house, Michael Bozeman, was a native of Georgia. Born in 1808, he moved to the new state of Alabama in 1819. He married Lucy Ann Browning in 1827, and the couple moved to the Arkansas Territory in 1835. The couple eventually had nine children. The family lived on a tract of land about six miles west of Arkadelphia (Clark County). Bozeman farmed a number of crops but focused on cotton. The family lived in a log cabin when they first arrived in Arkansas. Construction on a new …

Bradley County Courthouse and County Clerk’s Office

The Bradley County Courthouse was designed by architect Frank W. Gibb and contracted by E. L. Koonce. Constructed in 1903, the two-story brick courthouse has an “unusual combination of classical characteristics,” according to the National Register nomination form. The Bradley County Courthouse is located at 101 East Cedar in Warren (Bradley County). It is the third courthouse to occupy this location. The first courthouse was a temporary one built on the site in 1843, approximately two years after the creation of the county, and continued in use until 1862, when a brick courthouse, begun in 1858, replaced it. The second courthouse remained for forty-one years, when it was replaced in 1903 by the current Bradley County Courthouse. The courthouse was …

Brewer, Adrian Louis

Adrian Louis Brewer, a native of Minnesota, is known in Arkansas primarily for his portraits of prominent citizens, but his artistic genius lay in pastoral landscape paintings of the Southwest and rural scenes of Arkansas, his adopted state. Brewer’s work was influenced by the American Impressionists and reflected the restlessness of modern artists. David Durst, a professor of art at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), credited him with contributing to the “healthy stature” of art and art activities in Arkansas and keeping “the spark of aesthetic sensibility alive during the difficult years of cultural neglect.” Adrian Brewer, born on October 2, 1891, in St. Paul, Minnesota, was one of six sons of artist Nicholas Richard (N. R.) …

Brewer, Edwin Cook

Edwin Cook Brewer was a founding member of the Arkansas-based Mid-Southern Watercolorists in 1970 and helped his father, artist Adrian Brewer, organize the Arkansas Art League in the early 1950s. Edwin Brewer and his twin brother, Adrian, were born on January 9, 1927, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Adrian Brewer and Edwina Cook Brewer. The twins had one sister. Brewer received his early art instruction in the studios of his father and his grandfather, Nicholas Richard Brewer, both renowned artists. His grandfather was known as a portrait painter and was represented in multiple exhibitions of the National Academy of Design in New York City beginning in 1885. Brewer attended Little Rock public schools and Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, …

Brewer, Nicholas Richard

Nicholas Richard Brewer was an American landscape and portrait artist. He was active in Arkansas during the early twentieth century and is best remembered in the state as the father, teacher, mentor, and early financial backer of one of the state’s most notable painters, Adrian Brewer. Nicholas Brewer was born to Peter Brewer and Mary Ann Gordon Russell Rolph Brewer on June 11, 1857, in what is now Olmstead County, Minnesota. Brewer’s father was an immigrant from Cologne, Germany, who joined the California gold rush of 1849. In St. Joseph, Missouri, he met Mary, who had been recently widowed while also en route to the gold fields and was left nearly destitute with two sons. By 1857, the year Nicholas Brewer …

Britt, Elton

aka: James Elton Baker
Elton Britt was a popular country singer of the 1940s, with a yodeling style most often compared to Jimmie Rodgers. His most popular song, “There’s a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere,” was the first country performance awarded a gold record for selling more than a million copies. Britt also was a heavy influence on most subsequent yodelers in country music. James Elton Baker was born on June 27, 1913, to James M. Baker and Martella Baker in Zack (Searcy County), a small community in the Ozarks. He was the youngest of five children and was plagued with heart trouble most of his life. Because he was not expected to live, his parents did not name him until he was a …

Brockwell Gospel Music School

The Brockwell Gospel Music School offers instruction in choral and instrumental musical techniques for those who desire the improvement of church music. It operates every summer on a small campus in Brockwell (Izard County) at the intersection of State Highways 9 and 56. It was founded in 1947 as the Brockwell Music School, assumed its present name in 1962, and operates at its original site. The singing-school tradition goes back to the time of the Second Great Awakening on the American frontier in the first years of the nineteenth century. This tradition contributed significantly to the growth and power of the great revivals that especially captivated gospel-hungry settlers in the frontier South in the first third of the century. Itinerant …

Broonzy, “Big Bill”

aka: William Conley Lee Broonzy
Although William Lee Conley “Big Bill” Broonzy achieved fame and success in the Chicago blues scene and the folk revival in the United States and abroad, some of his earliest encounters with the blues and his earliest experiences as a performer and songwriter were in Arkansas. Sources differ as to the date and place of Big Bill Broonzy’s birth. Broonzy himself claimed to have been born in Scott, Mississippi, on June 26, 1893 (though some sources say 1898). However, more recent research has him born near Lake Dick, Arkansas, on June 29, 1903, with the name Lee Conley Bradley. His parents were Frank Broonzy (Bradley) and Mittie Belcher, and he was one of seventeen children. Broonzy spent most of his …

Brown, Benjamin Chambers

Benjamin Chambers Brown was among the first Arkansas artists to attain national and international recognition as a painter, lithographer, and etcher. He is best known for his plein-air impressionist landscapes of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and expanses of brilliantly colored poppy fields. His works are in major museums in the United States and Europe, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC and the British Museum in London, England. Benjamin Brown was born in Marion (Crittenden County) on July 14, 1865, one of five children born to Judge Benjamin Chambers Brown and Mary Booker Brown. He spent much of his boyhood in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Brown’s parents wanted him to become an attorney, but he wanted to be …

Brown, Jim Ed

Country and western music star Jim Ed Brown’s career spanned more than half a century since the early 1950s. He was a solo vocalist and a member of two singing groups: the Browns and a duo consisting of himself and singer Helen Cornelius. He performed on numerous radio and television programs, hosting some and starring on others, and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. James Edward Brown was born in Sparkman (Dallas County) on April 1, 1934, to Floyd and Birdie Brown; he had two sisters. He grew up in the timber country near Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and his father hauled logs for a living and was also a farmer. Brown formed a musical duo with his …