Entries - Entry Category: Arts

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 …

Benjamin Clayton Black House

The Benjamin Clayton Black House, located at 300 East Race Street in Searcy (White County), is one of the few remaining landmarks of early Victorian architecture in Arkansas. The original structure, built just prior to the Civil War, was a one-story, two-room house with a common fireplace. Its later form, a two-story frame house with an elaborately detailed two-story veranda, is the result of extensive modifications and remodeling begun by Benjamin Clayton Black in 1872. The yellow house stands a few blocks from the town square, serving as a colorful reminder of Searcy’s past. The Benjamin Clayton Black House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 20, 1974. In early 1866, Benjamin Clayton Black purchased four …

Bennett House

The Bennett House was constructed in 1904 along First Street in Benton (Saline County). The single-family residence was constructed in the Folk Victorian style and features many of the characteristics of this style, including elaborate siding, a front-facing gable with a wing, and an elaborate porch. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 21, 2020. The house is named for William Hosea Bennett, a native of Georgia who traveled west and eventually bought several hundred acres of land in Arkansas along the Saline River. Living in Benton, he was married twice and had nine children. Bennett found considerable success in the pottery and brick business and later became involved in floral ventures as well. He …

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 Agricultural Building

The Berryville Agriculture Building, located in the Berryville High School complex at 902 West Trimble Street in Berryville (Carroll County), was built in 1940 with assistance from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era federal relief agency. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 10, 1992. The Berryville School District learned in July 1936 that it had been selected to participate in the federal Smith-Hughes program, which supplied funding so that local districts could provide vocational training for students. There was a question of where the instruction would be given, however, with the Berryville Star-Progress reporting on July 9 that “it is not known whether a Smith-Hughes building will be erected,” or whether classes would …

Berryville Gymnasium

The Berryville Gymnasium, located in the Berryville High School complex at 902 West Trimble Street in Berryville (Carroll County), was built in 1936–37 with assistance from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era federal relief agency. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 10, 1992. The Berryville School District decided to take advantage of the programs of the WPA to improve its campus and, in 1936, requested assistance in building a new structure that could serve as a gymnasium and an auditorium. The district learned in late April that the WPA approved $15,434 for the building, and by early July the Berryville Star-Progress reported that “funds have already been set aside for this project and …

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. …

Blass, Noland

Noland Blass Jr., an architect with the firm Erhart, Eichenbaum, Rauch, and Blass (EERB), worked at the firm during its heyday in the mid-twentieth century. Blass began working for the firm in 1946, brought in to help modernize the firm. During Blass’s time there, EERB became one of the most prominent architecture firms in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Blass was also known as one of the most prolific designers of Mid-Century Modern–style residential architecture in Little Rock. His obituary in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette noted that Blass was “one of Arkansas’ most respected architects,” and was also a “mentor to most of the fine architects in the city.” Noland Blass Jr. was born in Little Rock on May 28, 1920, to …

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 …

Browns, The

A vocal trio from southern Arkansas, the Browns had several country hits. They were also instrumental in the development of the elegant, often orchestral “Nashville sound,” which replaced the string bands of earlier eras. The Browns began as a duo featuring Jim Ed Brown, born in 1934 in Sparkman (Dallas County), and his sister Maxine, born in Campti, Louisiana, in 1931. Their sister Bonnie, born in Sparkman in 1938, joined the group in 1955. The Browns grew up in the piney woods near Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where their father, Floyd Brown, worked as a log hauler and farmer. The group began its recording career for Fabor Records in southern California shortly after Jim Ed and Maxine graduated from high …

Bruhin, Joseph Aloysius

Ceramic artist Joseph Aloysius Bruhin III of Fox (Stone County) was awarded the Arkansas Arts Council Fellowship in 1992 and has been the recipient and winner of numerous “best of show” awards. Nationally, Bruhin figures among two dozen potters who are recognized as specializing in wood-fired pottery. He is the first contemporary potter to work continuously with a wood-fired kiln in Arkansas. Joe Bruhin was born on April 7, 1953, in St. Louis, Missouri, to Virginia Bruhin and Joseph Aloysius Bruhin Jr., an electrician; he was one of four boys. At age fifteen, Bruhin was hitchhiking and backpacking to the western states of Colorado, California, and Washington. He graduated from high school in 1971 and spent some time exploring Florida …

Brumley, Albert Edward

Albert Edward Brumley Sr. was one of the most successful American gospel song composers of the twentieth century, penning such standards as “I’ll Fly Away,” “I’ll Meet You in the Morning,” “If We Never Meet Again,” “Turn Your Radio On,” and many others. Between 1926 and 1931, he studied, lived, and worked at the Hartford Music Company in Hartford (Sebastian County) under the tutelage of its founder, Eugene Monroe (E. M.) Bartlett. Although Bartlett died in 1941, Brumley forever credited him as the chief mentor and inspiration behind his music and eventually purchased the Hartford Music Company in 1948. Albert E. Brumley was born on October 29, 1905, in Indian Territory near present-day Spiro, Oklahoma. His parents, William Sherman Brumley …

Buchanan, Roy

aka: Leroy Buchanan
Leroy (Roy) Buchanan was a guitar innovator whose skill inspired an aptly titled documentary, The Best Unknown Guitarist in the World. For more than thirty years, the guitarist melded blues, country, jazz, and rock music into a unique sound. Roy Buchanan was born September 23, 1939, in Ozark (Franklin County), the third of four children born to Bill Buchanan and Minnie Bell Reed Buchanan. When he was two, the family moved to Pixley, California, a tiny San Joaquin Valley farming town, where his father was a farm laborer. At age five, Buchanan learned a few guitar chords. When he was nine, his father bought him a red Rickenbacker lap steel guitar, and, by age twelve, he was playing lap steel …

Bump, Dallas

Dallas Bump of Royal (Garland County) was a fourth-generation chair maker who constructed handcrafted furniture for more than seventy-five years. One of his handmade chairs, the “Bump Rocker,” spread his renown around the world. Along with being named an Arkansas Living Treasure by the Arkansas Arts Council in 2013, he saw his work featured in Southern Living magazine, spotlighted on television’s Good Morning America, and lauded by the Smithsonian Institution. One of his rockers found a home in the White House during the Bill Clinton administration. A Bump rocker is unique, as each step, from the fallen tree onward, was controlled by Dallas Bump and his family. The chairs are made one at a time and assembled with the family’s …

Bunch-Walton Post 22 American Legion Hut

The Bunch-Walton Post 22 American Legion Hut in Clarksville (Johnson County), a two-story, native-stone structure built on a raised foundation on what was formerly an island in Spadra Creek, is one of the most architecturally interesting legion huts in Arkansas. It displays an unusual castellated design that is best described as Normanesque, perhaps designed to simulate the architecture veterans had seen in Europe during World War I. The Lee Bunch Post 22 was formed in Clarksville in February 1919 when fifteen veterans applied to form a Johnson County post. It was named for Lee Bunch, the first Johnson County soldier to die in World War I. The group initially met in local homes, churches, and clubs, but in February 1932 …

Bunch, William

aka: Peetie Wheatstraw
William Bunch, known as “Peetie Wheatstraw,” was raised in Cotton Plant (Woodruff County) and became one of the most popular and widely imitated bluesman of the 1930s and 1940s. He was an incredibly successful pianist, recording more than 160 songs between 1930 and his death in 1941. William Bunch was born on December 21, 1902, in Ripley, Tennessee, although some accounts list Bunch’s birthplace as Arkansas. Bluesman Big Joe Williams, who recorded with Bunch, stated: “Peetie come from Cotton Plant, Arkansas.” Bunch’s family was living in Cotton Plant soon after his birth. Cotton Plant was a local cultural center in the early 1900s, and Bunch began playing both piano and guitar there at a young age. Around 1920, all members …

Burgess, Sonny

aka: Albert Austin Burgess
Albert Austin “Sonny” Burgess was best known as one of the original rock and roll recording artists for Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, and as one of the pioneers of rock and roll. He and his band, the Pacers, made a hit of his first recording, “Red Headed Woman,” and the flip side, “We Wanna Boogie,” both of which Burgess wrote. The record sold approximately 100,000 copies, a phenomenal number for that era. Burgess and the Pacers performed at various events in the United States and Europe until his death in 2017. Sonny Burgess was born on May 31, 1929, in Newport (Jackson County). His parents, Albert and Esta Burgess, raised him, his two brothers, and his three sisters on …