Entry Category: Arts

Williams, Sterling B.

Dr. Sterling Williams was a groundbreaking leader in the field of obstetrics and gynecology (OB-GYN) who served in several important roles in national organizations dedicated to medicine and medical education. In addition, he was a gifted vocalist who performed with numerous choral groups. Sterling B. Williams was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on April 3, 1941. He grew up in Little Rock and graduated from Horace Mann High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, followed by a master’s degree in physiology from Northern Illinois University in 1966 and an MD from what is now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in 1973. He also completed work toward his …

Williamson Hall (Arkansas Tech University)

Williamson Hall, located at 1205 North El Paso Avenue on the Arkansas Tech University campus in Russellville (Pope County), is a two-story, E-shaped brick building designed in the Classical Revival style of architecture and built by the National Youth Administration (NYA), a Depression-era federal relief program. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 18, 1992. Arkansas Polytechnic College (which later became Arkansas Tech University) had seventeen major buildings when Joseph W. Hull became the college’s eighth president in January 1932 and embarked on a major building campaign, much of it financed by federal programs like the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, Public Works Administration (PWA), and Works Progress Administration (WPA). In July 1935, Hull was appointed as …

Williamson, “Sonny Boy”

aka: Aleck Miller
Sonny Boy Williamson first became famous as a blues harmonica player in 1941 on the groundbreaking King Biscuit Time radio program (often credited as the first regularly scheduled blues radio show) broadcast by station KFFA in Helena (Phillips County). Williamson’s fame spread, particularly through Europe, in the 1960s and has continued to grow since his death. The annual King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena-West Helena still features his music. Williamson went to great lengths to mislead would-be biographers, and facts about his life are difficult to verify. His real name was Aleck Miller; he was apparently sometimes called Rice, and he was most likely born in 1912 in Glendora, Mississippi, to Millie Ford. He took his stepfather Jim Miller’s surname. As a very young child, …

Wilson Hall (Arkansas Tech University)

Wilson Hall, located 502 West M Street on the Arkansas Tech University campus in Russellville (Pope County), is an elaborate two-story building designed in the Colonial Revival style of architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 18, 1992. The campus of Arkansas Polytechnic College (which later became Arkansas Tech University) comprised seventeen major buildings, including several dormitories that the U.S. Office of Education deemed “unfit for human habitation,” when Joseph W. Hull became the college’s eighth president in January 1932 and embarked on a major building campaign. Hull and the board of trustees applied for and received an $82,000 loan from the federal Reconstruction Finance Corporation in 1933 to build a new men’s dormitory. …

Wilson, Charles Banks

Charles Banks Wilson was a world-renowned lithographer, painter, teacher, historian, and book illustrator whose art has been exhibited throughout the United States and the world. He is best known for his drawings and paintings of Native American life as well as for his vivid representations of the people, events, and landscapes of the Ozark Mountains, his primary artistic inspiration. Charles Banks Wilson was born on August 6, 1918, in Springdale (Washington County). His father, Charles Bertram Wilson, was serving in France during World War I when Wilson was born. His mother, Bertha Juanita Banks Wilson, was a public school teacher. Both parents had lived in Springdale but did not meet until each had moved eighty-five miles westward in the Ozark …

Wilson, Donald Roller

Donald Roller Wilson is a nationally acclaimed artist whose paintings use distinctive and mysterious imagery. He lives in Fayetteville (Washington County). Roller Wilson was born on November 23, 1938, in Houston, Texas. At the age of six, he moved with his family to northern Nebraska when his father opened a company that made farm combines. In 1945, the family moved to Wichita, Kansas. The last of three children, he grew up essentially an only child because his brother and sister were much older. His first artistic experience was painting signs on beer trucks. After earning an MFA in painting and art history at Kansas State University in Wichita, he taught painting at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville from …

Witherspoon, Jimmy “Spoon”

James John (Jimmy) Witherspoon, also known by the nickname “Spoon,” was a versatile singer who achieved commercial success and critical acclaim in the genres of blues, jazz, and rhythm and blues. His 1947 recording “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” was a hit in 1949 and became his signature song. Jimmy Witherspoon was born in Gurdon (Clark County) to Leonard Witherspoon, a Missouri Pacific Railroad brakeman, and Eva Tatum Witherspoon, a church pianist. The family was devoutly religious. His parents were members of the choir at their Baptist church. His date of birth is usually given as August 8, 1923, but some sources give the birth year as 1920, and more than one source gives the birth date as August 18, 1921, attributing …

Wittenberg, Gordon Greenfield

Gordon Greenfield Wittenberg was a notable Arkansas architect who led one of the state’s premier architecture firms. During his career, he was honored for his architectural accomplishments and for his service to his profession. Also, he was a leader in business, civic, and social organizations in the community. Gordon Wittenberg, the second of three children of George Hyde Wittenberg and Minnie Greenfield Wittenberg, was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on August 12, 1921. After attending Little Rock public schools, he attended the School of Engineering at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) for one year and was president of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He then graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Illinois, …

Wolf, John Quincy, Jr.

A college professor and self-trained folklorist, John Quincy Wolf Jr. left a lasting legacy in the mid-South folk music world through his intrepid collecting and field recording and his broad-ranging scholarship. Wolf was born in Batesville (Independence County) on May 14, 1901, the younger of the two children of John Quincy Wolf Sr. and Adele Crouch Wolf. Known as Quincy to distinguish him from his banker father, he spent the first twenty-one years of his life in Batesville, earning his bachelor’s degree from Arkansas College (now Lyon College) in 1922. One year later, Wolf received an MA in English at Vanderbilt University and returned to his alma mater to teach English and history for much of the next decade, with occasional …

Woman’s Progressive Club (Wynne)

The Woman’s Progressive Club, located at 333 Merriman Avenue in Wynne (Cross County), is a one-story public building designed in a subtle treatment of the Colonial Revival style of architecture and constructed between 1935 and 1937 with assistance from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era federal relief program. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 27, 1990. The Woman’s Progressive Club was established by five charter members in 1913, the first civic organization formed in the Cross County seat of Wynne. The group organized and promoted educational, social, and cultural events, meeting in the homes of members. The formation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal agencies during the Great Depression led them to …

Womble District Administration House Number 1

The Womble District Administration House Number 1 is located east of Mount Ida (Montgomery County) and was constructed to house the administrative headquarters of the Womble Ranger District of the Ouachita National Forest. Constructed in 1940 by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 20, 1993. The CCC established companies throughout the country to offer unemployed men a way to provide for their families while also constructing needed facilities and structures. CCC Company 741 was established at Camp Pike (which later became Camp Joseph T. Robinson) on May 1, 1933. Moving to Crystal Springs (Garland County), near Black Springs (Montgomery County) in the Ouachita National Forest on May …

Women’s Community Club Band Shell

Built in 1933, the Women’s Community Club Band Shell is located at the northeast corner of Spring Park in Heber Springs (Cleburne County). It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 16, 1994. The band shell is important as a study of the cultural and social development of a central Arkansas resort community and provides a good example of a New Deal public works project. The Women’s Community Club was organized in 1921, and, by the early 1930s, it had decided that a band shell was needed to replace the entertainment pavilion located in Spring Park. Members of the club visited other cities to see their band shells and then contracted with Leo King for construction …

Woodruff County Courthouse

The Woodruff County Courthouse is located in Augusta (Woodruff County), on the northern end of 3rd Street not far from the White River. The Woodruff County Services Center stands behind the courthouse, and the historic Augusta Memorial Park is less than a mile away, but it is the residential homes from different eras that define the local identity. The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program recognizes the Woodruff County Courthouse as historically and architecturally significant, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 22, 1982. In November 1862, the Arkansas General Assembly officially established Woodruff County with Augusta as its county seat, although the ongoing Civil War complicated plans. Many residents joined the Confederate army, the state …

Woodruff Print Shop

The Woodruff Print Shop is a meticulous 2010 reconstruction of the original Little Rock (Pulaski County) print shop built in 1823 for William E. Woodruff, founder of the Arkansas Gazette, the first newspaper in Arkansas. It is located on the grounds of Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock. After having established the Arkansas Gazette in 1819 at Arkansas Post (then the capital of the Territory of Arkansas), Woodruff moved his printing press and newspaper operation to Little Rock in 1821. Many of the city’s skilled craftsmen advertised their services at this time, including brickmakers Benjamin Clements and Christian Brumback. Woodruff likely contracted with local brickmakers, carpenters, cabinetmakers, and blacksmiths to construct the two-story building for his business. Woodruff announced the …

Wootton, Robert (Bob)

Robert (Bob) Wootton was a musician best known for having been Johnny Cash’s backing guitarist for thirty years. In addition to having played on most of Cash’s albums made after 1968, he released music with other members of Cash’s band, the Tennessee Three. He also worked as a driver for musical acts and as a stunt man. Bob Wootton was born on March 4, 1942, in Red Branch, which is a part of the town of Paris (Logan County). He was one of eight children of Rubin C. Wootton, who was a coal miner, and Noma Lucilla Moore Wootton. His father, who also played mandolin, taught him to play the guitar. Wootton’s first musical performances were in church. Among his …

Wynn-Price House

The Wynn-Price House is a historic Greek Revival–style home in Garland (Miller County). It is considered one of the best surviving examples of antebellum plantation homes in the state. William Wynn moved to the Red River area of the Arkansas Territory around 1835. Wynn eventually owned thousands of acres of land on both sides of the Red River, as well as almost 100 slaves. It appears that at least some of this land was purchased for speculation. Garland was at the proposed crossing of the Red River by the Mississippi, Ouachita, and Red River Railroad, which was never constructed, and Wynn placed the house along the major road of the day. The house was constructed circa 1844. The house is …

Wynne Post Office

The Wynne Post Office at 402 East Merriman Avenue in Wynne (Cross County) is a one-story, brick-masonry structure designed in a restrained interpretation of the Art Deco style of architecture. It features a mural financed through 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. On September 28, 1935, the Wynne Daily Star Progress reported that a lot on Merriman Avenue was picked as the site of a new post office for Wynne. The U.S. Department of the Treasury paid Lizzie Collins $6,000 for the property. A January 10, …

Xu, Longhua

Longhua Xu of Hot Springs (Garland County) is a native of China who came to Arkansas in 1990, becoming a leading member of the state’s artistic and cultural community. Among other accolades, in 2019, he was named an Arkansas Living Treasure by the Arkansas Arts Council. Longhua Xu was born in Shanghai, China, on December 31, 1954. His older brother encouraged him to paint landscapes by taking him to a local park. At age seventeen, Xu was chosen by the Chinese National Arts and Crafts Company to be part of an elite group of young artists who would be instructed in traditional Chinese art. He studied at the Luo Qing art academy in Shanghai province, a school that admitted only …

Yell County Courthouse, Dardanelle Judicial District

The Yell County Courthouse for the Dardanelle Judicial District, governing the northern part of Yell County, is located on the west end of Union Street in Dardanelle (Yell County). The Arkansas River and the River Front Park are nearby, and the courthouse is surrounded by county buildings, historical markers and monuments, small businesses, and residential neighborhoods. The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program recognizes the courthouse as architecturally and historically significant to Yell County, as it stands as the best example of the Classical Revival style in the area. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 8, 1992. Timber—including cottonwood, gum, elm, sycamore, and ash—made up much of Dardanelle and Yell County’s economy. The city became a …

Young Memorial

The Young Memorial at Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County)—originally called the War Memorial Monument of Conway—is a sculptural monument erected to honor students of the school who died serving in the U.S. military during World War I. Six Hendrix students lost their lives in World War I. Five of these men died of diseases either in the United States or abroad; the sixth, Robert W. Young, died in combat. The idea for a war memorial on the Hendrix campus was conceived by the Hendrix Memorial Association, a student-run group, in 1919. With the help of faculty advisor Professor W. O. Wilson, the group soon raised $800 of the expected $1,200–$1,500 cost through student and alumni donations. By the spring …

Zellner, Ferdinand

Ferdinand Frederick Zellner lived in Fayetteville (Washington County) from 1852 until 1863 and wrote a piece of music called “Fayetteville Polka,” which is believed to be the first Arkansas composition to be published as sheet music. Ferdinand Zellner was born in Berlin, Prussia (now a part of Germany), in August 1831 and reportedly came to the United States in 1850 as part of the orchestra that toured with Jenny Lind, the “Swedish nightingale.” After the tour ended and Lind returned to Europe, Zellner and his brother, Willhelm Emil Zellner, stayed in America and settled in Fayetteville. Ferdinand Zellner filed paperwork with Washington County in 1852 to become an American citizen and was hired by Sophia Sawyer as a music teacher …