Entry Category: Government and Politics

Abington, William Henry

William Henry (W. H.) Abington, a physician and a Democratic politician, served as a state senator and a state representative in the Arkansas General Assembly from 1923 to 1951. From 1929 to 1931, he was speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives. As a legislator, he supported medically oriented legislation and established the Junior Agricultural School of Central Arkansas (now Arkansas State University–Beebe) in 1927. W. H. Abington was born on January 2, 1870, in Collierville, Tennessee, to the farming family of William T. Abington and Mary Jane Plant Abington. He had an older sister and a younger brother. His family moved to White River (Prairie County) in 1870 but had relocated to Union (White County) by 1880. His brother, …

Act 38 of 1971

Act 38 of 1971, which reorganized sixty state government agencies into thirteen cabinet-level departments, was the culmination of reform efforts that had begun during the administration of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller but were only achieved under Governor Dale Bumpers, who was widely credited with the successful passage of the measure. Bumpers described the act, which was designed to increase the economy and efficiency of state government, as the most vital part of his legislative program. As the first general reorganization of state government in the twentieth century, Act 38 was hailed for simplifying state operations and curbing graft. Prior to Act 38, the governor had little authority to dismiss uncooperative or corrupt agency heads, who served at the pleasure of their …

Act 401 of 1951

aka: Communist Registration Act
Also called the Communist Registration Act, Act 401 was approved in March 1951 during the tenure of the Fifty-eighth Arkansas General Assembly. It was subtitled “An Act to Require Members of Certain Organizations Advocating the Unconstitutional Overthrow of the United States or of the State of Arkansas to Register With the State Police.” Ostensibly directed against members of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and affiliated organizations, Act 401 was passed in the context of the Second Red Scare following World War II. Act 401 did not emerge in a political vacuum, nor was this law unprecedented in Arkansas history. Act 401 was consistent with federal, state, and local legislation against “subversive organizations.” The law joined a long line of federal …

Act 910 of 2019

aka: Transformation and Efficiencies Act of 2019
Act 910 of 2019 was a piece of signature legislation for Governor Asa Hutchinson, who sought to reduce the size of Arkansas state government and the number of agency heads reporting directly to the governor. In state government, an agency designated as a “department” is typically headed by a secretary who is appointed by the governor as part of the cabinet. Many of the changes brought about by Act 910 involved departments becoming “divisions,” such as the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) becoming the Division of Environmental Quality within the new Department of Energy and Environment. Hutchinson looked to Act 38 of 1971, the last large-scale reorganization of Arkansas state government, which consolidated sixty state government agencies into thirteen. …

Adair, Benjamin Frank

Benjamin Frank Adair, born a slave in Phillips County, established a legal practice in central Arkansas in the late 1800s and was elected to the Arkansas General Assembly. There, he supported the Separate Coach Law of 1891 (a Jim Crow law requiring separate coaches on railway trains for white and black passengers)—the only black legislator to do so. His reputation was later damaged when he engaged in embezzlement and fraud. Benjamin F. Adair was born a slave in 1852 in the Silver Creek Township of Phillips County. His mother, Charlotte, a Virginia-born slave, was owned by Benjamin F. Adair Sr., a white planter and the father of Adair. After the passage of Act 151 of 1859, a law demanding that …

Adams, Samuel

Samuel Adams served as acting governor of Arkansas from April 29, 1844, to November 9, 1844. As president of the state Senate, Adams became governor when Arkansas’s second state governor, Archibald Yell, resigned after being elected to Congress only six months before the end of his term. After his time as acting governor, Adams went on to serve as state treasurer until his retirement. Samuel Adams was born in Halifax County, Virginia, on June 5, 1805, to Sylvester Adams and Fanny (Smith) Adams. When he was a child, his family moved to Humphreys County, Tennessee, where he lived until 1835. Adams was self-taught as there was no formal schooling in this rural area. At the age of nineteen, he married …

Adkins, Homer Martin

Governor Homer Martin Adkins stands as a symbol of many Arkansans’ ambivalence about the growing power of the federal government in the mid-twentieth century and their resistance to attendant changes in the Democratic Party. Adkins’s clout as a factional leader during the 1930s derived from federal spending in the state, and his successes as governor had everything to do with the U.S. government’s massive investment in military facilities, defense production, and state bonds. But Adkins remained a self-described conservative, always ready to support states’ rights, such as when Democratic administrations in Washington DC and federal courts began to more actively support the civil rights of African Americans. Homer Adkins was born on October 15, 1890, near Jacksonville (Pulaski County), the …

Adverse Possession

Cornell Law School defines adverse possession as “a doctrine under which a person in possession of land owned by someone else may acquire valid title to it, so long as certain common law requirements are met, and the adverse possessor is in possession for a sufficient period of time, as defined by a statute of limitations.” Establishing or settling a title to certain real property (generally fixed property like land and buildings) often requires meeting all of certain specific factual requirements. That certainly is the case in Arkansas when the method for settling a title is application of the concept of adverse possession. Adverse possession cases often involve boundary line disputes or encroachments. The list of requirements for establishing title …

African-American Legislators (Nineteenth Century)

In Arkansas, between 1868 and 1893, at least eighty-seven African-American men were elected to and served in the Arkansas General Assembly. Reconstruction policies and amendments to the U.S. Constitution outlawed slavery, redefined citizenship to include freed slaves, and granted universal male suffrage regardless “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” In Arkansas, these changes led to the election of Black men to state and local offices. These legislators and other officeholders were primarily elected from areas with large Black populations––Arkansas’s plantation regions in the east and southwest as well as urban areas like Little Rock (Pulaski County), Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and Helena (Phillips County). Historians are still piecing together the lives of these men; nevertheless, research shows that the …

Agee, Sarah Edith Sonneman

Sarah Agee of Prairie Grove (Washington County) served as a state representative in the Eighty-second, Eighty-third, and Eighty-fourth Arkansas General Assemblies from 1999 to 2004.   Sarah Edith Sonneman was born in Fayetteville (Washington County) on January 2, 1946, to Gladys Margaret Gosnell Sonneman and Emil Herman Sonneman. Thiers was a prominent Washington County family. The Gosnells of Springdale (Washington and Benton counties) had the only bookstore in town, and reading was a prime concern for the family, which had no television. Her mother, who played the organ for the silent movies at the UARK Theater and Palace Theater and was the organist for more than fifty years at First Baptist Church in Fayetteville, was a field representative for the state Welfare Department. The Sonneman family built and operated seven movie theaters in the area, the UARK Bowl, and apartments near campus. Her father owned and operated the Fayetteville Country Club and Razorback Golf Course, supported community projects such …

Agricultural Adjustment Act

The experimental Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) was the cornerstone farm legislation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal agenda and was steered through the U.S. Senate by Joe T. Robinson, Arkansas’s senior senator. In Arkansas, farm landowners reaped subsidy benefits from the measure through decreased cotton production. Arkansas sharecroppers and tenant farmers did not fare as well, bringing about the establishment of the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union (STFU). Upon taking office in 1933—during the fourth year of the Great Depression, on the heels of the Drought of 1930–1931, and amid the full force of the Dust Bowl—Roosevelt promised “a new deal for the American people” centered on “relief, recovery, and reform.” Counseled by advisors dubbed the “brain trust,” Roosevelt fashioned …

Alexander, William Vollie (Bill), Jr.

William Vollie (Bill) Alexander Jr. represented the state of Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1969 to 1993, rising to the post of Chief Deputy House Majority Whip, an important position of chamber leadership. Bill Alexander was born on January 16, 1934, in Memphis, Tennessee, to William V. Alexander Sr. and Spencer (Buck) Alexander. The family moved to Osceola (Mississippi County) soon thereafter. He graduated from Osceola High School in 1951. That same year, he became an Eagle Scout. From 1951 to 1953, he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), joined the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, and then moved back to the city of his …

Alford, Boyce

Boyce Alford was a well-respected optometrist who also had a long career in public service. Active at both the local and state levels, the conservative Democrat served in the Arkansas General Assembly for a decade, while holding various local offices for an additional twenty years. D. Boyce Alford was born on November 13, 1923, in Cove (Polk County). His first initial is something of a mystery, as his tombstone reads “Boyce Alford,” and there are apparently no records that reveal his full first name. He was the son of Thomas Franklin Alford, a one-time state commissioner of education, and Ida Womack Alford, also an educator. Boyce Alford grew up in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and graduated from Little Rock Catholic …

Alford, Thomas Dale

Thomas Dale Alford was a prominent Arkansas ophthalmologist, Episcopalian, radio announcer, civic leader, and politician remembered largely as a leader of opposition to federally mandated desegregation during the crisis at Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Alford’s role as a leading segregationist came first through his seat on the Little Rock School Board and then as the “Segregation Sticker Candidate” who upset incumbent Democratic U.S. Representative Brooks Hays after a notorious ten-day write-in campaign in the 1958 election for the Fifth Congressional District of Arkansas. Dale Alford was born near Murfreesboro (Pike County) on January 28, 1916, the son of T. H. Alford and Ida Womack Alford, both of whom were itinerant school teachers. His father ultimately became …

Allen, Dorathy N. McDonald

Dorathy N. McDonald Allen was the first woman to serve in the Arkansas Senate, serving from 1964 to 1974 in the Sixty-Fourth through Sixty-Ninth General Assemblies. She was elected in 1964 to fill the unexpired term of her husband, Senator Tom Allen, after his death in 1963. She was reelected in 1966 and 1970 without opposition. Dorathy N. McDonald was born in Helena (Phillips County) on March 10, 1910, to Dora Barnes McDonald and Jack McDonald. Her mother was a homemaker, and her father was lumberman and sawmill owner, with one of the largest lumber operations in the area; she had four siblings. She was educated in the public schools and at Sacred Heart Academy in Helena. Her mother died …

Amendment 59

aka: Taxation Amendment
Amendment 59 was an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution, ratified by voters overwhelmingly in 1980, that overhauled the system of valuing and taxing private property. It quickly became known for its bewildering complexity—an Arkansas Supreme Court opinion called it “the Godzilla of constitutional amendments”—and for its damaging effect on the financing of public schools. The amendment and its various interpretations had a major role in the long legislative and judicial battles over school reform and tax reform (as with the court cases Jim DuPree v. Alma School District No. 30 and Lake View School District No. 25 v. Huckabee). The valuing of private property, both real and personal, had long been a divisive issue, owing to the property tax’s role …

Amendments 19 and 20

aka: Futrell Amendments
Amendments 19 and 20 to the Arkansas Constitution, which are commonly referred to as the Futrell Amendments, sharply restricted the ability of the legislature to levy taxes, spend the funds, and incur debt. Ratified in the general election in 1934, the amendments went beyond the laws of any other state in limiting the fiscal powers of the legislature and were supposed to guarantee austere and limited government for posterity. The restrictions on borrowing stated in Amendment 20, which required a statewide popular vote before the state could borrow money for public improvements, were loosened in 1986 by Amendment 65, after the Arkansas Supreme Court handed down a strict interpretation that seemed to outlaw what were known as “revenue bonds,” which the …

American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas

aka: ACLU of Arkansas
aka: Arkansas ACLU
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas (ACLU of Arkansas) is an affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is devoted to protecting the personal liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights as well as later amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The national organization, which like the Arkansas affiliate is nonprofit and nonpartisan, was formed in 1920. The Arkansas affiliate was organized in 1969 and subsequently established its headquarters in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Both organizations lobby the legislative branches of government on civil liberties issues and supply legal counsel to people who believe their freedoms have been violated by some level of government or by individuals or businesses acting under the protection of government. The state organization also …

Ameringer, Freda Hogan

Freda Hogan Ameringer was a journalist, Socialist Party official, and labor activist in Sebastian County; she moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, during World War I. Her socialism, like that of most other Arkansas party members, emerged out of the Farmers’ Alliance and the Populist movement. She saw socialism as a fight against corporations, banks, and other concentrations of economic power that undermined the rights of the nation’s working people. Freda Hogan was born on November 17, 1892, in Huntington (Sebastian County) to Dan Hogan, who was one of the founders of the state’s Socialist Party, and Charlotte Yowell Hogan, who suffered from physical debilities. Her childhood home, which included three younger siblings, was a gathering place for socialists, feminists, trade unionists, and …

Ammons, Evelyn

Evelyn Ammons was county and circuit clerk for Scott County from 1979 to 1994 and served in the 80th, 81st, and 82nd Arkansas General Assemblies (1995–2000) as a state representative. Evelyn Ammons was born on October 2, 1937, in Scott County to Omer Brian Ammons and Maud L. Gimlin Ammons. After Ammons’s father died when she was eleven months old, she, her two older sisters, and her mother left the farm and moved in with Evelyn’s grandmother, Hattie Sedalia Nunn Gimlin. Her mother went to work on a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program to support the family. Ammons and her family moved to Waldron (Scott County) when she was in the first grade, and she attended public schools, graduating from Waldron …

Anderson, Pernella

Pernella Mae Center Anderson of El Dorado (Union County) was one of Arkansas’s two African-American interviewers for the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP). She interviewed former slaves between 1936 and 1939. Pernella Center was born on April 12, 1903, in Camden (Ouachita County). She was the youngest of Willis Center and Sallie Washington Center’s ten children. Her father, a carpenter, and her mother, a housewife, were born in Louisiana but moved the family to Arkansas by 1894. Center’s mother died when Center was two years old, and her father remarried two years later. Center married her first husband, Theodore Haynie Jr., around 1920, and the couple had three children. Despite her home responsibilities, she was motivated to further her education and …

Anthony, Beryl Franklin, Jr.

Beryl Franklin Anthony Jr. is a long-time Arkansas public servant and an alumnus of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). He served as a U.S. Representative from 1979 to 1993. Beryl Franklin Anthony Jr. was born in El Dorado (Union County) on February 21, 1938, the son of Beryl Franklin Anthony Sr. and Oma Lee Roark Anthony. The Anthonys had founded the Anthony Forest Products Company, with Anthony Sr. as chairman. Anthony attended the Union County public schools; he graduated from El Dorado High School in 1956, and he earned BS and BA degrees from UA in 1961. He was also a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. In 1963, he earned a Juris Doctorate from the …

Anthony, Joseph J.

Joseph J. Anthony, a soldier, politician, and Arkansas pioneer, fell victim to one of the most extraordinary and bizarre events in Arkansas political history. He became the only sitting member of the state legislature to be killed during a debate in the Arkansas House of Representatives. J. J. Anthony, born possibly as early as 1780, was a native of Virginia and the son of the Reverend Joseph Anthony, a Baptist minister, and his wife, Jane Ferris. The family moved to middle Tennessee shortly after 1800, and, by 1808, Anthony was living in Smith County. On the eve of the War of 1812, he was appointed a second lieutenant in the Twenty-fourth United States Infantry. After the outbreak of hostilities, he …

Argue, James Buckingham (Jim) Jr.

James Buckingham (Jim) Argue Jr. became a political and religious leader in Arkansas in the later part of the twentieth century. He served almost two decades in the Arkansas General Assembly, along with a long stint as a leader in the United Methodist Church. Jim Argue Jr. was born on August 19, 1951, in Carthage, Texas, to the Reverend James B. Argue Sr. and Ann Bourland Argue. He grew up in eastern Texas, but the family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) when he was fourteen. After graduation from Little Rock Hall High School, he attended Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County). Argue graduated from Hendrix in 1973, earning a BA in history and political science. He and his wife, …