Historians and Historic Organizations

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Entry Category: Historians and Historic Organizations

Antiquarian and Natural History Society of Arkansas

One of Arkansas’s first attempts to preserve its history was organized by a group of “gentlemen naturalists” and state leaders who came together in Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the autumn of 1837. They called themselves the Antiquarian and Natural History Society of Arkansas. Approximately thirty early Arkansans were known members of the society. At least nine were lawyers, five were doctors, and three were surveyors; other members included a merchant, a newspaper editor, a hotel owner, and several planters whose occupations are unknown. The group was active for several years, but its collection was eventually scattered and lost. A notice was posted in early May 1837, calling upon “Friends of Science” to meet at what is now the Old …

Arkansas Archeological Society

The Arkansas Archeological Society (AAS) is a statewide organization created for the purpose of uniting all persons interested in the archaeology of Arkansas, fostering the recognition and preservation of cultural heritage and prehistory, and encouraging the public’s interest in the preservation of the past. There was an unsuccessful effort to form a similar society in 1932. Little is known of this organization because it produced no publications and relied solely on semi-annual meetings to bring the membership together. The current AAS was formed in 1960. Its primary founders were Samuel C. Dellinger (president); Harry McPherson, Cecil Cleavenger, Marvin Riddle, and H. Dudley Glass (vice presidents); Dr. Charles R. McGimsey III (secretary and newsletter editor); and Hester Davis (treasurer). It was …

Arkansas Genealogical Society

The Arkansas Genealogical Society, Inc., Arkansas’s only statewide genealogical organization, was organized in Fayetteville (Washington County) on May 4–5, 1962, in response to a call by the Washington County Historical Society. Under the guidance of the longtime editor of its quarterly, Flashback, Professor Walter J. Lemke of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville, this organization took the lead in collecting Arkansas genealogical data for many years. However, by 1962, growing interest in this hobby had overwhelmed its limited resources, and a decision was made to call for the formation of a statewide genealogical society to take over this work. Drawing upon the resources of this local group, volunteers published the first issue of the Arkansas Family Historian, Arkansas’s first …

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program

The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP) is the state agency charged with preserving the buildings, sites, neighborhoods, and structures that constitute the state’s built heritage. The agency’s genesis can be traced to the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act, which created a national preservation program, required state preservation activities, and provided funding for state historic preservation programs. Following a failed attempt to create a state program in 1967, the Arkansas General Assembly in 1969 created the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, funded by the transfer of $20,000 from the moribund Stonewall Jackson Memorial Board. In 1969, the primary activities of the agency were those for which federal funds were available—the identification, evaluation, and documentation of historic properties. This effort comprises the Arkansas …

Arkansas Historical Association (AHA)

The Arkansas Historical Association (AHA) is dedicated to maintaining an active statewide historical group involving all aspects of Arkansas’s history. The association holds annual conferences and publishes the Arkansas Historical Quarterly (AHQ). Headquartered at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), which partially underwrites the expenses of the organization, the AHA assists historians and educators in Arkansas in preserving and interpreting the history of the state. In 1903, John Hugh Reynolds, professor of history at UA, and a group of his students formed the Arkansas Historical Society, the forerunner of the AHA. The group soon realized that a continually changing student body made membership problematic and reorganized to become the first AHA. James Kimbrough Jones served as president. …

Arkansas Living History Association

The Arkansas Living History Association (ALHA) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to advancing living history in Arkansas. Its inception was in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in 2007, when those working and volunteering in the field of living history felt a need to form an organization that would advance living history interpretation as an educational tool throughout the state. While living history does not have an agreed-upon definition, it can be described as bringing a visual and auditory context to the interpretation of historical events, activities, dress, or everyday life of the people or time represented in an effort to make history more relatable. By bringing in authentic tools, foodways, clothing, etc., living historians can visually complement academic, personal, or …

Arkansas Museums Association

The Arkansas Museums Association (AMA) is an organization of museums and museum personnel dedicated to the promotion of professional standards in Arkansas museums, the encouragement of interaction among members, and the development of public support for—and interest in—Arkansas museums. The AMA is governed by a board of directors, elected by its members. The board consists of a president, vice president (also the president-elect), immediate past president, secretary, treasurer, two representatives from each of the AMA’s four districts, a membership director, and a communications director. The Arkansas Museums Association was founded in 1966. Arkansans working with historical, artistic, and cultural organizations realized the need for a state association to advance the goals of the museum community. Peg Newton Smith, wife of …

Arkansas Pioneers Association

The Arkansas Pioneers Association is an organization devoted to projects and events regarding the history of Arkansas up to 1850. Those who want to join must be citizens of the United States who can trace their ancestry in Arkansas from 1850 and before. Harriet Woodruff Jabine, daughter of Arkansas Gazette founder William E. Woodruff, established the Arkansas Pioneers Association in September 1911. For a brief time in 1912, the association took residence in the west wing of what is now the Old State House. Jabine declared its mission to be “to honor and preserve the tradition of our Arkansas Pioneer ancestors and to quicken and preserve the spirit of Arkansas Patriotism.” It was formally organized on March 7, 1912. On …

Arkansas State Archives

aka: Arkansas History Commission
The Arkansas State Archives, located in Little Rock (Pulaski County), is the official state archives of Arkansas and houses the state’s largest collection of documents, publications, photographs, and other material relating to Arkansas history. The Arkansas History Commission, as the institution was originally named, was established by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1905 as part of the burgeoning state archives movement that swept the South shortly after 1900. It was created largely through the efforts of John Hugh Reynolds, a history professor at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). “The Commission exists,” Dallas T. Herndon, the first executive secretary and director wrote in 1911, the year the legislature finally appropriated funding for the commission, “to gather the …

Atkinson, James Harris (J. H.)

James Harris (J. H.) Atkinson was an educator, author, and historian who, through his leadership in state and local historical organizations, significantly advanced the preservation and awareness of Arkansas’s history, earning him the nickname “Mr. Arkansas History.” He helped organize and subsequently served as president of both the Arkansas Historical Association (AHA) and the Pulaski County Historical Society (PCHS), wrote numerous articles for each of their publications, served as chairman of the Arkansas History Commission (now called the Arkansas State Archives), and co-authored Historic Arkansas, a text for teaching Arkansas history. J. H. Atkinson was born on June 7, 1888, in a farmhouse near the community of College Hill in northern Columbia County, the son of Gracie Ella Finley and …

Babcock, Bernie

aka: Julia Burnelle Smade Babcock
In 1903, Julia Burnelle (Bernie) Smade Babcock became the first Arkansas woman to be included in Authors and Writers Who’s Who. She published more than forty novels, as well as numerous tracts and newspaper and magazine articles. She founded the Museum of Natural History in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was a founding member of the Arkansas Historical Society, and was the first president of the Arkansas branch of the National League of American Pen Women. Bernie Smade was born in Union, Ohio, on April 28, 1868, the first of six children, to Hiram Norton Smade and Charlotte Elizabeth (Burnelle) Smade. The Smades raised their children with a freedom uncharacteristic for that time. When Smade’s lively imagination was mistaken for lying …

Bauxite Historical Association and Museum

The Bauxite Historical Association and Museum (BHAM) works to preserve the history and culture of the company-owned town of Bauxite (Saline County). The organization started its life as the Alcoa Employees Descendants Association (AEDA), which was created on October 15, 1986, as a non-profit organization charged with the maintenance, protection, and everyday business of the Bauxite Community Hall and all other property deeded to it by the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). The community hall building houses the Bauxite Historical Museum. The building’s main hall is run by the association and functions as a venue for local events. The community hall was finished in 1926. Built by the Republic Mining & Manufacturing Company, the building itself was dedicated as the …

Baxter County Historical and Genealogical Society

The Baxter County Historical and Genealogical Society was founded on September 27, 1974, by a group of individuals who were interested in history and preserving the heritage of Baxter County. The organization, originally known as the Baxter County Historical Society, is officially chartered in Arkansas as a nonprofit organization. In 1999, the name was changed to the Baxter County Historical and Genealogical Society. The mission of the society is to preserve and interpret the history of Baxter County by acquiring, preserving, and showcasing artifacts; acquiring, preserving, and making available for research records documenting the social, economic, and political history of the county through an active archival program at the Baxter County Archives; promoting historical and genealogical research; and educating children …

Benton County Historical Society

The Benton County Historical Society (BCHS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, publishing, and otherwise preserving and disseminating the history of Benton County. The BCHS arose from a June 22, 1954, meeting of twenty-six people at the Masonic Youth Center in Rogers (Benton County). The records preserved over the years show that the attendees came from all townships of the county. At this meeting, temporary officers of the yet unnamed group were elected as follows: J. Wesley Sampier (chairman), Ray Henry and Louise Plank (vice chairs), and Huey Huhn (secretary/treasurer). These temporary officers had to nominate a slate of officers and draw up a constitution and by-laws. Word of mouth and notices in the newspapers promoted the first public …

Billingsley, Carolyn Earle

Carolyn Earle Billingsley was a noted historian and author who worked to connect the fields of history, anthropology, and genealogy. The founding editor of the journal of the Saline County History and Heritage Society, she received the Booker Worthen Literary Prize in 2005 for her book Communities of Kinship. Carolyn Earle was born on August 5, 1948, in Dallas, Texas. Her parents, Robert Shelton Earle and Lillian Jean Young, were both Little Rock (Pulaski County) natives. In 1966, she married James Lloyd Billingsley, and the couple settled in Alexander (Pulaski and Saline counties). They had two sons and two daughters. Billingsley was a founding member of the Saline County History and Heritage Society and the first editor of the Saline …

Black History Commission of Arkansas

The Black History Commission of Arkansas (BHCA) was created as the Arkansas Black History Advisory Committee in 1991. Senator Jerry Donal Jewell introduced legislation that passed as Act 1233, establishing the seven-member, governor-appointed committee. In 1995, Act 980 changed the committee’s name to the Black History Commission of Arkansas. The BHCA was charged with preserving and promoting Arkansas’s black history, as well as advising the Arkansas History Commission (which later became the Arkansas State Archives) with respect to gathering, developing, and keeping the history of black Arkansans. Ronnie A. Nichols, director of the Delta Cultural Center in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County), and North Little Rock (Pulaski County) educator and civic leader Curtis Henry Sykes were elected as the first chairman …

Brown, Walter Lee

A Texan who helped shape the discipline of Arkansas history, Walter Lee Brown oversaw the daily operations of the Arkansas Historical Association (AHA) for thirty-five years and edited its journal, the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, for almost as long. Walter L. Brown was born in Gatesville, Texas, in 1924, to Frank J. Brown and Alice Berry Brown. Brown served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He earned a BA in history at Texas A&M University (1949) and an MA (1950) and PhD (1955) from the University of Texas. His dissertation was only the first installment in a lifetime of work on the Arkansas politician and polymath Albert Pike. In 1954, Brown joined the history department at the University …

Carroll County Historical and Genealogical Society

On September 6, 1955, a group of citizens consisting of Alice Baker Gentry, Ruth Trimble, Lois Stubbs, Cora Pinkley Call, Frances McClelland, Coy Logan, Boyd W. Johnson, and Edwin L. Chaplin met in the Methodist church in Berryville (Carroll County) with Dr. Ted Worley, executive secretary of the Arkansas History Commission (now called the Arkansas State Archives). The purpose of this meeting was to make plans for organizing a historical society in Carroll County. During this meeting, Worley discussed the early history of Carroll County, the importance of preserving early records of the county, and how other county historical societies had been organized and managed. The next meeting was set for September 29, 1955, at the county library for the …

Civil War Roundtable of Arkansas (CWRTA)

Jerry Russell, Bill O’Donnell, and Cal Collier began the Civil War Roundtable of Arkansas (CWRTA) in March 1964 during the height of the national Civil War Centennial celebrations. Russell served as its first president. The CWRTA has been active continuously since 1964, with eleven meetings each year (no meeting in December). The CWRTA has sponsored a number of bus tours over the years to regional Civil War battlefields and sites, including the Pea Ridge National Military Park (with Professor Bill Shea of the University of Arkansas at Monticello as the guide) and sites associated with General Frederick Steele’s Camden Expedition through southern Arkansas (guided by Ed Bearss, the retired chief historian of the National Park Service). In commemoration of the …

Clark County Historical Association

The Clark County Historical Association (CCHA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization since 1978, researches, preserves, and disseminates the county’s history. Brainchild of philanthropist Jane Ross and retired teacher Amy Jean Greene, it originated on October 30, 1972. A cross-section of county residents have provided leadership, including local politicians and representatives of both Ouachita Baptist and Henderson State universities. The association has remained egalitarian in membership and outlook, though membership (which averages about 250) has gone from a majority within to a majority outside the county. With Ross Foundation financial assistance, Greene led the association for the first five years. Quarterly meetings, always Sundays at 2:00 p.m., occurred mostly in Arkadelphia (Clark County) churches, and featured interested amateurs talking about a wide …

Collier, Calvin Lawrence

Calvin L. Collier was a career U.S. Air Force officer who wrote several regimental histories of Arkansas Confederate units around the time of the Civil War Centennial in the 1960s and was one of the founders of the Civil War Roundtable of Arkansas. Calvin Lawrence Collier was born on September 8, 1923, the youngest of the eight children of Robert E. Collier and Nettie Mae Pippin Collier of Dendron, Virginia. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force in November 1942 and flew thirty-six missions in B-26 “Marauder” bombers during World War II as part of the 451st Bomb Squadron, 322nd Bomb Group, Ninth Air Force. Collier was badly wounded during one mission. He flew planes during the Berlin Airlift …

Daughters of the American Revolution

aka: Arkansas Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (ARDAR)
The Arkansas Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (ARDAR) is a member of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), which has 2,975 chapters in the United States and twenty-two international chapters. The NSDAR was founded on October 11, 1890, by Eugenia Washington, a grandniece of George Washington, along with Mary Desha, Mary Lockwood, and Ellen Hardin Walworth. In December 1893, the first Arkansas chapter of the DAR was founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Georgiana Washington Smith, another grandniece of Washington’s, was one of its earliest members. The first ARDAR State Conference was in February 1909 at the Marion Hotel in Little Rock (Pulaski County). ARDAR members have made lasting contributions to the …

Desha County Historical Society

The Desha County Historical Society (DCHS) was founded in January 1969 at the county courthouse in Arkansas City (Desha County). The four charter members were C. C. Stuart, Mildred Stroud, Mary Gayle Tutt, and Pat Sherland. Later, the group decided to incorporate the organization, and a certificate of incorporation was issued to the Desha County Historical Society by the office of the Secretary of State on May 29, 1973. Since its inception, the society has gathered historical documents and a few artifacts. These items are located at the McGehee (Desha County) library in the Desha County Historical Society Research Room. The first issue of the society’s publication The Doctors of Desha County was published in 1969. From 1973 until 2000, …

Dickinson, Samuel Dorris

  Samuel Dorris Dickinson was an archaeologist, historian, journalist, linguist, and college instructor. He was one of the early academically trained archaeologists to work and teach in Arkansas. He was a participant in the development of the field of archaeology in the United States, when few who worked as archaeologists had college degrees. He was an editor at the Arkansas Gazette, Arkansas Democrat, and Shreveport Journal for nearly thirty years. Dickinson was a well-known collector of antiques from the early territorial period of Arkansas. He also acquired folk art, religious art, books, paintings, and fossils. Dickinson published widely on his archaeological and historical research in a number of regional professional journals. Sam Dickinson was born on February 26, 1912, in …

Division of Arkansas Heritage

DAH was created in 1975 to preserve and promote Arkansas’s natural and cultural heritage as a source of pride and enjoyment for all. The original legislation named the agency the Department of Arkansas Natural and Cultural Heritage and grouped together culturally oriented agencies in one department. The agency’s name was changed to the Department of Arkansas Heritage in 1985, and then to the Division of Arkansas Heritage in 2019. DAH consists of a number of agencies, each with its own special contributions, and a director’s office, which manages general administrative and marketing operations. The agencies are the Arkansas Arts Council (AAC), which seeks to advance the arts in Arkansas; the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP), which manages the state’s historic …

Drew County Historical Society

The Drew County Historical Society owns and operates the Drew County Museum, the Drew County Archives, and the Drew County Historical Journal. It also hosts periodic meetings offering presentations about Drew County history. The Drew County Historical Society was founded on June 15, 1959, by a group of people interested in preserving the heritage of Drew County. Eric and Lurene Hardy are credited with providing early leadership for the organization and putting forth significant effort toward developing a museum for the purposes of housing and displaying artifacts that tell the story of Drew County history. The Drew County Historical Society was incorporated as a non-profit organization on March 4, 1969. In 1970, the society purchased the historic Cavaness House from …

Eno, Clara Bertha

Clara Bertha Eno has been called Arkansas’s first lady of history. She devoted her life to researching and recording Arkansas history and collecting Arkansas archival material. Her three published works are History of the Arkansas Federation of Women’s Clubs 1897–1934 (1935), with Frances Marion (Mrs. Frederick) Hanger, Historic Places in Arkansas (1940), and History of Crawford County, Arkansas (1950). During the 1920s and 1930s, she authored numerous historical newspaper articles. In 1940, she compiled Information of Fifty-Five Revolutionary [War] Soldiers buried in Arkansas. Although never published, it has long been a mainstay for early Arkansas research. Eno was born on February 14, 1854, in Van Buren (Crawford County), the daughter of Ellen (Ward) and Jonathan Adams Eno. Her father was …

Faulkner County Historical Society (FCHS)

The Faulkner County Historical Society (FCHS), sponsored by the Conway Chamber of Commerce, was organized on April 16, 1959, with forty-two charter members. The society’s purposes are “to discover, collect and preserve any material to establish or illustrate the history of our area and to make it available.” The original officers for this group were George Hartje Jr. (president), Victor Hill (vice president), and Guy Murphy (secretary-treasurer). The first directors were Myrtle Charles, Joyce Herndon, and James Clayton. After the society’s founding, a contest was conducted to name the society’s journal. Combined suggestions by James Clayton and Guy W. Murphy, both long-time local historians, resulted in the title Faulkner Facts and Fiddlings. As of 2010, the FCHS has published two …