Entries - Entry Category: Individual and Team Sports

Lee, Clifton Phifer (Cliff)

Arkansas native Cliff Lee is a major league baseball pitcher. He has pitched in both the National and American Leagues, winning All-Star recognition in both circuits. Clifton Phifer Lee was born on August 30, 1978, in Benton (Saline County) to Steve Lee, who was a firefighter and one-time member of the Benton City Council, and his wife, Sharon Lee. Lee grew up in Benton and graduated from Benton High School in 1997. Following graduation, he was drafted by the Florida Marlins but decided to attend Meridian Community College in Meridian, Mississippi. Drafted in 1998 by the Baltimore Orioles, he again deferred, instead attending the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). The left-handed Lee had one solid season pitching …

Lee, Haeng Ung

Haeng Ung Lee was the founder of the American Taekwondo Association (which later became ATA Martial Arts), headquartered in Little Rock (Pulaski County). ATA has over 300,000 members worldwide, making it the largest organization in North America dedicated to the discipline of taekwondo. Haeng Ung Lee was born on July 20, 1936, in Manchuria in northeastern China. Little is known about his early life, but shortly after World War II, he and his family moved to Korea. He began training in the martial arts in 1953. Lee progressed rapidly, earning his first-degree black belt only a year later. Upon graduating from high school in 1956, Lee joined the Republic of Korea Army, serving as a martial arts instructor for military …

Liston, Sonny

aka: Charles Liston
Charles “Sonny” Liston was a noted boxer who briefly reigned as Heavyweight Champion after a first-round knockout against Floyd Patterson. However, his career was marred by criminal activity and, later, accusations of mob connections and throwing fights. Sonny Liston was born on May 8, probably 1932, to Tobe and Helen (Baskin) Liston, African-American sharecroppers in rural St. Francis County. He was one of many children—one account lists twenty-two siblings and half-siblings. Liston was raised on heavy farm work, many beatings, and with virtually no schooling. At the age of thirteen, he ran away to St. Louis, Missouri, following his mother, who had left earlier. There, he became a thug, committing various muggings and robbery. Soon caught (his crimes were inept, …

Little Rock Marathon

The Little Rock Marathon, the largest marathon in the state, began in 2003 with 2,527 registered participants and has grown to well over 10,000 runners and walkers as of 2013. It is traditionally held each year on the first Sunday of March. The course begins in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) and runs through the River Market District and Quapaw Quarter District, and then by the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park, Little Rock City Hall, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Philander Smith College, Central High School, the Arkansas State Capitol, and Murray Park before reaching the finish line in Riverfront Park. The Little Rock Marathon began in 2003 as a fundraiser for the City of Little Rock’s …

Lollar, John Sherman Jr.

Sherman Lollar was a major league baseball player who was considered one of the best catchers in baseball during the 1950s. However, despite being a seven-time All-Star, his accomplishments, including winning the American League Gold Glove award the first three years it was given, were sometimes overshadowed by other players, such as New York Yankee Yogi Berra. John Sherman Lollar Jr. was born on August 23, 1924, in Durham (Washington County) to John Lollar and Ruby Springfield Lollar. When he was three years old, the family moved to Fayetteville (Washington County), and his parents opened a grocery store. Lollar’s father died suddenly during surgery when Lollar was eight. His mother sold the grocery store and supported her young family by …

Long III, Dallas Cutcher

Dallas Long, born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), is an Olympic gold and bronze medalist who was consistently ranked as one of the top shot put competitors in the world. Dallas Crutcher LongIIIwas born on June 13, 1940, in Pine Bluff, the son of Dallas Long Jr. and Connie Long. Raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where his father practiced medicine, he played football and threw the shot put at Northern Phoenix High School. As a high school senior in 1958, Long established a national high school record of 21.10 meters in the twelve-pound (5.44 kilograms) shot put, and tossed the sixteen-pound (7.26 kilograms) shot put 18.60 meters. At the Amateur Athletics Union (AAU) national track and field championships, he finished second to …

Major League Spring Training in Hot Springs

In the early days of baseball, major league baseball teams conducted spring training, but it was limited. Since all of the teams were located in the north and northeastern part of the country, it was difficult for them to train outside during February and March. Due to the cold weather, many teams used gymnasiums or other inside areas for training. In 1886, Albert Goodwill (A. G.) Spalding, president of the Chicago White Stockings of the National League, decided to train in a warmer climate. Thus, Hot Springs (Garland County) became one of the first spring training locations south of the Mason-Dixon Line for major league teams. On the front page of the maiden issue of the Sporting News, March 17, …

Malham, Michael James (Mike)

Mike Malham was an all-star football player at Arkansas State University (ASU) in the 1970s. After a short career in professional football, he became a high school football coach. By the time of his retirement in 2019, he was the second-winningest coach in Arkansas high school football history. Michael James Malham was born to Michael Joseph Malham and Betty Ruth Atcley Malham on March 2, 1953, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). He has two sisters. Both of his parents were educators, with his father also pursuing a career as a coach. Malham graduated from Little Rock’s McClellan High School in 1971. Coached by his father, he played linebacker, receiver, and occasionally quarterback on his high school football team. Malham was …

Martin, Mark Anthony

Mark Martin is the only driver from Arkansas competing in the top circuit of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). He ranks tenth on the all-time win list and sixth on the all-time pole position list. In 2017, he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Mark Anthony Martin was born on January 9, 1959, in Batesville (Independence County) to Julian Martin and Jackie Estes Martin. Martin’s father was a truck driver who started a successful Batesville-based trucking company, Julian Martin, Inc., in 1960. As a hobby, Julian also sponsored a race team that competed on the numerous small local race tracks. Martin’s father instilled a passion for driving in him when he was very young. Before …

McDonnell, John

John McDonnell served as track and field coach at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) from 1972 to 2008. In total, his teams won forty NCAA championships and eighty-four conference championships. His teams also produced 116 NCAA individual champions and 652 All-American certificates, while McDonnell himself was awarded thirty National Coach of the Year awards. John McDonnell was born on a dairy farm near Crossmolina, County Mayo, Ireland, on July 2, 1938, just a few miles from Ireland’s west coast. He was the seventh child of eight born to Bridget and Michael McDonnell. He was raised as a Roman Catholic and spent much of his childhood working on the family farm. McDonnell finished high school in 1958 in Dublin …

Meador, Eddie Doyle

Eddie Doyle Meador was a star defensive back for the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL) throughout the 1960s. A graduate of Arkansas Tech University in Russellville (Pope County), Meador was the recipient of numerous honors and recognitions over the course of a twelve-year career in the NFL. Eddie Doyle Meador was born on August 10, 1937, in Dallas, Texas, to Euell Meador, who was a mechanic, and Easter Meador. The family moved to Arkansas before his junior year, but a pre-season injury prevented him from playing for the school team that year. However, in 1954, as a senior, in his sole high school season, he led Russellville High School to the Region 3AA championship. A superb …

Memphis-Arkansas Speedway

During a four-year span in the 1950s, the Memphis-Arkansas Speedway located near Lehi (Crittenden County) was the longest racetrack and one of the fastest racetracks on the NASCAR circuit. Only Darlington Speedway in South Carolina and the beach course in Daytona, Florida, saw speeds exceeding the Arkansas speedway’s. In the twenty-first century, approximately a third of premier NASCAR races are run on 1.5 mile, oval tracks; the Memphis-Arkansas Speedway was the first of this kind of track. The paper clip–shaped track, one and half miles in length, was made up of 550-foot-radius, high-banked turns, connected by 2,500-foot straights. “I remember going there a long time ago. We raced there in the summer and I went with Daddy,” said seven-time NASCAR …

Mitchell, Bobby

Robert Cornelius (Bobby) Mitchell played professional football for the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins before becoming a scout for the Redskins. He is the only athlete born in Hot Springs (Garland County) to have been selected to the National Football League (NFL) Hall of Fame. Bobby Mitchell was born in Hot Springs on June 6, 1935, to the Reverend Albert Mitchell and Avis Mitchell. He became a four-sport standout at Langston High School in Hot Springs. The local media referred to Mitchell as “Mr. Touchdown” due to the talents he exhibited on the high school gridiron. In 1953, the senior-packed Langston team, coached by Fred Mason, took the Negro State Football Championship, going undefeated in conference play. Mitchell was …

Mock, Lucy Byrd

Lucy Byrd Mock, a native of Prairie Grove (Washington County), set numerous records as a golfer, established two national World War I–era women’s organizations, and was a noted author, journalist, poet, and publisher. Lucy Byrd Mock was born in Prairie Grove on February 23, 1876, the second of James Mock and Amanda Patton Mock’s six children. She was a student at the Methodist Academy in Prairie Grove until 1890, when she was admitted to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) as a fourteen-year-old sophomore. After completing the spring semester in 1893, she spent part of her summer break on a trip overseas to Great Britain, where she learned to play golf. Mock enjoyed the game so much …

Moncrief, Sidney

Sidney Alvin Moncrief is one of the greatest basketball players ever to come out of Arkansas. While playing guard for the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) basketball team from 1975 to 1979, Moncrief was named Southwest Conference Most Valuable Player and went on to help lead the Razorbacks to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament and ultimately to the NCAA Final Four in 1978. After college, Moncrief was picked in the first round of the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, where he went on to be a five-time NBA All-Star and earn the praise and respect of such NBA luminaries as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan. He was inducted into …

Monday, Rick

Rick Monday was an All-Star major league baseball player who played for nineteen seasons. He had his longest stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers, winning a World Series with the team and going on to serve as a Dodgers broadcaster on television and radio. Monday is perhaps best known for a 1976 incident in which he prevented a flag from being burned on the field at Dodger Stadium. Robert James Monday Jr. was born on November 20, 1945, in Batesville (Independence County), the only child of Robert James Monday Sr. and Nelda Marie Monday. The family left Arkansas when Monday was young, and he grew up in Southern California. When Monday was twelve, his father left the family, leaving his …

Moon, Wallace Wade (Wally)

Wallace Wade (Wally) Moon, named for one of the most prominent football coaches of the era, played twelve seasons of major league baseball. A member of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers, he won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1954 and made major contributions to the Dodgers’ World Series championship teams in 1959, 1963, and 1965. Wally Moon was born on April 3, 1930, in Bay (Craighead County) to Henry Albert Moon and Margie Leona Vernon Moon, the middle child in a family of two boys and a girl. Moon was unusual for his time because when he signed his first professional contract, his father made sure to include a provision that allowed Moon to …

Murphy, Benjamin Edward (Ben)

Ben Murphy is an actor and tennis star who is perhaps best known for his leading role in the popular 1970s television series Alias Smith and Jones, although he is also known for starring roles in a number of other TV series, including The Name of the Game, Griff, Gemini Man, and Berrenger’s. He played a major character in the landmark TV mini-series The Winds of War and appeared in feature films including The Graduate (1967), Yours, Mine & Ours (1968), The Thousand Plane Raid (1969), To Protect and Serve (2001), and The Uniform Motion of Folly (2006). He is also a highly regarded tennis player on the United States Tennis Association (USTA) singles and doubles circuit. Benjamin Edward (Ben) …

Natural State Golf Trail

The Natural State Golf Trail is a public-private partnership created to showcase the scenic golf courses of the state. The trail consists of twelve courses in eleven different locations across the Arkansas. First discussed in the early 2000s, the Natural State Golf Trail came about due to the efforts of Lang Zimmerman, a co-founder and managing partner of Big Creek Golf and Country Club in Mountain Home (Baxter County), and because of the interest of Mike Beebe, then serving as an Arkansas state senator. Beebe suggested the possibility of a statewide golf trail to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, and with the help of Jim Shamburger— a commissioner on the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission and …

Northeast Arkansas League

The Class D Northeast Arkansas League was established in July 1909 after the Arkansas State League folded. Two of its franchises, Newport (Jackson County) and Jonesboro (Craighead County), joined baseball clubs from Marianna (Lee County) and Paragould (Greene County) to form the league. It was sanctioned by the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL), the administrative agency of minor league baseball from 1901 to the present. After a successful inaugural season, violence and fiscal woes marred the 1910 and 1911 seasons. At the conclusion of the 1910 season, the Caruthersville, Missouri, and Paragould franchises were separated by only a half game in the standings. The league championship rested on the outcome of a five-game series between the two teams. …

Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort

aka: Oaklawn Park Racetrack
aka: Oaklawn Jockey Club
aka: Oaklawn Racing and Gaming
Even before the Civil War, the former pasture where Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort now stands in Hot Springs (Garland County) was home to impromptu races between local farm boys riding their fastest ponies. Today, the track is Arkansas’s only thoroughbred horse racing venue and the lone remaining gambling center in a city once known as much for its casinos as for its famous thermal baths. The popularity of Sportsman’s Park, built on the southeastern edge of Hot Springs in the early 1890s, sparked an interest in developing the sport of thoroughbred horse racing in the area. Following the 1903 repeal of anti-gambling laws, Essex Park was built in 1904. Charles Dugan, Dan Stuart, and John Condon—owners of the Southern Club—decided …

Olympians

From 1908 to 2016, nearly eighty athletes with ties to Arkansas (either natives/residents or affiliated with the state through its universities) have participated in the Olympic Games. Summer Olympians have competed in track and field, basketball, boxing, baseball, rowing, shooting, cycling, kayaking, modern pentathlon, swimming, golf, and art. One Winter Olympian competed in short-track speed skating. Thirty-five Arkansas-affiliated Olympians have won medals. Veronica Campbell-Brown leads this group, with eight medals. A former sprinter at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), the Jamaican native won a silver medal for Jamaica in the 4×100-meter relay in 2000, gold medals in the 200 meters and the 4×100-meter relay and a bronze medal in the 100 meters in 2004, a gold medal …

Ouzts, Perry Wayne

Perry Wayne Ouzts, a professional jockey from Lepanto (Poinsett County), is one of twenty-one professional riders to have won 5,000 races. Around horseracing tracks, he is nicknamed the “Workingman’s Hero” or, for his unique riding style, “Scoot N’ Boot.” He has also been noted for overcoming numerous potentially career-ending injuries. Perry Ouzts was born in Lepanto on July 7, 1954, but was raised primarily in Rivervale (Poinsett County). During his years in Rivervale, Ouzts began riding horses with his cousins Earlie and Jackie Fires. Earlie Fires was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame of Jockeys, while Jackie’s career ended when his body was crushed during a horse race in 1977, paralyzing him. Ouzts began riding professionally in the spring …

Parker, Jimmy Dale “Red”

Jimmy “Red” Parker was a football coach at the high school and college levels who was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. Parker coached until just weeks before his death in January 2016. In a career that began in 1953 and ended in 2015, Parker’s combined record as a college and high school head coach at six colleges and universities and five high schools was 322–221–13. Jimmy Dale Parker was born on October 26, 1931, to Floyd Parker and Madelyn Parker of Hampton (Calhoun County). He graduated from Rison High School in 1949, where he was a star football player, and attended Arkansas A&M at Monticello (Drew County)—now the University of Arkansas at Monticello—where he was …

Paulette, Gene

Gene Paulette was a professional baseball player whose career totaled six seasons in the major leagues. He played with four clubs: the American League’s St. Louis Browns and the National League’s St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants, and Philadelphia Phillies. An athlete of average speed and hitting ability, Paulette excelled as a defensive infielder. His time in the major leagues was cut short when, amid game-fixing accusations, he became the first player ever to be banned from baseball. After his career ended, Paulette returned to Arkansas, where he lived the rest of his life. Gene Paulette was born on May 26, 1891, in Centralia, Illinois, to Joseph Paulette and Marguerite DeServe Paulette. Paulette was the eleventh of twelve children born …

Pippen, Scottie Maurice

Scottie Pippen is one of the most talented and successful athletes from the state of Arkansas. An essential member of the championship Chicago Bulls basketball team from the 1990s, Pippen was in 1996 named one of the “50 Greatest Players in NBA History.” During his seventeen seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA), he participated in the play-offs in all but his last season, was named to the NBA All-Star team seven times, and won six NBA championships, all with the Bulls; Pippen also has won gold medals with two Olympic basketball teams. Scottie Maurice Pippen was born on September 25, 1965, in Hamburg (Ashley County) to Preston and Ethel Pippen, the youngest of their twelve children. Pippen’s father worked …

Pitts, Elijah Eugene

Elijah Eugene Pitts was a football player who grew up in Mayflower (Faulkner County), played at Philander Smith College, and starred for the Green Bay Packers in the first Super Bowl. He was one of the early black stars of the National Football League (NFL) from the segregated South and had a long career as a player and a professional coach. Elijah Pitts was born on February 3, 1938, one of two sons of Samuel and Gertha Pitts, who were sharecroppers on land near Mayflower. Since there was no nearby school for African Americans, he attended the Pine Street School in Conway (Faulkner County), which black children from Conway and surrounding communities attended before the schools were integrated in 1968. …

Prock, Clifford John

Clifford John Prock served as head football coach for the Harding University Bisons from 1964 to 1987. At the time of his retirement, he was one of the all-time most successful football coaches in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), with 114 victories. Prock is credited with helping reestablish intercollegiate football at Harding, which resumed play in 1959 after a hiatus of nearly thirty years. John Prock was born on March 13, 1929, in Hollis, Oklahoma, the only child of Alonzo (Lonnie) Prock and Lillie Mae Hooks Prock. His father was a short-run freight hauler; the 1930 Harmon County census described his vocation as a “drayman” (truck driver). His mother was a homemaker. The Procks struggled to survive during …

Ray Winder Field

Ray Winder Field in Little Rock (Pulaski County) was the longtime home of the minor league baseball team originally known as the Little Rock Travelers, a name that was later changed to the Arkansas Travelers. Known as Travelers Field when it opened in 1932, the stadium’s name was changed in 1966 in honor of Ray Winder, whose involvement with the Travelers, in roles ranging from ticket taker to part-owner and general manager, spanned half a century. The stadium, designed by the Little Rock architecture firm of Thompson, Sanders and Ginocchio, was built in 1931. It was located in what was known as Fair Park (later War Memorial Park), with the Little Rock Zoo as a neighbor to the west. In …

Razorbacks Football Team

Because the state of Arkansas lacks a National Football League team, its college football programs draw a great deal of attention every year. As measured in print and broadcast media coverage and observed in vehicle decorations, the football team of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), the Razorbacks, is the most popular. Although they have not enjoyed the kind of success achieved by similar programs in other states, such as Nebraska and Oklahoma, the Razorbacks continue to receive widespread fan support and attention every football season. The football team of UA was founded in 1894. That same year, a contest was held to pick the new school colors, with cardinal red and white being chosen. UA’s first …

Rebel Stakes

The Rebel Stakes, a thoroughbred horse race restricted to three-year-old colts and geldings, has been run each year since 1961 at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs (Garland County). Over the years, it has developed into an important preparatory race not only for the $1 million Arkansas Derby, but also for the subsequent Triple Crown races. (The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes make up the Triple Crown.) The Rebel Stakes is traditionally held in mid-March. Stakes races—so called because of the stake, or entry fee, owners must pay—are rated grade one (the highest), grade two, or grade three based on the size of the purse. (The purse is the prize money that is divided among the horses competing …

Rector, James Alcorn “Indian”

James Alcorn “Indian” Rector, who took the silver medal in the 100 meters at the 1908 Olympic Games, was the first Arkansan to win an Olympic medal. His nickname “Indian” is said to have been given to him by his teammates or East Coast track fans who said he ran like an Indian. Born on June 22, 1884, in Hot Springs (Garland County), James Alcorn Rector was the fourth of six children of Elias William Rector and Rosebud Alcorn Rector. His paternal grandfather, Henry Massie Rector, served as governor of Arkansas, while his maternal grandfather, James Lusk Alcorn, served as governor of Mississippi. His father practiced law and was a representative in the Arkansas General Assembly. After attending schools in Hot Springs, …

Redbug Field

Redbug Field in Fordyce (Dallas County) is a high school football field with its significance lying in the fact that future University of Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant learned to play the game there in the late 1920s. The regulation-sized football field was listed on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places on August 6, 2014. Football is important to the history of Fordyce, a town where Arkansas’s first high school football program was started in 1904 when New York native Tom Meddick organized a high school team at the Clary Training School. By 1909, Fordyce High School also fielded a team. The original playing field was behind the high school, but in the mid-1920s, it was relocated to accommodate a …

Rice Bowl

Established in 1936, the World’s Champion Duck Calling Contest has annually attracted the finest duck callers and duck hunting enthusiasts in North America to the city of Stuttgart (Arkansas County). The contest is held on the weekend following Thanksgiving Day, just as the college football season is beginning to wind down and the season’s bowl games are on the horizon. In 1957, contest organizers sought to capitalize on the popularity of college football in Arkansas by adding a college football game, known as the Rice Bowl, to the calendar of events. The Rice Bowl’s goal was to showcase the finest small college football teams in the state of Arkansas. In 1957, Rice Bowl committee chairman Shannon Flowers signed an agreement …

Rice, Glen Anthony

Glen Anthony Rice was a professional basketball player from Jacksonville (Pulaski County). Rice played for the Miami Heat (1989–1995), the Charlotte Hornets (1995–1998), the Los Angeles Lakers (1998–2000), the New York Knicks (2000–2001), the Houston Rockets (2001–2003), and the Los Angeles Clippers (2003–2004). His son, Glen Jr., also became an NBA player. Although often billed as being from Flint, Michigan, Glen Anthony Rice was born on May 28, 1967, in Jacksonville. When Rice was a few months old, the family moved to Benton (Saline County), where the Rice family lived in Benton’s Ralph Bunche Community. While in Benton, Rice attended both Angie Grant and Howard Perrin elementary schools. When Rice was twelve, the Rice family moved to Flint, Michigan, where …

Richards, Jack Spage “Spadjo”

Jack “Spadjo” Richards was an amateur boxer, former Razorback, and professional football player from Benton (Saline County). From March 1942 to 1943, he served as a U.S. Marine, notably in the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II. He was a letterman at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1948 and 1950. Between 1951 and 1955, he played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, and Chicago Bears. Following his sports career, he worked for Alcoa and as an iron worker and heavy equipment operator until his death in 2009. Jack Spage Richards was born on March 22, 1926, to Frank William Richards and Ludy Ann Miller in Benton. He was the youngest of seven children. He …

Richardson, Nolan

Nolan Richardson is one of the most famous coaches to have served the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) Razorbacks basketball program. Richardson won nearly 400 games at UA using his unique style, known as “forty minutes of hell.” Nolan Richardson was born on December 27, 1941, in El Paso, Texas. He lived only a short distance from Mexico and grew up in a predominantly Mexican El Paso neighborhood. Richardson was three when his mother died, and, as his father was an alcoholic, Richardson was raised by his grandmother. While playing basketball at Bowie High School, Nolan caught the eye of legendary coach Don Haskins and was recruited to play collegiately at Texas Western College (now the University …

Roaf, William (Willie)

Willie Roaf became one of the greatest football players in Arkansas sports history and one of the best offensive linemen ever in the National Football League (NFL). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. William Roaf was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on April 18, 1970, one of four children of dentist Clifton Roaf and attorney Andree Layton Roaf. (Andree Roaf was the first African-American female member of the Arkansas Supreme Court and the second woman ever to serve in that capacity.) Though he played football at Pine Bluff High School, graduating in 1988, he was not recruited by any major colleges. After he was told that he would need to gain more weight …

Robinson, Brooks Calbert, Jr.

Little Rock (Pulaski County) native Brooks Calbert Robinson Jr. made his debut as a major league baseball player with the Baltimore Orioles at the age of eighteen. By the time he retired as an active player after twenty-three seasons, Robinson was regarded by many as the best third baseman ever to play the game. Brooks Robinson was born in Little Rock on May 18, 1937, to Brooks Calbert and Ethel Denker Robinson. A brother, Gary, was born five years later. His father, a fireman, had played semiprofessional baseball and in 1937 was a member of the International Harvester softball team from Little Rock that played in the finals of the World Softball Championship in Chicago. Robinson began playing baseball at …

Rodeo of the Ozarks

The Rodeo of the Ozarks in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties) was, in 2008, ranked in the top five of large outdoor rodeos in the United States. It is estimated to have a $6 to $7 million impact on northwest Arkansas. The Rodeo of the Ozarks was founded in 1945. That year, a pair of construction workers from Oklahoma who also worked as rodeo promoters, Paul Bond and Bill Kelley, were working in Springdale and raised the idea of starting an event that summer. Eventually, this idea was passed along to Thurman “Shorty” Parsons and Dempsey Letsch, co-owners of a feed store. Under their leadership, the Rodeo of the Ozarks became a reality in 1945, with the dates July 1, 3, …

Roe, “Preacher”

aka: Elwin Charles Roe
Elwin Charles “Preacher” Roe played professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Brooklyn Dodgers. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Roe was one of the top pitchers in the game. Preacher Roe was born on February 26, 1916, to Charles Edward Roe and Elizabeth (Ducker) Roe in Ash Flat (Sharp County). The Roe family, which included six boys and one girl, moved from Wild Cherry (Fulton County), where they had moved in 1918, to Viola (Fulton County) when Roe was six. Roe’s father played for a semi-professional team in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) but gave up baseball as a career and became a country doctor. Roe got his nickname at about three years of age when …

Roller Derby

Roller derby, a national sport that has experienced several cycles of growth and decline, began increasing in popularity in Arkansas in the mid-2000s. Although a co-ed sport when it originated, roller derby’s current status is that of a women’s sport. Roller derby’s roots date back to the 1930s when dance marathons and bike races were popular. Leo Seltzer conceived the sport in 1933. For what was initially a no-contact sport, twenty-five teams made up of one male and one female skated for twelve to fourteen hours a day, with the men competing with the men and the women competing with the women. The goal was to cover the distance between New York City and Los Angeles, or about 3,000 miles. …

Rowe, “Schoolboy”

aka: Lynwood Thomas Rowe
Lynwood Thomas “Schoolboy” Rowe was a sports star from El Dorado (Union County) who became one of the most famous major league baseball pitchers of the 1930s and 1940s. With three other pitchers—Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, and Smokey Joe Wood—Rowe still (as of 2011) holds the American League record for most consecutive victories, winning sixteen straight games in 1934. Lynwood “Schoolboy” Rowe was born on January 11, 1910, in Waco, Texas, the son of Thomas M. Rowe and Ruby Hardin Rowe. The Rowes soon moved to El Dorado, where Rowe and his brother, Mark, attended El Dorado schools. He established himself as a superior athlete in elementary school and was later a star in football, track, basketball, tennis, and baseball. …

Running and Walking

In Arkansas, running and walking have long been used for exercise and fitness. Enthusiasts support each, especially as Arkansans become more health conscious. Arkansas also is home to a number of events and organizations devoted to running and walking. Walking draws the largest percentage of people exercising, but, beyond basic fitness walking, there are also speed walkers (sometimes referred to as power walkers) who walk at paces ranging from ten to sixteen minutes per mile. There are also race walkers who must abide by specific USA Track and Field (USATF) rules when it comes to form and style of walking. They can be very speedy, often walking faster than many runners. One club in the state is dedicated only to …

Runyan, Paul

Paul Runyan is a household name in Arkansas golf history. He won the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Championship twice, in 1934 and 1938. At the diminutive size of 5’7″ and 125 pounds, Runyan earned the nickname “Little Poison” both because of his stature and because of his style of play—producing only short drives but relying on tremendously accurate freeway wood play. Paul Scott Runyan was born in Hot Springs (Garland County) on July 12, 1908, to Walter and Mamie Runyan; he had an older brother, Dixon. His father was a farmer who also worked at the Majestic Hotel across the street from Hot Springs Country Club. Despite numerous chores, Runyan escaped to the golf course, where he made money caddying …

Sain, John Franklin (Johnny)

Johnny Franklin Sain was a star major league pitcher and is widely considered to have been the best pitching coach in major league baseball history. Sain had unique (and still controversial) approaches to working with pitchers, the success of which earned him the respect and affection of his charges. As a pitcher, he won 139 games, the third-highest total for an Arkansas native, right behind Lon Warneke, who had 192 wins, and Dizzy Dean, who had 150. Johnny Sain was born on September 25, 1917, in Havana (Yell County) to John Franklin Sain Sr. and Eva Sain. He had a sister, Agnes. His father, an auto mechanic, taught him how to throw a curveball, which Sain later said served him …

Salt Bowl

Competition between football teams representing Saline County’s two largest cities, Benton and Bryant, gave birth to the Salt Bowl in the fall of 2000. Played between the Benton High School Panthers and the Bryant High School Hornets, the game attracts fans and alumni representing all of Saline County. The average number attending annually exceeds 20,000; according to the Saline Courier, 34,086 attended in 2015. The Salt Bowl is played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1973, Fort Smith Southside ended its contract with Benton and would no longer play against its team. Meanwhile, Bryant was looking for a new rival, having just become a 3-A school. It was decided that Benton and Bryant would face-off the …

Schmidt, Charles “Boss”

Arkansas native Charles “Boss” Schmidt was a baseball player whose minor and major league career spanned most of the first two decades of the twentieth century. His nickname was a tribute to the toughness he exhibited, especially in fights during his baseball career (with other ballplayers, including his Detroit Tigers teammate Ty Cobb) and during a brief stint as a boxer. Charles Schmidt was born on September 12, 1880, in London (Pope County)—some sources say Coal Hill (Johnson County)—to German immigrants John and Mary Schmidt. It is unclear how many siblings he had, but a younger brother, Walter, played professional baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates. As a youth, Schmidt worked in the coal mines central to the region’s economy. While …

Schoonover, Wear Kibler

Wear Kibler Schoonover won many academic and athletic awards while attending the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). While he was part of the All-American football team, he went to Hollywood to play a part in the film Maybe It’s Love. Schoonover later served in the U.S. Navy and worked for the government in the Legal Services Department of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wear Schoonover was born on March 18, 1910, in Pocahontas (Randolph County) to attorney Eugene Gardiner Schoonover and Estelle Waddle Schoonover; he had two siblings who died in infancy and one brother. Schoonover graduated from Pocahontas High School and attended UA, accomplishing much in both academics and sports. Schoonover was the first UA athlete …

Scott, Clyde Luther “Smackover”

Clyde Luther “Smackover” Scott, who received his nickname and his notoriety as a football player from the town he grew up in, became legendary at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). An Olympian and a two-sport star for the Razorbacks, he was named the state’s athlete of the century by readers of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2000. Scott was a three-time Southwest Conference player and an All-American in football in 1948. He also lettered in track and proclaimed himself to be self taught in this sport. Clyde Scott was born in Dixie, Louisiana, on August 29, 1924, to Luther and Callie Scott. His father was a gang manager for Liberty Oil Company. Clyde was the third of …