Judges

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Adkisson, Richard B.

Richard B. Adkisson was a prominent figure in the Arkansas legal community in the latter part of the twentieth century. He worked as both a prosecutor and a judge, and he served as chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court at the end of his career. Richard Blanks Adkisson was born on October 12, 1932, to Sam E. Adkisson and Kathleen Blanks Adkisson of Mount Vernon (Faulkner County). He received his early education in the local public schools of Mount Vernon, Conway (Faulkner County), and Russellville (Pope County) before serving in the U.S. Air Force from January 1951 to July 1954. Following his discharge from the air force, he studied at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), …

Alderson, Edwin Boyd Jr.

Edwin Alderson Jr. became a prominent lawyer, jurist, and businessman in Arkansas in the late twentieth century. A lifelong booster of his hometown of El Dorado (Union County), he was also an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Edwin Boyd Alderson Jr. was born on May 16, 1940, to Edwin Boyd Alderson and Jewell Sample Murphy Alderson. The couple’s oldest son, he was a sixth-generation resident of Union County. After graduating from El Dorado High School in 1958, Alderson earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, in 1962. He did postgraduate study in philosophy for a year at the University of Georgia before moving to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where …

Arnold, Morris Sheppard “Buzz”

Morris Sheppard “Buzz” Arnold is a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The U.S. Eighth Circuit comprises seven states: Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. From 1992 to 2004, Arnold and his older brother, Richard Sheppard Arnold, had the distinction of being the only brothers in U.S. history to serve simultaneously on the same federal court of appeals. Morris Arnold, known informally as Buzz, was born on October 8, 1941, in Texarkana, Texas, to Richard Lewis Arnold and Janet Sheppard Arnold. His father was a lawyer, as was his grandfather, William Hendrick Arnold, who founded the Arnold and Arnold law firm in 1883 in Texarkana (Miller County). Arnold received a …

Arnold, Richard Sheppard

Richard Sheppard Arnold served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (which includes Arkansas) for twenty-four years, including seven years as the court’s chief judge. Widely considered a top candidate for nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Arnold narrowly missed appointments in 1993 and 1994. President Bill Clinton attributed his selection of other candidates to concerns about Arnold’s health. Richard Arnold was born in Texarkana, Texas, on March 26, 1936, to Richard Lewis Arnold and Janet Sheppard Arnold. The family had long been prominent in legal and political circles. Arnold’s paternal grandfather, William Hendrick Arnold, founded Arnold and Arnold, the leading law firm of southern Arkansas. His maternal grandfather was Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas. Arnold was …

Arnold, William Howard “Dub”

William Howard “Dub” Arnold is a former prosecutor, municipal judge, and chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Dub Arnold was born on May 19, 1935, in Arkadelphia (Clark County) to Howard Arnold, who was a farmer and store owner, and Melvia Taylor Arnold. The Arnolds also had two daughters, both of whom died as children. Arnold grew up in Clark County and attended school in rural Clark County and Gurdon (Clark County) before graduating from Arkadelphia High School in 1954. He had been elected student body president. The family had moved to Arkadelphia when Howard Arnold was elected as Clark County sheriff. The Arnold family lived in an apartment under the jail during his high school years. Arnold attended …

Baker, Basil

Basil Thorpe Baker served on the Arkansas Supreme Court from 1934 until his death in 1941, and while his service was not long, his name appeared on 333 opinions, most of which reflected the sentiments of a unanimous court. On those occasions when he did dissent, his vote was usually cast for the common man as opposed to the large corporation. He was, his colleagues recalled, “neither a confirmed conservative nor liberal in his interpretations of Arkansas statutes.” Instead, as Horace Sloan observed, “he had a natural legal mind.” Basil Baker was born on January 29, 1871, to Joshua D. and Bethia T. Jameson Baker on their Columbia County farm; he had one brother. His father was a farmer and …

Battle, Burrill Bunn

Burrill Bunn Battle was a prominent Arkansas attorney and jurist in the latter decades of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century. Although he was born in Mississippi, his family moved to Arkansas when he was a child, and it was there that he embarked on a legal career that culminated in a twenty-five-year tenure on the Arkansas Supreme Court. Burrill B. Battle was born on October 24, 1838, in Hinds County in Mississippi. His parents, Joseph Battle and Nancy Stricklin Battle, were native North Carolinians, but when Battle was six, the family relocated to Arkansas, settling in Lafayette County, where he received his early education. From there, Battle attended Arkansas College in Fayetteville (Washington County), …

Bocage, Joseph William

Judge Joseph William Bocage was a prominent pioneer settler of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). He served as attorney for the Second Judicial District from 1844 to 1849 and as judge of the county court. In 1847, he prosecuted the first trial in Jefferson County to result in an execution. He was a successful planter, lumberman, inventor, manufacturer, and building contractor. Late in his life, he served as mayor of Pine Bluff. Joseph Bocage was born on May 8, 1819, on the island of St. Lucia in the French West Indies. His father, William Coit Bocage, owned a large sugar and coffee plantation, a mercantile, and a shipping business. He died at the age of twenty-one, when Bocage was an infant. …

Bowen, Thomas Meade

Thomas Meade Bowen was a Civil War officer for the Union, president of the 1868 Arkansas Constitutional Convention, and an Arkansas Supreme Court justice. He was involved in the extremely factionalized Republican Party during Reconstruction in Arkansas. After serving on the Arkansas Supreme Court, Bowen accepted an appointment from President Ulysses S. Grant to become governor of the Idaho Territory. Bowen returned to Arkansas shortly after and then moved to Colorado to pursue mining ventures. There, he also served in the Colorado State Senate. Thomas Bowen was born on October 26, 1835, near Burlington, Iowa. He attended Mount Pleasant Academy and began practicing law at age eighteen in 1853. In 1856, Bowen was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives. …

Brill, Howard Walter

Howard Walter Brill, a professor of law at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), earned a national reputation as an authority on legal ethics and served sixteen months, in 2015 and 2016, as chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. His 1986 book, Arkansas Professional and Judicial Ethics, and seven subsequent editions dictated the state’s regulation of the conduct of lawyers and judges for more than a generation. Howard Brill was born on October 18, 1943, in Englewood, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City. His parents, Edwin Lois Brill Jr. and Catharine Linsmann Brill, were born in the Bronx and married there but moved across the river to New Jersey before Howard and …

Brown, Lyle

Lyle Brown was a lawyer and historian who capped a career in politics by serving for twenty-one years as a circuit judge and justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Brown earned some renown as the only justice on the court at the time to insist on the right of the state’s public schools to teach evolutionary theory. When a legal challenge to the state’s 1928 initiated act that forbade the teaching of evolution reached the Arkansas Supreme Court late in 1966, there was intense pressure for the court to be united in upholding the law, which was widely believed to protect the biblical account of the creation of the universe from perceived scientific attacks. To satisfy two justices who originally …

Brown, Robert Laidlaw (Bob)

An attorney with a successful career in politics working for Dale Bumpers and Jim Guy Tucker, Robert L. Brown served as associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court from 1991 until his retirement in 2012. Brown authored several opinions that changed the landscape of Arkansas history, including the Lake View School District No. 25 v. Huckabee public school lawsuit and U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, which was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Robert Laidlaw (Bob) Brown was born in Houston, Texas, on June 30, 1941, to Robert and Katherine Brown; he had two sisters. His father was an Episcopal priest who began his ministry in Harlingen, Texas. Brown began his education in public school at Sanger Elementary School …

Bunn, Henry Gaston

Henry G. Bunn was a prominent lawyer and judge in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Highly respected in the legal community, he served for eleven years as chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Henry Gaston Bunn was born on June 12, 1838, near Rocky Mount in Nash County, North Carolina, to David and Elizabeth Bunn. The family moved to Fayette County, Tennessee, in 1844 and, two years later moved again, settling in Calhoun County, Arkansas. Bunn received his early education in the county schools before returning to North Carolina to Davidson College, which he attended until 1861. Returning to Arkansas, he joined the Confederate army, helping raise a company that became part of the Fourth Arkansas Infantry …

Burgess, Franklin

Arkansas native Franklin Burgess earned All-American honors in basketball at Washington State’s Gonzaga University and played professionally before going on to a successful career as a lawyer and judge. Franklin D. Burgess was born on March 9, 1935, in Eudora (Chicot County) to Morris and Ollie Burgess. Burgess attended Eudora Colored High School and then spent one year at Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (AM&N), which is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, before joining the U.S. Air Force. After his discharge in 1958, he entered Gonzaga University. By this time, he and his wife, Treava Burgess, had twin daughters, so Burgess focused on the school’s academic offerings as well as its basketball program. He earned a …

Butler, Turner

Lawyer and jurist Turner Butler was a farmer and schoolteacher before educating himself in law. Butler practiced law for twenty years before being elected a chancery judge. He was a trial judge for fifteen years before he was appointed and then elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court, where he served the last nine years of his life. As a justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1930, he wrote a sublime opinion establishing the precedent that the courts must stand in the way of corporations doing harm to land and streams in the pursuit of private profit or the alleged public good. Turner Butler was born on July 7, 1869, as Phillip Turner Butler, in the town of Poplar Bluff …

Byrd, Conley F

Conley F Byrd Sr. was a sharecroppers’ son from northeastern Arkansas who, after World War II, became a lawyer and a justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He proved to be a maverick on the court by dissenting often, and he frustrated some members of the elite court with his obstinacy. Injuries from vehicle accidents left him in so much pain that he retired in 1980 and spent the last thirty-four years of his life farming in the woods east of Redfield (Jefferson County). Conley F Byrd (he had no middle name, just the initial) was born on January 14, 1925, in Poughkeepsie (Sharp County). His parents, Robert Lee Byrd and Artie Elizabeth Barnes Byrd, were sharecroppers. They lived in …

Claiborne, Harry Eugene

Harry Eugene Claiborne, a native of McRae (White County), was a lawyer, politician, and later a federal judge in Las Vegas, Nevada. Claiborne became known nationwide in 1986 as the first sitting federal judge to be sent to prison and the fifth person in American history to be removed from his or her position through impeachment by the U.S. Senate. Harry Claiborne was born on July 2, 1917, in the Lebanon community just outside McRae. His father, Arthur Smith Claiborne Jr., was a cotton farmer, and his mother, Minnie King Claiborne, was a schoolteacher. Early on, Claiborne gained a reputation in McRae for his speaking ability, and he would often accompany his grandfather to view court proceedings at the White …

Clendenin, John J.

John J. Clendenin was an influential lawyer and judge in Arkansas before and after the Civil War. He also served a short term as a member of the Reconstruction-era Supreme Court of Arkansas. John Joseph Clendenin was born on September 2, 1813, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Not much is known about his youth beyond the fact that to support his widowed mother, as well as his siblings, he worked as a clerk in a Harrisburg-area post office while also gaining some business experience. He also read the law for several years with prominent attorney (and future vice president) George Mifflin Dallas. He then clerked for future senator and secretary of war Simon Cameron. In 1836, Clendenin made his way to Arkansas, …

Cockrill, Sterling Robertson

The chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court from 1884 to 1893, Sterling Robertson Cockrill was only thirty-seven years old when he ascended the bench as the youngest chief justice in the state’s history (a record he still holds). A product of a law school education rather than the old apprenticeship system, Cockrill strongly embraced the codification of legal procedures that the Republican Party had enacted during Reconstruction and thus moved Arkansas more into the nation’s judicial mainstream. Although his tenure on the court was short, his influence was long-lasting. Sterling Robertson Cockrill was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 26, 1847, to Henrietta McDonald Cockrill and her husband, Sterling Robertson Cockrill. Young Cockrill was sometimes identified in Arkansas as …

Corbin, Donald Louis

Donald Louis Corbin had a career as a state legislator and appellate judge spanning forty-four years. As a state representative, Corbin developed a reputation as a plainspoken maverick, and, as a judge, a reputation for pushing his colleagues to take unpopular stands, particularly on social issues. As his twenty-four-year career as a justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court was coming to an end in 2014, he had a bitter disagreement with other justices whom he thought had connived to avoid rendering a decision in the controversy over legalizing marriages of same-sex couples. Donald L. Corbin was born on March 29, 1938, in Hot Springs (Garland County), where his father, Louis Emerson Corbin, was a meat-market manager for a Kroger grocery …

Davies, Ronald Norwood

Ronald Norwood Davies was the U.S. district judge who presided over the litigation involving the 1957 integration of Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Ronald N. Davies was born on December 11, 1904, in Crookston, Minnesota, to country editor Norwood S. Davies and his wife Minnie M. Davies. In 1917, the family of seven moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where Davies completed elementary school. In 1922, he graduated from Central High School in Grand Forks and went on to attend the University of North Dakota. Davies received his BA degree from the University of North Dakota, College of Liberal Arts, in 1927 and, three years later, earned a law degree from Georgetown University in Washington DC. Davies …

Dickey, Betty

Betty Clark Dickey is a former chief justice and justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. She became the first woman to serve as the court’s chief justice. Betty Clark was born in Black Rock (Lawrence County) on February 23, 1940, to Millard Morris Clark and Myrtle Norris Clark. She grew up in nearby Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County), graduating as valedictorian from Walnut Ridge High School in 1958, where she played forward on the girls’ basketball team. She went on to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where she studied education, graduating in 1962 with a BA. She married Jay Woodson Dickey Jr., a lawyer from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) who later served as the Fourth District congressman …

Dickinson, Townsend

Townsend Dickinson was elected to the territorial legislature and served as prosecuting attorney for his territorial district. He was appointed U.S. Land Office Registrar of Batesville (Independence County) in 1833. He served as a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1836. Following the convention, he was elected to the first Arkansas General Assembly, which soon made him one of three original members of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Little is known about Dickinson’s childhood, but it appears he was born in Yonkers, New York, in 1795. He was said to be a very polished and well-spoken scholar. In 1821, he moved from New York to Lawrence County, Arkansas. He then moved to Batesville, practicing law and dabbling in real estate. …

Driver, William “Judge”

William Joshua “Judge” Driver of Mississippi County served as a member of the Arkansas legislature (1897–1899), as circuit judge in the Second Judicial District (1911–1918), and as U.S. representative from Arkansas’s First Congressional District (1921–1939). During his tenure in Washington DC, Driver served as president of the powerful National Rivers and Harbors Congress for many years and became chairman of that group’s board of directors in 1940. Driver used his position in the National Rivers and Harbors Congress to influence federal flood control legislation that greatly benefited Arkansas in the early twentieth century. William Driver was born near Osceola (Mississippi County) on March 2, 1873, the second of John B. Driver and Margaret Ann Bowen Driver’s eight children. His father …

Dudley, Robert Hamilton (Bob)

Robert Hamilton Dudley—who followed a lineage of lawyers, politicians, and judges—was a longtime trial judge and justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He retired in 1996. Robert H. (Bob) Dudley was born on November 18, 1933, in Jonesboro (Craighead County), the son of Denver Layton Dudley, who was a lawyer, and Helen Paslay Dudley, a schoolteacher and clinical psychologist. An older brother died as an infant. Dudley’s family had a long history in Arkansas. After fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War, Dudley’s great-grandfather left Kentucky and settled in northeastern Arkansas at Piggott (Clay County). Dudley’s grandfather, Robert H. Dudley, was elected treasurer of Clay County in 1900, to the Arkansas House of Representatives for a single term in …

Eakin, Jno

aka: John Rogers Eakin
Jno Rogers (John) Eakin, an editor, jurist, champion of women’s rights, and viniculturalist, made notable accomplishments in all four fields. During the Civil War, he edited the Washington Telegraph, making it the state’s only newspaper to remain in operation throughout the war. As a jurist, he served as chancellor from 1874 to 1878 and then as an associate justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court until his death in 1885. His vigorous repudiation of the common law’s entrenched hostility to women was reflected first in his work as chancellor and carried over into his well-crafted, but dissenting, opinions on the Supreme Court. His essay on grape culture was one of the earliest agricultural publications in the state. John Eakin was born …

Eisele, Garnett Thomas (Tom)

Garnett Thomas (Tom) Eisele was a lawyer, veteran of the U.S. military, and judge. Serving for forty-one years as a federal district judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Eisele—a lifelong Republican—was on the bench during a time of dramatic change in Arkansas legal history. Eisele gained a reputation for fairness and probity in a period when Arkansas was emerging from Jim Crow–era discriminatory practices concerning race, law enforcement, and the justice system.   Tom Eisele was born in Hot Springs (Garland County) on November 3, 1923, to Arkansas native Mary Eisele and Missouri native Garnett Eisele, who was a druggist. His grandfather, Will Martin, was a lawyer. In Hot Springs, Eisele enjoyed the benefits of a middle-class upbringing. He …

English, Elbert Hartwell

Elbert Hartwell English was one of the most important jurists in Arkansas across a crucial period of legal development and turmoil in the state, including the eras of the Civil War and Reconstruction. In addition to his years of private practice, English served as chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court for a total of twenty years, one of only four chief justices to have served over twelve years in the role. E. H. English was born on March 6, 1816, to James English, who was a planter, and Nancy McCracken English in Madison County, Alabama. The family moved to Limestone County, Alabama, and eventually included ten children. English was educated in local schools and through private tutelage. He lived …

Erwin, Judson Landers, Jr.

Judson Landers (J. L.) Erwin Jr. served as the county judge of Desha County from 1947 to his death in 1968. He was never opposed for reelection. During his time in the position, he was a strong supporter of libraries and brought many improvements to the county. J. L. Erwin was born on August 11, 1909, in McGehee (Desha County), son of Judson L. Erwin Sr., who was a railroad engineer, and Batie Rhodes Erwin. He had three younger sisters, one of whom died in childhood. His father died when Erwin was seventeen. The family got by with only his after-school earnings and money from renting out rooms in the house; this experience shaped the lifelong frugal financial policies by …

Eskridge, Thomas P.

Thomas P. Eskridge was a judge on the Superior Court of Arkansas Territory, which eventually became the Arkansas Supreme Court. Though he left the spotlight to others, he played a substantive role in the development of the Arkansas court system. While there is little documentation on his early life, it appears that Thomas Eskridge was born around 1797 to William Eskridge and Elizabeth Scott Eskridge in Staunton, Virginia. He came from a large family with possibly as many as ten children. It is believed that he received his legal training serving as a clerk for a Virginia lawyer. He moved to Arkansas in 1820 or 1821, just as the Arkansas Territory was developing and its judiciary was taking shape. Eskridge …

Evans, Timothy C.

Timothy C. Evans of Hot Springs (Garland County) was the first African American to be elected as chief judge of the Cook County Circuit Court of Illinois. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2010. Timothy Evans was born on June 1, 1943, in Hot Springs, to George Evans and Tiny Marie Evans. His father would later become a bailiff for the Illinois State Supreme Court, a position he held for twenty-seven years. Evans has two siblings: George W. Evans and Sandra M. Johnson. As a child in Hot Springs, Evans wanted to be a doctor. The family moved to Chicago, Illinois, shortly after Governor Orval Faubus closed Little Rock (Pulaski County) public schools to impede …

Frauenthal, Samuel

Samuel Frauenthal was a prominent lawyer and judge in Arkansas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With his appointment in 1909, he became the first person of the Jewish faith to serve on the Arkansas Supreme Court. Samuel Frauenthal was born on August 8, 1862, in Louisville, Kentucky. He was one of seven children of Jacob and Yetta Frauenthal, both of whom had been born in Bavaria, Germany. The family moved to Russellville, Kentucky, and Frauenthal received his early education in the Russellville schools. He then attended the local Bethel College, from which he received a BA in 1880. Following his graduation from Bethel, he pursued the study of law, although there are conflicting reports about whether he …

Fussell, Robert Foreman (Bobby)

Robert Foreman (Bobby) Fussell had a long career as a lawyer championing the legal rights of disabled veterans and the deaf, prosecuting prominent state political figures, and presiding over federal bankruptcy courts. He was a U.S. bankruptcy judge for twenty years, most of them as the chief bankruptcy judge of the Arkansas courts. Bobby Fussell was born on January 1, 1938, at Forrest City (St. Francis County), one of three sons of James V. Fussell Jr. and Dorothy Hall Fussell. His father ran a cotton gin and a service station. Fussell got a degree in business in 1959 and a law degree in 1965 from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). He then became a U.S. Army …

Gibbs, Mifflin Wistar

Mifflin Wistar Gibbs was a Little Rock (Pulaski County) businessman, a politician, and the first elected African-American municipal judge in the United States. Mifflin Gibbs was born on April 17, 1823, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest of four children born to Jonathan and Maria Gibbs. His father, a Methodist minister, died when Mifflin was a child, and his mother worked as a laundress. Gibbs learned carpentry through an apprenticeship. He read widely and attended debates at the Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons. He had a chance to practice his own oratory in the 1840s when Frederick Douglass invited him to help conduct an abolitionist lecture tour. Journeying to California soon after the gold rush of 1849, he became a …

Glaze, Thomas Arthur (Tom)

Thomas Arthur (Tom) Glaze was a lawyer whose crusade against election fraud in the 1960s and 1970s propelled him into politics and a thirty-year career as a trial and appellate judge. Fresh out of law school in 1964, Glaze went to work for an organization that investigated election fraud and irregularities—an organization secretly funded by Republican Winthrop Rockefeller. The experience consumed him and inspired the rest of his legal career. As a deputy attorney general in 1969, Glaze rewrote Arkansas election laws, although the Arkansas General Assembly drastically weakened his draft before enacting the reforms. He was a justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court for twenty-two years, retiring in 2008. He recounted his battles with what he called “vote thieves” …

Gregg, Lafayette

One of the most enigmatic, if relatively unknown, figures in Arkansas history is Judge Lafayette Gregg. Gregg was a member of one of the pioneering families in northwest Arkansas and was involved in one way or another in nearly every major historical event in Arkansas history that happened during his lifetime. Although most remembered as an instrumental figure in the location of Arkansas Industrial University—later the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County)—in northwest Arkansas, he was also a banker, lawyer, state representative, Civil War veteran, and Arkansas Supreme Court justice. At the time of his death, Gregg was in service to Arkansas helping prepare the state’s exhibition for the 1893 World’s Fair. Lafayette Gregg was born on February …

Gunter, James Houston (Jim), Jr.

Lawyer and politician James Houston Gunter Jr. was a prosecutor and judge for thirty-six years in the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century, spending the final eight years of his public career as a justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court. He retired after one term on the Supreme Court and returned to a private law practice and cattle farming. James Gunter was born on March 8, 1943, in Atlanta, Texas, the oldest of four children of James H. Gunter Sr. and Helen Marie Long Gunter. His father went into the U.S. Army when Gunter was an infant, and he and his mother lived with his grandmother until World War II ended. The family lived in Arkansas on the farm …

Hannah, James Robert (Jim)

James Robert (Jim) Hannah was a popular jurist who, as chief justice, led the Arkansas Supreme Court through a tumultuous period early in the twenty-first century. Hannah, who was known for his dignity and soft-spoken leadership, spent more than thirty-six years as a trial court judge and Supreme Court justice. When deeply divisive political issues reached the court after his election as chief justice in 2004, however, he could not prevent a fracture among the justices. Jim Hannah was born on December 26, 1944, at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Long Beach, California, to Frank Alvin Hannah, who was an officer in the U.S. Navy, and Virginia Marie Stine Hannah. His father was stationed in California and Miami, Florida, in …

Harris, Oren

Oren Harris served as prosecuting attorney of Arkansas’s Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (1937–1940) and in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the Fourth Congressional District from 1941 to 1953 and, following redistricting, the Seventh Congressional District from 1953 to 1966. Harris resigned his congressional seat in February 1966 after President Lyndon Johnson appointed him U.S. district judge for the Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas. Although Harris took senior status with the court in 1976, he fulfilled his promise to work until “he couldn’t put his socks on” and carried a full docket of cases for two additional decades. Oren Harris was born on a farm in Belton (Hempstead County) on December 20, 1903, to Homer Harris and Bettie Bullock Harris, …

Hart, Jesse Cleveland

Jesse Cleveland Hart was appointed associate justice to the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1907 after the death of Justice James E. Riddick, who died of typhoid fever on October 9, 1907, while in office. Hart served as an associate justice until 1927, when he was appointed chief justice following the resignation of Chief Justice Edgar A. McCulloch. Hart served as chief justice until his death in 1933. Jesse C. Hart was born in a two-story log home near Dardanelle (Yell County) on July 25, 1864. Hart was the second of seven children of James E. Hart, who was a physician, and Sarah Stone, both pioneers of Yell County. His mother, a talented and educated woman whose own father was a …

Hays, Marion Steele

Steele Hays was a lawyer—and son of one of Arkansas’s most enduring and successful politicians—who spent the last fourteen years of his long legal career as a justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. His father, Brooks Hays, a Democratic congressman from Arkansas, was renowned in the post–World War II years for his moderation in the struggle over racial segregation in the South. Steele Hays was more avowedly liberal on race and other issues, dissenting alone from upholding the death sentence on every such case that came before the Supreme Court. Marion Steele Hays was born on March 25, 1925, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), one of two children of Brooks Hays and Marion Prather Hays. He was named after his mother …

Hemingway, Wilson Edwin

Wilson E. Hemingway was an influential figure in Arkansas’s legal community in the later part of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century, including brief service on the Arkansas Supreme Court. As an attorney, judge, and corporate leader, he had a sizable impact on Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Arkansas politics, law, and business. Wilson Edwin Hemingway was born on January 4, 1854, in Carrollton, Mississippi, to William Hemingway and Sarah Wesley Jenkins Hemingway. He grew up in Mississippi and spent two years at the University of Mississippi before spending another two at the University of Georgia. He does not appear to have earned a degree from either school. Hemingway taught school from 1872 to 1873, while also …

Henley, Jesse Smith

Jesse Smith Henley presided over a number of desegregation cases but was most noted for reforming the state prison system and being the first federal judge in the country to declare an entire state penitentiary in violation of the Eighth Amendment. J. Smith Henley was born on May 18, 1917, in St. Joe (Searcy County) into a family of lawyers. He had an older brother named Ben and a sister named Wordna (or Wardna). Far from a model student, Henley never formally graduated from high school and seems to have been thrown out of college once. However, he did earn his law degree at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1941. He practiced law …

Hickman, Darrell David

Darrell David Hickman spent almost twenty-two years as a trial-court judge and justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Hickman, who grew up in Searcy (White County), was first elected chancery judge in a district that stretched to Little Rock (Pulaski County) and was elected twice to the Arkansas Supreme Court before retiring in 1990 to follow the seasons and travel from the Canadian Rockies to Mexico and back. He soon returned to Searcy and the town of Pangburn (White County), where he served two more stints as a chancery or circuit judge. Hickman had a propensity for issuing convulsive orders, such as when he declared the Constitutional Convention of 1975 unconstitutional, and for writing colorful opinions, such as when he …

Holt, Jack Wilson, Jr.

Jack Wilson Holt Jr. was chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court for ten years, and his landmark lawsuit against the Arkansas penitentiary caused the entire Arkansas prison system to be declared unconstitutional in 1970, triggering judicially inspired prison reforms in many states. Jack Holt Jr. was born Samuel Wilson Holt on May 18, 1929, in Harrison (Boone County) to Jack Wilson Holt Sr. and Margaret Spikes Holt; he had a younger sister. He insisted that his parents change his name to Jack because children teased him that he had a girl’s name, Sammie. In 1928, his father was elected prosecuting attorney and, in 1934, circuit judge for the Fourteenth Circuit. His father was elected attorney general in 1936, and …

Holt, Jack Wilson, Sr.

Jack Wilson Holt Sr. was an eminent Arkansas politician for two decades in the mid-twentieth century. He was attorney general for three terms before World War II but lost three bitter races for governor and U.S. senator to the dominant politicians of the postwar era—John L. McClellan, Sid McMath, and Francis Cherry. Jack Holt, one of eleven children of Bud and Adeline Holt, was born on February 7, 1903, on his family’s farm along Crooked Creek north of Harrison (Boone County). He entered the first grade at a one-room school at Walnut Grove and graduated from Harrison High School, where he was a basketball and track star. He often rode a pony into town to attend high school. Holt received …

Holt, Joseph Frank

J. Frank Holt was a major figure in Arkansas legal and political circles in the 1950s and 1960s. He served in numerous public offices, including two terms on the Arkansas Supreme Court. Joseph Franklin Holt was born on October 22, 1910, in Harrison (Boone County). One of eleven children of Noah Calvin “Bud” Holt and Malicia Adeline Moore Holt, he grew up in Harrison, where he sold newspapers and worked in a garage while in high school before attending the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). He had to drop out of college and return home due to the Great Depression. He worked a variety of jobs, including selling insurance, teaching in the Cotter (Baxter County) school district, …

Hoofman, Clifton Howard (Cliff)

Clifton Howard (Cliff) Hoofman, who was reared by grandparents on tenant farms in White County, became a lawyer and politician and held constitutional offices in all three branches of state government. He served in the Arkansas House of Representatives for eight years, the Arkansas Senate for twenty years, four years as a state highway commissioner, and two years on the Arkansas Supreme Court; he also had two separate sojourns of two years each on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. As a close friend and ally of two governors, Bill Clinton and Mike Beebe, Hoofman was instrumental in passing much of the major legislation enacted during their combined twenty years in the governor’s office. Cliff Hoofman was born on June 23, …

Howard, George, Jr.

George Howard Jr. was a trailblazing African-American attorney and judge in the second half of the twentieth century. After becoming one of the first black graduates of the University of Arkansas School of Law, he pursued a career dedicated to the expansion and guarantee of civil rights for all citizens. He became the first African American to be appointed to numerous Arkansas judicial posts, including the Supreme Court of Arkansas. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1994. George Howard Jr. was born on May 13, 1924, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) to George Howard and Sara Howard, who was a public school teacher. He received his early education in Pine Bluff but left home to serve …

Jesson, Bradley Dean

Bradley Dean Jesson was a lawyer and political activist who became chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. In the historic school-funding case Lake View School District No. 25 v. Huckabee, Jesson played a pivotal role in settling the long legal battle to reform the funding and supervision of Arkansas public schools so that they served all children equally and adequately. Jesson, who practiced law at Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and who was known for his dignified and courteous manner as well as for his legal scholarship, first came to prominence as a confidant and adviser for Governor Dale Bumpers. Bradley D. Jesson was born on January 26, 1932, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, the son of Dean Abraham Jesson, who was …