Entries - Entry Category: Law

Arkansas Freedom of Information Act

aka: Freedom of Information Act
aka: FOIA
The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), signed into law by Governor Winthrop Rockefeller on February 14, 1967, is generally considered one of the strongest and best models for open government by investigative reporters and others who research public records for various purposes. The intent of the FOIA is to keep government business and government records open and accessible to the people of Arkansas. The Arkansas FOIA has been called “the people’s law” in that it provides the citizens of Arkansas open access to the conduct of the public’s business at every level of government, as well as ready access to public records on file with a host of custodians for those records in county courthouses, city halls, public schools, …

Arkansas Highway Police

The Arkansas Highway Police is the oldest statewide law enforcement agency in Arkansas and serves as the law enforcement branch of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The duties of the agency have changed over time, but the emphasis remains on protection of the state’s highway and transportation system. The Highway Police is overseen by an agency director with the rank of chief. The chief serves at the pleasure of the director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The Highway Police’s main headquarters are located in Little Rock (Pulaski County) next to the central office of the Department of Transportation. The Highway Police is divided into five districts, each of which is commanded by an officer with the rank of captain. …

Arkansas Law Review

The Arkansas Law Review is a student-edited law journal that publishes scholarly articles on state and national legal issues. Affiliated with the University of Arkansas (UA) School of Law in Fayetteville (Washington County), the journal is published four times each year by the nonprofit Arkansas Law Review, Inc. Each issue contains articles authored by legal scholars or practicing attorneys, as well as student-authored comments and notes on recent legal developments. The Arkansas Law Review published its first issue in January 1947, replacing the University of Arkansas Law School Bulletin, which had been published intermittently since 1929. Dean Robert A. Leflar of the UA School of Law was instrumental in the establishment of the journal. From its inception until the late …

Arkansas Legislative Audit

Arkansas Legislative Audit (ALA) examines the books and records of state agencies and political subdivisions to report on their financial condition and compliance with law. Established in 1953 by the Arkansas General Assembly, ALA is an agency located within the legislative branch of Arkansas state government, reporting to the forty-four-member Legislative Joint Auditing Committee (LJAC), a legislative committee composed of both senators and state representatives. Originally, ALA was created to audit state agencies and institutions. In 1969, overriding Governor Winthrop Rockefeller’s veto, the legislature enacted a law transferring authority to audit counties, municipalities, and school districts from the executive branch to ALA. ALA conducts over 1,000 engagements annually, including audits, special reports, and investigative reports. These engagements examine the state’s …

Arkansas Loan and Thrift

Arkansas Loan and Thrift Corporation (AL&T) was a hybrid bank that operated for three years outside state banking laws with the help of political connections in the 1960s before coming to a scandalous end. A U.S. district judge halted the operations and placed the company in receivership in March 1968, and a federal grand jury indicted three officers of the company, as well as a former Arkansas attorney general. AL&T became a symbol of the corruption and lethargy that were the products of Governor Orval Faubus’s twelve-year control of the statehouse and, in the opinion of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, the Democratic Party’s unfettered reign in government since Reconstruction. It was jokingly called “Arkansas Loan and Theft.” The grand jury indictment …

Arkansas Married Woman’s Property Law

Under the common law that prevailed in all American jurisdictions except Louisiana, once a woman married, all her property passed to her husband. During the nineteenth century, some of the American states began to chip away at what Judge Jno. R. Eakin styled “the old and barbarous common law doctrine.” Arkansas played a leading role in this development; in 1835, Arkansas Territory passed the first law in the nation bestowing on married women the right to keep property in their own names. Two factors influenced the law’s adoption. First, in western areas, men outnumbered women, thus giving the women who were there more power. Second, planters were interested in protecting the bequests made to their daughters from being squandered by …

Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal

The Arkansas prison blood scandal resulted from the state’s selling plasma extracted from prisoners at the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC). Corruption among the administrators of the prison blood program and poor supervision resulted in disease-tainted blood, often carrying hepatitis or HIV, knowingly being shipped to blood brokers, who in turn shipped it to Canada, Europe, and Asia. Revelation of the misdeeds and the healthcare crisis it created in Canada nearly brought down the Liberal Party government in 1997. In 1994, Arkansas became the last state to stop selling plasma extracted from prisoners. Arkansas’s prison blood program began in 1964 as a way for both prisoners and the prison system to make money. (Arkansas law forbids …

Arkansas State Crime Laboratory

The Arkansas State Crime Laboratory was established by Act 517 of 1977, Act 864 of 1979, and Act 45 of 1981. The laboratory offers services to state law enforcement agencies in forensic pathology, toxicology, physical evidence (serological and trace evidence), drug analysis, latent fingerprint identification, firearms and toolmarks, digital evidence, and DNA. The laboratory also participates with several federal agencies in the collection of data in the areas of DNA, through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS); latent fingerprints, though the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS); and firearms, through the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). In 2019, the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory was placed under the newly created umbrella agency the Arkansas Department of Public Safety (ADPS), along …

Arkansas State Police

A division within the umbrella agency of the Arkansas Department of Public Safety (ADPS), the Arkansas State Police is the state’s primary statewide law enforcement agency. Although it has had many duties since its inception, the primary functions of the agency remain criminal investigation, traffic safety, and highway patrol. As a state agency, the State Police is overseen by a director bearing the rank of colonel who serves at the pleasure of the governor. The State Police’s main headquarters are located in Little Rock (Pulaski County), with the highway patrol organized into twelve regional “troops,” each commanded by a captain, and the criminal investigation division organized into six regional “companies,” each commanded by a lieutenant. The creation of a centralized, …

Arkansas v. Corbit (1998)

There are three cases that may be designated as Arkansas v. Corbit. The case discussed here is the 1998 Arkansas Supreme Court case concerning Randy Corbit, who was arrested for the possession and sale of marijuana, and the subsequent property forfeitures that he faced. Although the case originally appeared insignificant, it ultimately set a groundbreaking new precedent for appeal structure. Randy Corbit, who lived in Phillips County, was under investigation by the First and Third Judicial Districts’ Drug Task Force and, specifically, by Michael Steele, who was a narcotics investigator. On the day of Corbit’s arrest, Steele sent two men, Christopher Jarrett and Edward Knapp, into the store where Corbit worked. These men were charged with the task of purchasing …

Armstrong, David Love

David L. Armstrong was born in Arkansas but had a long and distinguished career in Kentucky law and politics, serving as the commonwealth’s attorney general, mayor of Louisville, and chairman of the Kentucky Public Service Commission. A nationally known prosecuting attorney, he also was part of a delegation of prosecutors that visited the Soviet Union and served as a delegate to a United Nations mission in Austria. David Love Armstrong was born on August 6, 1941, in Hope (Hempstead County), where his maternal grandfather, Thompson Evans, was the railroad express manager and an alderman. The son of Elizabeth Evans Armstrong and Lyman Guy Armstrong, he grew up in Madison, Indiana, where he graduated from Madison High School. He attended Hanover …

Armstrong, J. M. (Execution of)

J. M. Armstrong, convicted in a doctor’s killing that he claimed was in self-defense, was hanged at Perryville (Perry County) on April 30, 1886, one of two Arkansans to die on the gallows that day. On February 11, 1885, Dr. Thomas Ferguson failed to come home after visiting a patient, though his horse returned. His body was found on a road about sixteen miles southwest of Perryville the next day by a search party led by J. M. Armstrong. Suspicion fell on Armstrong and John Roland, two “hard characters” who had been seen heavily armed in the area on the previous day. “The crime created so much excitement that on the day of the burial a posse arrived at the …

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 was a prosecutor, municipal judge, and chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Dub Arnold was born on May 19, 1935, in rural 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 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 (Clark County) 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 Henderson State Teachers College (now …

Arterberry, William (Lynching of)

William Arterberry, an accused arsonist, was shot to death by a mob at Harrison (Boone County) on October 22, 1880. William Arterberry, a twenty-seven-year-old farmer, lived in Harrison with his wife Elmira and their son and two daughters. In the fall of 1880, the floor of the local jail was “saturated with coal oil” and set ablaze; the fire was discovered and quickly extinguished. Arterberry was “arrested, charged with the deed, and it was only circumstantial evidence against him.” On the evening of October 22, 1880, Arterberry and his three guards were returning to Harrison after eating at a nearby hotel when they were “halted by a number of mounted men and immediately surrounded by overwhelming numbers.” The guards drew …

Ashley County Lynching of 1857

Prior to the Civil War, most lynchings in Arkansas and across the nation (particularly on the frontier) took the form of vigilante justice, usually to punish white criminals or Southern abolitionists. Although there are newspaper reports of the lynching of four slaves in Saline County, Missouri, in 1859 and reports of a group of slaves accused of fomenting rebellion in North Texas in 1860, slaves were the legal property of their owners. The murder of a slave by someone other than his or her master resulted in a loss of property, which the master presumably wanted to avoid. However, there were instances in which the white community insisted on executing miscreant slaves rather than preserving the owner’s property. There was at least …

Atkins Race War of 1897

What most newspapers described as the “Atkins Race War” occurred in Lee Township of Pope County in late May and early June 1897. In what appears to have been an unprovoked incident, a group of African Americans attacked two white men, Jesse Nickels and J. R. Hodges, just south of Atkins (Pope County) on May 30. In subsequent encounters, several residents of Lee Township, both white and black, were killed and wounded. Despite the fact that the events in Pope County attracted national attention, the extant newspaper records provide little information regarding the motivations of those who perpetrated the violence. This area of the county, located in rich farmland along the Arkansas River, was populated mostly by farmers. Atkins, which …

Atkins, Jerry (Lynching of)

Jerry Atkins, a black man, was murdered in Union County on November 21, 1865, for having allegedly murdered two school-age children. The lynching was notable for the viciousness it exhibited, a brutality that foreshadowed later lynchings in the state and nation, as well as the fact that it was witnessed by federal troops still occupying the state following the Civil War. Little information exists regarding the lynching. According to an account of the event in the Goodspeed history of the area, Atkins waylaid and murdered two siblings on their way to school on November 7, 1865. The two children were Sarah K. Simpson, who was thirteen years old, and Jesse G. Simpson, eight. The diary of George W. Lewis of …

Atkinson, Richard Bernard

Richard B. Atkinson was the tenth dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville (Washington County). While serving as an administrator, he continued to teach classes as a member of the law school faculty, consistently being ranked by peers and students as one of the most popular and highly rated professors. In addition, Atkinson was a longtime member of the board of directors of Washington Regional Medical Center and was a founding board member of the Northwest Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute (NARTI), as well as being an active patron of the arts. Richard Bernard Atkinson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 3, 1946, to Richard Jasper Atkinson, who had a career in the tractor sales business, …

Atkinson, Wash (Lynching of)

On December 6, 1877, an African-American man named Wash Atkinson was hanged by a mob in Arkadelphia (Clark County) for allegedly attacking a white man named H. G. Ridgeway. Ridgeway was probably carpenter H. G. Ridgeway, who at the time of the 1880 census was a fifty-three-year-old widower living in Arkadelphia. On December 1, 1877, Arkadelphia’s Southern Standard published an account of the original crime. According to this report, Ridgeway, acting as “night policeman,” had been patrolling the western part of the city on Saturday, November 24. During that time, he attempted to arrest two African Americans, Wash Atkinson and Ike Smith, for disorderly conduct. While Ridgeway was holding Smith by the arm, Atkinson dropped behind them and hit Ridgeway …

Attorney General, Office of

The attorney general, one of the state’s seven constitutional offices, is the state’s top law enforcement officer and consumer advocate. The office of attorney general was not originally a constitutional office but rather was created by Act 1 of 1843, which designated the state’s attorney for its Fifth Judicial District as the attorney general. The first attorney general was Robert W. Johnson. The constitution of 1868 made the post elective, though it required only that the attorney general “perform such duties as are now, or may hereafter, be prescribed by law.” This was reaffirmed in the constitution of 1874. Act 131 of 1911 laid out four general responsibilities of the attorney general’s office: 1) to give opinions to state officers …

Austin v. The State

Slaves in the United States had no legal rights and only limited access to legal protection, so few legal cases in antebellum Arkansas involved African Americans. Even fewer of those cases were ever reviewed by the Arkansas Supreme Court. However, a case in 1854 established a new principle for Arkansas courts that allowed slave owners to testify in criminal cases involving their own slaves. The murder trial of Austin, a slave in Independence County, was appealed to the state’s high court on several procedural issues, one of which was the denial of his owner’s testimony. The court found that such testimony must be permitted, thus throwing out the circuit court’s decision and ordering a new trial. The event that led …

Avery, Andrew (Lynching of)

On July 30, 1917, an African-American man named Andrew Avery was lynched for allegedly attacking a levee contractor named Will Woods (also referred to as W. J. Woods and William Wood) several days earlier. Although a headline in the Arkansas Gazette indicates that Avery was lynched in Garland City (Miller County), information in the article itself seems to indicate that Avery was captured by Deputy Sheriff Walter Oden at Sheppard (in neighboring Hempstead County) and a mob intercepted them on their way to the Hempstead County jail. Another article in the Pine Bluff Daily Graphic, however, omits any mention of Sheppard or Hempstead County and reports that Oden was taking Avery to the jail in Texarkana (Miller County) when he …

Bagley-Ridgeway Feud

“Officer Uses a Pistol Fatally,” an Arkansas Gazette headline stated on March 5, 1905. The incident that led to this headline was the catalyst for one of the state’s longest-running and bloodiest feuds. On March 4, 1905, Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County) city marshal Robert Lee Ridgeway shot Jesse Edward (Ed) Bagley, son of wealthy farmer Isham J. Bagley, three times. Bagley was reportedly drunk and resisting arrest when Ridgeway, acting in his legal capacity as law officer, shot and killed him. At a coroner’s inquiry, Ridgeway was found innocent of any wrongdoing. At the time of the shooting, Isham Bagley and his other two sons were “in the country” (that is, in the vicinity). It was reported, “When they learn …

Bailey, George (Lynching of)

Sometime during the night of December 19–20, 1909, an African-American man named George Bailey was shot to death by a mob while he was housed in the jail at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County). Although whites outnumbered blacks approximately two to one in Prairie County at that time, there was already racial animus in the area because a few days earlier an unknown African-American man had reportedly attacked a white man who was sleeping in a boxcar nearby. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the attack was an attempted robbery, and the attacker almost cut the victim’s throat: “At the time a party was organized to lynch the negro, but cooler counsel prevailed and the would-be lynchers were dissuaded from their purpose.” …

Bailey, James (Lynching of)

On July 9, 1891, James Bailey was hanged from a railroad crossing sign in Beebe (White County) for allegedly attacking a white woman. There is very little information available on Bailey. The only African American named James Bailey in White County at the time of the 1880 census was five years old. He was living in West Point Township with his mother, Fannie, and five siblings. If this is the correct James Bailey, he would have been only sixteen years old at the time of the lynching. The alleged victim was a Mrs. Folsom. There was still a Folsom family in Beebe at the time of the 1900 census. Henry Folsom, a forty-five-year-old day laborer, was living with his wife …

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 …

Baker, Cullen Montgomery

Cullen Baker was one of the most notorious outlaws in the United States in the period following the Civil War. Following the end of his service, the former Confederate soldier along with a variety of followers preyed upon people of all ages with indiscriminate fury. Some termed Baker a psychopath, but whatever the label, he terrorized Arkansas and the neighboring western Tennessee and eastern Texas regions, claiming numerous helpless victims. His reign of terror only came to an end when he was killed in January 1869. Cullen Montgomery Baker was born in Weakley County, Tennessee, on June 22, 1835, to John and Elizabeth Baker. The family moved to Texas in 1839, ultimately settling in Cass County after Baker’s father received …

Baker, Eugene (Lynching of)

On July 30, 1892, Eugene Baker (sometimes referred to as Dan Baker), who allegedly murdered a white man in Ashley County, was taken from the jail in Monticello (Drew County) by a mob and lynched just outside of town. According to the 1880 census, seven-year-old Eugene Baker was living at that time in White Township, Ashley County, with his parents, Henry and Mary Baker. This would have made him nineteen at the time of the lynching. Baker had five siblings, and both of his parents worked on a farm. Neither could read or write. According to newspaper reports, Baker, an African American, was abused by whitecappers in Ashley County. Whitecappers, also called nightriders, were vigilante bands, usually consisting of poor …

Baker, Norman

Norman Glenwood Baker is best known in Arkansas as a promoter of alternative medicine who settled in Eureka Springs (Carroll County) in 1936 and was convicted of mail fraud in 1940. Anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic, he was also a radio pioneer and a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat and for governor of Iowa. Norman Baker, the tenth and last child of John and Frances Baker of Muscatine, Iowa, was born on November 27, 1882. His father reportedly held 126 patents and operated Baker Manufacturing Company in Muscatine. His mother, prior to her marriage, had written extensively. Baker left high school after his sophomore year, and his early adult years were spent working as a tramp machinist. After witnessing a vaudeville …

Banks, Isadore (Murder of)

Isadore Banks, a fifty-nine-year-old prominent African-American landowner, disappeared on June 4, 1954. Banks’s wife, Alice, last saw him as he left the house with the intention of paying his farmhands. On or about June 8, 1954, Banks’s truck was discovered in a wooded property just outside of Marion (Crittenden County) by Carl Croom, a neighboring landowner. Banks’s loaded shotgun and coat were still inside. Authorities found Banks’s body tied to a tree, mutilated, and burned beyond recognition. Banks had been drenched with fuel and burned from the knees up. A can of gasoline was found close to the body. The coroner, T. H. McGough, found no sign of robbery or struggle at the scene, indicating that the killing may have …

Baptist Health v. Murphy

Baptist Health v. Murphy was an extended legal battle culminating in a 2010 ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court. Addressing the issue of economic credentialing, and resolving a dispute that had first entered the judicial system in February 2004, the court eventually ruled in favor of a group of doctors whose part ownership in competing hospitals had been deemed a violation of the contracting hospital’s conflict of interest policy, which had resulted in the severance of their association and employment. In its ruling, the court upheld a previously issued permanent injunction, and Baptist Health was permanently prevented from implementing the policy. The genesis of the case was the adoption in May 2003 of the Economic Conflict of Interest Policy by …

Barham, Ella (Murder of)

The 1912 murder of eighteen-year-old Ella Barham in Boone County was one of the most gruesome events to occur in northwestern Arkansas in the early twentieth century. The incident has intrigued people for decades, and some believe the wrong man was sent to the gallows for the crime. Much of the story has evolved into folklore. On the morning of Thursday, November 21, 1912, Ella Barham walked from her home south of Crooked Creek to the post office and store in Pleasant Ridge (Boone County), a community once located about eighteen miles east of Harrison (Boone County) near the Marion County line, to buy cloth for a hat. After returning home at about 9:00 a.m., she saddled her brother’s horse …

Barker (Reported Lynching of)

According to stories circulating in state newspapers in July and August 1883, a Grant County man named Barker murdered his daughter with an axe and was subsequently lynched for his actions. However, later reports contradict this and insist that the whole story was a hoax. Early reporting on this subject appeared in several newspapers, including the Arkansas Gazette of July 27 and 28, 1883; the Fayetteville Weekly Democrat of August 2, 1883; and the Southern Standard of Arkadelphia (Clark County) of August 4, 1883. All of these printed a story, attributed to the Saline Courier, that begun thusly: “The most horrible crime that this paper has had to chronicle occurred on Hurricane Creek, in Grant county, about ten or twelve …

Barker-Karpis Gang

aka: Ma Barker Gang
The Barker-Karpis Gang, later known as the “Ma Barker Gang,” was a famous criminal group of the Depression era. Led by Alvin “Creepy” Karpis (1907–1979) and Fred Barker (1903–1935) during most of its criminal tenure, the lethal gang consisted of many different individuals over the course of its exploits. Some of the core members besides Karpis and Barker were Arthur “Doc” Barker (brother of Fred), Lawrence DeVol, Harvey Bailey, Frank “Jelly” Nash, Bernard Phillips, Harry Sawyer, Volney Davis, Harry Campbell, and Verne Miller. Although most well known for committing crimes throughout the Midwest, the gang’s first murder was of a town marshal in Pocahontas (Randolph County), and members later holed up in Hot Springs (Garland County). Fred Barker and Alvin …

Barnes, Lee (Execution of)

Lee Barnes was hanged at Dover (Pope County) on May 21, 1886, for the murder and robbery of a Conway County gambler. Lee Barnes, twenty-three, who stood five feet nine inches tall and weighed around 130 pounds, moved from Blount County, Tennessee, to Plumerville (Conway County), where he worked for Charles Hollman, a gambler who ran a Wheel of Fortune gambling device at various events and gatherings. Barnes conspired with two men, John Cullens and Russell Watson, to kill and rob Hollman, who was also known as the Jewelry and Spindle Man, when he took the Wheel of Fortune to a “negro festival” about three miles from Plumerville. On the night of November 20, 1885, Barnes and Hollman bedded down …

Barnett, John (Lynching of)

On April 17, 1905, an African-American levee worker named John Barnett was hanged by a black mob near Askew (Lee County) for allegedly murdering a fellow worker. Barnett may have been the same John Barnett who, at the time of the 1900 census, was living in Independence Township (Lee County). He was a forty-nine-year-old widower and was working on a rented farm and raising six children between the ages of six and eighteen. Barnett’s alleged victim was Albert Wakefield. The only man by that name in the region was another African American living in Tunica County, Mississippi, just across the Mississippi River. He was also a widower and was working as a day laborer. According to newspaper accounts, in late …

Bates, James Woodson

James Woodson Bates was an early Arkansas settler who was elected as the first Arkansas territorial representative to the U.S. Congress. After leaving that office, he went on to help develop Arkansas’s legal system as a judge and lawyer. Batesville (Independence County) was named after him in 1824. James Bates was born on August 25, 1788, in Belmont, Virginia, to Thomas F. Bates and Caroline Woodson Bates. Little is known of his early life, but he attended Yale College (now Yale University). He eventually graduated from Princeton College (now Princeton University) in 1807 and began practicing law in Virginia. In 1816, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where his brother Frederick Bates had been appointed territorial secretary. In 1819, he, …

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), …

Bays, Glenco (Lynching of)

On February 18, 1904, Glenco Bays was burned at the stake near Crossett (Ashley County) for the murder of J. D. Stephens, a prominent local farmer. The lynch mob was made up of both whites and African Americans. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Bays was employed by Stephens, who found him to be “a quarrelsome negro.” Bays and Stephens apparently had an argument, and Bays allegedly went to Stephens’s house and shot him. According to the Orangeburg Times and Democrat, after he killed Stephens, Bays beat his body with the butt of the shotgun. Stephens was one of the most prosperous and admired farmers in the county. The Arkansas Gazette reported that black residents of the area “showed their esteem …

Beard v. State (1906)

In 1906 and 1907, a notable case made its way through the courts. An African-American man named Govan Beard was convicted and sentenced to death for assaulting a white woman in Phillips County. When the Arkansas Supreme Court twice denied his appeal, and Governor Jeff Davis refused to pardon Beard even though the alleged victim recanted her claims, the case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Govan Beard is most likely the one-year-old boy listed as Eaton Govan Beard in the 1880 census. At that time, he was living in Helena (Phillips County) with his mother, Chana Beard, and four siblings (Peter, George, Mary, and Walter). By 1900, Govan was still living in Helena with his mother and his …

Beard, Willis (Execution of)

Willis Beard was hanged on May 29, 1857, at Van Buren (Crawford County) for killing a man in the Indian Territory. Willis Beard was convicted in U.S. District Court in November 1856 for killing a man named John Kelley in the Cherokee Nation. While no details of the murder appear to exist, Van Buren’s Arkansas Intelligencer wrote that “his was a remarkable conviction, made entirely on circumstantial evidence. All pointing to him as the guilty person, to the exclusion of every other hypothesis.” On a rainy Friday, May 29, 1857, Beard, who continued to protest his innocence, was placed in a wagon with his coffin and taken to the execution site, where a large crowd had gathered. The Intelligencer wrote …

Bearden Lynching of 1893

On May 9, 1893, three African Americans were lynched in Bearden (Ouachita County) for what was called a “murderous assault” on Jesse Norman, a prosperous young businessman. At midnight on Saturday, May 6, Jesse Norman was hit over the head with an axe and robbed. The victim was probably the Jessie J. Norman listed in the 1880 census, thirteen years before the event. In 1880, he was nine years old and was living with his parents Eleazer (variously spelled Elezer and Elesa) Norman and Panthaia (variously spelled Panttairer and Panthier) Norman in Union Township of Ouachita County; his parents were still living in the county in 1900. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Norman’s skull was crushed with an axe, and …

Beavers, William and Henry (Lynchings of)

In 1890 and 1892, brothers William and Henry Beavers—both African American—were lynched near Warren (Bradley County) and Wilmar (Drew County), respectively. William was accused of assaulting Inez Abernathy, whose family he had been living with. Henry was murdered for attacking Chloe Wright, the daughter of a prominent Drew County farmer. In 1880, William Beavers (then two years old) and his brother Junior (presumably Henry, age four) were living in Pennington Township of Bradley County with their parents, Henry and Lorenda Beavers, and several other siblings. Henry Beavers Sr. was thirty years old and was a farmer. If these ages are correct, William Beavers would have been only fourteen years old at the time of his murder, and Henry sixteen. Both …

Bennett, Bruce

Bruce Bennett was Arkansas’s attorney general from 1957 to 1960 and from 1963 to 1966. As the state’s leading legal authority, he became known as much for flouting the law as for upholding it. In the wake of the Little Rock (Pulaski County) desegregation crisis, Bennett authored legislation to bypass federal desegregation orders, including acts “designed to harass” the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He gained further notoriety in asserting that communist influence underlay the racial unrest in Arkansas. Toward the end of his career, Bennett became infamous for his part in the securities fraud scandal involving the Arkansas Loan and Thrift. Bruce Bennett was born on October 31, 1917, to Oakley Adair Bennett and Anita …

Bennett, Rush (Execution of)

Rush Bennett was hanged in El Dorado (Union County) on February 4, 1881, for the murder of a former employer two years earlier. Rush Bennett, labeled a “mulatto” in press reports, was born around 1850 and was enslaved by a planter near New Orleans, Louisiana. When the Civil War began, he spied for Confederate forces, but after the Union captured New Orleans, he worked for the Federals and gave “minute intelligence of the movements and numbers of the Confederates along the Louisiana and Arkansas border.” Bennett moved to Arkansas after the war, working on cotton plantations and hunting for a living. Among his employers was A. C. Jameson, a lawyer and planter who lived near El Dorado, and a newspaper …

Berryman, Peter (Lynching of)

On February 20, 1901, Peter Berryman (regularly referred to as “Nigger Pete” in newspaper articles) was lynched in Mena (Polk County) for the alleged assault of young Essie Osborne. Berryman’s murder and numerous other instances of racially motivated harassment throughout the years in Mena—combined with changing job prospects with the relocation of railroad division shops—likely played a role in convincing many African Americans to leave the area, and Mena slowly became a “sundown town.” There were 152 black residents of Mena in 1900 but only sixteen in 1910. In 1900, Peter Berryman, age forty-five, was living alone in a house in Mena. He could neither read nor write; his occupation is illegible on the census record. According to various newspaper …

Bethune, Edwin Ruthvin (Ed), Jr.

Edwin Ruthvin (Ed) Bethune Jr., a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington DC, served as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 to 1985 from the Second Congressional District of Arkansas. Ed Bethune was born on December 19, 1935, in Pocahontas (Randolph County) to Edwin Bethune Sr. and Delta Lewallen Bethune. He has one sister. Although he grew up in Pocahontas, Bethune spent one year in Little Rock (Pulaski County), attending Little Rock High School (later called Central High); Bethune graduated from Pocahontas High School in 1953. He attended one semester at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and followed that with four years in the U.S. Marine Corps (1954–1957), during which time he …

Billy, John (Execution of)

On April 3, 1874, a Choctaw man named John Billy was executed at Fort Smith (Sebastian County) for the murder of a deputy marshal named Perry Duvall the previous November. Little is known about fifty-five-year-old Billy, but according to historian Jerry Akins, newspapers of the time said he had “a cunning and forbidding countenance” and “a long history as a bad character in this area.” Sources indicate that John Billy had been arrested for assault for trying to kill a man named William Mason. On November 14, the Memphis Daily Appeal published a November 3 letter from John A. Smith, previously published in the Fort Smith Herald. According to the letter, on November 2, 1873, U.S. marshals William Ayres (sometimes referred …