Literature and Authors

Entry Category: Literature and Authors

Brown, Dee

aka: Dorris Alexander Brown
Dorris Alexander (Dee) Brown is the only contributor to Arkansas literature included in The New York Public Library’s Books of the Century (1996), a selection of the “most significant works of the past 100 years.” He lived more than half his life in Arkansas and, beginning as a teenager, wrote continuously for publication, often long into the night, as he did for his best-known work, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970), which changed the way the world thinks about America’s westward expansion. His daytime profession as a librarian was the key to his international success as a writer: he knew how to find primary sources, such as Indian Treaties written in their own Native American words. His most famous …

Brown, Helen Marie Gurley

Helen Gurley Brown was a native Arkansan whose career includes landmark achievements in advertising and publishing. She was considered a spokesperson for the women’s liberation movement and sexual revolution in the mid-twentieth century as author of the bestselling book Sex and the Single Girl (1962) and editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. Helen Marie Gurley was born on February 18, 1922, in Green Forest (Carroll County) to a family of modest means. Her father, Ira Gurley, finished law school in 1923 and was soon elected a state legislator. The family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) and settled in the Pulaski Heights neighborhood. In 1932, as her father was preparing to run for Arkansas secretary of state, he was killed in an elevator …

Burris, Sidney

Sidney Johnson Burris is a prolific writer of essays, criticism, and poetry. His poetry is as influenced by his classical studies in Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit as it is the images of his Southern boyhood. A significant portion of Burris’s critical work has been devoted to the study of Irish poet Seamus Heaney. He has served in various posts at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) since 1986, including as director of the Fulbright College Honors Program. He also co-founded the Tibetan Cultural Institute of Arkansas.  Sidney Burris was born on March 9, 1953, in Danville, Virginia. His father, John Colton Burris, was a salesman and a World War II U.S. Air Force veteran. His mother, Helen …

Butler, Jack

aka: Jack Armand Butler Jr.
Jack Armand Butler Jr. is a poet and novelist known for structurally experimental writing, usually dealing with the development of a religious self-awareness transcending orthodox views. His work is often sexually charged and humorous. Jack Butler was born May 8, 1944, in Alligator, Mississippi, to Jack Butler, a Baptist preacher, and Dorothy Butler, a homemaker. He attended high school in Clinton, Mississippi. He was ordained a Baptist minister in Sedalia, Missouri, in 1965, and pastored the Bethlehem Baptist Church briefly in 1966. He received a BS in math and a BA in English from Central Missouri State College (now Central Missouri State University) in 1966. That year, he married Lynnice McDonald, with whom he had two children, Lynnika and Sarah; …

Call, Cora Elizabeth Pinkley

Cora Elizabeth Pinkley Call was a popular Ozark writer, naturalist, herbalist, folklorist, and Eureka Springs (Carroll County) historian and booster. A lifetime resident of Carroll County, Call achieved statewide and national prominence as the founder and longtime president of the Ozark Writers-Artists Guild (OWAG), which held annual meetings in Eureka Springs. Born on April 28, 1892, to George Washington Pinkley and Mary Jane Harp Pinkley in Winona Township, Cora Pinkley was diagnosed with scleroderma (then called “Stone Disease”) at the age of twelve. Her prognosis was eventual paralysis and a short life expectancy. Unable to enjoy a normal childhood or sit still for more than a few minutes, she left school and educated herself through reading and walking in the …

Campbell, Tom Walter

Tom Walter Campbell was a well-known Arkansas attorney and political figure in the first half of the twentieth century. A member of the Arkansas General Assembly, he also sought election to higher office but was unsuccessful. In his later years, he authored some well-regarded historical works. Tom W. Campbell was born on September 7, 1874, to John Stone Campbell and Alice Hufstedter Campbell on a farm near the Eleven Point River in Randolph County. After receiving his early education in the local schools, he attended Add-Ran Christian University (now Texas Christian University) in Thorp Springs, Texas. Following his sophomore year in 1894, he returned to Randolph County, and, in 1895, he married Jenny Roberts, with whom he would have three …

Carlisle, Irene Jones

Originally from Texas, Irene Carlisle lived much of her life in Fayetteville (Washington County), where she became a widely respected teacher, poet, and folklorist. Carlisle taught Latin and English at Springdale High School; published poetry in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and journals; published a well-received book of poetry; and collected folksongs and folklore in northwestern Arkansas. Irene Jones was born to Stephen and Tela Jones on May 24, 1908. She married Jack Carlisle in 1929, and the couple moved to Fayetteville. She earned a BA from Texas Christian University in 1929. During World War II, her husband served in the U.S. Navy, and she worked as a welder in a California shipyard; she composed a popular poem, “Welder,” about …

Centennial History of Arkansas

Dallas Tabor Herndon’s three-volume Centennial History of Arkansas (1922) was created in the early days of the Arkansas History Commission (AHC), now the Arkansas State Archives. Herndon, the AHC’s first director, wrote that “the state had no history that could be relied upon as authentic,” and he saw a need for a more “comprehensive state history” to aid him in his work with researchers at the AHC. Herndon believed that his history would be more reliable and accessible than any other before it, such as Little Rock (Pulaski County) native Fay Hempstead’s multi-volume Historical Review of Arkansas, published in 1911, when Herndon first began work at the AHC. Unlike Hempstead, Herndon was not from Arkansas, and thus he believed his …

Cleaver, Leroy Eldridge

Leroy Eldridge Cleaver was one of the best-known and most recognizable symbols of African-American rebellion in the 1960s as a leader of the Black Panther Party. In the 1970s, he became a born-again Christian and later an active member of the Republican Party. Eldridge Cleaver was born on August 31, 1935, in Wabbaseka (Jefferson County). His father, Leroy Cleaver, was a nightclub entertainer and waiter; his mother, Thelma Hattie Robinson Cleaver, taught elementary school. Many accounts portray Leroy Cleaver as a violent man who beat his wife. Eldridge Cleaver recalled those beatings as the beginning of his “ambition to grow up tall and strong, like my daddy, but bigger and stronger than he, so I could beat him to the …

Coal to Diamonds

Coal to Diamonds: A Memoir (2012) was written by Beth Ditto, singer and songwriter for the band Gossip, and co-written by queer popular fiction writer Michelle Tea. In the memoir, Ditto writes about growing up poor in Judsonia (White County) with five siblings, as well as the rampant sexual abuse her female family members experienced. She also discusses coming into her own as a singer, femme-identified lesbian, and feminist. As Ditto recounts, her youth was often turbulent. She frequently lived with her aunt Jannie, along with her aunt’s two children and three cousins placed there by social services. Despite the fact that she was often left with the responsibility of cooking, cleaning, and looking after the children, Ditto describes the …

Coffin, Frank Barbour

Frank Barbour Coffin was an African-American pharmacist who owned and operated one of the earliest drug stores serving the black community of Little Rock (Pulaski County). He was also one of the country’s unnoted African-American poets of the nineteenth and twentieth century, barely remembered today for his two volumes of poetry and other works printed in various publications. F. B. Coffin was born on January 12, 1870, in Holly Springs, Mississippi, the son of Samuel and Josephine Barton Coffin. Holly Springs was a small town in northern Mississippi, about forty miles from Memphis, Tennessee. His mother died before he was twelve years old, leaving Coffin and at least four other siblings to be raised by their father, a farmer. Little …

Cohn, Morris M.

Morris M. Cohn was a nationally recognized lawyer, an author who published articles on a wide variety of subjects, and a Little Rock (Pulaski County) civic leader. Morris M. Cohn was born on March 14, 1852, in New Albany, Indiana, to Mathias Cohn—a businessman, newspaperman, educator, and lawyer—and Theresa Cohn; sources differ on the number of siblings he had, from seven to ten. Cohn received his early education in the grammar schools of Cincinnati, Ohio. He later received private instruction in German, Hebrew, and law. At some point, the family settled in Arkansas. In 1873, he moved from Woodruff County to Little Rock, where he met Addie Mary Ottenheimer, whom he married on September 16, 1886; they had three children. …

Collins, Andrew Jefferson “Ace”

aka: Ace Collins
Author Ace Collins has more than ninety published books, including children’s books, biographies, and books on history, culture, and faith. Together, his books have sold more than 2.5 million copies. In 2015, Collins’s book Color of Justice won the Christy Award for Suspense Book of the Year. Andrew Jefferson Collins, an only child, was born on August 17, 1953, in Rantoul, Illinois, to Doyle E. Collins and T. Charlene Shell Collins. His father taught math and was also a basketball coach, while his mother taught first grade for most of her career. In his early childhood, Collins spent most of his time in Royal, Illinois, but he also spent time in Arkansas, where his father was a student at what …

Command and Control

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety is a 2013 book by investigative journalist Eric Schlossser that explores the history of the United States’ nuclear weapons, efforts to control them, and accidents involving them, focusing particularly on the September 1980 Titan II Missile explosion in Arkansas. The book was the basis for a 2016 documentary film directed by Robert Kenner. Author Eric Schlosser previously wrote the New York Times bestsellers Fast Food Nation (2001) and Reefer Madness (2003). The 632-page Command and Control, published by Penguin Press, explored the United States’ development of nuclear weapons and national policy regarding them from their origins in World War II into the twenty-first century. It also documented …

Cone, James Hal

James Hal Cone became known as the father of black liberation theology, which he described as a “theological identity that was accountable to the life, history, and culture of African-American people.” Cone often discussed the impact that growing up in Bearden (Ouachita County) and attending the Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal Church had on his life. Both powerfully influenced his thinking: Bearden for the pain and suffering inflicted on African Americans, and Macedonia as a place where he encountered Jesus. Cone published numerous books on black liberation theology and lectured at more than 1,000 universities and community organizations throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Born to Charles and Lucy Cone in Fordyce (Dallas County) on …

Cotton in My Sack

Cotton in My Sack is a juvenile novel published in 1949, written and illustrated by popular children’s author Lois Lenski. It tells the story of a sharecropping family in eastern Arkansas that grows cotton. Though no years are mentioned, the book seems to be set in the late 1940s. Each chapter represents a narrative episode involving the family as related from the viewpoint of Joanda, the oldest child. Other family members include Joanda’s father and mother, along with Joanda’s siblings: brother Ricky and baby sister Lolly. Chapter titles indicate the key element in the chapter, such as “School,” “Saturday in Town,” “A Merry Christmas,” “The Library Book,” “The Bridge,” and “A New Year.” Lenski’s depiction of the family and its …

Coulter, Hope Norman

Little Rock (Pulaski County) author Hope Coulter is a novelist, short-story writer, poet, children’s book author, and professor. Coulter has received several of Arkansas’s top literary prizes, including the Porter Prize for fiction and the Laman Library Writers Fellowship. Poems and stories by Coulter have also received awards or recognition in contests from such national literary journals as the North American Review, Terrain.org, the Southwest Review, and Louisiana Life. Hope Elizabeth Norman was born on January 25, 1961, in New Orleans, Louisiana, but spent her early years in Little Rock. Her father, Tom David Norman, was then a pathologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Her mother, Hope Johns Norman, as a member of the Women’s Emergency …

Crawford, Phyllis

aka: Josie Turner
Phyllis Crawford was the author of children’s books and adult fiction, including Hello, the Boat!, which won the Ford Foundation award for the best book manuscript for children in 1938. Over several decades, Crawford also contributed to the New Yorker and other magazines under the pseudonym of Josie Turner. She often drew upon her experiences growing up in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to frame the plots of her stories. Phyllis Crawford was born on February 8, 1899, in Little Rock to T. Dwight Crawford and Bessie Williams Crawford. Her father was an attorney and worked for the Arkansas Supreme Court for many years. She had one brother, John, also an author. The Crawford family resided at 416 Fairfax, in one …

Crazyhorse

Crazyhorse is a literary journal, published twice yearly, containing short stories, poetry, and essays. It was based in Arkansas for nearly two decades and has, during its lifespan, published work by many award-winning writers, including John Updike, Raymond Carver, John Ashbery, Robert Bly, National Book Award winners Ha Jin and Charles Wright, Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Simic, and former Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Other writers have been Guggenheim fellows, received National Endowment of the Arts fellowships, or have had work selected for the Best American anthologies. Poet Tom McGrath founded the journal in 1960 in Los Angeles, California, calling it Crazy Horse after the rebel Native American leader. In the turbulent 1960s, McGrath used the magazine as a platform to …

Crisis at Central High

The book Crisis at Central High, based on the events surrounding the 1957 desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was a memoir written by school administrator Elizabeth Huckaby (1905–1999) and published in 1980. A prestigious television movie based on the book, also titled Crisis at Central High, was filmed at Central and starred Academy Award–winning actress Joanne Woodward. For her portrayal of Huckaby in the 1981 film, Woodward was nominated for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award. In September 1957, nine African-American students attempted to attend the all-white Central High. After they were prevented from entering by members of the state’s National Guard, the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division was ordered by President Dwight …

Der Squire: Ein Bild aus den Hinterwalden Nordamerikas

Der Squire: Ein Bild aus den Hinterwalden Nordamerikas (The Squire: A Picture from the Backwoods of North America) by Albert von Halfern was published in 1857 by Hoffman and Campe of Hamburg, Germany. The novel presents the story of Squire Russel, a squatter (or pioneer) in western Arkansas near the Indian Territory. Von Halfern’s novel was never translated into English and therefore did not achieve the popularity in the United States that fellow German author Friedrich Gerstäcker’s novels did. Nevertheless, his description of western Arkansas in the early 1840s, like Gerstäcker’s work, offers insight into the daily experiences and the social life of Arkansas’s early settlers. Von Halfern, born about 1816, came to America in 1838, landing in New York …

Devil’s Knot

Mara Leveritt’s 2002 book Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three focuses on the facts of the 1993 murder of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis (Crittenden County) and the controversial court case that followed. One of the teenagers of the so-called West Memphis Three convicted in the case was sentenced to death, while two others were condemned to life in jail without parole; the three were freed in 2011. The murders remained unsolved. The book depicts a bleak picture of small-town Arkansas in the 1990s, providing background for how, in the author’s view, this case assumed a level of hysteria that in many ways equaled the Salem Witch Trials. The book provoked a larger discussion about …

Dockery, Octavia

Octavia Dockery was a writer, socialite, and eventual recluse who became embroiled in the “Goat Castle Murder” case in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1932. The case garnered national and international headlines when she was accused of having murdered her neighbor, Jennie Merrill. Dockery was never tried for the murder, owing to the fact that Merrill’s actual murderer was killed by Arkansas police before Dockery could be brought to trial. Her story, nevertheless, provides an excellent example of Southern Gothic come to life. Octavia Dockery was born at Lamartine Plantation in Columbia County, Arkansas, in 1865, the daughter of Brigadier General Thomas Pleasant Dockery, who commanded the Nineteenth Arkansas Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, and Laura Octavia West Dockery. She was …

Dragonwagon, Crescent

aka: Ellen Zolotow
Crescent Dragonwagon, born Ellen Zolotow, is the author of approximately fifty books and was one of the founders of Dairy Hollow House, one of the first bed-and-breakfast establishments in the Arkansas Ozarks. Her children’s books and her writings on food and cooking have won many awards. Ellen Zolotow was born on November 25, 1952, in New York City. Her mother, Charlotte Zolotow, was a writer and editor of children’s books. Her father, Maurice Zolotow, wrote biographies of celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, and Billy Wilder. Zolotow attended school in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, but did not finish high school. She left home when she was sixteen years old, married Mark Parsons on March 20, 1970, and lived in a commune …

Dresbach, Beverley Githens

Beverley Githens Dresbach was a poet and journalist who lived in Eureka Springs (Carroll County) with her husband, poet Glenn Ward Dresbach. She was active in the cultural life of Eureka Springs and in the activities of the Arkansas community of poets and writers in her time. Beverley Githens was born in Wilmette, Illinois, on July 4, 1903, to John Nichols Githens and Elizabeth Beverley Barr Githens. She was educated in Chicago, Illinois, at the Bayeson School in 1919, the University of Chicago in 1927–28, and the Sherwood Music School in 1929–30. Details about her life in Illinois are sketchy. She worked at Carson’s, a Chicago department store—at first selling women’s dresses and then as an elevator operator in the …

Dresbach, Glenn Ward

Glenn Ward Dresbach was an internationally known poet with ten books to his credit when he moved to Eureka Springs (Carroll County) in 1941. After his arrival in the Ozarks, Dresbach continued to write and publish poetry, including numerous poems about the Ozarks. Glenn Ward Dresbach was born near Lanark, Illinois, on September 9, 1889, to William Henry Dresbach and Belle Weidman Dresbach. His parents were farmers, and he was an only child. Dresbach graduated from Lanark High School and attended a special three-year program at the University of Wisconsin from 1908 to 1911, where he served as editor of Wisconsin Magazine and won a national intercollegiate award for poetry. Soon after graduating from college, Dresbach began a long career …

Dumas, Henry

Henry Dumas is a critically acclaimed author of poetry and fiction who captured, in some of his finest work, many of his childhood experiences as an African-American living in southern Arkansas. Henry Dumas was born on July 20, 1934, in Sweet Home (Pulaski County), sometimes called Sweetwater, and he continued to live there until he moved with his family to Harlem when he was ten years old. Almost no information about Dumas’s childhood is available, yet his life in the deep South and the desolate conditions confronting black Southerners in that era are insightfully depicted in several of his writings, including his widely admired short story, “Goodbye, Sweetwater.” Dumas graduated from Harlem’s Commerce High School in 1953 and then attended …

Eaves, Thomas Cary Duncan

Thomas Cary Duncan Eaves taught in the English Department at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) for thirty-seven years, ultimately being named a UA University Professor. Along with fellow UA professor Ben Drew Kimpel, Eaves wrote the definitive biography of eighteenth-century novelist Samuel Richardson; they also published numerous articles on Richardson and the works of twentieth-century poet Ezra Pound. Highly regarded as a scholar, Eaves was also renowned for the liveliness of his lectures and was a favorite among students in his department. Born in Union, South Carolina, on October 11, 1918, Duncan Eaves (who published under the name T. C. Duncan Eaves) was the only child of Donald Matheson Eaves and Louisa Duncan Eaves. He attended …

Elgin, Suzette Haden

aka: Patricia Ann Wilkins
Patricia Ann Wilkins was a linguist, feminist, and science fiction writer from the Missouri Ozarks who adopted northwestern Arkansas as her home after retiring from teaching in the 1980s. While living in Huntsville (Madison County), she wrote her cult classic Native Tongue novels and her widely acclaimed Ozark Trilogy under the name Suzette Haden Elgin. Patricia Ann Wilkins was born on November 18, 1936, in northeastern Missouri. Her father, Gaylord Lloyd, was a lawyer, and her mother, Hazel Wilkins, was a teacher. Wilkins had spinal polio as a child, as she related in her personal blog in the early 2000s, and refused to go through with a major surgery to treat it using bones from her hips. Instead, she opted …

Eno, Clara Bertha

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

Epperson, Tom

Tom Epperson is a producer, screenwriter, and novelist from Malvern (Hot Spring County). He is known for his collaborations with fellow Arkansan Billy Bob Thornton: One False Move (1992), A Family Thing (1996), The Gift (2000), Don’t Look Back (1996), Camouflage (2001), and Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012). In addition to his credits as a writer of Hollywood films, Epperson authored the popular crime novels The Kind One (2008) and Sailor (2012). Tom Epperson was born on May 22, 1951, in Nashville (Howard County). A year later, the Eppersons moved to Malvern. His father, Wendell Epperson, was a lawyer and municipal judge, while his mother, Mabel, stayed home with their four children. In 1963, Epperson met Billy Bob Thornton when he …

Exact and Very Strange Truth, The

The Exact and Very Strange Truth is a novel by Little Rock (Pulaski County) native Ben Piazza. It is a fictionalized account of his growing up in Little Rock during the 1930s and 1940s. Although he earned more acclaim as an actor and director, Piazza had been a writer since his days at Little Rock Central High School, where he edited the literary magazine. While a student at Princeton University, his short story “The Death of Two Kittens” was published in the Nassau Literary Magazine. He started working on the novel while starring on Broadway in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1963. During the run of that show, he wrote during the day and performed at night. He finished …

Featherstonhaugh, George William

George William Featherstonhaugh (pronounced “Fanshaw”) was the first U.S. government geologist. In 1834, the War Department appointed him to make a geological survey of Arkansas. He later conducted geological surveys of Wisconsin, Illinois, Georgia, and the Carolinas. His importance to Arkansas goes beyond his work as a geologist, for he was one of the first to leave behind an accurate record of life in the early Arkansas Territory. Born in London, England, on April 9, 1780, to George and Dorothy Simpson Featherstonhaugh, George William Featherstonhaugh grew up at Scarborough, an ancient city on the North Sea 221 miles from London and forty-three from York. Featherstonhaugh spent much of his childhood climbing over the cliffs, gathering sea bird eggs to sell …

Ferguson, John Lewis

John Lewis Ferguson—historian, minister, author, archival administer, and historic preservationist—served as Arkansas state historian and the director of the Arkansas State Archives (previous called the Arkansas History Commission) from 1960 to 2005, only the third person to hold that position since 1905. His forty-five-year tenure was the longest in the agency’s history. John Ferguson was born on March 1, 1926, on a farm near Nashville (Howard County) to farmer and World War I veteran Clarence Walter Ferguson and his wife, Nannye N. McCrary Ferguson. As a child attending the rural York’s Chapel School, he read every history book he could find. Early on, he decided to pursue a career in history. He graduated from Nashville High School in 1944. In 1951, he was …

Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas (FWCA)

The Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas (FWCA) incorporated in 1989 as a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of local writers and assistance in helping them get published. The group got its start in the spring of 1984 when Petei Engleby, owner of a secondhand bookstore in Little Rock (Pulaski County), posted a sign in her store inviting anyone interested in writing romances to meet with her. Engleby and three other women—Chrissy (Leister) Willis, Mary Watson, and Cathy Johnson—met and organized as the Central Arkansas Romance Authors. The group grew in size and, at the beginning of 1986, applied to become a chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) but was advised that local chapters had to incorporate, that …

Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, The

The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs is a 2003 novel by international bestseller Alexander McCall Smith, who was born in Zimbabwe and has taught law both there and in Edinburgh, Scotland. A follow-up to Portuguese Irregular Verbs (originally self-published in 1996), the novel takes place partially in and around the campus of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs follows the comic misadventures of Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld of the Institute of Romance Philology in Regensburg, Germany, who is the pompous author of the linguistic monograph Portuguese Irregular Verbs. Von Igelfeld, who had regularly spurned invitations to lecture in the United States, finds himself seeking an opportunity to do exactly that …

Finger, Charles Joseph

Charles Joseph Finger was a prolific writer who settled in Fayetteville (Washington County) after an early life of travel and adventure; one of his many adventure books won the Newbery Prize for children’s literature. In addition to writing and publishing a magazine from his Fayetteville farm, Finger was employed from 1936 through 1938 as an editor of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) guidebook, Arkansas: A Guide to the State. Charles Joseph Frederick Finger was born on December 25, 1867, in Willesden, England. His father, also named Charles, was a German tailor recently come to England from Germany. His mother was Julia Connoly Finger, a young Irish woman. He attended several small private pre-collegiate institutions, ending with Mr. Harvey’s Grammar School. …

Fletcher, John Gould

John Gould Fletcher, poet and essayist, is widely acknowledged as one of the state’s most notable literary figures. He enjoyed an international reputation for much of his long career, earned the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, and participated in movements that shaped twentieth century-literature. John Gould Fletcher was born on January 3, 1886, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Adolphine Krause and John G. Fletcher. After the Civil War, Fletcher’s father formed a successful cotton brokerage firm with fellow veteran Peter Hotze, bringing him wealth and prominence. Fletcher’s mother had abandoned the prospect of a musical career to tend to her ailing mother and likely centered her artistic ambitions on her only son. Fletcher was reared and educated by tutors in …

Forbush, Nellie

Nellie Forbush is a fictional character created by bestselling author James A. Michener (1907–1997). A native of Arkansas, the character of Nellie first appears in Michener’s book Tales of the South Pacific, which was published in 1947. Tales of the South Pacific, a series of nineteen interrelated stories based on Michener’s experiences in the U.S. Navy while stationed on the New Hebrides Islands in the Pacific during World War II, won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Michener explained that he had wanted to write observations of what he called the “valiant people” he met there: “the French planters, the Australian coast watchers, the Navy nurses, the Tonkinese laborers, the ordinary sailors and soldiers who were doing the work, and …

Ford, Edsel

Although Edsel Ford did not arrive in the Arkansas Ozarks until the age of eleven, he lived most of his adult life in the region, consistently incorporated its culture into his writing, and became one of its most distinguished poets. At the time of his death, at the age of forty-one, he was a well-established regional poet who was beginning to earn national literary attention. Edsel Ford was born to James Tilden Ford and Nora Louisa Ford in Eva, Alabama, on December 30, 1928. His family farmed cotton, and he was one of four children. When Ford was two years old, he moved with his family to Roswell, New Mexico. In 1939, the family moved to Avoca (Benton County) to …

Ford, Richard Carrel

Richard Carrel Ford is a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist whose formative years in Little Rock (Pulaski County) helped shape his career as a writer. He has written seven novels and five collections of short works and was the first person to be awarded both the Pulitzer and the PEN/Faulkner Award for the same book. Ford was born on February 16, 1944, in Jackson, Mississippi, to Parker Carrel and Edna Ford. His mother was a native of Arkansas, and his grandfather, Ben Shelley, managed the Marion Hotel in downtown Little Rock. As a child, Ford often spent his summers at the hotel and, during his teen years, worked as a lifeguard at the Little Rock Country Club. Ford recalls that his residence in …