Entry Category: Local

Carter, Ben E.

Ben E. Carter, following in his father’s footsteps, got an Ivy League education and developed a stellar law practice at Texarkana (Miller County) but died in 1943, less than four months after reaching the pinnacle of success for a lawyer: justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He had been a state representative and chairman of the state commission regulating public utilities before running for associate justice. He took office in January 1943 but suffered a fatal heart attack in early April at the age of forty-eight. Benjamin Estes Carter was born on November 1, 1894, at Texarkana to Jacob Monroe “Jack” Carter and Nellie Haywood Estes Carter. His father was a highly educated lawyer, and the son followed his path. …

Knox, Robert C.

Robert C. Knox, scion of a southern Arkansas family of politicians and lawyers, built a thirty-year legal and political career on advocacy for the Democratic Party and its powerful leaders—notably Governors Charles Hillman Brough and Homer M. Adkins. Adkins appointed Knox in 1942 to his final and preeminent job, justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He was a justice for twenty months, although a heart attack and its impairments limited his service. Before that, he had been the mayor of Monticello (Drew County), briefly the county judge, a chancery judge, an assistant attorney general, a state senator from Pulaski and Perry counties, and chairman of the Arkansas Corporation Commission. Robert Carr Knox was born on April 19, 1892, in Plantersville, …

Riddick, James E.

James E. Riddick, the son of a Tennessee farmer, obtained a law degree from the University of Michigan, moved to a town in northeastern Arkansas, and followed the traditional electoral path to the highest judicial office in Arkansas: first state legislator, then prosecuting attorney, trial judge, and finally associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Coming after the tumultuous years of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the bitter aftermath, Riddick’s career in public office was unusually free of rancor and controversy. The Supreme Court had struggled for twenty years with a growing backlog of appeals, which even an expansion of the court from three to five justices had not rectified. A few years after he went on the court, the …

Stephenson, M. L.

M. L. Stephenson, a Union officer from Illinois, fought in several major Civil War battles in Missouri and Arkansas, was wounded three times, and eventually settled on a law career in Arkansas that climaxed in a very brief but eventful term on the Arkansas Supreme Court, where he participated in one of the critical episodes and law cases of the post–Civil War era—the dispute that became the Brooks-Baxter War. Stephenson was one of the Republican justices who ruled that Joseph Brooks, not Elisha Baxter, had been elected governor in 1872—a decision that President Ulysses S. Grant effectively reversed. Marshall Lovejoy (M. L.) Stephenson was born on March 29, 1838, in rural Nicholas County, Kentucky, northeast of Lexington. His parents, Robertus …

Turner, Jesse

Jesse Turner, a North Carolina native, was a lawyer and politician who played a major but fickle role in Arkansas’s long odyssey through slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. He finally turned to economic development, principally railroads. He was a leader of the Whig Party in Arkansas until its disintegration during the Civil War, and he then took a respite from politics; during Reconstruction, he returned as a Democrat. Turner was elected to both houses of the Arkansas General Assembly, was the federal prosecuting attorney in the new United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, and served briefly as an associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He spent most of his life in Van Buren (Crawford …