Media

Entry Category: Media

Terror at Black Falls

Produced, written, directed, and edited by Richard C. Sarafian, Terror at Black Falls was filmed in Arkansas in Scotland (Van Buren County) in 1959 and released in 1962. The low-budget, black-and-white Western was barely of feature length. A DVD runs sixty-eight minutes, but the movie was probably originally longer. Various sources say the film was seventy, seventy-two, or seventy-six minutes. It was the first film directed by Sarafian and may have been intended as his calling card film in Hollywood, a sample to show studios his ability. The film’s loquacious narrator says that the movie tells “a true story” set “when Arkansas was part of the wild American frontier.” However, it was not based on a true story. Like another …

Thomas, John Orval

John Orval Thomas was a teacher, mentor, and role model for many television and film industry professionals in Arkansas. He worked as a sound engineer on major motion pictures, produced political campaign commercials, and had a variety of jobs in the television industry. Orval Thomas Jr. was born in Slocomb (Saline County) on November 25, 1919, to John Quincy Thomas Sr., who was a traveling preacher, and Eliza Eldridge Thomas. When Thomas was four, his parents started taking him on various “speaking engagements” of the revival circuit, where they would play one-reel silent movies in between his father’s sermons. When he was fourteen, Thomas took a job at a photography studio, the Deluxe Studio in Hot Springs (Garland County). There, …

Thomas, Ruth Harris

Ruth Harris Thomas was a highly regarded amateur ornithologist whose column on birding in Arkansas was published by the Arkansas Gazette for about forty years. Her column not only documented area birds, but it also contributed to a growing appreciation for birds, birding, and habitat conservation. Ruth Harris was born in Kentucky on August 25, 1900, to Charles O. Harris and Columbia B. Cox Harris. She had two brothers. Majoring in English and journalism, Harris graduated from Louisiana State University in 1923, where she also edited the student newspaper. She moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the autumn of 1923 to work as a reporter for the Arkansas Gazette newspaper. In 1927, she married Maine native Stanley Powers Rowland …

Thomason, Harry Z.

Harry Z. Thomason is a film and television producer best known for the television series Designing Women and for his friendship with Bill Clinton. Thomason made the casting of people of Southern heritage more popular, replacing the ignorant hillbilly type with a more wry, witty, sophisticated Southerner. Thomason was born in 1940 in Hampton (Calhoun County). After moving to Little Rock (Pulaski County), he became a high-school speech teacher and football coach. Beginning with Encounter with the Unknown (1973), he wrote, produced, and/or directed the movies The Great Lester Boggs (1974), So Sad about Gloria (1975), The Day It Came to Earth (1979), and Revenge of Bigfoot (1979). He then moved to television, where he produced the television movies A Shining Season …

Thornton, Billy Bob

Billy Bob Thornton is an actor, director, screenwriter, and musician who began his film career in the late 1980s and has since starred in a number of popular and critically acclaimed films. He received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Sling Blade (1996). Billy Bob Thornton was born on August 4, 1955, in Hot Springs (Garland County), the oldest son of high school basketball coach Billy Ray Thornton and Virginia Faulkner, a psychic. At seven months of age, he set the Clark County record for heaviest infant, at thirty pounds. He has two younger brothers, Jimmy Don and John David. Residing with over a dozen relatives in a shack with no electricity or plumbing, the Thorntons subsisted on …

Times Dispatch (Walnut Ridge)

The weekly Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County) newspaper the Times Dispatch has been in continuous publication since 1910 when Dave A. Lindsey moved his newspaper operations from Pocahontas (Randolph County) to Walnut Ridge. The newspaper’s website gives this characterization of the paper: “The Times Dispatch has traditionally been a conservative, Democratic newspaper, with a mission to provide complete news coverage of Lawrence County and to serve as a crusader and primary supporter of Lawrence County and its businesses.” In 1913, Lindsey sold the paper to Walter Smith. Smith published the paper for approximately eight years before selling it to James L. Bland Sr. of Perry County and Austin Wilkerson, editor and publisher of the Newport Independent. By 1922, Bland was the …

Tom Sawyer, Detective

Tom Sawyer, Detective, a novella written by Mark Twain and published in 1896, was a parody of mystery stories, especially the Sherlock Holmes tales of Arthur Conan Doyle, which began to appear in 1887. Set in Arkansas, the novel was adapted into a movie in 1938. In the mid-1890s, Mark Twain, near bankruptcy after unwise investments, returned to his popular characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to revive his fortunes. He wrote Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894), a parody of the travel adventures of Jules Verne, and began a novel to be titled Tom Sawyer among the Indians, which was never completed. Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896) had an unusual origin. While visiting Europe in late 1894, Twain had been told the …

Town That Dreaded Sundown, The

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a 1976 horror film by producer/director Charles B. Pierce. Based very loosely on true incidents that took place just after World War II around Texarkana (Miller County), it was one of the first movies in the “slasher” genre. The film starred 1971 Academy Award winner Ben Johnson along with television stars Andrew Prine and Dawn Wells. The movie, considered a cult classic, made a huge profit over production costs. It was remade in 2014. To form the basis of his fifth film, Pierce chose what were called the “Texarkana Moonlight Murders,” which took place throughout 1946 primarily in Texarkana, Texas, though he represents them as occurring on the Arkansas side of the city. A …

Trimble, Vance

Vance Henry Trimble is a prolific award-winning journalist, biographer, and newspaperman from Harrison (Boone County). In 1960, Trimble won the Pulitzer Prize for national coverage, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for distinguished Washington coverage, and the Raymond Clapper Award for that year’s best reporting. Vance Trimble was born in Harrison on July 6, 1913. His father, Guy L. Trimble, was a lawyer, and his mother, Josie Trimble, was a poet and writer. By 1920, anti-union violence and mob rule, culminating in what has been called the Harrison Railroad Riot, forced Guy Trimble to resign as mayor and move his family to Okemah, Oklahoma, where Vance Trimble grew up. Trimble’s mother directed plays at Okemah’s Crystal Theater, and when Trimble was …

True Grit

“Here is what happened.” With those simple words, Mattie Ross of Dardanelle (Yell County) begins her reminiscence of the time she avenged her father’s murder with the help of a one-eyed deputy marshal and a dandy Texas Ranger. Set in western Arkansas and the Indian Territory of the 1870s, the novel True Grit, written by Arkansan Charles Portis, mixes this unlikely trio of personalities in a bestselling Western adventure. Published in 1968, True Grit was adapted into a movie and released the following year. The movie garnered veteran actor John Wayne the first and only Oscar of his career for his portrayal of Deputy Marshal Rooster Cogburn. In 2010, a second film adaptation of the novel, written and directed by …

Turner Bell, Debbye

aka: Debrah Lynn Turner
Debrah Lynn (Debbye) Turner Bell, who grew up in Jonesboro (Craighead County), was crowned Miss America 1990. After her reign as Miss America, she became a veterinarian, has appeared on national television, and is a motivational speaker on youth-related and Christian topics. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1994. “Debbye” Turner was born on September 19, 1965, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Gussie Turner and Frederick Turner Jr., who was stationed there in the military. As a child, she set her goal to become a veterinarian but recognized the financial challenges ahead, especially after her parents’ divorce. Living in Jonesboro with her sister, Suzette, and her mother, who became an academic counselor at Arkansas State University …

Under Siege

The television movie Under Siege was first broadcast over two nights in February 1986. It was filmed in and around Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1985, with the Arkansas State Capitol standing in for the nation’s capitol building in Washington DC. Today, the movie is notable for its prescient storyline of a suicide terrorist attack by Arab nationals against the U.S. mainland, an idea considered improbable at the time. This movie should not be confused with a 1992 Steven Seagal martial-arts movie of the same title. The 136-minute film—which, with commercials, filled two ninety-minute showings on two evenings—was billed as a “Special Event Miniseries” on the NBC network. Under Siege was directed by Roger Young, who also directed the movies …

Underwood, Sheryl

Comedian and actress Sheryl P. Underwood has gained national recognition in comedy, television, politics, and philanthropy. She is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Sheryl Underwood was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) at St. Vincent Infirmary on October 28, 1963, to Cleo Underwood and Joyce Evelyn Underwood. She and her twin sister were premature and placed in an incubator shortly after birth; her twin died soon afterward. Underwood experienced domestic violence between her parents and spoke about it during her first episode as one of the hosts of The Talk, a CBS talk show, in 2011, revealing that she carries her twin’s birth certificate with her. Underwood has two other siblings: her brother Michael and her …

Van Dyke, Jerry

Jerry Van Dyke was a famous comedian and actor who lived in Arkansas; he was inducted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame in 1998. He was perhaps most noted for his Emmy-nominated performance as Luther Van Dam on the television show Coach. Van Dyke and his wife, Shirley Jones, owned a ranch in Hot Spring County, and, in the late 1990s, they purchased and renovated a city block in Benton (Saline County), including the Royal Theatre and a soda shop that bears his name. Jerry Van Dyke was born in Danville, Illinois, on July 27, 1931, to Loren and Hazel Van Dyke. Loren Van Dyke was a traveling salesman for the Sunshine Biscuit Company. Both their sons had successful …

Vick, Volmer “Cactus”

Volmer “Cactus” Vick was one of Arkansas’s first radio and television personalities in the post–World War II era. As a showman, Vick was a combination of magician, ventriloquist, comedian, preacher, and cowboy. Vick’s three-decade-long career began on a local radio station in the late 1940s. He made thousands of appearances, in character, while working as spokesperson for the Finkbeiner Meat Packing Company and for the Continental Baking Company in Little Rock (Pulaski County), makers of Arkansas Maid Wieners and Wonder Bread, respectively. Volmer Voss Vick was born on a plantation at Varner (Lincoln County) on November 2, 1911. His father, K. P. Vick, had a general store there before he died, leaving Vick—the oldest of three children—to help his mother, …

Village Academy Beavers

Village Academy was a fictitious private school in Arkansas that was created by two members of the staff at Jessieville High School in Garland County in 1985. Fake scores for the school’s football teams were printed from 1985 to 1988 in the Arkansas Gazette and the Arkansas Democrat before anyone at either of the Little Rock (Pulaski County) newspapers caught on. It is considered one of the classic pranks in modern Arkansas history and was the subject of a lengthy feature story in the 2015 edition of Hooten’s Arkansas Football magazine. Soon after that story was published, the Little Rock–based company Rock City Outfitters began selling Village Academy Beavers shirts. Bob Sivils, the band director at Jessieville High School at …

Wakely, James Clarence (Jimmy)

Jimmy Wakely, an American country and western singer and actor from the 1930s through the 1950s, made several recordings and appeared in B-western movies with most major studios as a “singing cowboy.” Wakely was one of the last singing cowboys after World War II and also appeared on radio and television; he even had his own series of comic books. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1680 Vine Street. Jimmy Wakely was born James Clarence Wakeley on February 16, 1914, in Mineola (Howard County) to Major Anderson Wakeley, a farmer, and Caroline (or Carolin) “Cali” Burgess Wakeley. As a teenager, he changed “James” to “Jimmy” and dropped the second “e” in his last name, making …

War Room, The

The War Room is a 1993 documentary in which filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker produced an inside look at Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign for president of the United States. The filmmakers were granted access to the Clinton campaign center, dubbed by Hillary Clinton as the “war room.” It was filmed mostly in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and featured a number of well-known Little Rock locations. Pennebaker, a respected filmmaker, was especially known for 1967’s Don’t Look Back about Bob Dylan and 1968’s Monterey Pop about the legendary music festival. The War Room made stars of campaign strategists James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, won a number of prizes …

Washburn, Alexander Henry

Alexander Henry (Alex) Washburn was a prominent conservative newspaperman in southern Arkansas who served as the editor and publisher of the Hope Star for fifty-four years. Washburn sought to stay ahead of the technology curve, and in 1942, the Star began one of the world’s first transmissions by wire of newspaper content from other papers. The Star was also an early user of offset printing, 35 mm photography, and the four-color process. Alex Washburn was born on August 12, 1899, in Toronto, Canada, to American parents from Pennsylvania and Illinois. His father, William Henry Washburn, was an official with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and his mother, Annie Henry Washburn, was a homemaker. Washburn was the oldest of three sons and …

Watson, Patrick Samuel Gideon

Patrick Samuel Gideon Watson, the father of Baptist history in Arkansas, was one of the state’s early itinerate ministers and the editor of Arkansas’s first religious newspaper in 1859. Watson was born on May 2, 1816, in Falmouth, Kentucky, the son of local farmer Joseph Watson and Ann Anderson Watson. His writings indicate that he received an excellent classical education. He married Catherine Oldham Harris on March 14, 1839, in Kentucky. They were the parents of eleven children, only three of which were living by the time the family moved to Texas in the 1870s. In 1843, he was licensed to preach by the historic Forks of Licking Baptist Church in Falmouth. Shortly afterward, he and his family joined an …

Webber, Harold L. “Brother Hal”

Harold L. “Brother Hal” Webber was a popular morning announcer on the Little Rock (Pulaski County) radio station KLRA. A large part of central Arkansas woke up to his broadcast for over three decades. His morning show was always filled with homespun humor, storytelling, and advertisements that were more like recommendations from a friend—all interspersed with a mix of gospel and country music. Harold L. Webber was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on February 19, 1926. His grandparents were farmers in Poinsett County, Arkansas, and he spent time there in his younger days soaking up the rural culture and stories. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy Seabees. After the war, he returned to Memphis, where he married …

WEHCO Media, Inc.

WEHCO Media, Inc., of Little Rock (Pulaski County) is a privately owned communications company with interests in newspaper publishing, cable television, and digital services. Established in 1909, it operates daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, and cable television companies in six states. WEHCO (pronounced WAY-CO) is an acronym for Walter E. Hussman Company. The company chairman is Walter E. Hussman Jr., who also serves as publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the company’s largest newspaper. Hussman is the grandson of Clyde E. Palmer, whose media holdings formed the basis of WEHCO, and the son of newspaper publisher Walter Hussman Sr. The company has almost 2,000 employees. In a history of his family for the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, Hussman wrote: “In 1909, …

Wells, George Henson

George Henson Wells was a reporter and editor at the Pine Bluff Commercial and Arkansas Gazette. His long career was marked at the end by his distinguished reporting on two epic federal trials. George Wells was born on February 9, 1938, in Hot Springs (Garland County), the son of George Wells, who was at one time an insurance salesman, and Annette Wilson Wells. While his father worked at construction jobs around the country during World War II, he and his mother lived in Camden (Ouachita County), his mother’s hometown. They lived in an apartment over a grocery store until Wells graduated from Camden High School and they moved to Hot Springs. At Ouachita Baptist College (now Ouachita Baptist University) in …

Wells, Ira James Kohath

A pioneer in education and journalism, Ira James Kohath Wells was a gifted scholar, businessman, and humanitarian with humble rural beginnings. Ira J. K. Wells was born in Tamo (Jefferson County) on July 1, 1898, to William James Wells and Emma Brown Wells. When he was young, half of his leg was amputated after he injured it trying to hop on to a moving freight train. For the rest of his life, he had a wooden prosthetic leg. He finished his secondary education at Branch Normal College in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County)—now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB)—and then went on to earn a degree in business from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1923. Even as a student, …

Weston v. Arkansas

aka: Arkansas v. Weston
Joseph Harry Weston v. State of Arkansas dealt with two criminal cases that reached the Arkansas Supreme Court in the 1970s, the second of which led the court to declare the state’s old criminal-libel law unconstitutional. Joseph Harry Weston was the owner and editor of a tiny tabloid newspaper in Cave City (Sharp County) called the Sharp Citizen, which he printed off and on from 1972 until 1978. The paper, which was composed on typewritten stationery with hand-drawn headlines, reveled in strongly opinionated articles that alleged corruption and other scandalous behavior by public officials, businessmen, and common citizens, including Weston’s rural neighbors. The editor’s crusades got national attention but put him into almost perpetual conflict with law-enforcement officials, prosecutors, and …

Weston, Joseph Harry

Joseph Harry Weston was a journalist who retired to the mountains of Sharp County in 1962 and became famous for a crude but crusading newspaper called the Sharp Citizen. The paper’s lurid headlines and stories packed with scandal and scurrilous descriptions of business and political leaders kept him in trouble with the law. His arrests ultimately led the Arkansas Supreme Court to invalidate the state’s 105-year-old criminal-libel law. In the six years that he printed the paper, he twice ran for governor, unsuccessfully. Joseph Weston was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on August 6, 1911. Little is known of his life from then until his retirement to a farm near Cave City (Sharp and Independence counties) except what he …

White Lightning

Released in 1973, White Lightning is a film written by William Norton and directed by Joseph Sargent starring Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty. It is set in fictional Bogan County, Arkansas, though it was shot in several locations throughout the central part of the state and includes many recognizable landmarks, particularly in Benton (Saline County). Taking its name from a colloquial term for moonshine whiskey, the film primarily deals with central character Gator McKlusky (Reynolds) and his attempt to infiltrate an illegal bootlegging operation. Upon hearing of his brother’s murder, McKlusky, who at the outset of the film is in prison for bootlegging, agrees to work as a “stool pigeon”—or cooperative informant—for the federal government in an attempt to bring …

White River Kid, The

Although The White River Kid is optimistically described by its distributors as “an outrageous comedy with a heart” and “a zany adventure with a plethora of oddball characters on the road in the Bible Belt,” actual reviews of this more or less universally panned film are less kind. Indeed, one reviewer described it as “a messy comedy infested with bad gags.” The White River Kid (video title White River) relies on negative stereotypes of Arkansans, portraying them as moronic rednecks or merely simple folk for much of its material. Based on the John Fergus Ryan novel The Little Brothers of St. Mortimer (1991), it was filmed on location in and around Hot Springs (Garland County) and other Arkansas locations during …

Whitworth, Donna Axum

Donna Axum Whitworth was the first Miss Arkansas to win the title of Miss America. She retained the distinction of being the only Miss Arkansas crowned Miss America from 1964 until 1982, when Elizabeth Ward was crowned. Donna Axum was born in 1942 in El Dorado (Union County) to Idelle and Hurley B. Axum. Her father was a banker. She said she began entering beauty pageants because, as a young person, she had an inferiority complex about being too thin and not having “a figure.” She was determined to work at improving herself and enhancing her feeling of self-worth. She won her first title, Miss Union County, in 1958 as a high school senior in El Dorado when she was …

Whitworth, William Alvin

William Alvin Whitworth began his newspaper career in Little Rock (Pulaski County) when he was a high school student. He has come to be recognized as one of the nation’s most reputable journalists, having been a writer and associate editor of the New Yorker and editor-in-chief of the Atlantic Monthly. Bill Whitworth was born on February 13, 1937, in Hot Springs (Garland County). He attended Central High School in Little Rock, where he also spent time working as an advertising department copy boy for the Arkansas Democrat. He attended the University of Oklahoma (OU) at Norman. During summers and a year he took off from school, Whitworth continued to work at the Democrat with editor Roberta Martin and photographer Will …

Williams, Harold Gene

Harold Gene Williams was a promoter of country music, a radio and television personality, and a businessman, becoming the host of the most widely syndicated country music television show outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Gene Williams was born on January 3, 1938, in Tyronza (Poinsett County) to Abe Rubel Williams and Myrtis Elease Williams, both Mississippi natives. He was one of three children. His father was a farmer and carpenter. As a boy, Williams helped his family in the cotton fields. Williams and his family moved to Dyess (Mississippi County), where they had purchased land, in 1943. Williams attended high school in Dyess, where he began his lifelong obsession with music. He also excelled as a basketball player and wrote for …

Winslow, Thyra Samter

Thyra Samter Winslow wrote more than 200 stories published between 1915 and 1955 in the heyday of American popular magazines. Her early life in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) provided background for her view of small towns as prejudiced, hypocritical, and suffocating places. She was a principal contributor to Smart Set, with stories in every issue from December 1914 to 1923. Some of her work was collected in books such as My Own, My Native Land (1935), People Round the Corner (1927), Picture Frames (1923, reprinted as Window Panes in 1945), and The Sex without Sentiment (1954). Published accounts of Winslow’s life are often contradictory. The authoritative work is a doctoral dissertation by Richard C. Winegard, who established Winslow’s biography from …

Wirges, Gene

Eugene Henry (Gene) Wirges was an Arkansas journalist noted for his crusade against the influence over Arkansas politics exerted in the early 1960s by Governor Orval Faubus and his political ally Sheriff Marlin Hawkins of Conway County. As a crusading editor and good-government advocate, Wirges, along with his wife, Betty, allied themselves with the forces of reform at serious personal risk. Principally as editor of the Morrilton Democrat, as well as other local papers, Wirges led a campaign for better government and honest elections, which resulted in lawsuits, criminal prosecution, physical altercations, and—allegedly—a contract on his life. His opponent and chief nemesis, Hawkins, vehemently denied being involved in such activities. Born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 5, 1927, …

Wishbone Cutter

aka: The Shadow of Chikara
aka: The Curse of Demon Mountain
A low-budget western/horror movie made in Yellville (Marion County) and in the Buffalo River country of Marion County, Wishbone Cutter (1977) was written, produced, and directed by Earl E. Smith, previously screenwriter on two Arkansas horror films directed by Charles B. Pierce: The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) and The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976). Wishbone Cutter, the only film Smith ever directed, was also known as The Curse of Demon Mountain and The Shadow of Chikara. The Internet Movie Database lists five additional English titles for the film’s theatrical, television, and video releases. The Arkansas setting is made clear by an opening title informing audiences that Arkansas is the only state to produce diamonds. Captain Wishbone Cutter (Joe Don …

WOK

WOK was the first radio station in Arkansas, started in 1922 by Harvey C. Couch Sr., founder of Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L). Meant to service the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) area, it was one of the early leaders in the field of mass media. In 1921, Couch visited Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the radio station KDKA, which is generally considered the creator of the modern form of broadcasting (and is also famous for announcing the results of the 1920 presidential election). On this trip, he met Lee de Forest, who invented the “radio-telephone”; Couch bought equipment and decided to set up a radio station in his home state, “to advertise Arkansas and, incidentally, [AP&L].” He believed this new means of …

Woman They Almost Lynched

An interesting film lurking behind an exploitative title, Republic Pictures’ 1953 western Woman They Almost Lynched is set in early 1865 in “Border City,” a fictitious Ozarks town bisected by the Arkansas-Missouri border. The town has been militantly neutral throughout the Civil War, under a “petticoat government” led by tyrannical mayor Delilah Courtney (Nina Varela). Made in California, the movie is a typical B-western (though better than most) with no real Arkansas atmosphere except one old man with a mandolin. The town and the rural scenery look like routine Hollywood western locales. None of the hillbilly stereotypes found in other Hollywood films set in Arkansas are present, and no one attempts a local accent. Border City is said to attract …

Woman’s Chronicle

On March 3, 1888, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) three women—Catherine Campbell Cuningham, Mary Burt Brooks, and Haryot Holt Cahoon—published the first issue of the Woman’s Chronicle, a weekly newspaper dedicated to women’s interests, particularly suffrage. Cuningham was listed as the editor, Brooks and Cahoon as associate editors. The previous year, the short-lived Little Rock publication the Southern Ladies’ Journal had ended its run, leaving a void that it appears these women sought to fill. The founding meeting of the Arkansas Equal Suffrage Association had been held the month before, likely generating some of the motivation as well. The Woman’s Chronicle focused on women’s primary day-to-day interests at the time—cooking, fashion, and literature—in addition to social gatherings, events, and the …

Woodruff, William Edward

William Edward Woodruff’s life spanned the years of Arkansas’s territorial days, statehood, Confederacy, and Reconstruction. Although best known today as the founder of the Arkansas Gazette, the state’s first newspaper, Woodruff became one of the state’s most important and colorful historical figures through his other business interests, political connections, and efforts to promote Arkansas. William Woodruff was born on December 24, 1795, on a small farm at Fire Place on Long Island, New York, the oldest of five sons born to Nathaniel Woodruff and Hannah Clarke Woodruff. His father died when Woodruff was twelve; two years later, his mother apprenticed him to Alden Spooner, a Sag Harbor, New York, printer who published the Suffolk Gazette. His original indenture document still …