Entry Category: National

Alexander, William Vollie (Bill), Jr.

William Vollie (Bill) Alexander Jr. represented the state of Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1969 to 1993, rising to the post of Chief Deputy House Majority Whip, an important position of chamber leadership. Bill Alexander was born on January 16, 1934, in Memphis, Tennessee, to William V. Alexander Sr. and Spencer (Buck) Alexander. The family moved to Osceola (Mississippi County) soon thereafter. He graduated from Osceola High School in 1951. That same year, he became an Eagle Scout. From 1951 to 1953, he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), joined the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, and then moved back to the city of his …

Alford, Thomas Dale

Thomas Dale Alford was a prominent Arkansas ophthalmologist, Episcopalian, radio announcer, civic leader, and politician remembered largely as a leader of opposition to federally mandated desegregation during the crisis at Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Alford’s role as a leading segregationist came first through his seat on the Little Rock School Board and then as the “Segregation Sticker Candidate” who upset incumbent Democratic U.S. Representative Brooks Hays after a notorious ten-day write-in campaign in the 1958 election for the Fifth Congressional District of Arkansas. Dale Alford was born near Murfreesboro (Pike County) on January 28, 1916, the son of T. H. Alford and Ida Womack Alford, both of whom were itinerant school teachers. His father ultimately became …

Anderson, Pernella

Pernella Mae Center Anderson of El Dorado (Union County) was one of Arkansas’s two African-American interviewers for the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP). She interviewed former slaves between 1936 and 1939. Pernella Center was born on April 12, 1903, in Camden (Ouachita County). She was the youngest of Willis Center and Sallie Washington Center’s ten children. Her father, a carpenter, and her mother, a housewife, were born in Louisiana but moved the family to Arkansas by 1894. Center’s mother died when Center was two years old, and her father remarried two years later. Center married her first husband, Theodore Haynie Jr., around 1920, and the couple had three children. Despite her home responsibilities, she was motivated to further her education and …

Anthony, Beryl Franklin, Jr.

Beryl Franklin Anthony Jr. is a long-time Arkansas public servant and an alumnus of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). He served as a U.S. Representative from 1979 to 1993. Beryl Franklin Anthony Jr. was born in El Dorado (Union County) on February 21, 1938, the son of Beryl Franklin Anthony Sr. and Oma Lee Roark Anthony. The Anthonys had founded the Anthony Forest Products Company, with Anthony Sr. as chairman. Anthony attended the Union County public schools; he graduated from El Dorado High School in 1956, and he earned BS and BA degrees from UA in 1961. He was also a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. In 1963, he earned a Juris Doctorate from the …

Arkansas Humanities Council (AHC)

aka: Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities
The Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities, known since its early days as the Arkansas Humanities Council (AHC), was formed in 1974 for the purpose of supporting and promoting the humanities in the state. The AHC and humanities councils for fifty-five other states and territories were established by Congress and operate under the guidelines of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), an independent agency of the United States government. While state councils were formed under NEH legislation, they are separate, independent entities. The AHC is a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Arkansas. In its legislation creating the NEH, Congress gave the term “humanities” a wide-ranging definition. In brief, it may include history, literature, languages, philosophy, archaeology, jurisprudence, comparative …

Arkansas Writers Project

The Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) served as a cultural anchor for Arkansas during the years of the Great Depression by providing work for unemployed and underemployed writers, who observed, recorded, and described the contemporary cultural conditions in their work. These texts serve to this day as the most complete and comprehensive documentation of Arkansas history and culture available from the viewpoint of Arkansans. The FWP was initiated in July 1935 as a component of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) program. The intention of the FWP was to provide employment to out-of-work writers affected by the Depression. The FWP writers were engaged in writing local histories, travelers’ guides, and cultural chronicles, particularly those relating to long-oppressed American groups …

Austin, Stephen Fuller

Stephen Fuller Austin, most widely known as the “Father of Texas,” spent a short period of his life in Arkansas after leaving Missouri and before heading south to establish the Lone Star Republic now known as Texas. Austin spent only a brief time in Arkansas, but there are various partnerships cited and references to his presence in historical notes regarding the settling of southwest Arkansas. Stephen Austin was born on November 3, 1793, near a lead mining area in Austinville in Wythe County, southwest Virginia, to Moses Austin and Mary Brown Austin. He was the second of five children. His father, Moses, was the pioneer who originally obtained the land grant from Mexico for an American colony in Texas. Moses …

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, …

Bennett, Henry Garland

Henry Garland Bennett was an Arkansas-born educator who played a transformative role in the development of the state of Oklahoma’s system of higher education. In addition, in his final years, he was appointed to help direct the U.S. State Department’s Point Four Program. He served from 1950 until his sudden death in a plane crash in December 1951. Henry G. Bennett was born on December 14, 1886, in Nevada County. The son of the Reverend Thomas Jefferson Bennett and Mary Elizabeth Bright Bennett, he had three sisters. The family moved from Arkansas to Texas before Bennett’s first birthday but settled in Arkadelphia (Clark County) before he started school. It was there that he grew up and received his early education. …

Berry, Robert Marion

Robert Marion Berry represented Arkansas’s First Congressional District as a Democrat for seven terms. First elected to the 105th Congress, he served from January 1997 until January 2011. Marion Berry was born in Stuttgart (Arkansas County) on August 27, 1942. The son of a rice farmer and his wife, he had two brothers. He was educated in local schools before graduating from DeWitt High School in DeWitt (Arkansas County). Berry went on to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he earned a BS in pharmacy in 1965. He settled in Gillett (Arkansas County) and became a licensed pharmacist and a farmer who grew rice and soybeans. He soon became involved in local politics, winning a seat …

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 …

Biffle, Leslie L.

Leslie L. Biffle was a national Democratic Party official from Arkansas. After serving as secretary for Arkansas congressional officials in Washington DC, Biffle became the Democratic Party secretary and finally the secretary of the U.S. Senate, serving from 1945 to 1947 and 1949 to 1953. Leslie (or Les) Biffle was born on October 9, 1889, in Boydsville (Clay County) in northeastern Arkansas. His parents were William B. “Billie” Biffle, who was a local Democratic Party official, and Minnie Ella Turner Biffle. The family soon moved to Piggott (Clay County), and many today continue to cite Piggott as Biffle’s birthplace. Biffle attended schools in Piggott and Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1909, he moved to Washington DC to be secretary for …

Boles, Thomas

Thomas Boles was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Third District of Arkansas in the Fortieth, Forty-First, and Forty-Second Congresses from 1868 to 1871 and then again from 1872 to 1873. Thomas Boles was born on July 16, 1837, near Clarksville (Johnson County) to John Boles and Mary May Boles. One of eleven children, he was educated in the local common schools and was a teacher for a few years before becoming sheriff of Yell County in 1858. The following year, he was appointed deputy clerk of the Yell County circuit court, a position that motivated him to study law. Admitted to the Arkansas bar in 1860, he started a practice in Danville (Yell …

Boozman, John

Businessman and rancher John Boozman became a leading Republican officeholder in the early part of the twenty-first century. First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2001, he was later elected to the Senate and became, in 2015, the state’s senior U.S. senator. John Boozman was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on December 10, 1950, to Fay Winford Boozman Jr. and Marie Nichols Boozman. Fay Boozman was a U.S. Air Force master sergeant, and the family moved frequently when John was young. Boozman spent his high school years in Arkansas, graduating from Northside High School in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Boozman played football for the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), which he attended from 1969 to 1972. …

Borland, Solon

Solon Borland was a physician, editor, United States senator, diplomat, and military officer. He was the first Arkansas politician to be given a major diplomatic assignment, which eventually resulted in the destruction of a town in Central America, one of the earliest examples of U.S. gunboat diplomacy.  According to an article in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Solon Borland was born in Suffolk, Nansemond County, Virginia, the youngest of three sons born to Thomas Wood Borland, a physician, and Harriet Godwin. Additional sources have his date of birth as August 8, 1811. His family moved to North Carolina by 1823. In 1831, he married Hildah (or Huldah) Wright of Virginia; they had two sons, Harold and Thomas. He …

Boudinot, Elias Cornelius

Elias Cornelius Boudinot was a mixed-lineage Cherokee lawyer, newspaper editor, and lobbyist. He was active in civic life and Democratic Party politics in Arkansas during the Civil War era, serving in the Confederate Cherokee forces and the Confederate Congress during the conflict. In the following years, he maintained close connections with leading Democratic politicians in Arkansas while engaging in legal, economic, and political activities. Elias Cornelius Boudinot was born on August 1, 1835, in New Echota, Georgia, to Elias Boudinot, who was Cherokee, and his white wife, Harriet Gold. He was one of six siblings. After the assassination of his father in 1839 in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), the Gold family raised the Boudinot children in the East. Boudinot returned …

Bowie, Jim

aka: James Bowie
Jim Bowie, the man who popularized the bowie knife and who served as the co-commander of the Texan forces at the Alamo, was also an adventurer and land speculator who achieved notoriety for a number of fraudulent land claims he made in Arkansas. Little is known about Bowie’s birth. His father was Rezin Bowie and his mother Alvina Jones (Elve) Bowie. Their son Jim was most likely born in Logan County, Kentucky, although some accounts place his birth in Tennessee or Georgia. Bowie had numerous brothers and sisters, and two of his brothers, Rezin P. and John, each owned property in Arkansas in Chicot County and Helena (Phillips County) during their lives. It is believed that John Bowie is buried …

Breckinridge, Clifton Rodes

Clifton Rodes Breckinridge was a late-nineteenth-century Arkansas politician who attained national prominence. After serving as a leading congressman for more than a decade, he became the first Arkansan appointed to a major European diplomatic post, serving as minister to Russia for three years. Late in life, Breckinridge was a delegate to the 1917–1918 Arkansas Constitutional Convention. Clifton Breckinridge was born in Lexington, Kentucky, on November 22, 1846, to Mary Cyrene Burch and John Cabell Breckinridge. The Breckinridges were a political dynasty that began with his grandfather, John Breckinridge, who was President Thomas Jefferson’s attorney general. The dynasty continued with John Cabell Breckinridge, who served as a senator and vice president of the United States and as a general and secretary …

Brundidge, Stephen, Jr.

Stephen Brundidge Jr. was a prosecuting attorney, a member of the Democratic State Central Committee, and a six-term U.S. Representative for the Sixth and Second Congressional districts. Born on January 1, 1857, in Searcy (White County), Brundidge was the fourth child of Stephen and Minerva Brundidge, who moved to Searcy from Mississippi in 1853. His father was a contractor who built the first brick buildings in Searcy, including the main section of the present White County Courthouse, built in 1869. Brundidge graduated with honors from the Searcy Male and Female Academy. He then read law in the offices of William R. Coody and Dandridge McRae and was admitted to the bar in 1879. He first practiced law in Jacksonport (Jackson …

Caldwell, Arthur Brann

Arthur Brann Caldwell served in several capacities with the federal government over nearly four decades, including as an assistant to a U.S. senator and a U.S. vice president and as an officer in the Department of War. He also had a long career as a lawyer and administrator with the Department of Justice. A. B. Caldwell was born on September 1, 1906, in Mammoth Spring (Fulton County) to John Caldwell and Margaret Sterling Caldwell; he had one sibling. Caldwell’s father served as assistant attorney general of Arkansas before he became librarian of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Caldwell attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he was very active in Glee Club and other musical groups and served in …

Caraway, Hattie Ophelia Wyatt

Hattie Ophelia Wyatt Caraway was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate, the first woman to preside over the Senate, the first to chair a Senate committee, and the first to preside over a Senate hearing. She served from 1931 to 1945 and was a strong supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s economic recovery legislation during the Great Depression. Hattie Wyatt was born to William Carroll Wyatt and Lucy Burch Wyatt on February 1, 1878, near Bakersville, Tennessee. It is unknown how many siblings she had, though the 1900 Census shows four children living at her parents’ residence. When she was four, she moved with her family to Hustburg, Tennessee, where she helped on the family farm and in …

Caraway, Thaddeus Horatius

Thaddeus Horatius Caraway was an Arkansas prosecuting attorney who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives four times and to the U.S. Senate twice. A progressive champion of the poor, Caraway vigorously challenged corruption while aiding Arkansas during the beginning of the Great Depression. His wife, Hattie Wyatt Caraway, filled his Senate seat upon his death on November 6, 1931. Thaddeus H. Caraway was born on October 17, 1871, in Spring Hill, Missouri, to Tolbert Caraway and Mary Ellen Caraway. After his father’s death when Caraway was a young child, his mother struggled to maintain the family. She moved the family to Clay County, Arkansas, when he was twelve. Caraway left Arkansas to attend Dickson Normal College in Dickson, …

Carroll, David Williamson

David Williamson Carroll, who was one of the eleven men who represented the state in the Confederate Congress, was the first Roman Catholic to represent Arkansas in a national legislative body. He was one of the three members of the eleven-member Arkansas delegation who owned no slaves. David Williamson Carroll was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on March 11, 1816, the eldest child of William Carroll and Henrietta Maria Williamson. He was the scion of a prominent Catholic family. His great-grandfather Daniel Carroll (1730–1796) participated in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, being one of the three members of the Maryland delegation to sign the document. Daniel Carroll was the older brother of John Carroll (1735–1815), the first Catholic bishop and archbishop …

Carter-Perry, June

June Carter-Perry is a former educator, diplomat, and U.S. State Department official. Her lengthy and multi-faceted diplomatic career included service as the U.S. ambassador to both Lesotho and Sierra Leone. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2016. June Carter was born on November 13, 1943, in Texarkana (Miller County). Her mother, Louise Pendleton Carter, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malaysia. June Carter graduated from Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois, in 1965, earning a bachelor’s degree in history. She earned a master’s degree in European history from the University of Chicago in 1967. She soon married Fredrick M. Perry, who served as an official with both the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the …

Casqui

Casqui was a Native American chief who ruled over a province in northeast Arkansas in the 1500s. He was the first Indian leader in Arkansas whose 1541 dealings with the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto are recorded in detail in the accounts of the expedition. Casqui was thus the earliest Arkansan about whom we have written historical information. In the Spanish writings, his name was variously recorded as Casqui, Casquin, or Icasqui. The explorers used his name to refer to him, the town in which he resided, and the area over which he ruled. Knowledge of Casqui himself is limited, but the narratives provide interesting details about his people and the territory under his control, as well as some of …

Cate, William Henderson

  William Henderson (W. H.) Cate was a lawyer, a judge, and a Democratic politician who served in the state legislature from 1871 to 1874 and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1889 to 1890 and from 1891 to 1893. Charges of election fraud in the 1888 election resulted in federal hearings that saw him ousted from his congressional seat in 1890. W. H. Cate, born on November 11, 1839, near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was one of two surviving children born to Noah Cate, who was a Baptist minister, and his wife Margaret M. (Henderson) Cate. Raised in Tennessee’s Hawkins and Sullivan counties, he attended the common schools and academies in Abingdon, Virginia, and Rogersville, Tennessee. In 1857, he graduated from the University of …

Civil Works Administration (CWA)

The Civil Works Administration (CWA) was one of the first federal relief programs under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to provide employment and infrastructure improvements in the depths of the Great Depression. During this time, U.S. officials realized that the system created by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) to fund unskilled-labor jobs through state and local governments to provide employment was not sufficient to combat the worsening effects of the economic depression gripping the country. In response, Harry Hopkins, who was Roosevelt’s federal relief administrator and a proponent of work relief (as opposed to direct relief for the able-bodied unemployed), proposed a new agency to provide jobs. Roosevelt established the Civil Works Administration by executive order in November …