Nonfiction

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Entry Category: Nonfiction

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 …

Fleming, Victor Anson (Vic)

Victor Anson “Vic” Fleming of Little Rock (Pulaski County) is a judge, author, and adjunct law professor. He also writes crossword puzzles that appear in prestigious national publications, including the New York Times. In 2017, Fleming and former President Bill Clinton co-authored a Times crossword. Fleming appeared in the 2006 documentary film Wordplay, playing guitar and singing an original song, “If You Don’t Come Across (I’m Gonna Be Down),” about the relationship between a Times crossword and its solver. Vic Fleming was born on December 26, 1951, in Jackson, Mississippi, to Elijah Anson Fleming Jr., who was a General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) manager, and Norfleet Cranford Fleming, who worked as an administrative assistant for the Mississippi legislature. The family …

Froug, William (Bill)

Emmy Award–winning Bill Froug was a writer, producer, author, educator, and television executive whose career in radio and television had a significant impact upon the entertainment industry. Film critic Roger Ebert once said of Froug, “He is not merely as sharp as a tack; he is the standard by which they sharpen tacks.” William (Bill) Froug was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 26, 1922. He was raised by adoptive parents Rita and Bill Froug in Little Rock (Pulaski County), residing first in Hillcrest and later in the Quapaw Quarter. Froug attended Rightsell Elementary School, East Side Jr. High, and Little Rock Senior High School (now Central High). Summer breaks were often filled with Arkansas Travelers baseball games and …

Fulks, Clay

Clay Fulks was a notable figure in Arkansas’s limited history of radical leftism. He was a repeat candidate for governor on the Arkansas Socialist Party ticket and published articles in such nationally important periodicals as the American Mercury. Clay Fulks was born on January 28, 1880, in Pearson (Cleburne County) to Whitman Whifield Fulks and Martha Ellen Thompson Fulks. He had five brothers and four sisters. He graduated from Heber Springs High School in 1903. From 1909 to 1915, he wrote articles for newspapers in White County, where he also served as a public school teacher, and, in 1916, edited a column titled “Department of Economics” in the Searcy Daily News; he also contributed to the Milwaukee Leader from 1920 …

Gardner, Virginia

Virginia Gardner was a journalist and left-wing activist. At one time a member of the Communist Party, she was also the author of a well-received biography of Louise Bryant, the wife of Russian Revolution chronicler John Reed. Although born in Oklahoma, Gardner spent most of her youth in Arkansas. Virginia Gardner was born on June 27, 1904, in Sallisaw, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). She was the youngest of three daughters born to Gertrude Boltswood Gardner and John Gardner, who was a banker. The family moved to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) when she was two. That same year, her father contracted tuberculosis. He was taken to Colorado for treatment, and he sometimes returned there in the summers. Gardner’s mother died when …

Goodspeed Histories

The Goodspeed histories of Arkansas are a collection of six volumes originally published individually between 1889 and 1891 (as well as a seventh volume published in 1894) by the Goodspeed Publishing Company of Chicago, Illinois; Nashville, Tennessee; and St. Louis, Missouri. In an effort to “gather and preserve…the enormous fund of perishing occurrence,” each volume contains an extensive description of the existing historical record of the era, often supplemented with information obtained from local citizens and public officials. Although their style, content, and the method in which they were sold suggests that they were written to appeal to the general public, the Goodspeed histories are now recognized as a valuable tool for local historical and genealogical research. The content within …

Greenberg, Paul

Journalist Paul Greenberg of Little Rock (Pulaski County) was a nationally recognized syndicated columnist and author whose writing appeared in newspapers across the country. He was the longtime editor of the Pine Bluff Commercial’s editorial page and later served as editorial page editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Greenberg won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing and was later a Pulitzer finalist and Pulitzer jurist. Paul Greenberg was born on January 21, 1937, in Shreveport, Louisiana. His parents were Sarah Ackerman Greenberg and Ben Greenberg, owners of a second-hand shoe store and a series of small businesses on Texas Avenue in Shreveport. He had an older sister, Lillian, and an older brother, Irving. Living with his family above the family …

Hall, B. C.

Baxter Clarence (B. C.) Hall Jr. was an author and teacher whose novels and books on Southern myth and culture attracted wide readership in the last half of the twentieth century. Hall usually wrote under the name B. C. Hall. His best-known books were the novels The Burning Season, Nashville Lady, and Keepers of the Feast, and three nonfiction works on which he collaborated with writer friends C. T. Wood and Bob Lancaster. He also wrote numerous pulp-fiction novels, sometimes cynically referred to as “bodice rippers,” under pseudonyms like Julia French. B. C. Hall was born at St. James (Stone County) on June 9, 1936, the youngest of nine children of Baxter Clarence “Bunk” Hall and Hattie Camellia Younger “Dutch” …

Herndon, Dallas Tabor

Dallas Tabor Herndon, father of the archival movement in Arkansas, was the first director of the Arkansas State Archives (previously called the Arkansas History Commission). From 1911 until his death in 1953, he labored tirelessly to preserve manuscripts and other material relating to Arkansas history and culture. Dallas Herndon was born on August 28, 1878, the son of John Alpheus and Mary Mildred Brown Herndon, farmers who lived in Elberton, Georgia. He received his BS and MS degrees in history and political science from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) in 1902 and 1903, respectively. After four years of teaching at Mobile and Auburn, Alabama, he entered the University of Chicago, where he worked toward a PhD in history and English …

Hudgins, Mary Dengler

Mary Dengler Hudgins was a prolific writer of regional history in Arkansas. Her research and writing led her to amass an exceptional collection of publications and historical materials that document the history of Garland County, its county seat of Hot Springs, and the state of Arkansas. Mary Hudgins was born in Hot Springs on November 24, 1901. She was the only child of Jackson Wharton and Ida Dengler Hudgins. Her father worked in the real estate business, and her mother was a teacher. She attended public schools in Hot Springs and then attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington Couny), where she majored in English and served as a reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, UA’s student newspaper. After graduating with …

Hunting of the President, The

The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons was published in 2000. The book formed the basis for a documentary film titled The Hunting of the President first shown on January 23, 2004, at the Sundance Film Festival. The ninety-minute film, narrated by Morgan Freeman, was directed by Nickolas Perry and Harry Thomason. The book examines the motives behind the investigation into what has been termed the “Whitewater Scandal,” as well as the news organizations and advocacy groups that tried to mire President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton (along with several of their associates) in scandal. Initial book sales were brisk, and the book was extensively …

Kearney, Janis

Janis Kearney was the publisher of the historic Arkansas State Press and later served as presidential diarist to U.S. president Bill Clinton from 1995 to 2001, the first such appointment in presidential history. After leaving Washington DC, she wrote several books and founded a publishing company. Janis Faye Kearney was born on September 29, 1953, in the small rural town of Gould (Lincoln County). She was the fourteenth of nineteen children born to sharecropper Thomas James Kearney and homemaker Ethel Curry Kearney, who also worked in the fields. By the time she was nine years old, Kearney was helping to care for her younger brothers and sisters as well as cooking for the large family. She spent evenings learning to …

Kimpel, Ben Drew

Ben Drew Kimpel, a professor of English at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) from 1952 to 1983, was a widely respected scholar and linguist. He wrote the definitive biography of eighteenth-century novelist Samuel Richardson with UA colleague Duncan Eaves; they also published numerous articles on Richardson and the works of twentieth-century poet Ezra Pound and edited a 1971 edition of Richardson’s novel Pamela. Ben Kimpel was born on November 5, 1915, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). He was the only son of attorney Ben Drew Kimpel Sr. and Gladys Kimpel. Kimpel attended the public schools (with a private tutor in French) and graduated from Fort Smith High School at age fourteen. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy …

Lancaster, Bob

Bob Lancaster worked at several publications as a writer and editor for nearly fifty years. His iconoclastic journalism and imaginative, idiomatic style produced an avid readership wherever he went, and his deep research and waggish writing popularized Arkansas history for a generation of readers. Lancaster wrote for the Pine Bluff Commercial, the Arkansas Gazette, the Arkansas Democrat, the Arkansan, the original Arkansas Times magazine, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the weekly Arkansas Times newspaper. At the end of his four-year sojourn as a daily columnist in Philadelphia, he declined job offers from the New York Times and the St. Petersburg Times of Florida to return to Arkansas. Lancaster published a book of collected writings on Arkansas history, a novel based upon the …

LeMaster, Carolyn Gray

Carolyn Gray LeMaster was the leading chronicler of Jewish life in Arkansas, through books, articles, and lectures, especially her book A Corner of the Tapestry: A History of the Jewish Experience in Arkansas, 1820s–1990s. Carolyn Gray was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 17, 1927, to Elisha Columbus Gray, who was a railroad engineer and brakeman, and Erma White Gray, a homemaker. She left high school after the tenth grade to help support her family and care for her widowed mother. She married Robert W. LeMaster, a hospital executive in Little Rock. They had four children. After the children were grown, LeMaster enrolled in 1975 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), where she graduated magna …

Lewis, David Levering

David Levering Lewis is a Pulitzer Prize–winning American historian best known for his works on the African-American experience in the twentieth century. He has written biographies of two of the most important figures in the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. and W. E. B. Du Bois, as well as a reader on the Harlem Renaissance. In 1999, Lewis was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” David Lewis was born on May 25, 1936, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the son of John H. Lewis, an educator and principal of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, and Urnestine (Bell) Lewis, who taught high school math. Lewis attended parochial school in Little Rock and then continued his education in Ohio and …

Lyons, Eugene Aloysius (Gene)

Eugene Aloysius (Gene) Lyons is an award-winning author, columnist, and political commentator who lives in Arkansas and wrote a nationally syndicated column for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, among other publications. He is author of several books and co-author of The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton (2000), which was made into a documentary film in 2004. Gene Lyons was born on September 20, 1943, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to Eugene Aloysius Lyons Jr., an insurance clerk, and Helen Sheedy Lyons, a typist. For a time, Lyons’s father also ran a Dairy Queen. Lyons attended Chatham High School in New Jersey and graduated from Rutgers University, also in New Jersey, in 1965 with a degree …

Massey, Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth Massey was a history professor noted for her early studies of women in the Civil War, years before women’s history courses became common in university history departments. Her books have continued to be important decades after their publication. Mary Elizabeth Massey (she used her full name throughout her life) was born on December 25, 1915, in Morrilton (Conway County) to Mary McClung Massey and Charles Leonidas Massey. After graduation from Morrilton High School, she attended Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County). For multiple years, Massey was president of her sorority (in an era when Hendrix had fraternities and sororities), and she served on the Interfraternity Council, the dormitory council, and the Student Senate, in addition to serving one-year …

Mathis, Deborah Myers

Deborah Mathis is an acclaimed journalist and author who has been a reporter and columnist for newspapers and a television reporter and anchor. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2003. Deborah Myers was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on August 24, 1953. Her father, Lloyd H. Myers, was a businessman and Baptist minister, while her mother, Rachel A. Helms Myers, was an educator. She has several brothers and sisters. Myers attended Gibbs Elementary, Rightsell Elementary, and Westside Junior High, graduating from Little Rock Central High in 1971. She got her start in journalism at the Central school newspaper as the first female and first African-American editor. Rather than leave home to go to college, …

Mikel, Elmer Wayne

Elmer Wayne Mikel was a bootlegger during Prohibition and later became a self-published author who wrote books and essays about his criminal life and his experiences at the notorious Tucker State Prison Farm (now the Tucker Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction) in Jefferson County in the 1930s. Mikel was also a songwriter who wrote about Arkansas subjects, including the deadly Greenwood (Sebastian County) tornado of 1968. Elmer Mikel was born on October 8, 1905, in Jenny Lind (Sebastian County), one of ten children of George Elmer Mikel and Amanda Featherston Mikel. George Mikel, a Missouri native, was active in the United Mine Workers of America and ran as a socialist candidate for governor of Arkansas in 1912. Elmer Mikel attended high school but …

Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry

First published in 1871, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry is an abstruse philosophical tract written by Arkansas historical figure Albert Pike. The lengthy text explores the strengths and weaknesses of human character, the morals and meanings behind mythological symbols, major world religions, and ancient mystery teachings. It advocates for self-improvement through study and reflection, and it proclaims upright character to be a necessary support for democracy. Written as a spiritual instruction manual for the Masonic order, Morals and Dogma represents the philosophy of Scottish Rite Freemasonry as understood by Pike, who is known as the leading figure of the American Masonic revival movement of the mid-nineteenth century. Given Pike’s presence in Arkansas in …

My Life

My Life is the autobiography of William Jefferson Clinton, a former governor of Arkansas and the forty-second president of the United States, and was written during the three years after he left the office of president in 2001. The 957-page book, published in hardcover in 2004 by Alfred A. Knopf of New York, was the most thorough memoir of a presidency ever published and the most financially successful. Knopf ordered a first printing of one and a half million copies, but two million orders were received before its release; the company ordered a second printing of 1,075,000. On the day of its release, booksellers sold more than 400,000 copies. Clinton had received a ten-million-dollar advance to write the book, which …

Newberry, Farrar Claudius

Farrar Claudius Newberry—historian, businessman, philanthropist, and writer—was nationally known for his association with the Woodmen of the World (WOW). He authored several books and dozens of articles on Arkansas history topics. Newberry is also responsible for many markers placed at historical sites throughout Clark County. Farrar Newberry was born on July 30, 1887, in Gurdon (Clark County) to Lawrence Clinton and Mattie Harris Newberry. The family moved to Arkadelphia (Clark County) in 1894. In 1906, Newberry graduated from Arkadelphia Methodist College (which later became Henderson-Brown College) and, in 1908, received a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Newberry married Lillie Lee Thomasson on June 22, 1911, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), and the couple had two sons. Newberry …

Palmer, Bob

aka: Robert Franklin Palmer Jr.
Robert Franklin (Bob) Palmer Jr. was an author, music critic, musician, ethnomusicologist, lecturer, record producer, and documentary filmmaker, not to be confused with the British rock singer of the same name. Critic Greil Marcus called Palmer “one of the few distinguished pop music critics to come out of the South.” Bob Palmer was born on June 19, 1945, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to teacher/pianist Robert F. Palmer Sr. and award-winning poet and freelance writer Marguerite Bowers Palmer. He grew up in the lower Pulaski Heights area of Little Rock. He had one sister, a half brother, and a half sister. From an early age, Palmer had his ear to the radio. Unbeknownst to his parents, the teenaged Palmer sometimes …

Pettigrew, Helen Lyle

Helen Lyle Pettigrew was an author of word puzzles (including crossword puzzles). Her puzzles appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books, including several books for which she was the sole author. She was probably the first Arkansas native to author a syndicated crossword puzzle. Helen Pettigrew was born on October 31, 1894, in Charleston (Franklin County) to Thomas Aldridge Pettigrew, who was a prominent lawyer and educator, and Lucy Lee Ervin Pettigrew. Her father was the son of Charleston Academy founder John M. Pettigrew. She had three sisters and one brother, and was a member of the local Presbyterian Church. Helen Pettigrew was a teacher in the Charleston School District around 1920. Pettigrew’s first known puzzle was a crossword published in …

Pharr, Suzanne

Suzanne Pharr is a longtime activist for social justice. As an author, organizer, and strategist, she has led numerous campaigns aimed at ensuring equality and justice. In 1981, Pharr founded the Women’s Project, feminist, anti-racist organization, which was based in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and worked with women in small towns throughout Arkansas. Suzanne Pharr was born in 1939 in Hog Mountain, Georgia, to Cecil Pharr and Willie Mae “Peggy” Moore Pharr. Her father was a farmer, and Pharr, the youngest of eight children, grew up on a farm in Hog Mountain, Georgia, about six miles outside of Lawrenceville. After attending the local schools and earning a reputation as an outstanding high school basketball player, Pharr attended Women’s College of …

Pickens, William

William Pickens, who was born in South Carolina, spent his formative years in Woodruff County and Argenta, now North Little Rock (Pulaski County). He went on to become a nationally known orator, scholar, journalist, and essayist. William Pickens was born near Pendleton in Anderson County, South Carolina, on January 15, 1881. He was the sixth of ten children born to former slaves Jacob and Fannie Pickens. His father was a tenant farmer, and his mother worked as a cook and washerwoman. In 1888, they were lured to Woodruff County, Arkansas, by an immigration agent who promised them better employment and educational opportunities. At this time, such agents were scouring South Carolina for dissatisfied African Americans willing to work on Arkansas …

Rathke, Wade

Wade Rathke is a longtime community organizer and the founder of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). He was living in Arkansas when he started an organization that would evolve in 1970 into ACORN. His efforts to achieve social justice were highlighted in a 2017 documentary film titled The Organizer. Stephen Wade Rathke was born on August 5, 1948, in Laramie, Wyoming, to Edmann J. Rathke and Cornelia Ratliff Rathke. He was raised in Colorado and New Orleans, Louisiana, and graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans in 1966. He then headed to Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, which he attended from 1966 to 1968. Dropping out of Williams in 1968, Rathke began his organizing …

Rayburn, Otto Ernest

Otto Ernest Rayburn was a writer, magazine publisher, and collector of Arkansas and Ozark lore. Vance Randolph, in his introduction to Rayburn’s autobiography, Forty Years in the Ozarks (1957), defined Rayburn as a “dedicated regionalist” and added, “There is no denying that, in the period between 1925 and 1950, Rayburn did more to arouse popular interest in Ozark folklore than all of the professors put together.” Otto Rayburn was born on May 6, 1891, in Hacklebarney settlement, Davis County, Iowa, to William Grant Rayburn, a farmer, and Sarah Jane Turpin Rayburn. The family soon moved to Woodson County, Kansas, where Rayburn grew up. In 1909–1910, he attended Marionville College in Marionville, Missouri. In the spring of 1917, Rayburn bought forty …

Reed, Roy

Roy Reed, author of an incisive biography of Governor Orval Faubus, was a renowned writer and reporter for the Arkansas Gazette and The New York Times. He taught journalism for sixteen years at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). As a teacher, he stressed not only the importance of telling stories accurately but of telling them well, with careful attention to language. Roy Reed was born on February 14, 1930, in Hot Springs (Garland County) to Roy E. Reed, a mail carrier and later a storeowner, and Ella Meredith Reed, a homemaker. His younger sister, Hattie, died in 1964. Reed grew up in Piney, an unincorporated Garland County community near Hot Springs. Piney was racially mixed, and …

Reynolds, John Hugh

John Hugh Reynolds—Arkansas author, longtime president of Hendrix College, and founder of the Arkansas History Commission (now called the Arkansas State Archives)—was born near Enola (Faulkner County) on January 3, 1869. He was one of the seven children born to Jesse M. and Elizabeth Grimes Reynolds. His father was a carpenter, a mechanic, a blacksmith, and a county doctor. After a stint as a rural schoolteacher, Reynolds graduated from Hendrix College, a Methodist institution in Conway (Faulkner County) in 1893. Four years later, he received an MA degree in political science from the University of Chicago. Returning to Arkansas, he became a professor of history and political science at Hendrix College. During his tenure, he also served for four years …