Parties and Interest Groups

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American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas

aka: ACLU of Arkansas
aka: Arkansas ACLU
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas (ACLU of Arkansas) is an affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is devoted to protecting the personal liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights as well as later amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The national organization, which like the Arkansas affiliate is nonprofit and nonpartisan, was formed in 1920. The Arkansas affiliate was organized in 1969 and subsequently established its headquarters in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Both organizations lobby the legislative branches of government on civil liberties issues and supply legal counsel to people who believe their freedoms have been violated by some level of government or by individuals or businesses acting under the protection of government. The state organization also …

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) is a nonprofit policy advocacy organization that was formed by a group of concerned citizens, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, in 1977. The group’s mission is to ensure that all children and their families have the resources and opportunities to lead healthy and productive lives and to realize their full potential. The idea for a statewide child advocacy organization sprang from conversations between Dr. Bettye Caldwell, at that time the director of the Center of Early Development and Education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR); her assistant Don Crary; and Jim Miles, then deputy commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services. The three talked about forming a group …

Arkansas Anti-Saloon League

The Arkansas Anti-Saloon League was fully established in 1907 in affiliation with the national Anti-Saloon League, which originated as a state organization in Ohio in 1893. The Arkansas Anti-Saloon League protested saloons in Arkansas and was an influence upon prohibition bills in 1915 and 1917 that turned Arkansas into a dry state. Before the creation of the national Anti-Saloon League in 1895, a group of men met in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to create an organization to work to prohibit the sale of alcohol in Arkansas. This group formed the No License Association and elected Colonel George A. Thornburgh as president. The No License Association was recognized by the national Anti-Saloon League in 1899, with W. E. Atkinson elected as …

Arkansas Association for the Deaf

The Arkansas Association of the Deaf (AAD) has provided leadership and advocacy on behalf of deaf and hard-of-hearing Arkansans and members of its association since the late nineteenth century. AAD’s efforts have resulted in passage of state legislation and the implementation of new programs and services that have helped enhance the quality of life of deaf and hard-of-hearing Arkansans. AAD is a volunteer 501(c)(3) organization governed by an executive board comprised of elected officers and trustees. The AAD is one of more than fifty state associations of the deaf that are affiliated with the National Association of the Deaf, which is headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland. Originally named the Arkansas Deaf-Mute Association, the AAD was established in 1893 by two …

Arkansas Libertarian Party

aka: Libertarian Party of Arkansas
The Arkansas Libertarian Party is a state affiliate of the national Libertarian Party. Consisting of a loosely bound and sparely organized group of activists who share a philosophy of limited government, the party nevertheless has had a major influence upon state and national politics. Labeling themselves as members of “The Party of Principle,” Libertarians believe in individuals’ right to live their lives as they see fit, with government’s sole function being to protect those rights and arbitrate conflicts, thus giving equal weight to economic and personal freedoms. However, the party’s core belief in opposing the initiation of force limits its ability to achieve political objectives. The state party has been active since the mid-1970s. In 1980, it placed Ed Clark …

Arkansas Negro Democratic Association (ANDA)

The Arkansas Negro Democratic Association (ANDA) was founded in 1928 by Little Rock (Pulaski County) physician John Marshall Robinson, who served as president until 1952, and a number of other prominent black professionals. Between 1928 and 1952, ANDA was the leading voice of black Arkansas Democrats in the state. Although ANDA tackled a number of issues concerned with racial discrimination, its principal focus was on winning the right for black citizens to participate in the activities of the Arkansas Democratic Party, especially its primary elections. In Arkansas, the payment of a one-dollar poll tax qualified a person to vote, irrespective of race. But exclusion from state Democratic Party primary elections significantly disfranchised black voters since that party dominated state politics. …

Arkansas Right to Life

Arkansas Right to Life is a nonprofit organization whose stated purpose is to “educate through the presentation of detailed and factual information about fetal development, abortion, alternatives to abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and related issues, upon which individuals and the general public may make informed decisions.” The organization is mainly known for its stance against abortion, but members also actively oppose stem-cell research, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. Arkansas Right to Life is a state affiliate of National Right to Life, which was founded in 1968. The Arkansas chapter was officially incorporated as a nonprofit public organization in 1974, the year after the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion in the United States. National Right to Life and …

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)

aka: ACORN
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) was a nationally known organization that advocated for low- and moderate-income families and communities. ACORN began in Arkansas in 1970, when it was founded by Wade Rathke and Gary Delgado. It filed for bankruptcy and disbanded in 2010. George Wiley of the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) sent civil rights worker Rathke to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1970, after training him at Syracuse University. From this training, Rathke and Delgado developed ACORN, an organization created to help develop leaders in low-income communities in Arkansas. They were attracted to Arkansas by several features, including the poverty of the state—which in 1970 had a median income under $6,000 and a large welfare-eligible …

Brindletails [Political Faction]

Dissention within the Republican Party of Arkansas began following the 1868 constitutional convention. The schism in the Arkansas Republican Party, like in the national party, threatened to end the party’s political dominance in the state. Two groups within the state party—the Minstrels (aligned with the national regular Republican leadership) and the Brindletails (aligned with the Liberal Republican movement)—emerged. The Minstrel faction, allegedly named due to the past profession of one of its members, relied on newcomers (often pejoratively labeled “carpetbaggers”). Joseph Brooks, who broke with Governor Powell Clayton and the political machine under his control, formed a faction of the Republican Party known as the “Brindletails,” named because his voice was said to sound like a Brindletail bull. Brooks criticized …

Brothers of Freedom

One of several farmers’ organizations formed in Arkansas during the early 1880s, the Brothers of Freedom originated in Johnson County in 1882. Founded by Isaac McCracken and Marion Farris, the organization spread rapidly across northwestern Arkansas, recruiting between 30,000 and 40,000 members within three years. The Brothers of Freedom ceased to exist in 1885 when it merged with another Arkansas-based farmers’ organization, the Agricultural Wheel, and assumed the name of the latter organization. The impact of the Brothers of Freedom lived on, however, not only through the Agricultural Wheel but also through the Union Labor and Populist parties. McCracken and Farris organized the Brothers of Freedom, originally (but only briefly) as a secret organization, in order to enable farmers to …

Common Cause/Arkansas (CC/Arkansas)

Common Cause/Arkansas (CC/Arkansas) is a nonpartisan government watchdog group that has had a significant impact on the development of ethics and lobby disclosure legislation in the state, especially in the 1980s and 1990s. Common Cause was one of the first of what political scientists call “public interest” lobbies in the United States, founded in 1970 by Robert Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare during the Lyndon Johnson administration—although Gardner was a Republican. His idea was to set up a national grassroots organization that could utilize experienced lobbyists as well as volunteers to pressure the institutions of government to further open and “good government” and participatory democracy. The name “Common Cause” was selected, and to the surprise of many, …

Communist Party

The Arkansas Communist Party reached the peak of its influence between 1932 and 1940. Loosely affiliated at that time with the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA), the Arkansas branch became incrementally involved in programs of the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union (STFU) and Commonwealth College, two organizations striving for improved working and living conditions among the state’s tenant farmers and sharecroppers. During its most active years, the party also sponsored candidates for local, state, and national offices. The party formed between 1930 and 1932 from a remnant of members of Newllano Cooperative Colony who settled near Mena (Polk County). Arley Woodrow of Ink (Polk County) played a significant role in establishing the group. The party obtained and distributed communist …

Democratic Party

Even for the historically one-party Democratic South, the Democratic Party’s control of Arkansas politics was solid—until the end of the twentieth century. Indeed, from the end of Reconstruction, Republican presidential candidates were denied Electoral College votes every four years until Richard Nixon’s 1972 victory. The Democratic Party’s dominance of state and local elections (outside northwestern Arkansas, which had housed Republicans since the Civil War era) was just as impressive. Still, while Democrats long fended off any sustained Republican development, recent trends–especially the historic results in the 2010, 2012, and 2014 election cycles–indicate that the change that has come to other Southern states with the rise of a competitive Republican Party has taken root in Arkansas. Before statehood, Arkansas politics was …

Family, The [Political Dynasty]

“The Family”—or “The Dynasty”—was the name given to a powerful group of Democrats who dominated Arkansas politics in the years between statehood and the Civil War. The roots of the Family stretched back into the territorial period, when it coalesced around territorial delegate Henry Conway, the scion of a wealthy Tennessee family. In 1827, Conway was mortally wounded in a duel with Territorial Secretary Robert Crittenden, his former patron and the most powerful political figure in Arkansas in the territorial era. The killing of Conway exacerbated the schism in Arkansas politics between Crittenden and his supporters, who became the basis for the Whig Party in Arkansas, and the followers of the slain Conway, staunch Democrats and supporters of Andrew Jackson, …

Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization for Union veterans. The first GAR posts (chapters) originated in Illinois in 1866. The patriotic organization had a surprisingly strong presence in Arkansas, a Confederate state. In the 1860s, the earliest Arkansas chapters had many African-American veterans of the Union army living in Arkansas. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, GAR chapters tended to be controlled more by white Arkansans uncomfortable with the post-Reconstruction resurgence of the Democratic Party in Arkansas. One of the first goals of the GAR was to assist widows and orphans of fallen Union soldiers and sailors. The organization’s motto was: “Fraternity, Charity, Loyalty.” Soon after it organized, the GAR pushed for the establishment …

Green Party (GPA)

The Green Party of Arkansas (GPA) began in 1996 when a group of Arkansans gathered for the purpose of adding Ralph Nader’s name to the ballot in Arkansas as the Green Party candidate for president. That goal was accomplished, and the group continued to have meetings and to expand its membership in various counties. By 2000, the Green Party had grown to have members in several counties, including Scott, Washington, Carroll, Pulaski, Boone, and Van Buren. The platform of the GPA was adopted from the Green Party of the United States (GPUS) and is quite lengthy. The platform embraces what are generally considered “progressive” values, including non-violence, social and economic justice, feminism, and respect for and care of the environment. …

Greenback Party

Arkansas’s Greenback Party emerged in the political tumult of the post-Reconstruction era in the late 1870s, in part because of an agrarian reaction to the Republican-controlled federal government’s hard money policies. Despite some initial successes in state and local elections in the late 1870s and early 1880s, however, the Greenbacks were spent politically by 1884. They disbanded as their issues were largely co-opted by the Democrats or rendered moot by an improving national economy. Origins of the PartyAs a result of the economic recession that followed the Panic of 1873, the national Greenback Party organized in 1876 to address agrarian concerns over the Specie Resumption Act of 1875. The act was a deflationary Republican initiative to redeem federal bank notes …

Hate Groups

Both the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) use the term “hate group” to describe any organization that espouses hostile attitudes toward members of racial, ethnic, and religious minority groups. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) includes people with disabilities and people with alternative lifestyles in the minority group category. Individuals who are affiliated with hate groups sometimes commit physical acts of violence or destroy property such as churches, synagogues, mosques, and other symbols associated with targeted minority groups. The historic base of white supremacist groups in the United States began with the post-Reconstruction Ku Klux Klan (KKK), which was actively involved in terrorist activities against African Americans and their supporters in the years following the …

Know-Nothing Party

aka: American Party
Following the collapse of their party nationally in 1852, many Arkansas Whigs found a new home in the American Party, more popularly known as the Know-Nothings. The Know-Nothings sought to avoid the nation’s impending disunion over slavery and regional divisions by replacing sectional tensions with opposition to Roman Catholics and immigrants, who were presented as potential competitors to “real” Americans for access to jobs and land. First organized through a network of secret fraternal lodges, the Know-Nothings acquired their odd name because their members, sworn to secrecy, were supposed to answer, “I know nothing,” when asked about the party. Although the Know-Nothings did well in the Little Rock (Pulaski County) city elections in 1856, the state’s small Roman Catholic and …

Ku Klux Klan (after 1900)

The original Ku Klux Klan (KKK) formed sometime between 1865 and 1866 in Pulaski, Tennessee. Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first acknowledged Klan leader, took actions to disband the organization in 1869. A resurgence in Klan activity occurred starting in 1915, and states such as Arkansas were home to newly forming Klan groups during the 1920s. By 1955, the threat of school integration ushered in a new Klan era even though independent Klan groups were a fixture on the American landscape in some way or another from the 1920s on. One of the first official Klan acts in Arkansas was a donation to the Prescott (Nevada County) Christmas fund in December 1921. Shortly thereafter, other Klan groups formed with the goal …

Ku Klux Klan (Reconstruction)

The Reconstruction era in Arkansas witnessed the first of many incarnations of the state’s most well-known white supremacist organization, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). In the years after the Civil War, African Americans not only had to struggle to achieve equality under the law, but—along with their white supporters—they had to endure intimidation, whippings, shootings, and murders. Although much of the racial violence was random, it was also during this time that the KKK began its long history of using violence to achieve political ends. The Ku Klux Klan first appeared in Arkansas in April 1868, just a month after African Americans voted in Arkansas elections for the first time. A year earlier, Congress passed the Reconstruction Acts, which put …

League of Women Voters of Arkansas

aka: Arkansas League of Women Voters
The League of Women Voters (LWV), a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed, active participation in government for all citizens. Although it never supports or opposes any party or candidate, it seeks to influence public policy through education and advocacy. The national League of Women Voters Education Fund is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that coordinates elections and educational outreach. The League of Women Voters of Arkansas first formed in 1920. However, it folded and reemerged two times, with the last incarnation forming in 1953, organized by Esther Clark. By 2012, in addition to the state league, there were also five local leagues, in Benton County, Fairfield Bay (Van Buren and Cleburne counties), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Pulaski County, and Washington …

Minstrels [Political Faction]

By 1872, the hopes of reconstructing the South along Republican political lines were waning. The Arkansas Republican Party, like the national party, suffered a schism that threatened to end the party’s political dominance in the state. Two groups within the state party—the Minstrels (aligned with the national Republican leadership) and the Brindletails (aligned with the Liberal Republican movement)—fought for control of the governor’s office. The Minstrel faction, allegedly named due to the past profession of one of its members, relied on newcomers (often pejoratively labeled “carpetbaggers”). This group, including men such as Stephen Dorsey, John McClure, and Thomas Bowen to name a few, coalesced around Governor Powell Clayton and the political machine he controlled. By the gubernatorial election of 1872, …

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

aka: NAACP
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded on February 12, 1909, and is America’s oldest civil rights organization. The first local branch in Arkansas was established in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on July 4, 1918. The president was John Hamilton McConico, and the fifty founding members included many of the city’s leading African-American figures of the time, including Joseph Albert Booker, Aldridge E. Bush, Chester E. Bush, George William Stanley Ish, Isaac Taylor Gillam, and John Marshall Robinson. The state was the site of one of the national organization’s early court triumphs: In the case of Moore v. Dempsey (1923), NAACP lawyers won a reprieve from the death penalty for six African-American men on the …

National Farmers’ Alliance and Industrial Union of America

aka: Southern Farmers' Alliance
aka: Farmers' Alliance
aka: Arkansas State Farmers’ Alliance
The National Farmers’ Alliance and Industrial Union, more commonly known as the Southern Farmers’ Alliance (or simply the Alliance), began in the mid-to-late 1870s. The organization began spreading eastward through Arkansas and beyond in 1887. By the summer of 1890, it had expanded beyond the South and reported a membership of more than 1,200,000 in twenty-seven states. The Southern Farmers’ Alliance ran cooperative enterprises for its members and put forth a political platform. The group subsequently became active in the third-party movement that culminated in the formation of the People’s (or Populist) Party in 1891–92. Origins and GrowthFarmers and stockmen formed the Southern Farmers’ Alliance in Lampasas County, Texas, as early as 1874 or as late as 1877, according to …

National Grange of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry

aka: The Grange
aka: Arkansas State Grange
aka: Patrons of Husbandry
In December 1867, Oliver Hudson Kelley, a former clerk in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and six other men founded the National Grange of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry in Washington DC. Intended as an organization that would unite farmers for the advancement of their common interests, the Grange claimed more than 760,000 members across the United States by 1875. The Grange entered Arkansas in 1872 and remained active in the state for about two decades. By then, the Grange had given way to larger farmers’ organizations in Arkansas such as the Agricultural Wheel and the Farmers’ Alliance. The National Grange still exists in the twenty-first century, but it has no chapters in Arkansas. Origins, Growth, and PurposesJohn …

Redeemers (Post-Reconstruction)

The term “redeemers” was self-applied by those who succeeded in returning the Democratic Party to prominence at the end of Reconstruction in Arkansas, generally dated to 1874. The Republican Party came to power in the state in 1868 with the passage of the Congressional Reconstruction Acts. Arkansas’s second Republican governor, Elisha Baxter, elected in 1872, worked to curry favor with conservative Democrats by appointing many to office in an effort to build strong alliances with members of that faction. This, in part, led Baxter’s 1872 electoral opponent, Joseph Brooks, to challenge Baxter’s right to hold the governorship, thus resulting in the political and military conflict known as the Brooks-Baxter War. For some time, the Brooks-Baxter War involved bipartisan alliances on …

Republican Party

Few state political parties have experienced histories as hapless as that of Arkansas’s Republicans. Following the Democratic disenfranchisement of the state’s African Americans (most of whom identified as Republicans) in the last years of the nineteenth century, Arkansas’s Republicans focused more on gaining patronage from Republican administrations in Washington DC than on ardently contesting elections at home that inevitably would be lost. Moreover, until the 1990s, Republican victories in statewide elections were always attributable to Democratic failings rather than Republican ingenuity. But as the twentieth century closed, the state’s Republicans began to become consistently competitive, with markedly improved candidates for office expressing a conservative ideology increasingly preferable to Arkansas voters. Recent election cycles, especially the 2014 election, have made the …

Socialist Party

Partly as a result of the extreme poverty that has plagued the state and partly due to the fiercely independent nature of the people in the more mountainous regions of Arkansas, there has long existed a portion of the populace that frequently supported political movements outside the long-dominant Democratic Party. While such movements failed to overthrow the Democrats, they served the discontented elements in the state and gave them a platform of their own. Among the strongest of the third-party groups was the Socialist Party. Arkansas, along with Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma, possessed some of the strongest statewide groups in the nation prior to World War I. The earliest formal effort to create a state group occurred in 1898, but that …

States’ Rights Democratic Party

aka: Dixiecrats
  The States’ Rights Democratic Party, popularly known as the Dixiecrats, mounted an unsuccessful third-party bid for the presidency in 1948. This effort was rooted in opposition to the shift in the national Democratic Party’s stance on the issue of civil rights, making Arkansas an important battleground in the 1948 presidential election. The combination of the fall 1947 release of the report of the President’s Commission on Civil Rights (titled “To Secure These Rights”), President Harry Truman’s January address on civil rights, and Truman’s executive order desegregating the armed forces served to bring the issue of race to the forefront of political concerns as 1948 elections approached. Also during this time, federal court rulings had invalidated the Democratic Party’s historic …

Union Labor Party

The Union Labor Party (ULP) participated in only two election years in Arkansas (1888 and 1890), yet during that brief span, it mounted the most serious challenge that the state’s Democratic Party faced between the end of Reconstruction and the rebirth of the Republican Party in the mid-1960s. The ULP appealed to farmers and industrial workers and drew significant support from white and black voters alike. The party’s failure to topple the Democrats from power underscored the failure of democracy itself in Arkansas while shedding light on some of the ugliest episodes in the history of American politics. OriginsThe national Union Labor Party was formed in Cincinnati, Ohio, in February 1887 by some 300 to 600 delegates at a convention …

United Confederate Veterans (UCV)

When the Civil War ended in 1865, thousands of Confederate veterans returned home to Arkansas. Many of these veterans remained in the state and slowly rebuilt their lives after four long years of war. A national organization for Confederate veterans was not established until 1889, when some Confederate veterans’ groups met in New Orleans, Louisiana, and organized the United Confederate Veterans (UCV). It was the counterpart to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a national organization of Union veterans that had been established in 1866, although the UCV never had the political power or the prestige of the GAR. However, the UCV did have the power to directly affect the lives of its members at a local level. The …

Whig Party

The Whig Party emerged as a national force in the 1830s under the leadership of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, primarily in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson. The party’s emergence and success in Arkansas largely mirrored the national pattern, with Arkansas Whigs opposing the political dynasty known as “The Family,” which dominated the territorial and state Democratic Party until the eve of the Civil War. Echoing the national Whig Party’s platform of federal support for internal improvements such as roads and canals, protective tariffs, and a national bank, Arkansas Whigs championed a stronger national role in regional economic development. This ran counter to the more limited states-rights philosophy of the Democrats. The Whigs, however, were largely unsuccessful …

White Revolution

Headquartered in Mountain View (Stone County), White Revolution was a neo-Nazi group founded by Arkansas native Billy Roper in 2002. Roper copyrighted the name White Revolution and set up a website and forum for members to exchange ideas, post events, and build an online community. Although not an indicator of total group membership, on March 17, 2011, the White Revolution forum had more than 1,200 participants. Before the election of Barack Obama as U.S. president in 2008, the forum hovered at around 300. Roper encouraged members of his group to contribute to the forum and use other social networking media to promote the organization and recruit members. The anti-Semitic organization promoted the interests of whites over other ethnic/racial groups, recruited racially aware …

Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK)

Headquartered in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the national Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK) was formed on June 10, 1923, as a result of the exclusively male Klan’s desire to create a like-minded women’s auxiliary that would bring together the existing informal, pro-Klan women’s groups, including the Grand League of Protestant Women, the White American Protestants (WAP), and the Ladies of the Invisible Empire (LOTIE). However, the group was ultimately short lived, waning in influence with its male counterpart. Lulu Markwell, a civically active Little Rock resident and former president of Arkansas’s chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) for twenty years, was the national organization’s first Imperial Commander, establishing its national office in Little Rock’s Ancient Order …

Wool Hat Boys

The “wool hat boys” was the term used to refer to the broad-based populist group that was critical to the political career of Arkansas political leader Jeff Davis in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The term was intended to distinguish his supporters—white lower- and middle-class working people—from the wealthy, “silk hat” plutocrats whose interests Davis publicly derided. Indeed, it was Davis’s efforts on behalf of the wool hat boys and their compatriots, manifested in his opposition to the state’s economic elite, that cemented the electoral coalition that propelled the charismatic Davis to one term as a hard-driving state attorney general and three terms as governor; he was also elected to two terms in the U.S. Senate, although he …