Philanthropy

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Entries - Entry Category: Philanthropy

Altheimer, Benjamin Joseph, Sr.

Benjamin Joseph Altheimer Sr. was a lawyer and philanthropist who was known as a “real trailblazer” in promoting agricultural research and education in Arkansas. He created the Ben J. Altheimer Foundation, which has provided funding for civic, legal, and agricultural endeavors. Ben J. Altheimer was born on September 30, 1877, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), the only son of Joseph and Matilda Josephat Altheimer. He had one sister. His parents were German–Jewish immigrants who were members of Pine Bluff’s Congregation Anshe Emeth. Joseph’s brother Louis had brought him to Pine Bluff, where he had established and operated a mercantile store. The two brothers became land developers and, together, founded the town of Altheimer (Jefferson County). Ben Altheimer was educated at …

Arkansas Community Foundation (ARCF)

Arkansas Community Foundation (ARCF) is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to helping generous individuals, families, civic groups, and businesses financially support charitable causes throughout Arkansas. One of more than 700 community foundations nationwide, ARCF is the only foundation in Arkansas through which individuals and corporations can create endowment funds for the public benefit of the entire state and its communities. With assets of more than $250 million as of 2016, the foundation has provided millions in grants to charitable organizations since its founding. Arkansas Community Foundation was established in 1976 exclusively for charitable, benevolent, scientific, religious, and educational purposes to benefit the people of Arkansas. The fledgling organization was championed by Mary McLeod, a charitable advisor to Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, …

Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance is a nonprofit collaborative network of more than 400 hunger relief organizations across Arkansas working to alleviate hunger in the state. Members include the Arkansas Foodbank in Little Rock (Pulaski County), Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas in Jonesboro (Craighead County), Harvest Texarkana Regional Food Bank in Texarkana (Miller County), Food Bank of North Central Arkansas in Norfork (Baxter County), Northwest Arkansas Food Bank in Bethel Heights (Benton County), and River Valley Regional Food Bank in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), as well as numerous food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. Arkansas has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the nation. More than twenty-eight percent of Arkansas families with children experience food insecurity on …

Barton, Thomas Harry

Colonel Thomas H. Barton, a pioneer El Dorado (Union County) oilman and philanthropist, launched his small Lion Oil Company into a major oil company that included exploration, production, marketing, distribution, refining, and research programs. Barton was born in Marlin, Texas, on September 20, 1881. His father, Thomas Killebrew Barton, was a merchant and farmer in Falls County. At age sixteen, he entered Texas A&M College, but limited funds forced him to leave school early in his second year. He entered the U.S. Army in 1901 and was discharged in 1904 with the rank of corporal. From 1905 to 1917, he worked in a variety of occupations that included banking and lumber in Dallas County. In 1906, he was commissioned with …

Brandon Burlsworth Foundation

The Brandon Burlsworth Foundation (BBF) is a Christian organization that works to support the physical and spiritual needs of children, in particular children with limited opportunities. Most notably, the foundation sponsors a number of scholarships for lower-income students. The foundation takes its name from Brandon Burlsworth, who played football at Harrison High School in Harrison (Boone County). After several offers from Division II schools, he decided to be a walk-on at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). He earned a scholarship his first semester at Arkansas and became the first walk-on at UA to be named All Southeastern Conference (1997 and 1998) and All American (1998). He also became the first football player in school history to …

Butler, Richard Colburn, Sr.

Richard Colburn Butler Sr. was a lawyer, banker, real estate investor, philanthropist, and horticulturist who is best remembered for his wide variety of business developments and community activities. As the attorney for the Little Rock School Board, he played a major role in the 1957 Little Rock school desegregation crisis. Richard Butler, the fourth child of Edna M. Clok and Richard Colburn Butler Sr., was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on January 1, 1910. (Butler, technically “Richard Butler Jr.,” referred to himself as “senior” after his father passed away.) His father was a real estate developer. Butler attended public school in Little Rock and then graduated from Little Rock Junior College in 1929. He subsequently enrolled in the University …

Clarke, Faye

Faye Clarke co-founded the Educate the Children Foundation, which was created to support rural and impoverished school districts with donations of books and other educational materials. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2002. Faye Wilma Robinson was born on August 6, 1931, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) to Jerimah and Earnest (or Eariest) Robinson. In high school, she was an Arkansas National Merit Scholar and went on to study at Hampton Institute in Virginia. After graduation, she attended a one-year program in businesses at Radcliffe College taught by professors of the Harvard Business School, where women were not yet allowed; she was the first African-American woman in this program. She began working at Aramark, a company …

Clinton, Chelsea Victoria

Chelsea Clinton is the only child of former U.S. president Bill Clinton and his wife, former U.S. senator and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was the Democratic nominee for U.S. president in 2016. Chelsea Clinton has served as a correspondent, public speaker, and author, and she works with the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative. Chelsea Victoria Clinton was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on February 27, 1980. Hillary Clinton stated in her memoir that the name was inspired by a walk through the Chelsea district in London, England. Hearing the Joni Mitchell song, “Chelsea Morning,” Bill Clinton said, “If we ever have a daughter, we should name her Chelsea.” When their daughter was born, …

Darragh, Fred K.

aka: Frederick Kramer Darragh Jr.
Frederick Kramer Darragh Jr. was a Little Rock (Pulaski County) businessman known for his philanthropic support of Arkansas’s social justice organizations, libraries, and liberal political causes, along with his efforts to educate Arkansans about foreign countries and cultures. Fred Darragh was born on November 13, 1916, in Little Rock, the oldest of three children born to Frederick Kramer Darragh Sr., a wholesale grain merchant, and Valerie S. Darragh. He was educated at Sewanee Military Academy at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, where he was a 1938 graduate. During World War II, Darragh flew the “hump,” as the Allied air transport of materials from India to China was …

Garvan, Verna Cook

Verna Mary Cook Garvan was one of the first women in Arkansas to own a construction/manufacturing business and was the benefactor of what is now Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs (Garland County). Verna Cook was born on January 22, 1911, in Groveton, Texas, to Arthur Bacillius Cook and Essie Louise Bordis Cook. Verna Cook and her sister, Dorothy, were raised to be “proper ladies,” but Verna often accompanied her father to work and absorbed his business acumen. In 1916, her father moved the family to Malvern (Hot Spring County) to manage the Wisconsin and Arkansas Lumber Company, an enterprise producing oak and pine flooring. Malvern Brick and Tile was also purchased by Verna’s father, who later served as a …

Hampton, Sybil Jordan

Sybil Jordan Hampton has served as a higher education administrator, leader in philanthropy, and political advisor during her career. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2005. Sybil Jordan was born on September 1, 1944, in Springfield, Missouri, to Leslie W. Jordan and Lorraine H. Jordan. Her mother was a longtime educator, and her father was a World War II veteran who worked for the U.S. Postal Service. Jordan grew up in Little Rock (Pulaski County) under the Jim Crow system of racial segregation, drinking from “colored” water fountains and attending segregated schools. After the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision ruling that racial segregation in public education was unconstitutional, Little Rock …

Heifer International

Headquartered in Little Rock (Pulaski County), Heifer International is a non-profit organization whose mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and to care for the earth. Since its founding in 1944, Heifer International has, through gifts of livestock and training, assisted eight and a half million families in more than 125 countries and thirty-eight U.S. states, including Arkansas. Heifer International was founded by Dan West, an Indiana farmer and peacemaker. As a relief worker in an effort organized by three peace churches—the Society of Friends (Quakers), the Mennonites, and the Brethren—during the Spanish Civil War, West doled out cups of powdered milk to children displaced by the war. Each day, he saw the same faces in …

Kumpe, Roy Franklin

Roy Franklin Kumpe founded World Services for the Blind. Visually impaired from trachoma—a viral infection that causes cornea scarring—he worked to create educational and employment opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired, both in Arkansas and around the world. Roy Kumpe was born on January 18, 1910, in Ironton (Pulaski County) to Dave and Mary Kumpe. Kumpe was the fourth child; however, two sisters died in infancy between his birth and his older sister’s. The family lived on a forty-acre farm, and Kumpe’s father raised livestock and grew produce that he sold to grocers. After the onset of blindness at the age of eight, Kumpe attended the Arkansas School for the Blind. Declining any financial assistance from his …

Lawhon, Jay Noal

Jay Noal Lawhon of McCrory (Woodruff County) was a star Razorback football player. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1944 but turned down the offer on doctor’s advice. During World War II, Lawhon served in the U.S. Navy Air Corps. After the war, he taught vocational agriculture in Arkansas high schools and was a high school principal. He was the founder of Lawhon Farm Services, the 1988 Arkansas Business of the Year. In 1975, Lawhon and wife Lillian founded a non-denominational charity, the World Christian Relief Fund, Inc. (WCRF). Jay Lawhon was born on July 16, 1919, in Monarch (Marion County), a small hill community near Harrison (Boone County), to Thomas Jefferson and Sarah McPherson Lawhon. He was …

Merrill, Joseph

Joseph Merrill was a successful philanthropist who made a difference for the lives of young people in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), primarily through his support of African-American schools in Pine Bluff. He was also the founder of the Merrill Institute. Joseph Merrill, the youngest child of William and Mary Merrill, was born in Rockingham County, New Hampshire, around 1810. He had two brothers and one sister. He started his trade of shoemaking at the age of eleven years old and worked until he was twenty-one years old in Boston, Massachusetts. Then he moved to Sidney, Ohio, and worked there for a few years. His health turned bad, and in December 1835, he moved south to Little Rock (Pulaski County) to …

Mitchell, Sarah Elizabeth Latta

Sarah Elizabeth Latta Mitchell was an early and dedicated member of the Children’s Aid Society in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the oldest charitable institution in the city. Mitchell earned community recognition as president of the society, serving in that capacity from 1886 until her death in 1920. In 1947, the institution she had served for over thirty years was renamed the Elizabeth Mitchell Memorial Home in her honor. Elizabeth Latta, Lizzie to friends and family, was born on January 6, 1839, at Vineyard near Evansville (Washington County), to John and Jane Starr Latta. She was the youngest of their thirteen children. Latta’s family had moved to northwest Arkansas in 1833 from York District, South Carolina, to escape the “idleness, drinking, …

Ottenheimer, Gus

Gus Ottenheimer, an industrialist, became known nationally through his successful efforts in manufacturing women’s garments. He was a land developer as well, and he spent much of the last one-third of his life promoting higher education in central Arkansas Ottenheimer was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on July 18, 1897, to Daniel Ottenheimer and Hannah Berger. He was the youngest of four children. The Ottenheimers were a Jewish pioneer family, some of whom came to the state in the 1850s. Ottenheimer’s father died in 1908. The eldest son, Leonard, became the family breadwinner at age sixteen and forfeited his education to his younger brother. Ottenheimer graduated in 1918 from Washington & Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Virginia, …

Philanthropy

Nonprofit and volunteer organizations in Arkansas, from religious groups in the territorial period to the charitable foundations of today, have contributed greatly to the economic wellbeing of the state. Charitable giving by private groups to benefit persons outside their own membership—the definition of philanthropy used here—has been an essential feature of the economic landscape of Arkansas. This has been the case because of the state’s long-term experience with poverty and with a reluctance, until fairly recently, to use government programs to alleviate human suffering and expand educational opportunities for the people of Arkansas. Rise of Organized PhilanthropyOrganized charitable giving first grew out of church, women’s, and fraternal groups. In the absence of state-sponsored educational institutions, churches in pre–Civil War Arkansas …

Rockefeller, Jeannette Edris

Jeannette Edris Rockefeller was a socialite, arts promoter, and civic activist. She was first lady of Arkansas (1967–1971) during Winthrop Rockefeller’s terms as the state’s thirty-seventh governor. Jeannette Edris was born on July 13, 1918, in Seattle, Washington, to William Edris—a high-profile capitalist of Spokane, Washington—and Frances Skinner Edris, who died during the birth of the family’s second daughter. After the death of her mother, Edris found herself under the strong influence of her grandmother, socialite Jeannette E. Skinner (her namesake), who was the wife of capitalist David Skinner, co-founder and president of Skinner & Eddy Shipyard. During her elementary school years, Edris often traveled with her grandmother to places such as Pasadena, California, and Port Maitland, British Columbia. At …

Ross, Jane

Jane Ross was a prominent businesswoman and philanthropist in Clark County. She served in the Women’s Army Corps of the Army Air Force during World War II. Ross owned a photography studio in Arkadelphia (Clark County) and operated her family’s timber enterprise. She also received several awards and honors during her lifetime. Jane Ross was born in Arkadelphia on December 23, 1920, to Hugh Thomas Ross and Esther Clark Ross. She had one sister. She grew up in Arkadelphia and graduated from Arkadelphia High School in May 1938. Ross graduated from Henderson State Teachers College (now Henderson State University,) with a BA in May of 1942. Ross worked as a Navy photographer in Washington DC for six months in 1943. …

Thea Foundation

Paul and Linda Leopoulos founded the Thea Foundation in 2001, six months after their seventeen-year-old daughter Thea Kay Leopoulos died in a car accident. The nonprofit foundation’s mission is based on the idea that young people achieve confidence and personal success due to involvement with the arts. The Leopouloses found this to be true of their daughter, and they wanted other young people to benefit from the arts as Thea had. The Thea Foundation’s scholarship program awards Arkansas high school seniors based on their hard work and artistic talents. The twenty-eight scholarships in the categories of visual and performing arts, short film, creative writing, and poetry slam are not based on test scores or GPAs, nor do the students have …

Walton, Alice Louise

Alice Louise Walton is the heir to the Walton family fortune; in April 2019, she was estimated by Forbes magazine to have a net worth of almost $46 billion, making her one of the richest women in the world. She is also well known as a philanthropist, having established the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville (Benton County). Alice Louise Walton was born on October 7, 1949, in Newport (Jackson County), the youngest of four children and the only daughter of Sam and Helen Walton. Sam Walton opened Walton’s Five and Dime Store in Bentonville and then created Walmart, which changed the retail industry worldwide. Alice Walton grew up in Bentonville, attending public schools there. After graduating from …

Walton, Helen Robson

Helen Robson Walton was a noted philanthropist. Her husband, Walmart Inc. founder Sam Walton, called her one of his best advisors. When ranked as one of the world’s wealthiest women and asked for a description of her work, she defined herself simply as “volunteer to community, state and nation.” Along with making large charitable donations in areas such as the arts, education, and organizations for families and children, she was the first woman to be named chairwoman of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Foundation. Helen Alice Robson was born on December 3, 1919, in Claremore, Oklahoma. She was the daughter of homemaker Hazel Carr Robson and banker/rancher Leland Stanford (L. S.) Robson. She had three brothers and a sister. The family …

Webb, John Lee

John Lee Webb was a well-known African-American contractor and philanthropist in Hot Springs (Garland County). John L. Webb was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, on September 17, 1877, to the Reverend B. L. Webb, who was a Baptist minister, and his wife, Henrietta Webb. The couple had ten other children. John Webb’s family was not wealthy, so he had to provide for many of his own wants. Webb began studying at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1897 at nineteen years old and was spoken of highly by the wife of Booker T. Washington, founder of the institute. He volunteered for the Spanish-American War, serving from April 25 to August 12, 1898. After the war, he returned to Tuskegee and finished …

Winrock International

Winrock International, a nonprofit organization with headquarters in Little Rock (Pulaski County), traces its roots to a research endeavor that Governor Winthrop Rockefeller established at his home and ranch on Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton (Conway County). Winrock International works in the United States and around the world to increase economic opportunity, sustain natural resources, and protect the environment. It has active projects in an average of sixty-five countries each year with a focus on agriculture and enterprise develoment, clean energy, ecosystem services, forestry and natural resource management, leadership development, volunteer technical assistance, and agricultural and environmental policy. It is one of the few international development organizations that has an active domestic program. Winrock International Livestock Research and Training Center …

Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation

  Winthrop Rockefeller, who died in 1973, left most of his estate to the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF)—a private, nonprofit foundation—was created from this trust in 1974, with a focus on education, balanced economic growth and development, and social justice in Arkansas. In the twenty-first century, the foundation remains active in these areas, as well as working to improve conditions for children and at-risk families. From 1974 to 2009, the foundation gave more than $135 million to nonprofits in Arkansas. Thomas C. (Tom) McRae IV became the first president of the foundation in 1975, serving until 1989. McRae focused special attention on addressing problems that caused Arkansas to appear at or near the bottom of …

Women’s Foundation of Arkansas

The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas (WFA) is dedicated to the economic, educational, and social advancement of women and girls in the state, and is the only statewide foundation to focus solely upon women and girls. WFA’s mission is to promote philanthropy among women and to help women and girls achieve their full potential. To fulfill this mission, WFA serves as a grant-maker, a convener, and a resource on the status of women and girls. The organization was inducted into the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018. WFA’s programs and initiatives include Girls of Promise, an annual two-day science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) conference for eighth-grade girls; annual grants that support projects that assist Arkansas women and girls in achieving …