Political Issues and Controversies

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Malaria Control Projects in Southeast Arkansas

Two malaria control demonstration projects in southeast Arkansas during the Progressive Era showed not only that the disease could be controlled, but also that control was economically feasible. The project in Crossett (Ashley County) targeted mosquito breeding sites, while the one in the Lake Village (Chicot County) area studied protection by mechanical means. Both were noteworthy successes, though local governments often failed to follow up on those successes. Malaria control was a logical extension of hookworm eradication projects sponsored by the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm Disease. In 1915, Dr. Wickliffe Rose, who headed the commission, said that “malaria was responsible for more sickness and death than all other diseases combined.” The disease sapped the vitality of …

McCool, John Thurman (Murder of)

John Thurman McCool, a prominent businessman of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), was rebuilding his life after serving a prison sentence for forging state treasury warrants when he was shot to death outside Sheridan (Grant County) in 1962. McCool’s murder remains unsolved. The mystery surrounding the killing and the strange circumstances of his life in the six years prior to it made the murder a subject of rumors of a mob killing, of revenge, and of silencing a man who knew too much, although no evidence of any of those motives ever emerged. Thurman McCool was born in Sheridan on August 18, 1913. He grew up in Pine Bluff, married a Pine Bluff woman, and was prominent in the business and …

Merci Train

aka: Gratitude Train
aka: Train de Reconnaissance
Also known as the “Thank You” Train, the Merci Train was the response of the people of France to food shipments sent by Arkansas and other American states to post–World War II western Europe. In 1947, radio commentator and syndicated columnist Drew Pearson launched the effort to send food to Europe. Local efforts were organized through the Chamber of Commerce of North Little Rock (Pulaski County). Thanks to rice growers and farmers throughout the state, three and a half train boxcar loads of rice and half a boxcar load of wheat were collected, plus one boxcar load of canned goods gathered by Lions Clubs in northwest Arkansas. These five boxcars of food were shipped, free of charge, by Rock Island …

Militia Wars of 1868–1869

A series of conflicts fought across the state in the aftermath of the Civil War, the Militia Wars were a response to the wave of violence that swept Arkansas after the adoption of the Constitution of 1868. With the capture of Little Rock (Pulaski County) by Federal forces in 1863, Isaac Murphy was selected as the provisional governor of the state, taking office in March 1864. With little influence beyond the capital and other isolated Union outposts, Murphy was unable to consolidate his power before the end of the war. In 1866, almost the entire Unionist state government was defeated for reelection. However, Murphy and the secretary of state, who were serving four-year terms that expired in 1868, survived. The …

Missouri Bootheel

While most of Arkansas’s boundary with Missouri runs along the line of latitude thirty-six degrees, thirty minutes north, in the extreme northeast corner, the border between states extends downward along the St. Francis River to thirty-six degrees north, where it then runs east to the Mississippi River. A straight line boundary, as was originally envisioned, would have added some 980 square miles, or 627,000 acres, to the state of Arkansas. Instead, Missouri gained a “bootheel.” Culturally and economically, the region has much more in common with Arkansas than with the rest of Missouri. “Arkansas in denial” is how area residents explain their anomalous condition. Carl Bailey (1894–1948), the thirty-first governor of Arkansas and a native of Bernie, Missouri, was one …

Municipal Designations

The State of Arkansas recognizes its incorporated communities in three separate categories: cities of the first class (or first-class cities), cities of the second class (or second-class cities), and towns. These categories are mostly determined by the population of the communities and the size of the city or town government. According to the Arkansas Municipal League, there are 500 incorporated cities and towns in Arkansas as of December 2013. These consist of 119 first-class cities, 199 second-class cities, and 182 towns. According to Arkansas statutes as of 2008, a first-class city has more than 2,500 residents (although a second-class city with more than 1,500 residents may vote to become a first-class city). A second-class city has from 500 to 2,500 …