Political Issues and Controversies

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Entry Category: Political Issues and Controversies - Starting with W

Waldron War

The Waldron War was a decade-long period of violence that began during the Reconstruction era and was characterized by arson, general lawlessness, personal and political feuds, electoral misconduct, and violence—including murder—throughout Scott County. The civil strife resulted in Governors Augustus Garland and William Read Miller dispatching the state militia to the county on at least three occasions to restore order. With much of Waldron (Scott County) burned by departing Union troops in 1864, the citizens faced the reestablishment of the infrastructure of the town. While hostile feelings remained between those sympathetic to the Union cause and the Confederate cause, much of the strife was attributed to personality conflicts within the local Republican Party. Although there was the occasional outburst of …

White Flight

“White flight”—the departure of white residents from racially mixed cities to heavily white suburban enclaves in reaction to court-ordered school desegregation—occurred in several urban communities in Arkansas. Related changes occurred in other communities in the state during the same period, especially in the Arkansas Delta. There, many white families moved children into private, all-white “academies” as desegregation was implemented. In addition, many families—both white and black—chose to depart such communities entirely, although it seems clear that those demographic changes were caused more by a sense of economic hopelessness than school politics. While towns such as Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) evidenced “white flight” in the aftermath of court orders in the latter decades of the twentieth century, it was in the …

Whitewater Scandal

“Whitewater” was the popular nickname for a series of investigations of President William Jefferson Clinton that lasted nearly seven years and concluded with his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives and acquittal by the Senate, making him the second U.S. president to be impeached. The investigations began in 1994 as an inquiry by an independent U.S. counsel into the propriety of real-estate transactions involving Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in 1978, when he was attorney general of Arkansas and shortly before he became governor. It morphed through many phases until the independent counsel looked into allegations of illicit sexual encounters when Clinton was governor and president. The term “Whitewater” originated from the Whitewater Development Corporation, a company …

Wilson-Anthony Duel

The only recorded violent death on the floor of the Arkansas General Assembly occurred on December 4, 1837, in a knife brawl leaving state Representative Major Joseph J. Anthony of Randolph County dead at the hands of Speaker of the House Colonel John Wilson of Clark County, who was subsequently expelled and tried for murder. The Arkansas Gazette cited it as “another example of the barbarity of life in Arkansas,” lamenting how it “stained the history of the state.” The events have long been obscured by variants of the narrative. Speaker Wilson, who was presiding over an extraordinary session of the Arkansas General Assembly called by Governor James Conway to deal with a predicted tax surplus, was debating a wolf-scalp bill, sent …

Wirges, Gene

Eugene Henry (Gene) Wirges was an Arkansas journalist noted for his crusade against the influence over Arkansas politics exerted in the early 1960s by Governor Orval Faubus and his political ally Sheriff Marlin Hawkins of Conway County. As a crusading editor and good-government advocate, Wirges, along with his wife, Betty, allied themselves with the forces of reform at serious personal risk. Principally as editor of the Morrilton Democrat, as well as other local papers, Wirges led a campaign for better government and honest elections, which resulted in lawsuits, criminal prosecution, physical altercations, and—allegedly—a contract on his life. His opponent and chief nemesis, Hawkins, vehemently denied being involved in such activities. Born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 5, 1927, …

Women’s Suffrage Movement

After the Civil War, Arkansas leaders began advocating women’s right to vote. Women’s suffrage clubs started to organize, and an Arkansas women’s suffrage movement emerged. These suffragist leaders lectured at meetings, campaigned on street corners, and lobbied the Arkansas legislature for a women’s suffrage law. This campaign ended in 1920 with the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote. An Arkansas law proposing women’s suffrage was initially introduced by Miles Ledford Langley of Arkadelphia (Clark County), a representative to the Arkansas Constitutional Convention of 1868. On February 11, 1868, the Arkansas Gazette reported that he made a motion that “all citizens 21 years of age, who can read and write the English language, shall be …