Recreation and Sports

Entries - Entry Category: Recreation and Sports - Starting with S

Sain, John Franklin (Johnny)

Johnny Franklin Sain was a star major league pitcher and is widely considered to have been the best pitching coach in major league baseball history. Sain had unique (and still controversial) approaches to working with pitchers, the success of which earned him the respect and affection of his charges. As a pitcher, he won 139 games, the third-highest total for an Arkansas native, right behind Lon Warneke, who had 192 wins, and Dizzy Dean, who had 150. Johnny Sain was born on September 25, 1917, in Havana (Yell County) to John Franklin Sain Sr. and Eva Sain. He had a sister, Agnes. His father, an auto mechanic, taught him how to throw a curveball, which Sain later said served him …

Saline County Fair and Rodeo

The Saline County Fair and Rodeo is considered one of the oldest continual annual fairs in Arkansas, with roots going back to a small gathering at Riverside Park in Benton (Saline County) in 1908. In comparison, the first Arkansas Livestock Show—later changed to the Arkansas State Fair and Livestock Show—was held in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1938, although there were other efforts to create a state fair in the later part of the nineteenth century. Since its inception, the Saline County Fair has grown to include a parade, a full rodeo, livestock sales, games, carnival rides, contests, live music, and exhibits showing off locally made products. Since the beginning, the Saline County Fair has been managed and funded …

Salt Bowl

Competition between football teams representing Saline County’s two largest cities, Benton and Bryant, gave birth to the Salt Bowl in the fall of 2000. Played between the Benton High School Panthers and the Bryant High School Hornets, the game attracts fans and alumni representing all of Saline County. The average number attending annually exceeds 20,000; according to the Saline Courier, 34,086 attended in 2015. The Salt Bowl is played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1973, Fort Smith Southside ended its contract with Benton and would no longer play against its team. Meanwhile, Bryant was looking for a new rival, having just become a 3-A school. It was decided that Benton and Bryant would face-off the …

Schmidt, Charles “Boss”

Arkansas native Charles “Boss” Schmidt was a baseball player whose minor and major league career spanned most of the first two decades of the twentieth century. His nickname was a tribute to the toughness he exhibited, especially in fights during his baseball career (with other ballplayers, including his Detroit Tigers teammate Ty Cobb) and during a brief stint as a boxer. Charles Schmidt was born on September 12, 1880, in London (Pope County)—some sources say Coal Hill (Johnson County)—to German immigrants John and Mary Schmidt. It is unclear how many siblings he had, but a younger brother, Walter, played professional baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates. As a youth, Schmidt worked in the coal mines central to the region’s economy. While …

Schoonover, Wear Kibler

Wear Kibler Schoonover won many academic and athletic awards while attending the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). While he was part of the All-American football team, he went to Hollywood to play a part in the film Maybe It’s Love. Schoonover later served in the U.S. Navy and worked for the government in the Legal Services Department of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wear Schoonover was born on March 18, 1910, in Pocahontas (Randolph County) to attorney Eugene Gardiner Schoonover and Estelle Waddle Schoonover; he had two siblings who died in infancy and one brother. Schoonover graduated from Pocahontas High School and attended UA, accomplishing much in both academics and sports. Schoonover was the first UA athlete …

Scott, Clyde Luther “Smackover”

Clyde Luther “Smackover” Scott, who received his nickname and his notoriety as a football player from the town he grew up in, became legendary at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). An Olympian and a two-sport star for the Razorbacks, he was named the state’s athlete of the century by readers of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2000. Scott was a three-time Southwest Conference player and an All-American in football in 1948. He also lettered in track and proclaimed himself to be self taught in this sport. Clyde Scott was born in Dixie, Louisiana, on August 29, 1924, to Luther and Callie Scott. His father was a gang manager for Liberty Oil Company. Clyde was the third of …

Sesquicentennial Celebration

The Arkansas Sesquicentennial Celebration was a year-long event in 1986 commemorating the 150th anniversary of Arkansas’s admission into the Union. The celebration sparked a renewed interest in Arkansas and local history. Arkansas was admitted to the Union as a state on June 15, 1836. In 1986, a series of statewide and local events were held to honor the anniversary. Planning for the sesquicentennial began in 1982, with Governor Frank White appointing an Arkansas Sesquicentennial Commission. Tom W. Dillard, director of the Department of Arkansas Natural and Cultural Heritage (now the Department of Arkansas Heritage), was appointed by White to lead the commission. In early 1985, the Arkansas General Assembly passed legislation awarding a $400,000 grant to the Department of Arkansas …

Shriners

aka: Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine
Shriners International, formally known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, is a fraternal organization commonly known as the Shriners. The order inducted its first two Master Masons on August 13, 1870, and the remaining eleven charter members on June 16, 1871. Arkansas has two chapters: Sahara Shrine in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), founded in 1889 and chartered the next year; and Scimitar Shrine in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County) as Al Amin Temple in 1904 and chartered early the next year. Historically, to become a noble of the Shrine, a potential member had to complete three degrees and a series of tests to become a Master Mason of …

Silas, Paul Theron

Paul Silas was an All-Star player and then coach in the National Basketball Association (NBA) over a period from 1964 to 2002.  Playing for five different teams throughout his career, he was a two-time All-Star as well as a member of three NBA championship teams over the course of sixteen seasons. He then served as a head coach for over a decade. Paul Theron Silas was born on July 12, 1943, in Prescott (Nevada County) to Leon Silas, who was a railroad laborer, and his wife, about whom little is known. The family moved a few times and lived in New York and Chicago before returning to Prescott when Silas was six. When he was eight, Silas was sent to …

Six Bridges Book Festival

The Six Bridges Book Festival is an annual celebration of literacy, language, and the written word. The event was begun by Arkansas Literacy Councils, Inc., (ALC) with the goals of increasing awareness of the importance of literacy and raising funds for adult literacy programs in Arkansas—all through a culturally vibrant event that highlights the state of Arkansas and its rich literary heritage. The festival started in 2002 as the Arkansas Literary Festival (known as Lit Fest), and the Central Arkansas Library System took over management of the festival in 2008, renaming it the Six Bridges Book Festival in 2019. Proceeds from the event benefit the state’s community-based literacy programs that recruit and train volunteers to help adults improve their basic …

Smith, George Rose

George Rose Smith was a prominent twentieth-century lawyer and state Supreme Court justice. He remains the longest-serving Arkansas Supreme Court justice. George Rose Smith was born on July 26, 1911, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), one of five children of Hay Watson Smith, a minister who served as the pastor of Little Rock’s Second Presbyterian Church for almost forty years, and Jessie Rose Smith. He received his early education in the Little Rock schools before graduating first in his class from Little Rock High School in 1928. Following graduation, Smith went to Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He soon returned home, however, to attend the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). He graduated first in his …

Smith, Harold Raymond (Hal)

Harold Raymond (Hal) Smith of Barling (Sebastian County) became the starting catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals in his rookie season, 1956, and held that position until a heart valve condition caused his retirement as a player in 1961. Playing in 570 games, Smith had a major league batting average of .258 and hit twenty-three home runs. Known for his rifle-shot throwing arm, Smith listed superstars Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Roberto Clemente—Baseball Hall of Fame members and the best base runners of the era—among his “thrown out trying to steal second” victims. Hal Smith was born on June 1, 1931, to Katherine and Ronald Smith, who operated a grocery and gas station along Highway 22; he had three sisters …

Snyder, Larry Lloyd

As a jockey who raced thoroughbred horses, Larry Lloyd Snyder won 6,388 races from 1960 to 1994. Many of his wins came at Oaklawn Park (now Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort) in Hot Springs (Garland County). Larry Snyder was born on June 29, 1942, in Toledo, Ohio. He dropped out of school in tenth grade and began working as a stable boy, with the hope of getting the opportunity to race. While cleaning stables and walking horses, he developed a relationship with the Van Berg family, which owned and trained many of the nation’s top thoroughbreds. With the help of Wendy Smith, who would book many of Snyder’s races, he won his first race on September 2, 1960. Snyder led the …

Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV)

The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) is a historical, patriotic, and non-political organization established to honor the memory of soldiers who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. In Arkansas, there are eighteen camps of the SCV (as of 2010), and the organization works to commemorate Arkansas’s Confederate heritage through annual memorial events and more. The SCV is a direct offshoot of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV), a voluntary organization of many veterans who fought for the Confederacy during its brief existence (1861–1865). The SCV was organized at Richmond, Virginia, in 1896 at the convention of the UCV. Initially, the SCV was charged with two duties: assisting the UCV and its elderly members at their conventions and other activities, …

South Arkansas Arboretum State Park

South Arkansas Arboretum State Park preserves native flora and fauna of the West Gulf Coastal Plain while offering educational and recreational activities for visitors. Located in El Dorado (Union County), it is Arkansas’s only natural state park located within a city. Added to the state park system in the 1990s, it is Arkansas’s fiftieth state park. The late James Riley, a biology teacher at the adjacent El Dorado High School, is credited as the driving force behind the arboretum’s creation, including securing federal education grants for land acquisition and early development. Using an office in the high school, Riley devised a plan to use land belonging to the school system for educational displays, scientific studies, and a park-like setting for …

South Fork Nature Center

South Fork Nature Center (SFNC), which opened in 2010, is the Gates Rogers Foundation’s premier conservancy project. Located in central Arkansas just east of Clinton (Van Buren County), it lies in the Boston Mountains range of the Ozark Mountains on the banks of the South Fork of the Little Red River section of Greers Ferry Lake. Featuring two miles of interpretive nature trails on the peninsula and a spectacular view of the lake, the center serves as a model to educate and inspire the public to be aware of the environment, to protect vulnerable plant and animal species, and to adopt practices that are ecologically sound. It seeks to preserve Arkansas’s native flora and fauna in a manner that ensures …

Southern Club

The Southern Club was a gambling and entertainment facility established in 1893 in Hot Springs (Garland County) that gained notoriety during the 1930s as a hangout for visiting gangsters. Among the oldest structures in Hot Springs, the club is located at 250 Central Avenue near the center of the downtown business district. The building was added to the National Register of Historic places on June 25, 1985, as part of the Hot Springs Central Avenue Historic District. At the end of the nineteenth century, Hot Springs experienced tremendous growth as a health resort and spa. One of the buildings constructed during this period was the private club of Charles Dugan and Dan Stuart, the Southern Club, which was built and …

Southland Park Gaming and Racing

aka: Southland Greyhound Park
Southland Park Gaming and Racing, formerly known as Southland Greyhound Park, is a gambling and entertainment center in West Memphis (Crittenden County) near the intersection of Interstates 55 and 40. Begun as a dog-racing track, it now includes games of skill such as blackjack and live poker games played with electronic cards along with trivia contests, karaoke, and live music. Southland Park began as a dog track in 1956. It was the only gambling venue in the Mid-South region and drew visitors from several nearby states. The track offered pari-mutuel betting (French for “mutual stake”), a system common to horse racing as well as greyhound racing. In this system, bets are put together in a pool with odds established before …

Southwest Stakes

The Southwest Stakes is a thoroughbred horse race held at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs (Garland County) restricted to three-year-old colts and geldings. The Southwest is the first major step in Oaklawn’s series for horses aspiring to run in the $1 million Arkansas Derby and subsequent Triple Crown races (the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes make up the Triple Crown); the Rebel Stakes is the second major step, with the Arkansas Derby being the third. The Southwest is traditionally run on Presidents Day in February. Stakes races—so called because of the stake, or entry fee, owners must pay—are rated grade one (the highest), grade two, or grade three based on the size of the purse. (The purse …

Speaker, Tristram E.

Tris Speaker was one of the greatest players in baseball history. Fast, smart, and strong-willed, he reveled in the fierce competition that characterized major league baseball in the early days. Elected in the second class of honorees and formally inducted at the inaugural ceremonies that marked the grand opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, in 1939, Speaker was one of the most outstanding performers in baseball, going head to head with greats such as Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. He was one of only a few players for the Arkansas Travelers who would be elected to the Hall of Fame. Tristram E. Speaker was born on April 4, 1888, in Hubbard, Texas. His father, Archie …

Special Olympics Arkansas

Special Olympics Arkansas (SOAR) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). The organization’s mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendships with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community. Special Olympics Arkansas began in 1970, just two years after Special Olympics Incorporated founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver held the first Special Olympics games, at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, in 1968. Arkansas’s first games were held in Conway (Faulkner County) at Hendrix College, with approximately 280 athletes in …

St. Francis National Scenic Byway

The St. Francis Scenic Byway is a twenty-one-mile stretch of road wholly within the St. Francis National Forest linking Helena-West Helena (Phillips County) and Marianna (Lee County) and traversing the hilly southern portion of Crowley’s Ridge; it is designated a National Forest Scenic Byway. The route merges Arkansas Highway 44 and Forest Service Road 1900, combining nine miles of pavement and fourteen miles of well-tended gravel. Rambling across national forest lands, this corridor is included in both the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway and the Great River Road. The Federal Highway Administration oversees the National Scenic Byways Program, America’s Byways, yet the title “byway” may be bestowed by some 600 byway organizations, both government and private. The National Forest Service initiated its …

State Parks Division

aka: State Parks
aka: Arkansas State Parks
The State Parks Division, which is part of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism, manages the state’s fifty-two state parks and promotes the state of Arkansas as a tourist destination for people around the country. Arkansas’s first state park, Petit Jean State Park, was established in 1923 after the passage of Act 276, which authorized the commissioner of state lands to accept land donations for state parks and reservations. However, the state did not have an agency overseeing the development of state parks until 1927, when the legislature, through Act 172, created the seven-member State Parks Commission “to select and acquire such areas of the State of Arkansas which, by reason of their natural features, scenic beauty and …

Stephens, Jackson Thomas

Jackson Thomas Stephens was one of the most successful, high-profile business figures in Arkansas during the twentieth century, joining his older brother Wilton R. “Witt” Stephens in building Stephens Inc. of Little Rock (Pulaski County) into one of the nation’s largest brokerage firms. Stephens also became a well-known philanthropist, supporting institutions ranging from the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock) and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Jack Stephens was born on August 9, 1923, in Prattsville (Grant County), the youngest of the six children of A. J. Stephens and Ethel Pumphrey Stephens. A. J. Stephens was a farmer and a politician who served two terms in the state …

Stephens, Kenneth Gene (Ken)

Kenneth Gene Stephens of Conway (Faulkner County) was one of Arkansas’s most successful high school and college football coaches, leading North Little Rock High School to three state championships and the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) to four Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference (AIC) titles. He also led several other schools to winning seasons during his nearly forty-year career as a head coach. Ken Stephens was born in Conway on April 2, 1931, to Earl and Edna Stephens. Earl Stephens was a dairyman, and Edna Stephens was a housewife who had a dress shop business next to the family home. The couple had four children. Stephens began participating in track and field as a sophomore at Conway High School. He competed in …

Strengthen the Arm of Liberty Monuments

The Strengthen the Arm of Liberty Monuments in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and Fayetteville (Washington County) are replicas of the Statue of Liberty. They were erected in the 1950s as part of a patriotism campaign conducted by the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts were incorporated on February 8, 1910, bringing to America a program begun in Great Britain by Robert S. S. Baden-Powell. By 1912, Boy Scouts were enrolled in every state in the Union. The Boy Scouts, with their famous motto “Be Prepared,” participated in local and national efforts to offer assistance in patriotic campaigns. The Cub Scouts, enrolling younger boys, were established in 1930, and by 1935, there were 1,027,833 active Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts …

Summerall, George Allen “Pat”

Pat Summerall was one of television’s leading sportscasters in the twentieth century. He played for the University of Arkansas (UA) football team, and, following a decade of play in the National Football League (NFL), he moved easily into radio and television announcing. In addition to announcing football, he served for many years as the voice of CBS Sports for both golf and tennis. He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1971. George Allen “Pat” Summerall was born on May 10, 1930, in Lake City, Florida, to George Allen Summerall and Marion Summerall. His parents were in the process of divorcing when he was born, and they considered sending him to an orphanage. However, his aunt and …

Surratt, Alfred “Slick”

Alfred “Slick” Surratt was a baseball player in the Negro Leagues in the late 1940s and early 1950s. After his playing career, he spent decades as a welder for the Ford Motor Company. He stayed involved in baseball, however, through his involvement in the creation and development of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Missouri. Alfred Surratt was born on November 9, 1922, in Danville (Yell County). A baseball player from his earliest days, he moved to Kansas City, Missouri, to live with his father at the end of the eighth grade. Not yet twenty years old when the United States entered World War II, Surratt served in the South Pacific during the war but was able to continue playing …

Sutton, Eddie

Eddie Sutton was a men’s college basketball coach who led four schools, including the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), to the Final Four of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament. He became one of a small group of men’s Division I college basketball coaches to have more than 800 career wins. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020. Born on March 12, 1936, in Bucklin, Kansas, Eddie Sutton graduated from Bucklin High School in 1954 and earned a basketball scholarship to what is now Oklahoma State University. Coached by Henry Iba, college basketball’s “Iron Duke of Defense,” he played guard on the freshman team (1954–1955) and on the varsity team (1955–1958). Sutton graduated …

Switzer, Barry

Barry Switzer is a native Arkansan who became one of the most successful football coaches of all time. He is one of only two men to win both a collegiate national championship and the Super Bowl. Barry Switzer was born in Crossett (Ashley County) on October 5, 1937, the son of Frank M. and Mary Louise (Wood) Switzer. Frank Switzer was a bootlegger and money-lender who spent time in prison. Both of the elder Switzers died under tragic circumstances. Switzer graduated from Crossett High School in 1955 and won a football scholarship to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he graduated in 1960 with a degree in business. After a brief stint in the army, he …