Recreation and Sports

Entries - Entry Category: Recreation and Sports

Rotary Club of Little Rock

The Rotary Club of Little Rock is the oldest civic club in Arkansas. It is the ninety-ninth oldest and sixth largest of more than 35,000 Rotary Clubs in more than 200 countries and geographic regions. Although the official name of the club is the Rotary Club of Little Rock, it is frequently referred to as “Club 99,” because of the number on its charter, or as the “Downtown Little Rock Rotary Club” to distinguish it from other Rotary Clubs in the city. The club traces its origin to the 1911 arrival in Little Rock (Pulaski County) of Sidney M. Brooks (1886–1985), a Memphis, Tennessee, native who had graduated from Harvard University and moved to Little Rock to establish the state’s …

Rotary International

With a motto of “Service Above Self,” Rotary International is a non-political, non-religious civic organization that is open to all adults. There are about 35,000 individual Rotary Clubs located in more than 200 countries around the globe. Arkansas has more than eighty separate clubs in communities throughout the state. Most of the 1.2 million members of Rotary worldwide are business, civic, and professional leaders in their communities, and club members volunteer to serve others on the local, state, national, and international levels. At meetings, there are usually guest speakers who present programs on topics of interest. The first Rotary Club was founded in 1905 by attorney Paul Harris (1868–1947) in Chicago, Illinois. Harris wished to share his vision of meeting …

Rothert, Matt, Sr.

Matthew Herman (Matt) Rothert Sr., a nationally recognized coin collector, was responsible for having “In God We Trust” placed on U.S. paper currency. He was a furniture manufacturer and president of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) from 1965 to 1967. Matt Rothert was born on March 17, 1904 in Huntingburg, Indiana. Little is known of his family, though he had at least two sisters. Rothert received a BS from Notre Dame University in 1924, moved to Camden (Ouachita County), and founded the Camden Furniture Company, serving as its president until he retired in 1975. On April 10, 1937, he married Janet Hope Firring. They had two boys and two girls. Rothert’s interest in numismatics, or coin collecting, began when he …

Rothhammer, Keena

Keena Rothhammer, who was a talented and versatile swimmer, became one of the leaders of the U.S. national teams at both the 1972 Olympics and the 1973 World Championships. Rothhammer was the first Arkansas native to win an Olympic gold medal in swimming and set multiple world records over the course of her career. Over her short career, Rothhammer held two world records, ten American records, and fifteen individual national records. Keena Ruth Rothhammer was born on February 26, 1957, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Grant Roy Rothhammer and Dianne Becker Rothhammer. As their daughter’s swimming potential became clear, the family left Little Rock for southern California, where she was coached by the legendary George Haines at the Santa …

Rowe, “Schoolboy”

aka: Lynwood Thomas Rowe
Lynwood Thomas “Schoolboy” Rowe was a sports star from El Dorado (Union County) who became one of the most famous major league baseball pitchers of the 1930s and 1940s. With three other pitchers—Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, and Smokey Joe Wood—Rowe still (as of 2011) holds the American League record for most consecutive victories, winning sixteen straight games in 1934. Lynwood “Schoolboy” Rowe was born on January 11, 1910, in Waco, Texas, the son of Thomas M. Rowe and Ruby Hardin Rowe. The Rowes soon moved to El Dorado, where Rowe and his brother, Mark, attended El Dorado schools. He established himself as a superior athlete in elementary school and was later a star in football, track, basketball, tennis, and baseball. …

Running and Walking

In Arkansas, running and walking have long been used for exercise and fitness. Enthusiasts support each, especially as Arkansans become more health conscious. Arkansas also is home to a number of events and organizations devoted to running and walking. Walking draws the largest percentage of people exercising, but, beyond basic fitness walking, there are also speed walkers (sometimes referred to as power walkers) who walk at paces ranging from ten to sixteen minutes per mile. There are also race walkers who must abide by specific USA Track and Field (USATF) rules when it comes to form and style of walking. They can be very speedy, often walking faster than many runners. One club in the state is dedicated only to …

Runyan, Paul

Paul Runyan is a household name in Arkansas golf history. He won the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Championship twice, in 1934 and 1938. At the diminutive size of 5’7″ and 125 pounds, Runyan earned the nickname “Little Poison” both because of his stature and because of his style of play—producing only short drives but relying on tremendously accurate freeway wood play. Paul Scott Runyan was born in Hot Springs (Garland County) on July 12, 1908, to Walter and Mamie Runyan; he had an older brother, Dixon. His father was a farmer who also worked at the Majestic Hotel across the street from Hot Springs Country Club. Despite numerous chores, Runyan escaped to the golf course, where he made money caddying …

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 …

Sawatski, Carl Ernest

Carl Sawatski was a Polish American professional baseball player who, over a period of eleven years, played for the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, and St. Louis Cardinals. In 1957, he was a member of the Braves World Series Championship team. After retirement as a player, he served as general manager of the Arkansas Travelers for almost a decade. Carl Ernest Sawatski was born in Shickshinny, Pennsylvania, on November 4, 1927, to Ernest Sawatski and Stella Gryniewicz Sawatski, both children of Polish immigrants. His father worked for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression and later owned a taxicab service. His mother was a seamstress. Sometime after his parents separated, his mother moved with …

Scenic Byways

Scenic byway designation recognizes noteworthy travel routes that provide unique travel experiences. Arkansas has several national and state scenic byways, in addition to others that are located within the boundaries of U.S. national forests. The U.S. Congress established the National Scenic Byways program as part of 1991’s Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act to help communities “balance economic development and resource conservation.” The program was strengthened by subsequent federal legislation in 1997 and 2005. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. To qualify as a National Scenic Byway, a route must exhibit one or more “intrinsic qualities”: it must be scenic, historic, natural, recreational, cultural, or archeological. Applications for National Scenic Byway status require “strong community …

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 …

Selph, Carey

Carey Selph was an outstanding athlete in the early part of the twentieth century. While his professional baseball career spanned almost a decade and included two stints in the major leagues, his earlier football achievements at Ouachita Baptist College (now Ouachita Baptist University) in Arkadelphia (Clark County) earned him lasting statewide renown. Carey Isom Selph was born on December 5, 1901, in Donaldson (Hot Spring County) to Robert Madison Selph and Mary Emma Goza Selph. Selph grew up in Donaldson and Arkadelphia. He was a star football player at Arkadelphia High School and later at Ouachita Baptist College. He was a member of the 1922 Ouachita team that upset the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), and in …

Senior Centers

By 2023, Arkansas was home to eight regional senior centers that provided educational, nutritional, and recreational services for people over age sixty. Senior centers are generally available at no cost to anyone older than sixty, although some may require a donation or have different age restrictions. Depending on the location of the center, seniors can socialize, participate in wellness activities, and receive a hot lunch. They may also take part in various programs including art courses, bingo, card games, computer instruction, dancing, exercise programs, pool, quilting, strength training, wellness classes, working on puzzles, and yoga. Centers may also provide home-delivered meals for housebound elderly clients, transportation for seniors who are unable to drive, and referrals to other senior-based services if …

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. The festival, based in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was held for many years on the third weekend of April; the festival …

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, Arkansas 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 historical …

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 people 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 …

Tate, John “Big John”

During the mid-1970s and early 1980s, John “Big John” Tate gained notoriety as a successful amateur and professional boxer. As a member of the U.S. Olympic team at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada, Tate won a bronze medal in the heavyweight division. In 1979, Tate defeated Gerrie Coetzee to claim the World Boxing Association (WBA) heavyweight title. The WBA is an internationally recognized professional boxing organization. John Tate was born in West Memphis (Crittenden County) on January 29, 1955. The second of Bonnie Archer’s seven children, Tate did not know his father (Lavon Tate) and grew up in poverty. Tate struggled academically and left school in the seventh grade. Illiterate and unskilled, he toiled in a variety of …

Tate, Sonja Patrice

Sonja Patrice Tate, who played basketball at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County) from 1989 to 1993, is one of the finest female athletes in the state’s history. As of 2014, she remains the scoring leader in basketball at ASU, with 2,312 points. In addition, Tate holds the single-season scoring record, with 820 points during the 1992–93 season. She has the top five single-game scoring performances at ASU. Tate also is the only ASU women’s player to have scored forty or more points in a game, a feat she accomplished five times. She returned to ASU prior to the 2012–13 basketball season to serve as an assistant coach for the women’s team. Sonja Tate was born on September 7, …

Tatum, Reece “Goose”

Reece “Goose” Tatum excelled at two sports, baseball and basketball, but is most famous for his basketball career with the Harlem Globetrotters. Known as “Goose” for his comic walk and for his exceptionally wide arm span, he is remembered more for his comic antics in games than for his athletic ability and accomplishments, which were considerable. Reece Tatum was born on May 3 or 31, 1921, in El Dorado (Union County) or Hermitage (Bradley County)—sources differ on his birth date and birthplace. His father, Ben, was a part-time preacher and part-time farmer who also worked at the local sawmill, while his mother, Alice, raised their seven children, of whom Reece was the fifth, and also served as a domestic cook. He …

Taylor Field

aka: Taylor Memorial Field
Taylor Field, located at 1201 East 16th Street in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), is a regulation-size baseball field featuring a U-shaped grandstand designed by architect Mitchell Seligman. Taylor Field was constructed in 1939 with assistance from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era federal relief agency. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 21, 2010. The Pine Bluff Judges of the Pine Bluff Baseball Club played their games at Missouri Pacific Park, built in 1930, until fire severely damaged it a year later. A new structure was erected, but after seven years it was in serious disrepair, leading local baseball boosters to turn to the WPA for assistance in constructing a new field and grandstand. …

Taylor, Jermain

aka: Lecester Jermain Taylor
Lecester Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor began boxing at the age of thirteen and rose through the amateur and professional ranks to become one of the best boxers in the sport. He won a bronze medal for boxing in the 2000 Olympics and became the undisputed middleweight champion in 2005, holding that title for two years and then regaining it in 2014, only to be stripped of it the following year following an arrest for assault. Jermain Taylor was born on August 11, 1978, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Taylor’s father abandoned the family when Taylor was five years old, leaving his mother, Carlois, with Taylor and his three younger sisters. Taylor’s mother had to work long hours to support the …

Timberfest

Timberfest is held the first weekend of October every year on the courthouse square in Sheridan (Grant County). Timberfest celebrates Sheridan and Grant County’s long involvement with the timber industry and is sponsored by the Grant County Chamber of Commerce. The idea for Timberfest began in 1982 when the Grant County Chamber of Commerce board of directors decided to combine the Blue Mountain Bluegrass Festival and the Merchants Fair into one festival. The first Timberfest was held in 1984 on the courthouse square in Sheridan. Since then, it has grown into a very large event. Around 1995, a lumberjack competition was added to the Timberfest activities. The funds raised by Timberfest are used for scholarships that are awarded to Grant …

Times-N-Traditions Festival

In the 1930s, Newark (Independence County) hosted Old Home Week, said to have been one of the state’s largest summer festivals. After several years, it was replaced by a three-day annual picnic known as the Old Settlers Reunion, which had ceased by the late twentieth century. In 1995, local business leaders initiated plans to develop a new festival, the Times-N-Traditions Festival (TNT). The festival, which is sponsored by the Newark Area Chamber of Commerce, began in 1995 as a Friday and Saturday event. While the previous festivals were held in downtown Newark, the TNT is held at the Newark City Park. Low attendance and competition with local Friday-night high school football resulted in a Saturday-only event. However, in 2014, a …

Toad Suck Daze

Toad Suck Daze is an annual spring festival in Conway (Faulkner County) that features arts and crafts vendors, live music, a variety of foods, and toad races for children. It is held on the streets of downtown Conway, where more than 150,000 people attend the three-day event. No admission is charged, and proceeds of the festival support Faulkner County residents attending colleges located in the county. While the festival is now one of the largest and most unique in Arkansas, it began as an idea John Ward had in 1982. Ward—managing editor of the Log Cabin Democrat, Conway’s local newspaper—wanted to raise the spirits of local residents experiencing the hard times of a recession and high interest rates. He thought …

Tomlinson, James Albert “Ike”

James Albert “Ike” Tomlinson was responsible for the revival of the athletics program at Arkansas State University (ASU) after World War II. An athlete who coached five sports, he served as ASU’s head baseball coach for thirty-two years, also serving as athletic director for three decades. He was named Associated Press National Coach of the Year and was selected for induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. In 1993, ASU’s baseball complex, Tomlinson Stadium, was named in his honor. J. A. Tomlinson was born on November 17, 1910, to farmers Frank and Nora Tomlinson in Macon, Illinois. The youngest in his family of three brothers and one sister, he was nicknamed “Ike” as a child, and the childhood nickname …