State Figures

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Entry Category: State Figures

Allen, Dorathy N. McDonald

Dorathy N. McDonald Allen was the first woman to serve in the Arkansas Senate. She was elected to fill the unexpired term of her husband, Senator Tom Allen, after his death in 1963. She was reelected in 1966 and 1970 without opposition, serving until January 1975. Dorathy McDonald was born in Helena (Phillips County) on March 10, 1910, to Dora and Jack McDonald. Her father was lumberman and sawmill owner, and her mother was a homemaker; she had four siblings. She was educated in public schools and at Sacred Heart Academy in Helena. Her mother died the same year McDonald graduated from high school. Due to the financial state of her family, college became impossible, so she took a business …

Ashley, Chester

Chester Ashley was prominent in territorial and antebellum Arkansas. He was involved in the dispute over ownership of the site of Little Rock (Pulaski County), the Bowie land claims, and the ill-fated State and Real Estate Banks, as well as being the pre-eminent appellate attorney of the period. He was a member of the powerful Conway-Sevier-Johnson political faction, which controlled state politics until the Civil War. In addition, he was the third Arkansan elected to the U.S. Senate and was probably the wealthiest Arkansan for much of his life because of his land holdings. Chester Ashley was born on June 1, 1791, in Amherst, Massachusetts, to William Ashley and Nancy Pomeroy. Some sources list his birth year as 1790, but …

Bacon, Nick Daniel (Nicky)

Nick Daniel Bacon stands as one of three people connected to Arkansas to have received the Medal of Honor for actions in the Vietnam War. In addition, Bacon served for more than a decade as the director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, championing many programs for Arkansas’s veterans and playing an instrumental part in the erection of a memorial honoring all of Arkansas’s Medal of Honor recipients. Nicky Bacon was born on November 25, 1945, in Caraway (Craighead County), one of eight children. In the early 1950s, his financially struggling family moved to Arizona. Bacon dropped out of high school after the ninth grade to work but was inspired to do something else by his uncle’s tales of World …

Bennett, Bruce

Bruce Bennett was Arkansas’s attorney general from 1957 to 1960 and from 1963 to 1966. As the state’s leading legal authority, he became known as much for flouting the law as for upholding it. In the wake of the Little Rock (Pulaski County) desegregation crisis, Bennett authored legislation to bypass federal desegregation orders, including acts “designed to harass” the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He gained further notoriety in asserting that communist influence underlay the racial unrest in Arkansas. Toward the end of his career, Bennett became infamous for his part in the securities fraud scandal involving the Arkansas Loan and Thrift. Bruce Bennett was born on October 31, 1917, to Oakley Adair Bennett and Anita …

Blair, Diane Frances Divers Kincaid

Diane Frances Divers Kincaid Blair was a nationally respected educator, writer, speaker, political scientist, and public servant who authored two influential books, served as board chair of the Arkansas Educational Television Commission, chair of the U.S. Corporation for Public Broadcasting, member of the Electoral College, and professor of political science at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Diane Divers was born on October 25, 1938, in Washington DC to William Keeveny Divers and Minna Rosenbaum Divers, both attorneys; she had one older sister. Divers, selected for membership in Phi Beta Kappa as a college student, graduated cum laude from Cornell University’s Department of Government in 1959. Returning to Washington after college, she served as analyst for the …

Bradford, Jay T.

Jay Bradford is an Arkansas businessman and government official. A longtime member of the Arkansas General Assembly, he capped a public career of over thirty years with a six-year stint as state commissioner of insurance. Jay T. Bradford was born on April 30, 1940, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to J. Turner Bradford and Chrystal Jacobs Bradford. He had one brother and two sisters. After Bradford’s mother died when he was eight years old, his father, who was a traveling salesman, placed his children in the care of relatives in Paris (Logan County). After receiving his early education in the local schools, he attended Subiaco Academy, a Catholic college preparatory school in Subiaco (Logan County). After graduating from Subiaco, he …

Brandon, Benton Douglas, Jr.

Benton Douglas Brandon Jr. was a legislator, businessman, and civic leader who brought a business presence into a state legislature dominated by attorneys, helping to open the state to outside commerce and financial growth. Brandon felt that unless Arkansas had adequate education, proper roads, and a strong civic presence, the state could not grow to its potential. He saw the Arkansas legislature as the vehicle for this growth. Doug Brandon was born on August 23, 1932, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Anne Maloney and Benton Brandon Sr., a local businessman and early aviator. Brandon graduated from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) with a business degree. He later joined the U.S. Army, graduating from Command and …

Brooks, Joseph

Joseph Brooks was a Methodist minister who came to Arkansas during the Civil War. He played a prominent role in post-war Republican politics. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1872 and was one of the participants in the subsequent Brooks-Baxter War. Joseph Brooks was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 1, 1821. Nothing is known of his parents or his early family life. He attended Indiana Asbury University in Greencastle, Indiana, now DePauw University, and after graduation entered the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was ordained in 1840 at the age of eighteen. His first assignment was as a circuit rider, traveling across an assigned territory to preach. He later rode circuit in Iowa, then moved to Illinois, …

Bumpers, Betty

Betty Bumpers, wife of former Arkansas governor and U.S. senator Dale Bumpers, was known for her far-reaching efforts to promote childhood immunizations and world peace. Betty Lou Flanagan was born on January 11, 1925, to Herman “Babe” Flanagan and Ola Callan Flanagan in Grand Prairie (Franklin County). Her mother was a homemaker, and her father was a cattle farmer and auctioneer. The family moved to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) during World War II, and later to Iowa before returning to Franklin County. She attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Art, the University of Iowa, and the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Flanagan married Dale Bumpers on September 4, 1949, while he was attending law school at Northwestern …

Bunch, Bradley

Bradley Bunch was a longtime Arkansas legislator, Carroll County judge, and the first historian of Carroll County. In addition, he is known as the fourth-great uncle of Barack Hussein Obama, the forty-fourth president of the United States, whom he markedly resembles. Bradley Bunch was born on December 9, 1818, in Overton County, Tennessee, the eighth child of Captain Nathaniel Bunch and Sally Wade Ray Bunch of Virginia. Between 1838 and 1841, his father, a “farmer-blacksmith-mechanic,” moved with his family in stages to Carroll County, Arkansas, settling on the headwaters of Osage Creek near Dinsmore in what subsequently became Newton County. Bunch’s sister Anna (1814–1893) married Samuel Thompson Allred in Tennessee prior to the move; this couple became the great-great-great-great (fourth-great) …

Bush, John

John Edward Bush, a chairman of the Republican Party in Arkansas, rose from poverty to national prominence when he co-founded the Mosaic Templars of America (MTA), an African-American fraternal organization of international scope, spanning twenty-six states and six foreign countries from the 1880s until the 1930s. Headquartered in Little Rock (Pulaski County), MTA became one of the largest and most successful black-owned business enterprises in the nation and the world; it included an insurance company, a building and loan association, a hospital, a business college, a publishing house, and a nursing school. Living most of his early life in the downtown 9th Street district of Little Rock, Bush was widely acknowledged as one of the wealthiest black men in Arkansas …

Campbell, Tom Walter

Tom Walter Campbell was a well-known Arkansas attorney and political figure in the first half of the twentieth century. A member of the Arkansas General Assembly, he also sought election to higher office but was unsuccessful. In his later years, he authored some well-regarded historical works. Tom W. Campbell was born on September 7, 1874, to John Stone Campbell and Alice Hufstedter Campbell on a farm near the Eleven Point River in Randolph County. After receiving his early education in the local schools, he attended Add-Ran Christian University (now Texas Christian University) in Thorp Springs, Texas. Following his sophomore year in 1894, he returned to Randolph County, and, in 1895, he married Jenny Roberts, with whom he would have three …

Carnes, Gressie Umsted

Gressie Umsted Carnes was active in state and national politics as a member of the Democratic Party. She also played major roles in promoting Easter Seals and Girl Scouts in Arkansas. Gressie Umsted was born on August 9, 1903, in Bernice, Louisiana, to Edna Sedalia Edwards Umsted and Sidney Albert Umsted. She had twin sisters, Audrey and Aubrey, and a brother who died in infancy. Her family moved to Arkansas in the early 1920s. Umsted graduated from high school in El Dorado (Union County) and attended Henderson-Brown College in Arkadelphia (Clark County) and Gulf Park College in Gulfport, Mississippi. She was working on a BA in music but did not finish, leaving school after her father died from injuries sustained …

Clark, John Steven (Steve)

aka: Steve Clark
John Steven (Steve) Clark was the longest-serving attorney general in Arkansas history. After eleven years as attorney general, Clark announced in January 1990 that he would run for the Democratic nomination for governor. A few days later, the Arkansas Gazette reported that his office had spent a suspicious $115,729 total on travel and meals, more than any of the other six constitutional officers, and that his vouchers listed many dinner guests who said they had not been his guests. In February, Clark withdrew from the governor’s race (Governor Bill Clinton would be re-elected). He was convicted of fraud by deception and resigned as attorney general. Steve Clark was born on March 21, 1947, in Leachville (Mississippi County) to John W. …

Clayton, John Middleton

John Middleton Clayton was a Union officer, Reconstruction official, county sheriff, and Republican Party activist. His life in Arkansas illustrates the contentious politics in the state and the South of this time, and his politically inspired murder in 1889 may have made him more famous in death than in life. John Clayton and his twin brother, William, were born on October 13, 1840, on a farm near Chester, Pennsylvania, the son of Ann Glover and John Clayton, an orchard-keeper and carpenter. The couple had ten children, six of whom died in infancy. Clayton married a woman named Sarah Ann, and the couple had six children. During the Civil War, Clayton served in the Army of the Potomac and was engaged …

Cobb, Osro

Osro Cobb was a lawyer who, as state chairman of the Republican Party, helped establish a real two-party political system in Arkansas. He was U.S. district attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas during the 1957 desegregation crisis at Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). He was also appointed to the Arkansas Supreme Court by Governor Orval Faubus in 1966, becoming the first Republican to hold a position on the court since 1874. Osro Cobb was born near Hatton (Polk County) on May 28, 1904, to Philander Cobb, a businessman in the lumber industry, and Ida Sublette Cobb, a writer, poet, playwright, and songwriter; he had two brothers. Cobb’s family relocated frequently due to his father’s business dealings, …

Conway, Polly

aka: Mary Jane Bradley Conway
Mary Jane “Polly” Bradley Conway, the wife of Arkansas’s first governor, was a stable mother, supportive spouse, and respected prominent citizen. She was also a pioneer in what was then a primitive corner of the state. Polly Bradley was born on August 31, 1809, at or near Lebanon in Wilson County, Tennessee, to John Bradley and Jane Barton. Bradley’s father died the year she was born. After the War of 1812, her uncles Captain Hugh Bradley and Fleetwood Herndon moved to Arkansas. Bradley, her mother, her sisters, and her stepfather also migrated to Arkansas Territory, settling on the “Long Prairie” of the future Lafayette County. On December 21, 1826, Bradley married James Sevier Conway, presumably on Long Prairie, where he …

Crank, Marion Harland

Marion Harland Crank was a member of the Arkansas General Assembly for eighteen years; he lost narrowly to Governor Winthrop Rockefeller in 1968 in his only race for statewide office. Crank’s defeat ended conservative dominance of the Democratic Party in Arkansas. A government agriculture specialist, farmer, teacher, and businessman, Crank became influential in the dominant rural faction of legislators when he entered the state House of Representatives in 1951. He was the speaker of the House in 1963–64 and often managed legislative programs for Governor Orval E. Faubus during Faubus’s twelve years in office. He was the choice of the old political organization of conservative businessmen and planters to oppose the Republican Rockefeller for a second term, defeating five Democrats …

Daniels, Charlie

Longtime state official Charlie Daniels began public service as a member of his local school board. A career that spanned over three decades included lengthy tenures in a number of statewide offices: commissioner of state lands, secretary of state, and state auditor. Charlie Daniels was born on December 7, 1939, in Parkers Chapel (Union County) to Louie Green Daniels and Ruby Marie Hill Daniels. He grew up in nearby El Dorado (Union County). He joined the U.S. Air Force after graduating from high school, and his four years of active duty were followed by fifteen years in the Air Force Reserves. Upon completing his active duty, Daniels attended Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia (Columbia County) and then the University of …

Eakin, Jno

aka: John Rogers Eakin
Jno Rogers (John) Eakin, an editor, jurist, champion of women’s rights, and viniculturalist, made notable accomplishments in all four fields. During the Civil War, he edited the Washington Telegraph, making it the state’s only newspaper to remain in operation throughout the war. As a jurist, he served as chancellor from 1874 to 1878 and then as an associate justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court until his death in 1885. His vigorous repudiation of the common law’s entrenched hostility to women was reflected first in his work as chancellor and carried over into his well-crafted, but dissenting, opinions on the Supreme Court. His essay on grape culture was one of the earliest agricultural publications in the state. John Eakin was born …

Furbush, William Hines

William Hines Furbush was an African-American member of the Arkansas General Assembly and the first sheriff of Lee County. His political career began in the Republican Party at the close of Reconstruction and ended in the Democratic Party just as the political disfranchisement of African Americans in the post-Reconstruction era began. William Furbush was born in Carroll County, Kentucky, in 1839 and was often described as a mulatto. Nothing is known of his parentage or childhood, but judging from his literacy and scripted handwriting, he received an early and formal education. Around 1860, Furbush is known to have operated a photography studio in Delaware, Ohio. In March 1862, he traveled to Union-controlled Helena (Phillips County) on the Kate Adams, where …

Gibson, Lorenzo

Early Arkansas, especially Little Rock (Pulaski County), benefited from contributions made by Lorenzo Gibson in the areas of medicine, law, business, and public service. He established a mercantile business in Little Rock in 1833, practiced medicine, and served as the state representative for Pulaski and Hot Spring counties. Lorenzo Gibson was born on May 27, 1804, to William R. Gibson and Fanny Gibson in Clarksville, Tennessee; he had one younger brother, William R. Gibson. Gibson moved from Tennessee to Little Rock in 1833 and established a mercantile business with his brother. Their store was located in a building that had just been built by Chester Ashley, a prominent Little Rock land speculator and, later, United States senator. In the May …