State Figures

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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 …

Hall, Nancy Johnson

Nancy Pearl Johnson Hall was the first woman to be elected to a constitutional office in Arkansas. A staff member to several agencies and constitutional officers of state government, she was appointed to succeed her husband as secretary of state upon his death and went on to be elected state treasurer by the voters. Nancy Pearl Johnson was born in Prescott (Nevada County) on October 5, 1904, to George Sim Johnson and Minnie Bryan Johnson. When she was six years of age, her family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where she attended Little Rock’s public schools. Her career in state government began in 1925 with work for the Legislative Council. She later served as a member of the staff …

Havis, Ferd

aka: Ferdinand Havis
Ferdinand Havis was born a slave but became an alderman, state representative, assessor, and county clerk, and was called the “Colored Millionaire” of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Ferd Havis was born in Desha County on November 15, 1846, the son of John Havis, a white farmer, and a slave mother. In 1859, Havis’s father moved his operations to Jefferson County. Havis received a little common school education and learned the barbering trade. Later, he owned a profitable barbershop on West Court Street in Pine Bluff. The shop later moved to Barraque Street. Havis married three times. His first wife, Dilsa, died childless in 1870. His second wife, Geneva, died on August 4, 1886; they had one child, Ferda. He married …

Hogan, Edmund

General Edmund Hogan was an imposing figure in territorial Arkansas. A veteran of the War of 1812, Hogan was one of the first settlers in Pulaski County, the leader of the territorial militia, and a legislator. His penchant for lawsuits and disputes rivaled his successes, resulting in a fatal encounter with a political foe. Born about 1780, possibly in Anson County, North Carolina, to Griffin and Mary (Gibson) Hogan, he spent his early years in Laurens County, Georgia. He was a tax collector, sheriff, state legislator, and a lieutenant colonel in the Georgia militia. By 1814, he had resigned his military commission and moved to Arkansas. Around 1803, Hogan married Frances Jane Green, born about 1780 in Pulaski County, Georgia. …

Howell, Max

William Max Howell was a politician who served in the Arkansas legislature longer than anyone in history, accumulating power that rivaled that of the nine governors with whom he served. In forty-six years in the legislature, forty-two of which were in the Senate, Howell sponsored more than 700 bills, altering the course of higher education and the judicial system and sharply expanding the state’s services for the disabled and mentally ill. Max Howell was born in Lonoke (Lonoke County) on December 22, 1915, the third of five children. His father, Flavius Josephus Howell, operated a rural telephone company but later operated a rice farm. When Howell was about five, the family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where his father …

Hutchinson, Susan Burrell

Susan Burrell Hutchinson is the wife of Asa Hutchinson, the forty-sixth governor of Arkansas, and the state’s forty-first first lady. Outside of politics, she has been best known for her efforts in children’s advocacy and Alzheimer’s awareness. Susan Harriett Burrell was born on April 11, 1950, in Atlanta, Georgia, the second of seven children of a tire dealer and a homemaker. She was the product of an urban working-class household. Although she was her high school valedictorian at Fulton High School in Atlanta in 1968, she found college scholarships hard to come by. She enrolled at Georgia State University but was unhappy there, later saying, “People just weren’t serious about their studies, and the professors; one in particular, tried to …

Jewell, Jerry Donal

Jerry Donal Jewell was the first African American to serve in the Arkansas Senate in the twentieth century. He was also Arkansas’s first ever African-American acting governor, albeit for only a temporary four-day period during Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration in 1993. Jewell moved his dental practice from North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1978, where he continued to work during his political career and up until his death in 2002. Jerry Jewell was born on September 16, 1930, in Chatfield (Crittenden County). His parents James M. Jewell and Ruth Lee Taylor Jewell, who were both sharecroppers, came from Mississippi. He had four sisters, only two of whom survived past infancy. Around 1936, Jewell and his …

Johnson, Virginia Lillian Morris

Virginia Lillian Morris Johnson was the first woman to run for the office of governor in Arkansas. Running as a conservative Democrat, Johnson campaigned against six other Democrats, all male, vying to be the candidate to run against the Republican incumbent, Winthrop Rockefeller, in the gubernatorial race of 1968. Virginia Lillian Morris was born on January 21, 1928, in Conway (Faulkner County) to Jesse Lyman Morris Sr. and Frances Morgan Morris. Her family later moved to El Paso (White County). Upon the death of her mother when she was fourteen, Morris moved to Bee Branch (Van Buren County) to live with relatives while her father served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Following her graduation from Southside High School in Bee …

Jones, Guy Hamilton “Mutt”

Guy Hamilton “Mutt” Jones was a lawyer and politician who became one of the most influential state lawmakers of the post–World War II era. Jones served nearly twenty-four years in the state Senate representing Faulkner County and, at various times, five other counties in north-central Arkansas. “Mutt” Jones was born on June 29, 1911, in Conway (Faulkner County), the youngest of nine children of Charles C. Jones and Cora Henry Jones. His father was a country schoolteacher and later operated a motel in Conway. Jones was short, barely exceeding five feet when he was grown. His stature made him feel inferior until a teacher told him that he spoke exceedingly well and should try debating. He became a champion debater, …

Jones, Julia Hughes

Julia Hughes Jones was a Pulaski County circuit clerk and state auditor. She was the first woman to be elected to a statewide constitutional office without having previously been appointed to one. Julia Mae Rumph was born in Camden (Ouachita County) on September 9, 1939, to James Harvey Rumph and Alice Chandler Rumph. Her father served as clerk for Ouachita County, as assessor, and briefly as county judge. Her mother worked in several of the courthouse offices as well as for the Rural Electric Cooperative. The oldest of five children, she had three sisters and one brother. Rumph graduated from Camden High School in 1957. Jones married Charles Hughes in 1960, and they had three children. Divorced in 1978, she …

Little, John Sebastian

John Sebastian Little was active in Arkansas Democratic Party politics for thirty years, holding the positions of prosecuting attorney, judge, congressman, and finally being elected governor in 1906. Persistent health problems ended his gubernatorial term very early, prompting accelerated efforts to provide the state with an elected lieutenant governor. Born in Jenny Lind (Sebastian County), on March 15, 1851, Little was reputedly the first male child born in the newly created Sebastian County. Known was “Bass” Little, he was the son of Jesse and Elizabeth Tatum Little, pioneer settlers in western Arkansas. He grew up on the family’s farm and attended local schools. In 1871–72, he spent a single term at Cane Hill College in Washington County. For the next …

Martin, Mahlon Adrian

Mahlon Adrian Martin was the first African-American city manager in Arkansas. He was later the chief fiscal administrator for Governor Bill Clinton and president of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. As director of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration in Clinton’s second administration, Martin held the highest state government office ever achieved in Arkansas by an African American. Mahlon Martin was born on July 19, 1945, the son of George Weldon Martin, a postal worker, and Georgietta Rowan Martin, who worked for many years at a Little Rock (Pulaski County) department store. He had two brothers and a sister. He graduated in 1963 from the all-black Horace Mann High School. Martin wanted to be a professional baseball player and received …

Morehart, Henry

Henry Morehart was a leader of the third-party agrarian political rebellion in Pulaski County during the late 1880s and early 1890s and served as an agrarian legislator in the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1889. His political career illustrates the fierce opposition that the agrarian insurgency engendered among Arkansas’s Democratic Party chieftains and conservative elites, who were willing to use fraudulent means when necessary to maintain their primacy. Henry Morehart was born near Greencastle, Ohio, to Henry Morehart and Mary Plotner on October 30, 1841. He was the second of twelve children. After spending his youth on his parents’ farm, he left home to fight for the Union during the Civil War. He enlisted in Company C, 114th Ohio Volunteers, …

Morris, Elias Camp

Elias Camp Morris was an African-American minister who, in 1895, became president of the National Baptist Convention (NBC), the largest denomination of black Christians in the United States. Recognized by white Arkansans and the nation as a leader of the black community, he often served as a liaison between black and white communities on both the state and national level. He was also an important leader in the Arkansas Republican Party. Morris was born a slave on May 7, 1855, in Murray County, Georgia, the son of James and Cora Cornelia Morris. In 1864–1865, he simultaneously attended grammar schools in Dalton, Georgia, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. From 1866, he attended school in Stevenson, Alabama, and in 1874–1875, he attended Nashville Normal …

Moses, Colter Hamilton (Ham)

Colter Hamilton (Ham) Moses served as secretary to governors George W. Donaghey, George W. Hays, and Charles Hillman Brough prior to becoming general counsel, president, and chairman of the board of Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L). Well known as an eloquent speaker, Moses represented the Governor’s Office in an entourage that traveled around the country promoting Arkansas; however, his greatest contribution to Arkansas resulted in the state moving from an agricultural economy to an industrial one during the post–World War II years. Although the state’s economy grew monumentally because of Moses’s efforts, he credited the people of Arkansas for the success of his “Arkansas Plan.” C. Hamilton (Ham) Moses, the eldest of Angelus Gaston “A. G.” Moses and Mary Eulodia …

Nelson, Knox

Knox Nelson was a member of the Arkansas General Assembly for thirty-four years in the second half of the twentieth century, achieving power in legislative halls that was rarely rivaled. Nelson was elected to the state House of Representatives from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) in 1956 and served two terms, but he attained a position of immense power in the thirty-year career in the state Senate that followed. Governors and groups interested in legislation often had to win Nelson’s favor to get bills passed or defeated in the Senate. Knox Nelson was born on April 3, 1926, in the Goatshed community near Moscow (Jefferson County), a farming community a few miles south of Pine Bluff. His father, Knox Augustus Nelson, …

Norwood, Charles M.

Charles M. Norwood ran for governor in Arkansas in 1888 as the candidate of the Union Labor Party (ULP). Although he lost, he came closer to victory than any other challenger to the gubernatorial candidate of the Democratic Party in Arkansas between 1874 and 1964. Furthermore, recent historical studies have suggested that Norwood would have won his gubernatorial bid had the election not been marred by fraud and violence. Charles M. Norwood was born on February 29, 1840, in Giles County, Tennessee, to Josiah M. Norwood and Sarah A. Norwood, who moved their family to Arkansas around 1847. Norwood’s father became the treasurer of Lafayette County, and Norwood attended private schools in Columbia County. In 1861, Norwood enlisted in the …

Parks, William Pratt “Buck”

William Pratt “Buck” Parks was a captain of a heavy artillery battery at the Battle of Vicksburg in Mississippi. Following the Civil War, Parks became a prominent leader of agrarian protest in Arkansas. The 1860 Census shows William Pratt Parks living in Little Rock (Pulaski County) at the residence of Joshua and Susan Jones, along with four younger siblings. A newspaper article appearing in the Arkansas Gazette on May 16, 1911, listed Parks as being enrolled at St. Johns’ College when it first opened, in October 1859. Parks served as a private in the Pulaski County Field Artillery Battery (Arkansas state troops). This battery, originally organized in late 1860 as the Totten Light Battery, became the Pulaski County Field Artillery …

Phelps, John Smith

As the Civil War military governor of Arkansas and a longtime Missouri congressman, John Smith Phelps began his involvement with Arkansas before the Civil War. A stalwart Democrat, he raised a Union regiment and fought at the Battle of Pea Ridge prior to his appointment as military governor. Cotton politics and personal illness doomed his attempt to establish a Union government in 1862 and led to his removal in 1863. John S. Phelps was born on December 22, 1814, in Simsbury, Connecticut, to Elisha Phelps and Lucy Smith Phelps; he was one of five children. His father was a sometime congressman (1819–1821, 1825–1829). After a public school education, young Phelps attended Washington College (subsequently Trinity College) in Hartford, Connecticut, but …

Pike, Albert

Albert Pike was a lawyer who played a major role in the development of the early courts of Arkansas and played an active role in the state’s politics prior to the Civil War. He also was a central figure in the development of Masonry in the state and later became a national leader of that organization. During the Civil War, he commanded the Confederacy’s Indian Territory, raising troops there and exercising field command in one battle. He also was a talented poet and writer. Albert Pike was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 29, 1809. He was one of the six children of Benjamin Pike, a cobbler, and Sarah Andrews. He attended public schools in Byfield, Newburyport, and Framingham, Massachusetts. …

Pryor, Susan Hampton Newton

Susan Hampton Newton Pryor was the first woman in Arkansas to run for a political office after women obtained the vote and was one of the first women to hold a seat on a local school board. She also participated in one of the first historic preservation projects in the state, was the mother of David Pryor (who served as governor of Arkansas and U.S. senator), and was the grandmother of Mark Pryor (who served as Arkansas’s attorney general and was elected U.S. senator in 2002). Susie Newton was born in Camden (Ouachita County) on November 9, 1900, to Robert D. and Cornelia Ellen Newton. Her father owned the Camden Shingle Mill and was the sheriff of Ouachita County. After …

Randolph, Meriwether Lewis

Meriwether Lewis Randolph, a grandson of Thomas Jefferson and friend of Andrew Jackson, served as the last secretary of the Arkansas Territory. Despite his strong connections with many influential families in Virginia, as well as intimate friendships with numerous U.S. presidents, he chose to settle on the Arkansas frontier. He obtained thousands of acres of land in Clark County with the intent of establishing a plantation and making his residence there. His education, family, and social ties offered great promise to the new state, but his contributions were cut short by an early death. Some sources have Randolph’s birth date as January 10, 1810. His father, Thomas Mann Randolph, was a member of a prominent Virginia family and served as …

Riggs, John Andrew

John Andrew Riggs was a pioneer, politician, early aviator, patent medicine business proprietor, and father of women’s suffrage in Arkansas. Riggs’s Act 186 of 1917 allowed women to vote in the Democratic primary in Arkansas. This enfranchisement of women paved the way for Arkansas’s ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. John Riggs was born on November 5, 1867, in Shelby County, Illinois, the eldest of six children of Elbridge Marion Riggs and Sarah Ann Hubbartt. His parents were farmers and merchants. In 1877, the extended Riggs family moved to Sumner County, Kansas, the Southern border of which was Indian Territory. In 1889, Riggs was one of over 50,000 pioneers in a line stretching for 100 miles along …

Robinson, John Marshall

John Marshall Robinson was a prominent physician, civic leader, and co-founder and president of the Arkansas Negro Democratic Association (ANDA). As a physician, Robinson performed pioneering medical surgery and was involved with a number of medical institutions and organizations in Little Rock (Pulaski County). As a politician, Robinson was the main voice in the state demanding equal black participation in the Arkansas Democratic Party between 1928 and 1952. Born on July 31, 1879, in Pickens, Mississippi, John Robinson was one of eight children of Isabell Marshall and Amos G. Robinson. Robinson attended Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1904. While in Nashville, Robinson met and married India Cox. Robinson’s only …

Roots, Logan Holt

Logan Holt Roots settled in Arkansas after serving the Union in the Civil War. He was a congressman, banker, and promoter of the state. Born at Locust Hill, near Tamaroa, Illinois, on March 26, 1841, Roots was the third of four children of Benajah Guernsey Roots, an educator, and Martha Sibley Holt. His early academic interest focused on mathematics, although he worked with an engineering corps engaged in railroad construction at fifteen, acquiring a lifetime interest in railroad development. He enrolled in Illinois State Normal University in 1857, taught for a year then returned and graduated valedictorian in 1862. After graduation, Roots enlisted in the Eighty-first Illinois Infantry, a volunteer regiment, and served in the Union Army until the Civil …

Rutherford, James Luin “Skip” III

James Luin “Skip” Rutherford III, a native of Batesville (Independence County), is a long-standing figure in Arkansas politics, working as a key advisor on Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and later serving as president of the Clinton Foundation and as dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. Rutherford also led the effort to plan the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park, which would garner him several awards. Skip Rutherford was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on January 28, 1950, the only child of James Luin Rutherford Jr. and Kathleen Roberson Rutherford. Rutherford grew up in Batesville and graduated from Batesville High School in 1968. He went on to attend the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington …

Sarber, John Newton

John Newton Sarber was a Union soldier who remained in Arkansas after the Civil War and served in the state Senate, where he introduced a number of influential bills, including those creating the public school system and what is now the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). He also served as U.S. marshal of the U.S. Western District Court at Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Logan County was originally named Sarber County in his honor. John Newton Sarber was born on October 28, 1837, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Stephen and Lucille Sarber; he had one brother and two sisters. His mother died giving birth in 1849. The abolitionist family moved to Kansas Territory in 1855. Sarber and his father …

Scott, George Washington

George Washington Scott was Arkansas Territory’s first U.S. marshal, serving from 1820 to 1831, as well as the state’s first auditor and the first clerk of the Territorial General Assembly. However, his volatile personality negated many of his early accomplishments, and he died a violent death in almost total obscurity. George Washington Scott was born in June 1798 in Virginia. He was one of six children of Andrew and Elizabeth Scott; his older brother, Andrew Horatio Scott, was later appointed as one of the first judges of the Arkansas Territory Superior Court. The family was living near St. Louis in the new Louisiana Territory as early as 1805. In 1808, they moved to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. By 1815, they were …