Entries - Entry Category: State - Starting with S

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 …

Searcy, Richard

Richard Searcy is an often-overlooked figure of Arkansas’s territorial period who helped in the founding and organization of the first county seats in Lawrence and Independence counties. He worked in various positions and professions to serve the people and the Territory of Arkansas, such as secretary for the Arkansas territorial legislature in 1820, county clerk to Lawrence and Independence counties, judge in the First Judicial District (which included Lawrence, Independence, Phillips, and Arkansas counties), postmaster at Davidsonville (Lawrence County), and lawyer based in Batesville (Independence County). Richard Searcy was born on September 1, 1794, in Sumner County, Tennessee, to Reuben Searcy and his second wife, Elizabeth Jett. He was his father’s sixteenth of seventeen living children and his mother’s seventh of eight children. Little …

Secession Convention

On May 6, 1861, a body of men chosen by Arkansas voters in an election held on February 18, 1861, voted to remove Arkansas from the United States of America. Arkansas’s secession ultimately failed in 1865 due to the military defeat of the Confederacy. States’ rights versus the national government had a contentious history prior to 1861. The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 suggested that states retained powers to protect citizens from the federal government, and the Hartford Convention of 1814–1815 paved the way for the Doctrine of Nullification that South Carolina unsuccessfully invoked in 1832. States’ rights debates—notably among U.S. senators Daniel Webster, Robert Y. Hayne, and John C. Calhoun—led to a theoretical acceptance of this …

Secretary of State, Office of

The secretary of state is a member of Arkansas’s executive branch and holds one of the state’s seven constitutional offices. Originally the state’s primary record keeper, the position has grown since its inception to include the oversight of elections, production of educational materials on Arkansas history, maintenance of the Arkansas State Capitol and its grounds, and several business-related responsibilities. The position of secretary of state was established with the constitution of 1836 as a carryover of the territorial secretary position (filled by presidential appointees), with the secretary of state being elected by a joint vote of both houses of the Arkansas General Assembly to a four-year term (other constitutional officers, save that of governor, were given two-year terms). The constitution …

Sheid, Vada Webb

Vada Webb Sheid was the first woman to serve in both the Senate and the Arkansas House of Representatives in a political career that stretched across five decades. Vada Webb was born on August 19, 1916, in Izard County, the only child of J. W. “Bill” Webb and Gertrude Reynolds Webb. Her father was a cattle buyer. She grew up in Calico Rock (Izard County) and graduated from high school there in 1934. She later attended Draughon School of Business in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1935, Webb went to work as Izard County welfare director and then became an interviewer for the state welfare department. She married Carl Sheid of Norfork (Baxter County) on December 31, 1940. They moved …

Shoffner, Martha

Martha Shoffner was the Arkansas state treasurer from 2007 until she was forced to resign from office after an arrest on federal charges of extortion and bribery in May 2013. After being found guilty on multiple counts in March 2014, she began serving a thirty-month prison sentence in November 2015. Martha Shoffner was born on July 10, 1944, in Jackson County. One of two daughters of James Edwin Shoffner and Helen Deaton Shoffner, she was raised in Jackson County. After she graduated from Newport High School, she attended Memphis State University and Arkansas State University; she did not earn a degree. Shoffner began work in the private sector, first joining a Little Rock (Pulaski County) advertising firm. In addition, she …

Smith, V. V.

aka: Volney Voltaire Smith
The last Reconstruction Republican lieutenant governor, known for attempting a coup d’état aimed at displacing a sitting governor, Volney Voltaire Smith was also the most distinguished nineteenth-century figure to have died in the state insane asylum. V. V. Smith was born in 1842, apparently in Rochester, New York. His father was Delazon Smith, a noted Democratic newspaperman and politician. Delazon Smith attended Oberlin College and then wrote an exposé on it for its support of abolition, was lost for eleven months while on a diplomatic assignment in Ecuador (thus becoming known as “Tyler’s Lost Commission”), and served less than three weeks as one of Oregon’s first U.S. senators. V. V. Smith’s mother, Eliza Volk, died in 1846. Two years later, …

Smithee, James Newton

James Newton Smithee, the founder of the Arkansas Democrat, was a prominent figure in the history of Arkansas journalism. Smithee was also an important Democrat during the years after Reconstruction and an advocate of the silver movement in Arkansas. J. N. Smithee was born in 1842 in what would become Sharp County into a poor Scottish-Irish farming family; his parents were Samuel Harris Smithee and Edna Elizabeth (Woodrow) Smithee. His formal education consisted of three months in a country school. When he was twelve years old, he became an apprentice to the Des Arc Citizen, where he learned the printing trade. When Smithee was eighteen, he bought into the Prairie County Democrat and used it to support the Southern Democratic …

Soil and Water Conservation Districts

The most destructive period to the soil and water resources of Arkansas was during the years 1900 to 1930. During this time, farmers generally received money only from the sale of timber and cotton. Sheet erosion insidiously removed the fertile, more absorbent upper layers of topsoil. This increased the rate of runoff from the fields, and gullies soon appeared. Reduced fertility led to crop failures, and repeated failures led to abandonment of farms in many instances. The appearance of the countryside rapidly deteriorated in the absence of an organized program of soil conservation. Agricultural colleges of the day were teaching terracing and crop rotation, but typical forty- to eighty-acre subsistence farmers viewed these practices as being too sophisticated for their …

Spicer, William Leach

William Leach Spicer was a businessman and Republican Party activist. In the early 1960s, he oversaw the beginning stages of the party’s emergence as a competitive force against the long-dominant Democratic Party. In 1964, however, he lost a power struggle with fellow Republican Winthrop Rockefeller and resigned as state chairman. While Spicer played a substantive role in developing the state’s Republican Party, Rockefeller’s vision was ultimately vindicated by his own election as governor in 1966. William L. Spicer was born on October 12, 1918, in Yell County. He was the only child of William Jacob Spicer, who was a Methodist minister, and his wife, Ora Leach Spicer. As his father preached at various churches, Spicer grew up first in Woodruff …

Stallcup, Mary

Mary Stallcup was the first woman to serve as attorney general of Arkansas, although her tenure was brief. She also served as general counsel and in top administrative roles at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway (Faulkner County). Before she was on staff at UCA, she served in various divisions at the state attorney general’s office. Mary Barbara Stallcup was born on June 21, 1954, in Omaha, Nebraska, as one of six children of Lieutenant Ed Stallcup and Helen Conroy Stallcup. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana College in Pineville in 1974, having majored in history, and earned a law degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1979. Beyond her admission to the state …

State Treasurer, Office of

aka: Office of Treasurer
The treasurer of Arkansas is the state’s financial officer and one of seven constitutional officers elected at large. Responsibilities of the treasurer, who is part of the executive branch of state government, include receiving and keeping monies collected by the state, managing and investing funds, and disbursing funds according to state law. In 1819, the territorial legislature created the position of treasurer, and the first to serve as territorial treasurer was James Scull. The constitution of 1836 established the position of state treasurer, though it was not a popularly elected position. Instead, the treasurer was selected by a vote of the Arkansas General Assembly. William E. Woodruff, publisher of the Arkansas Gazette, was the first to serve as state treasurer. …

Stephens, Witt

aka: Wilton Robert Stephens
Wilton Robert Stephens founded Stephens, Inc., which once was the largest brokerage firm off Wall Street. He was a prime mover in the development of the natural gas industry after World War II and exerted great influence on the political and economic fortunes of Arkansas during the second half of the twentieth century. Witt Stephens was born on September 14, 1907, in Prattsville (Grant County), the second of six children of A. J. “Jack” Stephens and Ethel Pumphrey Stephens. His father was a farmer and politician who served two terms in the state House of Representatives from Grant County, as would Witt thirty years later. The elder Stephens directly influenced his son’s early career moves. As a boy, Witt picked …

Supreme Court of Arkansas

aka: Arkansas Supreme Court
The jurisdiction and power of the Arkansas Supreme Court is controlled by Article VII, Section 4 of the Arkansas constitution as amended in 2000 by Amendment 80. Under this section, the Arkansas Supreme Court generally has only appellate jurisdiction, meaning it typically hears cases that are appealed from trial courts. The Arkansas Supreme Court also has general superintending control over all inferior courts of law and equity. The Arkansas Supreme Court’s jurisdiction includes all appeals involving the interpretation or construction of the state constitution; criminal appeals in which the death penalty or life imprisonment has been imposed; petitions relating to the actions of state, county, or municipal officials or circuit courts; appeals pertaining to election matters; appeals involving attorney or …