Entries - Entry Category: State

Official State Butterfly

aka: Diana Fritillary [Butterfly]
On February 28, 2007, Act 156 of the Arkansas General Assembly designated the Diana fritillary (Speyeria diana) as the official state butterfly. Introduced by Representative John Paul Wells of Logan County, the legislation for making the butterfly a state symbol took note of the butterfly’s beauty, educational importance, and impact on tourism in Arkansas. Arkansas is the only state to designate the Diana fritillary as its state butterfly, pairing it with its state insect, the honeybee. Arkansas is the twenty-sixth state to designate a butterfly as a state symbol. The Diana fritillary is among the most spectacular of the 134 resident species of butterflies found in Arkansas. Diana was the Roman goddess of light and life (Artemis in Greek mythology), …

Official State Cooking Vessel

aka: Dutch Oven
The Dutch oven was adopted as the state historic cooking vessel to indicate the significance of the vessel in the Arkansas’s history. Dutch ovens were brought into the state by the explorers and early settlers and were in wide use by the early 1800s. By the time of statehood, most homes probably had Dutch ovens in use on their fireplaces. The Dutch oven is neither a pot nor a kettle. It is a cast iron vessel that has three legs to provide stable support and to provide space under the oven for coals to heat the oven from the bottom. The oven has a flat bottom and a tight-fitting lid to contain the heated pressure in the oven; the lid …

Official State Dance

aka: Square Dance
In 1991, the Arkansas General Assembly designated the square dance the official American folk dance of Arkansas. A concurrent resolution authored by Senator Jack Gibson of District 35 introduced the measure; it won quick approval and was signed into law by Governor Bill Clinton on February 7, 1991, as Act 93. Act 93 resembled measures introduced across the nation by promoters of club square dancing after an attempt to have the dance awarded national symbol status failed in 1988. The bill posited a long history of called, or “cued,” dancing in North America and Arkansas and the association of square dancing with family recreation. It defined square dancing as incorporating virtually all called or cued dances—including clogging, contra, and line …

Official State Flag

An official Arkansas state flag did not exist prior to 1913. During the Civil War, Arkansas soldiers fought under a variety of banners and flags, but none enjoyed the state’s official cachet. A military requirement, however, led to the creation of a civil flag for the state. In 1910, the keel was laid for the U.S. Navy’s newest battleship, the Wyoming-class USS Arkansas. Early in 1912, with the Arkansas’s scheduled commissioning just nine months away, the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) resolved to present a “stand of colors” (a national flag, a naval battalion ensign, and a state flag) to the new ship. The chapter contacted Arkansas secretary of state Earle W. …

Official State Flower

aka: Apple Blossom
In 1901, the Arkansas General Assembly designated the apple blossom—Malus (Pyrus) coronaria—the official floral emblem of Arkansas, the second state to adopt the bloom (Michigan was the first). Governor Jeff Davis signed the resolution into law on February 1 that same year. In 1900, the Arkansas Floral Emblem Society canvassed women’s groups to gauge sentiment for a choice of state flower or floral emblem. The holly, honeysuckle, passionflower, cotton boll, and apple blossom were considered. Some opposition to the apple blossom was voiced on biblical grounds, citing the apple’s role in Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and, conversely, the passionflower’s folkloric identification with Christ’s suffering. Although the Arkansas Federated Women’s Clubs (now the General Federation of …

Official State Fruit and Vegetable

aka: South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato
In 1987, the Arkansas General Assembly conferred official state symbol status on the pink tomato, long a staple of Arkansas gardens. Act 255, introduced as House Bill 1480, asserted the aesthetic and culinary excellence of the Arkansas-grown tomato and determined that, because it was technically a fruit but generally consumed as a vegetable, it should serve as both in the state’s collection of official symbols. The act’s wording describes a type rather than specifying a species because there exists no registered breed styled “South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato.” The measure was introduced by Representative John Lipton of District 90 whose constituency included Bradley County, long associated with Arkansas tomato production. The state symbol status recognizes the role of the …

Official State Gem

aka: Diamond
On February 22, 1967, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller signed Act 128, an omnibus measure designating the diamond as the state gem, quartz crystal as the state mineral, and bauxite as the state rock. The measure, introduced in the Senate by Robert Harvey, J. Hugh Lookadoo, and Olen Hendrix, called attention to Arkansas’s status as one of the few places in North America where diamonds are present in their host rock and the only such place where tourists may hunt for them. The diamonds are recovered from the Prairie Creek diamondiferous pipe, a roughly triangular surface outcrop exposed over thirty-seven acres situated two and a half miles southeast of Murfreesboro (Pike County). The site is a breccia-filled volcanic pipe formed during the …

Official State Grain

aka: Rice
Rice was designated the official grain of the State of Arkansas by Act 513 of the Eighty-sixth Arkansas General Assembly. Introduced by Representative Bruce Maloch of Magnolia (Columbia County), the act was approved on March 27, 2007. Rice, a staple of human consumption for thousands of years, entered North America when it was first planted in South Carolina in the early 1690s. While rice was cultivated in small amounts in Arkansas as early as 1840, it did not become a major crop in the state until the earliest years of the twentieth century. William Fuller of Carlisle (Lonoke County) is frequently credited with creating the interest in rice production through an experimental farm in 1902. Following his example, rice production …

Official State Grape

aka: Cynthiana Grape
Approximately 150 commercial vineyards and wineries have operated in Arkansas since 1870. In 2009, the Arkansas General Assembly took note of this agricultural mainstay when it designated the Cynthiana, a native grape, as Arkansas’s official state grape. Act 547 was introduced as House Bill 2193 by Representatives Beverly Pyle of Cedarville (Crawford County) and Kathy Webb of Little Rock (Pulaski County). The measure was introduced at the suggestion of Audrey House, proprietor of the Chateau Aux Arc vineyards in Franklin County, to draw attention to the survival and rising reputation of Arkansas vintages. Arkansas’s grape-growing industry is small, however, in comparison to that of such viticultural powerhouses as California. Between 2007 and 2009, acres of cultivated grapes ranged between 750 …

Official State Insect

aka: Honeybee
On February 1, 1973, Act 49 of the Arkansas General Assembly designated the honeybee as the state’s official insect. Introduced by Representative Albert “Tom” Collier of Jackson County, the legislation took note of the bee’s important role in crop pollination but primarily extolled the bee’s virtues of diligence, hard work, attention to home defense, and productivity. Act 49 said this “diligent and willing worker typifies the outstanding citizens of the state of Arkansas.” Arkansas’s designation of the honeybee (Apis mellifera) as a state emblem placed it in the company of fifteen states that have so honored the insect. Several states, such as Oklahoma and Tennessee, have designated multiple insects as state symbols, pairing the laboring honeybee with such graceful “ornamental” …

Official State Mammal

aka: White-tailed Deer
In March 1993, the Seventy-ninth General Assembly of Arkansas approved House Bill 2110, which designated the white-tailed deer as the official mammal of the State of Arkansas. The bill, introduced by Representative Arthur F. Carter, was signed into law by Governor Jim Guy Tucker as Act 892 on April 5, 1993. Arkansas is one of eleven states to have selected Odicoileus Virginianus as an official symbol. Before European entry into present-day Arkansas, deer abounded; the Hernando de Soto expedition discovered Native American populations dressed in deerskins. The later Caddo people depended heavily on the deer for sustenance. Early Euro-American populations hunted the white-tailed deer without restriction for decades. Roads, houses, farms, and towns soon encroached on its habitat, leading to …

Official State Mineral

aka: Quartz Crystal
On February 22, 1967, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller signed Act 128, an omnibus measure designating quartz crystal the state mineral, diamond the state gem, and bauxite the state rock. The measure was introduced in the Senate by Robert Harvey, J. Hugh Lookadoo, and Olen Hendrix, apparently as a favor to Arkansas rocks and minerals collectors and clubs; the text of the bill asserted that passage was essential in order that collectors and hobbyists might trade official state gems, rocks, and minerals with like-minded enthusiasts in other states. The measure was enacted with an emergency clause, allowing it to become effective upon the date of signing. Act 128 helped draw attention to the distinctive quartz crystals mined in the central Ouachita Mountains …

Official State Motto

aka: Regnat Populus
Arkansas’s state motto is Regnat Populus, which is Latin for “the people rule.” No other state employs this motto, in either Latin or English, although South Dakota’s comes close: “Under God, the people rule.” The motto’s use is mostly limited to the Seal of State and its derivatives used by various state officers. The constitution under the terms of which Arkansas entered statehood in 1836 stipulated that the governor must “keep” the Great Seal of the State. Its design, mentioned in Article 5, Section 12, should be “the present seal of the territory, until otherwise directed by the general assembly.” That seal bore, among other elements, the Latin motto Regnant Populi, which could be translated as “the people rule.” The …

Official State Musical Instrument

aka: Fiddle
On February 28, 1985, the Arkansas legislature approved Act 277, designating the fiddle as the official musical instrument of the State of Arkansas. The designation, which originated as House Bill 749 sponsored by Representative Bob Watts of Harrison (Boone County), asserted that the instrument was “most commonly associated with the musical education and entertainment of the pioneer families of Arkansas and…continues as a dominant musical instrument in the culture…of the people of Arkansas.” Watts’s measure was supported in the chamber by Representative Napoleon Bonaparte “Nap” Murphy of Hamburg (Ashley County), who delivered a brief oration on the floor of the House on the history of the fiddle from medieval times to its modern form. This official designation is a tangible …

Official State Nicknames

aka: State Nickname
Since the earliest days of statehood, Arkansas has been popularly known or designated by a succession of cognomens, or nicknames. The earliest were unofficial and reflected popular perceptions of a largely rural state, lightly tinged with humor. Later adoptions, spaced at intervals throughout the twentieth century, embodied less folk consciousness and more promotional intent, as Arkansas’s boosters sought to fine-tune the state’s image for outsiders’ consumption. Arkansas’s earliest recorded nicknames, the “Bear State” and the “Toothpick State,” made reference to characteristic features of the region. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Arkansas was noted for its population of Louisiana black bears (Ursus americanus luteolus), one of sixteen black bear species found in the United States. Human activities reduced …

Official State Nut

aka: Pecan
The Eighty-seventh Arkansas General Assembly designated the pecan as the official nut of Arkansas. Act 638, introduced as HB 1906 by Representative Larry Cowling (District 2, Little River County), had twenty-two co-sponsors and was approved on March 27, 2009. The act specifically noted, however, that it did not grant protected status to the pecan, thus ensuring that the fruit of the Carya illinoinensis may be harvested and consumed. Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas have similarly honored the pecan; in Texas, it is both the official state health nut and the official state tree, while Oklahoma celebrates it in the form of pecan pie in its official state meal. The pecan is a species of hickory native to much of the South. …

Official State Rock

aka: Bauxite
Bauxite, the most common ore of aluminum, was designated the official state rock in 1967. It is a sedimentary material composed primarily of one or more aluminum hydroxide minerals, plus mixtures of silica, iron oxide, titania, aluminum silicates, and other impurities in minor or trace amounts. Bauxite takes its name from the village Les Baux de Provence in southern France, where geologist Pierre Berthier first identified it in 1821. Bauxite was an economic mainstay for Arkansas through much of the twentieth century. Although aluminum is the second-most-abundant metal element in the world, it has been commercially produced for little more than a century. In 1891, state geologist John Branner identified a sample that had been found in southern Pulaski County …

Official State Seal

The term “state seal” refers to both a design incorporating specified symbolic or artistic elements created for use by the state government and a device that embosses, prints, or otherwise affixes replicas of the design onto official documents. Affixing the official seal to a document is meant to signify its authenticity as a document of state, in lieu of or in addition to the signature of the issuing official or officials. Seals were once commonly embossed into “sealing wax” (a heat-softened compound of shellac, other resins, chalk or plaster, and pigment) but today are more usually embossed into the document’s surface or affixed as a gold-foil sticker. The present official state seal of Arkansas derives from the territorial seal designed …

Official State Soil

aka: Stuttgart Soil Series
Act 890 of the Arkansas General Assembly of 1997 designated the Stuttgart soil series the official state soil. The bill was introduced by Representative Wanda Northcutt of District 81, which encompassed parts of five counties (Arkansas, Desha, Jefferson, Lonoke, and Prairie) noted for their agricultural production founded literally on the presence of the Stuttgart soils. The soils, named for Stuttgart (Arkansas County), are distributed over roughly 200,000 acres of east and southeast Arkansas. These acres are used primarily for cropland; the dominant crops are rice, small grains, soybeans, and corn. Stuttgart soil is, in fact, made up of several soils, layered in a predictable order, although the thickness varies. Stuttgart series soils typically exhibit three layers: the upper layers are …

Official State Songs

Forty-eight of the fifty states have designated one or more songs as official “state songs.” Arkansas has so designated no less than four compositions. (Only three states—Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Tennessee—have adopted more.) Their styles include devotional anthem, sprightly folk melody, and 1980s vintage country-pop. The earliest was adopted contemporaneously with the flowering of progressivism in Arkansas and marked a popular appreciation of the state’s natural beauty and agricultural bounties, turning away from the “hillbilly” Arkansas of early twentieth-century popular humor. Subsequent state song adoptions largely followed in this vein. Arkansas’s first unofficial song was likely the fiddle tune known popularly as “The Arkansas Traveler.” It appeared under this title by the mid-nineteenth century and became associated with a popular …

Official State Tree

aka: Pine Tree
House Concurrent Resolution No. 2 of 1939 designated the pine tree as Arkansas’s official state tree. The resolution, introduced by State Representative Boyd Tackett of Pike County, cited the state’s timber resources as one of its greatest sources of wealth and, notably, “one of the few renewable resources of the state.” The measure was introduced on January 11 and met no opposition, winning final approval on January 20. The resolution did not specify a particular native pine species, but reference is often made to either the southern shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) or the loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Before European-American in-migration and settlement, almost all of Arkansas was forested with notable diversity. Until the maturation of Arkansas’s rail network in the …

Old State House

The Old State House in Little Rock (Pulaski County) is the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi River. The structure was built to accommodate all branches of the new state’s government. It served a multitude of uses before becoming, in 1951, a museum of Arkansas history. Under the direction of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, the Old State House Museum continues to interpret Arkansas history from statehood to the present. In 1833, believing that Arkansas would soon achieve statehood, territorial governor John Pope hired Gideon Shryock, the architect of the Kentucky State Capitol, to design a state capitol building perched high on a bank of the Arkansas River. Shryock drew up plans for a large stone structure …

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 …

Parnell, Harvey

Harvey Parnell was the first lieutenant governor of the twentieth century and twenty-ninth governor of Arkansas. During his term as governor, he appointed Hattie Caraway to the U.S. Senate. She later became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate. Harvey Parnell was born in Orlando (Cleveland County) on February 28, 1880, to William Robert Parnell, a farmer, and Mary Elizabeth Martin. He shared farm chores with four brothers and two sisters. He was educated in the one-room schoolhouses of rural Arkansas. At the age of eighteen, he moved to Warren (Bradley County), where he attended high school and worked in the local hardware store. Parnell’s early career as a small business owner and farmer influenced his later career as …

Pearce, Nicholas Bartlett

Nicholas Bartlett Pearce commanded the First (western) Division of the Arkansas Army in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek (Oak Hills) on August 10, 1861, and served subsequently as a Confederate commissary officer. Nicholas Bartlett Pearce was born on July 20, 1828, in Princeton, Kentucky, to farmers Allen Pearce and Mary (Polly) Morse Pearce; he had four sisters and one brother. He reportedly graduated from Cumberland College in 1845 and then attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduating in the class of 1850, ranking twenty-sixth in a class of forty-four. Entering the service as a second lieutenant, he saw service in Texas and Utah and, in June 1855, while stationed at Fort Smith (Sebastian County), married Nancy …

Perkins, George Napier

George Napier Perkins was an African-American lawyer and newspaper publisher. Born a slave, he went on to become a major civil rights activist in both Arkansas and Oklahoma. George Napier Perkins was born to Moses Perkins and Millie Perkins. However, given the public record of the time, there is some discrepancy as to facts surrounding his birth; U.S. Civil War pension records list his birthday and birthplace as January 1, 1841, in Williamson County, Tennessee, while other sources list him as born on January 1, 1842, in Washington County, Tennessee. He received a limited education in Tennessee before the family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) when he was fifteen. The move was more likely a product of Perkins’s owners …

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. …

Pindall, Xenophon Overton

Xenaphon Overton Pindall—attorney, Mason, civic leader, Democrat, and legislator—served as acting governor of Arkansas from May 14, 1907, until January 11, 1909. Rising to the position through an improbable series of circumstances, Pindall focused on the administrative detail of the office and used the power of appointment to shape the policies of state government. X. O. Pindall was born on August 21, 1873, in Monroe County, Missouri, to Colonel Lebbeus A. and Elnorah Snell Pindall. His father was an attorney and later served in the Arkansas legislature. His mother was from a prominent Missouri family. He had three brothers, two of whom died in infancy and one who died at the age of sixteen. During the Civil War, Pindall’s father …

Poets Laureate of Arkansas

The position of Poet Laureate of Arkansas was established on October 10, 1923, by concurrent resolutions of both houses of the General Assembly. In Arkansas, as elsewhere, the title of poet laureate has sometimes been awarded on grounds not restricted to fame or literary eminence. The term “laureate” refers to the ancient custom of crowning a person with a wreath made from leaves of the laurel tree. In antiquity, military heroes, athletic champions, and winners in singing, music, and poetry contests typically received this honor. In modern times, monarchs, governing bodies, or other organizations have named poets laureate, often in recognition of a significant talent but sometimes for political or other reasons. John Dryden was the first poet laureate of …

Pollard, Odell

Odell Pollard was an Arkansas lawyer credited with playing a major role in the development of the two-party political system in Arkansas during the last half of the twentieth century. Pollard was chairman of the Arkansas Republican (GOP) state executive committee during Governor Winthrop Rockefeller’s administration. Odell Pollard was born on April 29, 1927, on a farm in Union Hill (Independence County). Pollard was the third of four children of Joseph Franklin Pollard and Beulah Scantlin Pollard. He attended a one-room school at Union Hill through the eighth grade and then attended high school in Oil Trough (Independence County) until his graduation at age sixteen. He then entered the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), attending for two …

Pope, John

John Pope served variously from 1798 to 1842 as a U.S. senator and congressional representative from Kentucky, secretary of state for Kentucky, and the third territorial governor of Arkansas. Initially affiliated with the Democratic-Republican Party, he joined the Whig Party in the 1830s. During his tenure as territorial governor, he worked to establish a legislative program to promote migration and economic development and to rid the region of its reputation as a violent and politically unstable frontier. John Pope was born in February 1770 (exact date not known) in Prince William County, Virginia, the eldest son of Colonel William and Penelope Edwards Pope. The Pope family moved near Louisville, Kentucky, in 1779 at the height of the American Revolution. After …

Priest, Sharon

Sharon Priest served as a city director in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and as mayor of Little Rock before being elected Arkansas secretary of state in 1994, the first woman to be elected to that position in the state’s history. She was reelected and also selected to serve as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. After her time as Arkansas secretary of state, she served as executive director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, working on the revitalization of the city’s Main Street area. Sharon Mary Devlin was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on September 12, 1947, to Daniel Gerard Devlin and Margaret Meehan Devlin. While working for a Canadian distribution company for Munsey Products, based in …

Pryor, David Hampton

David Hampton Pryor, arguably the most popular Arkansas politician of the modern era, held four different political offices during his career: state House of Representatives member, U.S. congressman, governor, and U.S. senator. A Democrat, Pryor played a crucial role in limiting the rise of Republicanism in Arkansas in the latter decades of the twentieth century. David Pryor was born on August 29, 1934, in Camden (Ouachita County) to William Edgar Pryor and Susan Pryor. His father and grandfather were both sheriffs. His mother was the first Arkansas woman to run for elective office (she ran unsuccessfully for county circuit clerk in 1926); she later won a school board race. Pryor had three siblings. The role of Pryor’s family in public …

Pryor, Mark Lunsford

Mark Lunsford Pryor is an Arkansas lawyer and politician. Following in the footsteps of his father, David Pryor, he served two terms in the U.S. Senate as a Democrat before he was defeated for reelection in 2014. Mark Pryor was born in Fayetteville (Washington County) on January 10, 1963, to David Pryor and Barbara Jean Lunsford Pryor. With his father serving first as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives—followed by service as governor and U.S. senator—Mark Pryor grew up in a politically oriented household in both Arkansas and Washington DC. He received a BA in history from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville in 1985. He continued his studies at the University of Arkansas School of Law, …

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 …

Purcell, Joe Edward

Joe Edward Purcell was a lawyer and politician who shocked the political establishment in 1966 by defeating the state’s colorful attorney general, Bruce Bennett, in the Democratic primary. Although Purcell never realized his dream of becoming governor, he was elected attorney general twice and lieutenant governor three times during his political career. Joe Purcell was born on July 29, 1923, in Warren (Bradley County). He was the oldest of three children of Edward L. and Lynelle Cunningham Purcell. His father, known as “Buddy,” remarried and moved to Texas. His mother worked in her father’s grocery store in Warren and, many years later, at the Arkansas Department of Education at Little Rock (Pulaski County). His grandfather, Fred Purcell, was the town’s …

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 …

Rector, Henry Massie

Henry Massie Rector was the state’s sixth governor. He was part of Arkansas’s political dynasty during the antebellum period, but he was not always comfortable in that role and played a part in its downfall. Henry Rector was born on May 1, 1816, at Fontaine’s Ferry near Louisville, Kentucky, to Elias Rector and Fannie Bardell Thurston. He was the only one of their children to survive to maturity. Elias Rector, one of the numerous Rectors who worked as deputy surveyors under William Rector, the surveyor-general for Illinois and Missouri, served in the Missouri legislature in 1820 and as postmaster of St. Louis, Missouri. He also surveyed in Arkansas and acquired, among other speculations, a claim to the site of the …

Revenue Stabilization Act

aka: Act 311 of 1945
The Revenue Stabilization Act is an act of the Arkansas General Assembly that categorizes and prioritizes spending for the operation of state government. The act establishes a formula by which to perform an orderly monthly distribution of revenues. The original act eliminated more than 100 special funds and substituted a single general fund from which appropriations are funded. It also provided for paying off all non-highway-related bond indebtedness. The act is revised each legislative session to adapt to economic cycles, revenue forecasts, and program priorities. While Amendments 19 and 20 to the Arkansas Constitution, also known as the “Futrell Amendments,” sharply curtailed the ability of state government to become indebted, the problems of inflexibility and inefficiency in state finances remained …

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 …

Riley, Bob Cowley

Bob Cowley Riley was a politician and educator who overcame debilitating World War II injuries to serve with distinction in both arenas. His career in state and local politics spanned four decades and culminated in two terms as lieutenant governor (1971–1975) and eleven days as governor (1975). He taught social sciences at Little Rock University (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock) and Ouachita Baptist University (OBU). On the political stump and in the classroom, Riley was a legendary raconteur. A black patch covering his blinded left eye was his trademark. Bob Riley was born on September 18, 1924, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the son of Columbus Allen and Winnie (Craig) Riley. He attended Pulaski County Rural School …

Roane, John Selden

John Selden Roane was a lawyer, planter, soldier, and governor of Arkansas. He is best known for his service in the Mexican war and his efforts to deal with the state’s financial crisis following the failure of its banking system. John Roane, the son of storekeeper and slaveholder Hugh Roane and Hannah (Calhoun) Roane, was born in Lebanon, Tennessee, on January 8, 1817. He was part of a prominent political family, and his uncle Archibald Roane served as governor of Tennessee from 1801 to 1803. John Roane was educated in a Tennessee common school and later attended Cumberland College in Princeton, Kentucky. Roane moved to Arkansas in 1837 and settled in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where he studied law under his …

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 …

Robinson, Joseph Taylor

Joseph Taylor Robinson was governor only a short time before taking office as a U.S. senator. He became Senate majority leader during the Great Depression, after his nomination as the Democratic Party candidate for vice president—the first Arkansan ever on a major party ticket. Joe T. Robinson was born on August 26, 1872, in Concord Township (Lonoke County) to James Madison Robinson—a doctor, farmer, and lay preacher from New York—and Matilda Jane Swaim of Tennessee. Usually attending the local one-room schoolhouse during the summer, he received fewer than forty-six months of formal education. He augmented his schooling by reading classics from his father’s extensive library. In his childhood, he chopped cotton and tended to his father’s apple orchard. During his …

Rockefeller, Winthrop

As governor, Winthrop Rockefeller brought economic, cultural, and political change to Arkansas. “W. R.” or “Win,” as he was known, brought an end to the political organization of former Governor Orval E. Faubus and created a political environment that produced moderate leaders like Dale Bumpers, David Pryor, and Bill Clinton. Rockefeller’s personal belief in racial equality became well known, and he ushered in an era that saw large numbers of African Americans elevated to high positions in state government. Rockefeller was a “transitional leader” in the sense that he helped discredit the “Old Guard” domination of the Faubus years and, in so doing, made Arkansans more receptive to political and social change. Winthrop Rockefeller was born on May 1, 1912, …

Rockefeller, Winthrop Paul

Winthrop Paul Rockefeller, known in his adopted state of Arkansas as Win (or Win Paul to differentiate him from his father, Winthrop Rockefeller), was a scion of Rockefeller family, which made its fortune with Standard Oil. Like his father, who was the first Republican to be elected governor of Arkansas since Reconstruction, Winthrop Paul Rockefeller abandoned his East Coast roots and established a life in the more rural environs of Arkansas before making a name for himself in Republican politics, eventually being elected lieutenant governor. However, his political career was cut short when, at the age of fifty-seven, he died of complications related to a rare blood disorder. Win Rockefeller was born on September 17, 1948, in New York, the …

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 …