Entry Category: State

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 …

Martineau, John Ellis

John Ellis Martineau, governor of Arkansas from 1927 to 1928, reflected the emergence of a new style of political leadership in the state. Nominally a Democrat, his administration continued the progressive positions of his predecessors, beginning with George W. Donaghey’s election in 1909. He helped to launch the Arkansas highway system with an innovative change in the source of funding, and he successfully led the relief effort following the disastrous Mississippi River Flood of 1927. His career also advanced a new and more conciliatory position on race relations with his role in the Elaine Massacre and his stance on the 1927 lynching of John Carter in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Overall, his actions as a politician and judge earned him …

McCracken, Isaac

Isaac McCracken played a prominent role in the farmers’ and labor movements in Arkansas (and, to a lesser degree, nationally) during the late nineteenth century. McCracken was also active in Arkansas politics as an independent and third-party leader during that era. He served in the Arkansas General Assembly in the 1880s and ran for Congress at a time when elections in Arkansas were notoriously violent and fraudulent. Isaac McCracken was born in 1846 in Huntingdon, Quebec, Canada, but he spent most of his childhood in Lowell, Massachusetts, where his family settled when he was eight years old. In 1867, he married Delia Maral Allen in Wisconsin, and the couple moved to Arkansas three years later. They had nine children between 1872 …

McMath, Sid

aka: Sidney Sanders McMath
Sidney Sanders McMath—who became a prosecuting attorney, decorated U.S. Marine officer, and governor—rose to national attention by prosecuting Hot Springs (Garland County) mayor Leo McLaughlin, and he used that exposure to launch a campaign for governor. He was a close political friend to President Harry Truman and a dedicated foe to the Dixiecrat movement that tried to control the Democratic Party in the South in the 1948 presidential campaign. Sid McMath was born on June 14, 1912, to Hal Pierce McMath and Nettie Belle Sanders McMath in Columbia County. McMath’s father inherited the family farm when his father, the county sheriff, died in a shootout with bootleggers. McMath’s father had a restless spirit and gave up the farm before McMath was …

McRae, Thomas Chipman

A lawyer, banker, and politician, Thomas Chipman McRae represented the Third Congressional District for eighteen years and served as governor from 1921 to 1925. During his governorship, he fiercely fought to revise the tax system to adequately fund Arkansas’s dilapidated highway and educational systems. McRae was the last Arkansas governor to have served in the Confederate forces. Thomas McRae, the eldest of five siblings, was born on December 21, 1851, in Mount Holly (Union County) to Duncan L. and Mary Ann (Chipman) McRae. Duncan McRae, a founder of Mount Holly, was a farmer. In 1863, McRae’s father died, leaving him to run the farm during the chaos of the Civil War. Before the conflict ended, McRae briefly served as a …

Milam, Carl Max

Carl Max Milam was a printing plant superintendent, a university professor and department chairman, the director of a major Arkansas state government agency under two governors, the financial manager for Winthrop Rockefeller, a university president, and a business executive. A branch library of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) and a scholarship at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock) were named in his honor. Max Milam was born on July 13, 1930, in Cecil (Franklin County) to Carl J. Milam and Letha Staton Milam. He graduated from high school in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). After high school and in between college enrollments, he worked as a printer and plant superintendent. He received a bachelor’s degree in …

Miller, James

James Miller, who served as a brigadier general during the War of 1812, was the first governor of the Arkansas Territory and served as superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Arkansas Territory. James Miller was born in Peterborough, New Hampshire, on April 25, 1776, to James Miller and Catharine Gregg Miller. Evidence suggests that Miller’s father was a farmer. Miller attended an academy at Amherst, Massachusetts, and Williams College. He married Martha Ferguson, with whom he had one son, James Ferguson Miller, a noted naval officer. After Martha’s death, he married Ruth Flint. Prior to entering the military, Miller practiced law in Greenfield, New Hampshire, from 1803 to 1808. Due to his experience with the state militia, he received a …

Miller, William Read

William Read Miller, the twelfth governor and a longtime state auditor, was the first governor born in Arkansas. The second Redeemer governor after Democrats overthrew the Republicans, Miller acted to preserve civil rights for African Americans and to advance the cause of public education. William Miller was born on November 23, 1823, in Batesville (Independence County) to John and Clara Moore Miller. His father had built a log house north of Batesville that seems to have remained until the 1950s. The family settled on Miller’s Creek, and John Miller served as a Democratic elector in 1836 and 1840 and as registrar at the land office in Batesville from 1846 to 1848. During the election of 1836, the young William Miller …

Moore, Elias Bryan

Elias Bryan Moore was a Civil War veteran and a local and state Democratic Party leader. He was also a newspaperman for much of his life. In 1884, he was elected to the office of Arkansas’s secretary of state, his only statewide elected office. He served two terms in that position. Elias Moore was born on January 23, 1842, in Sparta, Tennessee, one of nine children of William Ward Moore and Isabella Bryan Moore. In 1858, the family relocated to Fayetteville (Washington County), where his father, a tailor, operated a store and a sawmill. As a youth, he attended the schools of Sparta and area private schools. While in Fayetteville in 1859, Moore apprenticed as a compositor (or typesetter) for …

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, …

Morgan, Winfield Scott

Winfield Scott Morgan (better known as W. Scott Morgan) lived in Arkansas for most of his life. As a writer, editor, lecturer, and political activist, he played an important role in farmers’ organizations and third-party politics at the state and national levels. Even after those organizations and parties disintegrated, Morgan maintained true to his reformist ideals, as evidenced by his published writings well into the twentieth century. Born on August 25, 1851, in Columbus, Ohio, W. Scott Morgan moved with his family to Chillicothe, Missouri, when he was fourteen. Four years later, he married Retta Gilliland, with whom he would have five children. Morgan initially supported his family by teaching school for an annual salary of $200. He also began …

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 …

Murphy, Isaac

Isaac Murphy was a teacher, attorney, and eighth governor of Arkansas. After years of relative obscurity, he became nationally famous when, at the Arkansas Secession Convention on May 6, 1861, he not only voted against secession but also resolutely refused to change his vote despite enormous crowd pressure. In 1864, he became the first elected governor of Union-controlled Arkansas. Isaac Murphy was born outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 16, 1799, to Hugh Murphy and Jane Williams Murphy. His Murphy ancestors came to the United States from the Dublin, Ireland, area between about 1737 and 1740. His father was a paper manufacturer who died during Isaac’s childhood. The executor saw to Murphy’s education but squandered the estate before committing suicide. …

Murton, Thomas Orhelius

Tom Murton is best known for his attempts to reform the Arkansas prison system during the governorship of Winthrop Rockefeller. Intelligent and conscientious with a dry sense of humor, Murton could also prove abrasive and uncompromising with others, especially his superiors. His uncovering of three skeletons at Cummins prison farm in early 1968 gained national attention, and his handling of the matter drew the ire of the Rockefeller administration. Murton wrote a bestselling book about his time in Arkansas, Accomplices to the Crime (1969), on which the 1980 movie starring Robert Redford was loosely based. Thomas Orhelius Murton was born in Los Angeles, California, on March 15, 1928, the son of Oregon native Edmund T. Murton and Oklahoma native Bessie Glass Stevens …

Nash, Bob J.

Bob J. Nash is a businessman and consultant who has assisted political, corporate, and nonprofit organizations. Most notably, he served in the administration of Governor Bill Clinton in the 1980s and then was part of the administration of President Clinton in the 1990s. Bob Nash was born on September 26, 1947, in Texarkana (Miller County). He graduated from Washington High School in Texarkana and then earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1969. Nash went on to receive a master’s degree in urban studies from Howard University in Washington DC in 1972. For the next two years, Nash held jobs in municipal government in Washington and in Fairfax, Virginia. Returning …

Nelson, Edward Sheffield

Edward Sheffield Nelson, a Little Rock (Pulaski County) attorney, utility executive, and political leader, served as president and chief executive officer of Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company (Arkla) from 1973 to 1984 and twice ran for governor of Arkansas. Sheffield Nelson was born on April 23, 1941, near Keevil in rural Monroe County to Robert F. Nelson and Thelma Mayberry Nelson. He, his parents, and three sisters lived an itinerant life, moving from place to place in eastern Arkansas for work. His father abandoned the family in 1957, leaving his sixteen-year old-son as the main breadwinner. Nelson worked after school in a Brinkley (Monroe County) grocery store until he graduated from high school. He married his high school sweetheart, Mary Lynn …

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, …

Newton, Robert Crittenden

Robert Crittenden Newton was a noted Confederate officer who served in several roles during the Civil War. He attained the rank of colonel and led a brigade during part of his service. Robert C. Newton was born on June 2, 1840, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to U.S. Representative Thomas Newton and Mary Allen Newton. He had three brothers and a sister. Thomas Newton died in 1853, and Mary Newton married James Johnson, a planter. Newton studied at the Western Military Institute in Tennessee and with private tutors in Little Rock before serving as the deputy clerk for the Pulaski County Circuit Court. Studying for the bar at the same time, Newton became a lawyer in 1860. While practicing law, …

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 …

Nunn, Walter Harris

Walter H. Nunn was a respected teacher, scholar, and author whose books on Arkansas politics were well regarded and widely read. He was also one of the leading authorities on the Arkansas constitution and, in the 1970s, founded Rose Publishing Company, which was for a time the sole press devoted to Arkansas-related material. In addition, Nunn was a local organizer dedicated to the creation and maintenance of inclusive neighborhoods. Walter Harris Nunn was born in Monticello (Drew County) on February 17, 1942. His parents were Wallace Nunn, who worked as a cashier at a local cotton mill, and Ilene Wicker Nunn, a homemaker. He grew up in Crossett (Ashley County), where he attended the local schools. He earned a BA …

Official Days

aka: State Holidays and Commemorative Days
The Arkansas Code sets aside ten days as official holidays, days on which state offices are closed and for which state employees will receive compensation. These are: New Year’s Day (January 1), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday (third Monday in January), George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day (the third Monday in February), Memorial Day (last Monday in May), Independence Day (July 4), Labor Day (first Monday in September), Veterans Day (November 11), Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November), Christmas Eve (December 24), and Christmas Day (December 25). In addition, a state employee is granted one holiday to observe his or her birthday. The holidays are for the most part the same ones observed by the federal government …

Official State Beverage

aka: Milk
In 1985, the Arkansas General Assembly designated milk the state’s official beverage. Introduced by Representative Bobby Glover of the Seventy-second District (covering Prairie County and part of Lonoke County), Act 998 met with no opposition and became effective on June 28 of that year. Reasons offered for the designation included milk’s healthfulness, the desirability of encouraging milk consumption, and the importance of the dairy sector in Arkansas. The legislation did not specify a type or grade of milk, leaving it up to Arkansans to consume the variety of their choice. Dairy production was long a mainstay of Arkansas farming. In 1940, Arkansas’s milk cows numbered about 439,000, the gross farm income from dairy totaling $23 million. Over the next two …

Official State Bird

aka: Mockingbird
On March 5, 1929, Governor Harvey Parnell and the Forty-seventh General Assembly adopted House Concurrent Resolution Number 22 proclaiming: “The mockingbird is declared and everywhere recognized as the state bird of the State of Arkansas.” In Arkansas, the State Federation of Women’s Clubs, in a campaign directed by Mrs. W. A. Utley, was responsible for promoting the legislation naming the mockingbird as the official state bird. The proposed bill was first perceived as a joke but passed following speeches proclaiming the mockingbird’s value to farmers. Four other states—Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas—have also designated the mockingbird as their official state bird, making it the third most popular choice, eclipsed only by the first-place cardinal and second-place western meadowlark. The mockingbird, …

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 …