Entries - Entry Type: Person - Starting with N

Nancarrow, Samuel Conlon

Samuel Conlon Nancarrow composed innovative music and produced a body of work largely for player piano. According to musicologist Kyle Gann, who has published a study of Nancarrow’s compositions, they are the most rhythmically complex ever written by anyone anywhere, featuring up to twelve different tempos at the same time. Gann describes “whirlwinds of notes…joyously physical in their energy.” The wealth of ideas in Nancarrow’s works has had a lasting impact on other composers. Conlon Nancarrow was born in Texarkana (Miller County) on October 27, 1912. His father, Samuel Charles Nancarrow, was a businessman and mayor of Texarkana from 1927 to 1930. His mother was Myra Brady Nancarrow, and he had one brother, Charles. At the insistence of his father, …

Nance, Jack

Arkansas native Jack Nance was a musician, songwriter, and entertainment manager who worked with many of the top acts in the music business. Nance first gained notice in Sonny Burgess’s backing band the Pacers. He later went on to play with Conway Twitty—and in fact wrote one of Twitty’s biggest hits. In his later years, while based in Nashville, Tennessee, Nance worked in tour management and as a music promoter for acts such as Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues, and the Monkees. Richard Jackson (Jack) Nance was born on April 22, 1935, in Newport (Jackson County), the youngest of three children born to the farming family of Arkansas natives Roscoe A. Nance and Mary E. …

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 …

Nash, Frank “Jelly”

Frank Nash has been called “the most successful bank robber in U.S. history,” but he is most noted for his violent death in what has become known as the Kansas City Massacre. Nash spent part of his childhood in Paragould (Greene County) and was arrested in Hot Springs (Garland County) the day before his death. Frank “Jelly” Nash was born on February 6, 1887, in Birdseye, Indiana. His father, John “Pappy” Nash, started hotels in several southern towns, including Paragould, Jonesboro (Craighead County), and Hobart, Oklahoma. Nash’s mother, Alta, was the second of John’s three wives. Nash had two sisters and two step-brothers. Living in Paragould from 1893 to 1896, he then moved with his father to Jonesboro and, afterward, …

Nation, Carrie Amelia Moore

aka: Carry Nation
Carry Amelia Moore Nation was a temperance advocate famous for being so vehemently against alcohol that she would use hatchets to smash any place that sold it. She spent most of her life in Kansas, Kentucky, and Missouri, but she lived in Arkansas for several years near the end of her life; her last speech was in Eureka Springs (Carroll County). The house she lived in, which is in Eureka Springs, was made into a museum called Hatchet Hall. Carry Moore, whose first name is sometimes spelled Carrie, was born on November 25, 1846, in Garrard County, Kentucky, to George and Mary Moore. George Moore was of Irish descent, and he owned a plantation with slaves. Mary Moore had a …

Ne-Yo

aka: Shaffer Chimere Smith Jr.
Ne-Yo is one of the most prominent and active Arkansas-born recording artists and songwriters performing in the early twenty-first century. Initially known for songs he wrote for other artists, Ne-Yo began releasing solo rhythm and blues (R&B) albums of his own in 2006. Shaffer Chimere “Ne-Yo” Smith Jr. was born on October 18, 1982, in Camden (Ouachita County) to Lorraine and Shaffer Smith. Smith displayed his songwriting acumen at a young age, writing his first song at the age of five. After his parents separated, he relocated with his mother to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he spent the remainder of his formative years. His mother worked in a variety of jobs before becoming a bank manager, though music was a …

Neal, Olly, Jr.

Olly Neal Jr. headed up a community health clinic in Marianna (Lee County) in the 1970s, became the first black district prosecuting attorney in Arkansas, and served as a circuit court judge and on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Historian Grif Stockley described him as a civil rights activist, political agitator, Arkansas Delta advocate, and a “black devil incarnate to many of Marianna’s whites.” Olly Neal Jr. was born on July 13, 1941, on a farm eleven miles west of Marianna in the rural New Hope community to Ollie Neal and Willie Beatrice Jones Neal. Neal grew up poor in a home with no electricity. His parents impressed upon him and his twelve siblings the importance of education. Neal’s father …

Needham, Harold Brett “Hal”

Hal Needham was an American stuntman, stunt coordinator, writer, and director who performed stunts in scores of films and television shows. The director of hit movies like Smokey and the Bandit, Smokey and the Bandit II, Stroker Ace, Cannonball Run, Cannonball Run II, and Hooper, Needham was considered a pioneer in the stunt industry, having introduced techniques and safety equipment still in use today. Harold Brett “Hal” Needham was born on March 6, 1931, in Memphis, Tennessee, the third of three children of Howard and Edith Needham. Needham’s father left the family soon after he was born. Eventually, Needham’s mother married a sharecropper named Corbett, who moved the family to Arkansas when Needham was four. She and Corbett had two …

Neel, Margarete Ethel

Margarete Ethel Neel became the symbol of the International Red Cross after World War II. The White County chapter submitted to the national headquarters a wartime photo of Neel guiding the wheelchair of wounded Private Gordon Pyle of California. It was reproduced as a poster for the organization’s post-war fundraising activities. A plaque commemorating Neel’s Red Cross service stands in front of the Searcy American Legion Hut, where the White County chapter of the Red Cross is located. The chapter was dedicated to Neel just after her death in 1971. Neel was among the first women listed on the rolls of the U.S. Women’s Memorial when it was dedicated in Washington DC in 1997. Margarete Neel was born on December …

Neill, Robert

Robert Neill, son of an early Batesville (Independence County) tanner, went on to become commander of the fifth military district in Arkansas after Reconstruction, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the first chairman of the Arkansas Railroad Commission. Robert Neill was born near Desha (Independence County) on November 12, 1838. His parents were Henry Neill and Dorcas Stark Neill; he had five siblings. His father was a tanner by trade and had arrived in nearby Batesville in 1832; he was also prominent in local politics, having served in the state legislature as a county supervisor and as county judge. Neill received his education in the local schools, and in 1859, he went to Ohio to take a …

Nelson, Allison

Allison Nelson was the mayor of Atlanta, Georgia; a state legislator; and a brigadier general in the Confederate army. He died while serving in Arkansas and is buried in the state. Allison Nelson was born on March 11, 1822, in Fulton County, Georgia, the son of John Nelson; his mother’s name is unrecorded. His father was a ferry operator on the Chattahoochee River and was murdered in 1825. Nelson married Mary Sledge Greene in 1840, and the couple would eventually have two daughters and a son. During the Mexican War, Nelson raised a company of volunteers from Georgia and was elected as captain of the unit, known as the Kennesaw Rangers. The Georgians never saw any action during the war, …

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, Rex

Having been a journalist, political staffer, lobbyist, and blogger, Rex Nelson is perhaps best known for his columns appearing in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He served in the administration of Mike Huckabee and on the Delta Regional Authority, and he returned to the Democrat-Gazette in 2017. Born on September 2, 1959, in Arkadelphia (Clark County), Rex Nelson is the son of Robert “Red” Nelson and Carolyn Caskey Nelson, who had met as students at what is now Ouachita Baptist University (OBU). The third child and second son born to the family, Nelson grew up in Arkadelphia in the Ouachita Hills neighborhood, located north of the OBU campus and west of the Ouachita River. Both parents taught before entering the sporting goods …

Newbern, William David

William David Newbern, who chased the twin passions of music and law, devoted a career to soldiering, teaching, judging, and being a troubadour. He taught law, spent eighteen months as a judge on the first Arkansas Court of Appeals, served fourteen years on the Arkansas Supreme Court, and was a state utility regulator, a special master for the Supreme Court, and manager of a folk music and cultural center in the Arkansas Ozarks. He retired from the Supreme Court in 1998 to devote more of his energies to music. He sang and played several instruments in many groups covering many genres. David Newbern was born on May 28, 1937, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His father, Charles Banks Newbern, was a …

Newberry, Farrar Claudius

Farrar Claudius Newberry—historian, businessman, philanthropist, and writer—was nationally known for his association with the Woodmen of the World (WOW). He authored several books and dozens of articles on Arkansas history topics. Newberry is also responsible for many markers placed at historical sites throughout Clark County. Farrar Newberry was born on July 30, 1887, in Gurdon (Clark County) to Lawrence Clinton and Mattie Harris Newberry. The family moved to Arkadelphia (Clark County) in 1894. In 1906, Newberry graduated from Arkadelphia Methodist College (which later became Henderson-Brown College) and, in 1908, received a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Newberry married Lillie Lee Thomasson on June 22, 1911, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), and the couple had two sons. Newberry …

Newth, Rebecca

aka: Rebecca Newth Harrison
Rebecca Newth Harrison is a writer working in Fayetteville (Washington County). Her literary corpus includes six books of poetry, a memoir, and a collection of children’s books. Newth is also the founder of Will Hall Books and an advocate for the arts in northwest Arkansas. Rebecca Newth was born on September 21, 1940, in Lansing, Michigan, to William Arthur Newth and Catherine Messenger Newth. She is the eldest of four children. Newth’s parents both worked at Michigan State University (MSU), her father as an accountant and her mother as a medical technician. Newth attended MSU, graduating with a BA in English literature in 1962. At MSU, Newth met and married John Harrison, who was pursuing a career in library science. …

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, …

Newton, Thomas Willoughby

Thomas Willoughby Newton was a Whig member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the First District of Arkansas in the Twenty-Ninth Congress, serving briefly in 1847. Newton County is named after him. Thomas W. Newton was born in Alexandria, Virginia, on January 18, 1804, to William Newton and Jane Stewart Newton. He received his early education in the local schools before moving to Arkansas in 1820. He settled in Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he became involved in the government, serving as the Secretary of the Council in the Territorial Legislature in 1823, 1825, 1827, and 1828. He also served as the local postmaster in 1824 as well as the clerk of courts of Pulaski County from 1825 …

Nichols, Jeffrey Ryan (Jeff)

Jeffrey Ryan Nichols directed and wrote the screenplays for the critically acclaimed movies Shotgun Stories (2007), Take Shelter (2011), Mud (2013), and Loving (2016). Jeff Nichols was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 7, 1978. He grew up in Little Rock, graduating from Central High School. He studied filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he befriended fellow Little Rock–born director and frequent collaborator David Gordon Green. He graduated in May 2001. Following his father’s advice to write about Arkansas, Nichols began contemplating his youth in the land between Little Rock and England (Lonoke County), a landscape he says he romanticizes from childhood visits to his grandparents. Yet in writing and filming, Nichols …

Niehues, Leon Albert

Leon Albert Niehues is a highly regarded basket maker in the United States and internationally. In 2002, he was chosen by his peers as one of the top twenty-eight fiber artists working the “new basket” form in the United States. Leon Niehues (pronounced: “nee house”) was born to Edwin and Rosalita Niehues on July 13, 1951, in Seneca, Kansas, and raised on a farm with six siblings, including a twin. Niehues attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence for two years. Niehues married Sharon Coffey on May 1, 1974, in Lawrence, and the couple spent their honeymoon in Arkansas at a Madison County hunters’ cabin. They liked the state so much that they decided to stay. They bought forty acres …

Nighthawk, Robert

aka: Robert Lee McCollum
Robert Nighthawk was among the most remarkable slide guitarists in blues history, widely admired among his peers and the southern audiences he spent his life entertaining. Nighthawk influenced a generation of bluesmen such as Muddy Waters, B. B. King, Earl Hooker, and supposedly Elmore James. He was the archetype of the rambling bluesman, roaming all over the South with frequent trips to the North, though he chose Helena—present-day Helena-West Helena (Phillips County)—as his home base. This rambling nature and his decision to remain in the South likely explain why Nighthawk never achieved greater fame. Robert Nighthawk was born Robert Lee McCollum in Helena on November 30, 1909, to Ned and Mattie McCollum. He was one of three children. His was …

Nix, Barbara

Barbara Ann Nix served as member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from Benton (Saline County). Nix taught for the Benton Public School District for thirty-eight years before running as a Democrat in 2008 for a seat in the Arkansas General Assembly. Nix left teaching in 2009 after winning a seat in the House of Representatives. She served one term. Barbara Ann Farley was born on June 2, 1949, in Leavenworth, Kansas, to Ruth Farley and U.S. Army sergeant Embra Farley. Her father was stationed in Kansas at the time of her birth, but when she was three years old, he began working for Alcoa and moved the family to Benton. She has one brother, Paul Farley. She graduated from …

Nix, Joe Franklin

Joe Nix is a water chemist, environmentalist, naturalist, and educator considered by many to be the watchdog of Arkansas rivers and lakes with respect to water quality and usage patterns. His mission has been to have society use good scientific data in making decisions about environmental matters. Joe Franklin Nix was born on August 28, 1939, the only child of Frank and Era Nix, in Malvern (Hot Spring County). His father was a mechanic; his mother was a homemaker. He was a sickly child, so the doctor advised that he spend a lot of time outdoors. As a youth, he fell under the personal tutelage of family friend and former state geologist Joe Kimzey of Magnet Cove (Hot Spring County). …

Nixon, Esther DeWitt

Esther DeWitt Nixon was the founding librarian of the Jacksonville (Pulaski County) public library and served there for nearly three decades. The Jacksonville branch library of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) was named in her honor in 1992. Esther DeWitt, with her twin sister Ruth, was born on November 24, 1916, in Corsicana, Texas, to Marcus Henry DeWitt and Allie Ellis DeWitt. The twins had three brothers and two sisters. Esther married Watson Nixon Jr., on February 22, 1943—a marriage that lasted more than fifty years until his death on April 20, 1993—and they had two sons. The family lived in Jacksonville. Esther Nixon and her children were avid users of the Pulaski County Library’s bookmobile, and, as her …

Noble, Marion Monden

Marion Monden Noble was an Arkansas-born lifelong communist who is one of three Arkansans known to have served with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War (the others being pilot Frank Glasgow Tinker and composer Conlon Nancarrow). Marion Noble was born on May 4, 1911, in Garner (White County), one of six children of Isom J. Noble and Cora Noble. His father was a railroad worker known for treating both black and white workers equally, but he lost his job along with thousands of others during a railroad strike. By 1920, the family was living in Higginson (White County), where his father started a car repair business. Noble worked there as a mechanic before leaving to attend the …

Noland, Fent

aka: Charles Fenton Mercer (Fent) Noland
One of Arkansas’s most famous citizens during the antebellum period was Charles Fenton Mercer (Fent) Noland, a Batesville (Independence County) lawyer. He became a national figure as one of the leading “Southwestern humorists” with the regular publication of his letters in the New York Spirit of the Times, the leading national sports and humor newspaper. Noland was Arkansas’s representative in the literary movement named for the “old Southwest” (Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas), which delighted the nation with an array of bucolic frontier/agrarian writings. Fent Noland was named for Charles Fenton Mercer, the family friend who founded Aldie, Virginia, where he was born on August 23, 1810, the fourth of the five children of William and Catherine (Callender) Noland. His father …

Norful, Smokie

aka: Willie Ray Norful Jr.
Smokie Norful—a popular pastor in Chicago, Illinois, and a Grammy Award–winning gospel singer—spent most of his developing years in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and is one of the most commercially successful gospel recording artists to have emerged from Arkansas. Born Willie Ray Norful Jr. in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on October 31, 1975, to the Reverend W. R. Norful and Teresa Norful, Norful is the oldest of three boys. Like so many other African-American gospel singers, he found church to be a nurturing environment in which his musical skills could be honed. At a 2012 taping of the Trinity Broadcast Network’s flagship program, Praise the Lord, Norful joked before a studio audience about growing up as a “P. K.” (preacher’s kid) …

Norrell, Catherine Dorris

Catherine Dorris Norrell was the wife of Congressman William Frank Norrell and succeeded him in Congress, becoming the third woman in Arkansas history to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Catherine Dorris was born in Camden (Ouachita County) on March 30, 1901, to Baptist preacher Franklin Dorris and Rose Whitehead Dorris. The family moved from congregation to congregation in Texas, Tennessee, and Arkansas, and Dorris attended public schools in all of those states, finishing high school in Monticello (Drew County). She attended Ouachita Baptist College (now Ouachita Baptist University) in Arkadelphia (Clark County) as well as the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), becoming an accomplished organist and pianist. Afterward, she taught in the public schools of …

Norrell, William Frank

Congressman William Frank Norrell served southern Arkansas and the entire state during an important time in the region’s economic and social development. He was the first World War I veteran to be elected to Congress from Arkansas. William F. Norrell was born in Milo, a small community in Ashley County, on August 29, 1896. His parents were farmers John H. Norrell and Elvie Richardson Norrell. He attended the local public schools and pursued higher education at the Fourth District State Agricultural School of Monticello (Drew County)—now the University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM)—as well as at the College of the Ozarks (now the University of the Ozarks) at Clarksville (Johnson County) and at what is now the University of Arkansas at Little …

Norris, Walter

Walter Norris created an amalgamation of jazz improvisation with classical music in a style that no other pianist has duplicated. His varied career includes eight years as a pianist, musical director, and entertainment manager for New York’s Playboy Club. In addition, he authored noted books on the piano. Walter Norris was born on December 27, 1931, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). His father, Lucian Norris, was an accountant for the Federal Reserve Bank. Walter Norris began studying classical piano at the age of five, was playing “boogie woogie” by eight, and was playing in local bands by twelve. After graduation from Central High School, he began playing with Mose Allison on a southern tour. From 1950 to 1952, he served in the U.S. …

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 …

Notrebe, Frederick

Frederick Notrebe was a prominent merchant, planter, and land speculator at Arkansas Post (Arkansas County). One of the wealthiest men in territorial and antebellum Arkansas, he operated a trading house, dealing mostly in furs and peltries. As one of the first cotton factors at Arkansas Post, he was instrumental in establishing cotton as a staple crop in territorial Arkansas. He is credited with founding the town of Napoleon (Desha County) at the mouth of the Arkansas River in the 1820s. He was also an early supporter of the State Bank branch at Arkansas Post, providing the lot on which it was built. Frederick Notrebe was born in 1780 (exact date not known) in France. Nothing is known about his parents …

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 …

Nuttall, Thomas

Thomas Nuttall, a preeminent and far-ranging field naturalist, participated in the early scientific exploration of Arkansas and is remembered both for identifying a number of the state’s plants and for his description of early Arkansas life. His notes on people living in the territory—both Native Americans and American settlers—have provided valuable information for historians and researchers ever since they were first published in 1821. Thomas Nuttall was born to James Nuttall and Margaret Hardacre Nuttall on January 5, 1786, in Long Preston, Yorkshire, England. He was the oldest of three siblings; he had two sisters, Susan (Susannah) and Elizabeth. He never married and had no children. After attending the village school, Nuttall worked as a journeyman printer for his uncle …