Entries - Entry Type: Person - Starting with W

Waggoner, William Jayson (Bill)

William Jayson Waggoner, a lifelong resident of Lonoke County, served for forty-one years as circuit judge. Elected state representative in 1914, he served in that role until resigning to take a commission in the U.S. Army in 1917. Upon his return, he was elected prosecuting attorney and continued to serve in elected office for the rest of his life. Bill Waggoner was born near the community of Needmore (Lonoke County) on November 12, 1889, to Thomas J. Waggoner and Nancy Munsch Waggoner; he was one of ten children. After Waggoner’s father’s death in 1898, the family lived in Carlisle (Lonoke County) and Lonoke (Lonoke County). Waggoner’s mother remarried in 1911 to William Henry Stout. After graduating from the Law Department …

Wair, Thelma Jean Mothershed

Thelma Jean Mothershed Wair made history as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the African-American students involved in the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed desegregation of the formerly all-white high school. Mothershed was a junior when she entered Central. Despite the fact that she had a cardiac condition since birth, she had a near perfect record for attendance. Thelma Mothershed was born on November 29, 1940, in Bloomberg, Texas, to Arlevis Leander Mothershed and Hosanna Claire Moore Mothershed. Her father was a psychiatric aide at the Veterans Hospital, and her mother was a homemaker. She has three sisters and two brothers. …

Wakely, James Clarence (Jimmy)

Jimmy Wakely, an American country and western singer and actor from the 1930s through the 1950s, made several recordings and appeared in B-western movies with most major studios as a “singing cowboy.” Wakely was one of the last singing cowboys after World War II and also appeared on radio and television; he even had his own series of comic books. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1680 Vine Street. Jimmy Wakely was born James Clarence Wakeley on February 16, 1914, in Mineola (Howard County) to Major Anderson Wakeley, a farmer, and Caroline (or Carolin) “Cali” Burgess Wakeley. As a teenager, he changed “James” to “Jimmy” and dropped the second “e” in his last name, making …

Walker, David

David Walker, a lawyer, a jurist, and an early settler of Fayetteville (Washington County), was the leading Whig in the state’s “great northwest” region for nearly fifty years. He began his career as a member of the convention that wrote the state’s first constitution in 1836. He chaired the 1861 convention, and remained active in politics and law until shortly before his death. David Walker was born on February 19, 1806, near Elkton, Kentucky, to Jacob Wythe Walker and Nancy Hawkins Walker. The Walkers were a prolific and politically prominent family in Arkansas, Kentucky, and Virginia. In 1808, his father moved to Logan County, Kentucky, where in 1811 Walker first attended school. In two years, he memorized the grammatical rules …

Walker, Hazel Leona

aka: Hazel Walker Crutcher
Recognized as the greatest amateur women’s basketball player of the 1930s and 1940s, eleven-time Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) All-American Hazel Leona Walker was the only woman ever to own, manage, and star for her own professional basketball team. For sixteen seasons, from 1949 to 1965, Hazel Walker’s Arkansas Travelers barnstormed the country playing only men’s teams under men’s rules and winning eighty to eighty-five percent of their games. Hazel Walker was born on August 8, 1914, on her family’s farm near Oak Hill (Little River County), nine miles from Ashdown (Little River County). She was the middle child and only daughter of Herbert S. Walker and Minnie L. Chancey Walker, both Arkansas natives of part Cherokee descent. Walker first played …

Walker, James David

James David Walker served as a U.S. senator from Arkansas from 1879 to 1885. Before that, he served as a judge and as a colonel in the Confederate army. Local historian William Campbell later described him as “a man of strong convictions, sturdy honesty, high principles, and the recognized leader of the bar,” adding that his “knowledge and use of the law was profound, and his pleading before juries was always persuasive.” He had little impact in the Senate, however. J. D. Walker was born on December 13, 1830, near Russellville, Kentucky, the fifth and youngest child of James Volney Walker and Susan Howard McLean Walker. On both sides of his family, he was related to politicians, including congressional representatives …

Walker, John Winfred

John Winfred Walker was a lawyer who emerged from segregated schools and society in southwestern Arkansas to wage a sixty-year war on discrimination in Arkansas’s education systems, public institutions, and workforce. Walker’s name became synonymous with civil rights in Arkansas after the initial legal battle from 1957 to 1959 to desegregate Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Once out of Yale University’s law school in 1964, Walker took over the long-running school-integration lawsuit in Little Rock and also filed scores of lawsuits in federal courts to force recalcitrant school districts across Arkansas to put black and white children in the same classrooms or coequal learning environments. Other suits by Walker and his young partners in one of the …

Walker, Lucius Marshall (Marsh)

An antebellum plantation owner in St. Francis County and nephew of President James K. Polk, Lucius Marshall (Marsh) Walker served as a Confederate brigadier general in the Western Theater and Trans-Mississippi Department during the Civil War. He is most famous for his death in a wartime duel with Brigadier General John Sappington Marmaduke during the Little Rock Campaign. Marsh Walker was born in Columbia, Tennessee, on October 18, 1829, the third child and eldest son of Jane Maria Polk Walker and James Walker, who was a Jacksonian political operator and entrepreneur. Walker received an at-large appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1846, graduating fifteenth out of forty-four cadets in the class of 1850. Brevet Second …

Walker, William “Sonny”

William “Sonny” Walker was an educator and civil rights activist who went on to serve in positions in local, state, and federal government, becoming the first person of color to serve in the cabinet of a southern governor. Sonny Walker was born on December 13, 1933, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). His parents were the Reverend James David Walker and Mary Coleman Walker; they later divorced, and his father married Nettie Harris. Early influences in his life included the Boy Scouts of America, gospel choir, drama and speech organizations, and community education through social and sports activities at Merrill High School; Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff); and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. …

Wallace, Robert Minor

Robert Minor Wallace was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Seventh District of Arkansas in the Fifty-Eighth through the Sixty-First Congresses, serving from 1903 to 1911. Robert Wallace was born on August 6, 1856, in New London (Union County), the second of three children of William Jonathan Wallace and Susan Wallace. His mother died when he was not quite four years old, and his father, a major in the Confederate army, was killed in combat in May 1864, leaving him orphaned at age seven. Living with extended family, Wallace received his early education in the local common schools, and he graduated in 1876 from Arizona Seminary in Louisiana. After studying law in Little Rock …

Wallace, Sidney

Sidney Wallace was a legendary part of the state’s folklore during Arkansas’s Reconstruction. Some portrayed him as boldly resisting bushwhackers and carpetbaggers, while, to others, Wallace was a symbol of the lawless frontier life that Arkansas needed to transcend. Sid Wallace was born on the Wallace family farm near Clarksville (Johnson County) on August 11, 1851, the fifth of seven children of Vincent Wallace, a Methodist minister, and his wife, Ruth Suggs Wallace. On December 31, 1863, Wallace’s father was murdered in front of his house by three or more men wearing Union army coats. Accounts vary concerning the attackers, whether they were Union soldiers or local bushwhackers in disguise. Some accounts suggest that Wallace was a witness to his …

Walls, A. J.

Andrew Jackson (A. J.) Walls was a Lonoke County pioneer, planter, and elected public official in the early days of the county. He was a state representative, chairman of the State Democratic Committee, and father and grandfather of many prominent Lonoke County lawyers and politicians. A. J. Walls was born on April 2, 1862, in the Pleasant Hills community in northern Lonoke County (about ten miles north of Lonoke, the county seat). He was the son of Jackson Walls, a native of North Carolina, and Catherine Dickerson Cook, who was a native of Tennessee. Tax records reveal that the elder Jackson owned real estate in Pleasant Hills in 1852. He married Catherine Dickerson Cook, his second wife, in 1860. Walls …

Walton, Alice Louise

Alice Louise Walton is the heir to the Walton family fortune; in April 2019, she was estimated by Forbes magazine to have a net worth of almost $46 billion, making her one of the richest women in the world. She is also well known as a philanthropist, having established the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville (Benton County). Alice Louise Walton was born on October 7, 1949, in Newport (Jackson County), the youngest of four children and the only daughter of Sam and Helen Walton. Sam Walton opened Walton’s Five and Dime Store in Bentonville and then created Walmart, which changed the retail industry worldwide. Alice Walton grew up in Bentonville, attending public schools there. After graduating from …

Walton, Helen Robson

Helen Robson Walton was a noted philanthropist. Her husband, Walmart Inc. founder Sam Walton, called her one of his best advisors. When ranked as one of the world’s wealthiest women and asked for a description of her work, she defined herself simply as “volunteer to community, state and nation.” Along with making large charitable donations in areas such as the arts, education, and organizations for families and children, she was the first woman to be named chairwoman of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Foundation. Helen Alice Robson was born on December 3, 1919, in Claremore, Oklahoma. She was the daughter of homemaker Hazel Carr Robson and banker/rancher Leland Stanford (L. S.) Robson. She had three brothers and a sister. The family …

Walton, Samuel Moore

aka: Sam Walton
Samuel Moore Walton was founder and chairman of Walmart Inc., the world’s largest retailer. At one time, he was the richest man in the United States. Sam Walton was born on March 29, 1918, in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, the first of two children to Thomas Gibson Walton, a banker, farmer, farm loan appraiser, and real estate and insurance agent, and Nancy Lee Lawrence Walton. Walton showed signs of an entrepreneurial gift early on, selling magazine subscriptions, starting at about age seven or eight. He worked his way through college with newspaper routes. After adding routes and hiring helpers, he was earning $4,000 to $5,000 a year. He attended the University of Missouri at Columbia, earning a business degree in 1940. His …

Ward, Essie Ann Treat

Essie Ann Treat Ward, who is often referred to as “Grandma Moses of the Ozarks,” produced paintings that are fascinating examples of primitive art, a style of folk painting. From a field of one hundred and fifty folk painters, she was chosen one of the top ten in Arkansas, receiving recognition and appreciation in her native region and state. In 1970, she participated in the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife in Washington DC. Today hundreds of her paintings in the Miranda and Hezzakiah series hang in public and private art collections around the world. Essie Treat was born on October 20, 1902, to Henry and Parthenia Treat in the community of Nubbin Hill (Searcy County). Her father was a farmer …

Ward, Harry

Harry P. Ward, M.D., in his twenty-one-year tenure as chancellor, was credited with changing the University of Arkansas School of Medicine from a small teaching institution and charity hospital to a major health center known as the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). He led UAMS through major expansions of facilities and programs as it became a leader in education, patient care, and research. Harry Pfeffer Ward was born on June 6, 1933, in Pueblo, Colorado, the second of three sons of Dr. Lester Ward and Alysmai Ward. His father was a family practitioner, and Ward frequently accompanied him on house calls and always said he wanted to be a doctor. He attended public schools and then graduated magna …

Ward, John [Medal of Honor Recipient]

John Ward was an African-American U.S. Army scout born in Arkansas who received a Medal of Honor for his actions in a battle with Comanche Indians in Texas in 1875. John Ward was born in Arkansas in 1847 (the exact location is unknown), and his parents were either both black and Seminole or they were African Americans who lived among the Seminole; given his birth date, he may have been born during the forced removal of the Seminole from the southeastern United States. The Ward family was among several hundred black and Seminole people from the Seminole Nation in the Indian Territory who received permission to immigrate to northern Mexico in the late 1840s, where the African Americans were safe …

Ward, John Paul

John Paul Ward was a lawyer and politician from Independence County who spent the last twenty-six years of his career as a trial and appellate judge. He was an associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court from 1951 until 1968.  John Paul Ward—who went by Paul—was born on February 20, 1890, in Batesville (Independence County), the son of W. J. Ward and Mollie Churchill Ward. He was educated in the Batesville public schools, received a bachelor’s degree at Arkansas College (now Lyon College) in Batesville in 1912, attended Tulane University in New Orleans, and received a law degree at the University of Oklahoma in Norman in 1915. When the United States entered World War I, he enlisted and became a commissioned officer in the American Expeditionary Force’s hundred-day offensive, the Meuse River-Argonne Forest Campaign in France, during the fall of 1918, the …

Ware, Ed

Ed Ware was one of twelve African-American men accused of murder following the Elaine Massacre of 1919. After brief trials, the so-called Elaine Twelve—six who became known as the Moore defendants and six who became known as the Ware defendants (so called using Ed Ware’s name)—were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Ultimately, the Ware defendants were freed by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1923; after numerous legal efforts, the Moore defendants were released in 1925. Ed Ware was born in Mississippi on March 7, 1882, to William Ware and Ann Ware. He moved to Arkansas City (Desha County) around 1910. Ed Ware was employed as a farmhand in the region. On September 12, 1918, he registered for …

Warfield, William Caesar

William Caesar Warfield was a noted African-American bass-baritone concert artist who had an extensive career that included major roles in two Hollywood films as well as stints on stage and on television. Probably no one ever performed “Ol’ Man River” from Jerome Kern’s Show Boat more times than Warfield, who performed it in several languages. William Warfield was born on January 22, 1920, to Robert Warfield and Bertha McCamery Warfield in West Helena (Phillips County). He spent only a few years in Arkansas; however, because of a strong family background in Arkansas and Mississippi, he described himself as “an Arkansas boy from tip to toe.” His multiracial ancestry included a paternal grandfather who appeared in photographs to be a white man …

Warneke, Lon

Montgomery County native Lon (Lonnie) Warneke, known as the “The Arkansas Hummingbird,” was a major league baseball pitcher and umpire who later served as county judge for Garland County. He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1961. Lon Warneke was born on March 28, 1909, to Luke and Belle Warneke in the small farming community of Owley (Montgomery County), about six miles south of Mount Ida (Montgomery County); he had four siblings. Warneke worked on the family farm. He attended the Owley public schools until the ninth grade, when he transferred to Mount Ida. The baseball coach there did not think Warneke was good enough to play on the high school team the first year. However, …

Warner, Julia McAlmont

Julia McAlmont Warner was an educator at Arkansas Female College in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and a leader of the Political Equality League, a women’s suffrage organization in Arkansas. Julia McAlmont Warner was born on September 1, 1860, in Hornell, New York, to Truman Warner and Myra Cordelia McAlmont Warner, both natives of New York. Her mother established the Arkansas Female College in 1872 and was an early supporter of women’s suffrage in Arkansas. In 1877, Julia McAlmont Warner began her career teaching at the Arkansas Female College at the age of seventeen and continued there for several years. She was fluent in several languages, including Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian. In 1911, a number of prominent women in the …

Warren, Edward Allen

Edward Allen Warren was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Second District of Arkansas in the Thirty-Third and the Thirty-Fifth Congresses, serving from 1853 to 1855 and then again from 1857 to 1859. Edward A. Warren was born near Eutaw, Alabama, on May 2, 1818, to Robert H. Warren and Lydia A. Minter Warren. He received his early education in the area’s local schools, and he then studied law on his own. He married in October 1838, and he and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Warren, went on to have two children. He was admitted to the state bar in 1843, after which he began to practice law in Clinton, Mississippi. Like many young lawyers, …

Warren, Joyce Elise Williams

Joyce Elise Williams Warren was the first black female judge in the Pulaski County system and the first in Arkansas. She has also authored A Booklet for Parents, Guardians, and Custodians in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases (2003), which has been translated into Spanish and has been widely distributed in Arkansas and other states. She has appeared in several training videos and other videos concerning juvenile and domestic relations law and related issues. Joyce Elise Williams was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on October 25, 1949, one of two children of Albert Lewis Williams Jr. and Marian Eloise Longley Williams, both teachers. She attended Gibbs Elementary School and was one of ten black students who integrated West Side Junior …

Warren, Nathan

Nathan Warren was one of the few free black businessmen in antebellum Arkansas, as well as a noted musician and the founder of the state’s first African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) congregation. Nathan Warren was born into slavery in 1812 in Versailles, Kentucky, on the Crittenden Plantation. John Crittenden, brother of Robert Crittenden (and later Kentucky governor, U.S. congressman, and U.S. attorney general), was likely Warren’s father. Robert Crittenden brought Warren to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1819, around the time Crittenden was appointed by President James Monroe as the first secretary of the Arkansas Territory. Crittenden and Warren lived at the present-day site of the Albert Pike Hotel on 7th Street, between Scott and Cumberland streets, in a large …

Washbourne, Edward Payson

Of the many artists who lived and worked in antebellum Arkansas, none gained greater acclaim than Edward Payson Washbourne, creator of one of the Western frontier’s most memorable and humorous genre scenes, The Arkansas Traveler. Noted not only for his allegorical works, Washbourne was also widely sought for portraiture. Examples of his work can be seen in the collections of the Historic Arkansas Museum and the Arkansas State Archives in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Edward Washbourne was born on November 16, 1831, at Dwight Mission, then located in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma); the 1850 census lists him as being born in Arkansas, but the western border of Arkansas was in flux at the time of his birth. He was the son of …

Washburn, Alexander Henry

Alexander Henry (Alex) Washburn was a prominent conservative newspaperman in southern Arkansas who served as the editor and publisher of the Hope Star for fifty-four years. Washburn sought to stay ahead of the technology curve, and in 1942, the Star began one of the world’s first transmissions by wire of newspaper content from other papers. The Star was also an early user of offset printing, 35 mm photography, and the four-color process. Alex Washburn was born on August 12, 1899, in Toronto, Canada, to American parents from Pennsylvania and Illinois. His father, William Henry Washburn, was an official with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and his mother, Annie Henry Washburn, was a homemaker. Washburn was the oldest of three sons and …

Washburn, Cephas

Cephas Washburn was a Presbyterian missionary who helped found Dwight Mission to serve the Cherokee. Washburn, who struggled along with his colleagues to bring Christianity to Native Americans on the territorial Arkansas frontier, served as an educator and minister for four decades. Cephas Washburn was born on July 25, 1793, in Randolph, Vermont, to Josiah Washburn and Phebe Cushman Washburn, who were farmers. Washburn turned from farming to education when he feared he might be disabled permanently from a broken leg. While teaching in Groton, Massachusetts, in the winter of 1814–1815 to raise money for further education, he became a Congregationalist and soon decided he wanted to be a missionary to the Indians. After graduating from Vermont University in 1817, …

Wassell, Corydon McAlmont

Rear Admiral Corydon McAlmont Wassell was one of the first national heroes of World War II. His service for the United States in early 1942 earned him the Navy Cross and praise from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his story inspired a movie starring Gary Cooper. Cory Wassell was born on July 4, 1884, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the son of Albert and Leona Wassell of Little Rock. He studied medicine at the University of Arkansas Medical School (now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences), where he obtained a medical degree in 1909. He did postgraduate work at Johns Hopkins University. After graduation, he practiced in Tillar (Desha and Drew counties) for a short time. Wassell married a …

Wassell, Elizabeth McConaughey (Bettie)

Elizabeth McConaughey (Bettie) Wassell was the honorary state regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a member of the Political Equality League, and the chairperson of the History Committee of the Arkansas Equal Suffrage State Central Committee. Bettie McConaughey was born on October 12, 1859, in Searcy (White County) to James W. McConaughey and Albina McRae McConaughey. Her parents were prominent social and cultural figures during the Civil War; James was a captain in the Confederate army, and Albina was the sister of Confederate general Dandridge McRae. McConaughey married Samuel Spotts Wassell on April 8, 1978. Samuel Wassell was a Cornell University graduate and attorney in Memphis, Tennessee, and later in Little Rock (Pulaski County). They had four …

Watie, Stand

Stand Watie was a Cherokee leader who signed the Treaty of New Echota, which led to the tribe’s removal from its homeland in the southeastern United States to the Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma). Watie also fought for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, becoming the only Native American to achieve a general’s rank on either side during the war. Stand Watie was named Degadoga, which means “he stands,” when he was born on December 12, 1806, near New Echota, Georgia, the son of Oo-wa-tie, who was a full-blood Cherokee, and Susanna Reese, who was half Cherokee. When his father took the name David Watie after his baptism in the Moravian Church, he renamed his son Isaac S. …

Watkins, Charles Lee

Charles Lee Watkins served as the first parliamentarian of the U.S. Senate. For more than a half century, he sat at the dais in the Senate chamber, advising hundreds of legislators and ten vice presidents on the Senate’s complex rules and procedures. Charles Watkins was born on August 10, 1879, in Mount Ida (Montgomery County), the oldest of seven children of John A. and Nancy Rebecca (Smith) Watkins. He graduated from the Mount Ida Normal Academy in 1900 and attended the University of Arkansas law school in Little Rock (Pulaski County), though sources differ as to whether or not he graduated. Watkins married Martha Heard Walker on October 3, 1903, and they had one son. Martha died on April 27, 1923, …

Watkins, Claibourne

Claibourne Watkins was one of three native Arkansan founders of the Medical Department of the Arkansas Industrial University, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Watkins was born on March 3, 1844, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the second son of George Claibourne Watkins and Mary Crease Watkins. His father was state attorney general and chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He had two brothers: Colonel Anderson Watkins, who was killed at Atlanta during the Civil War, and Captain Walton Watkins. Watkins was educated in a number of institutions, both private and public. The Civil War broke out just prior to his completing his undergraduate degree at St. Timothy’s Hall in Cantonsville, Maryland. A Southerner by birth and …

Watkins, George Claibourne

George Claibourne Watkins was a prominent attorney in nineteenth-century Arkansas. His partnership with Chester Ashley is one of the roots from which one of the state’s most respected firms, the Rose Law Firm, grew. In addition to his role in the development of the firm, Watkins also served briefly as chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. George C. Watkins was born on November 25, 1815, in Shelbyville, Kentucky, to Isaac Watkins and Marie Toncray Watkins. In late 1820, seeking new opportunities, the family set out for the newly opened territory of Arkansas. They arrived in March 1821, and, settling in what would become Little Rock (Pulaski County), the family quickly earned a place among the town’s most prominent early …

Watkins, Travis Earl

Travis Earl Watkins was an Arkansas native who served in the U.S. Army during World War II and the Korean War. He received a posthumous Medal of Honor for gallantry during a four-day engagement with North Korean soldiers. Travis E. Watkins was born on September 5, 1920, in Waldo (Columbia County) to salesman Joe E. Watkins and Angie Watkins. By 1930, the couple had divorced, and his mother had returned to her native Texas, living at Winters in Runnels County with her sons Travis (age nine), Tris (eight), and Truman (five). The family later moved to Troup, Texas, and in 1939, Watkins joined the army. He served in the Pacific during World War II, earning a Bronze Star during the …

Watson, Edomae Boone

Edomae Boone Watson was a prominent African-American civic and education leader in Jonesboro (Craighead County). In addition to being an educator in Jonesboro’s segregated and then integrated school system, she also played a pivotal role in developing the Head Start program in Jonesboro. She served in state and national organizations to secure funding to provide early-childhood education opportunities for low-income children in Jonesboro. Edomae Boone was born on April 2, 1907, near Augusta (Woodruff County). She obtained a high school diploma from Shorter College, then in Little Rock (Pulaski County), one of the few places in Arkansas that provided diplomas to black students. She received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal School in Pine …

Watson, Hattie Rutherford

aka: Harriet Louise Gertrude Rutherford Watson
Harriet Louise Gertrude (Hattie) Rutherford Watson was an educator, librarian, and prominent member of the social and education communities in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). She and her husband, John Brown Watson, were activists for the African-American community during the early twentieth century. Hattie Rutherford was born November 23, 1885, in Rome, Georgia, as part of the black elite in the post-bellum era. She was the elder daughter of Samuel W. and Mary Anne Lemon Rutherford. Her father founded the National Benefit Life Insurance Company in 1898. Rutherford acquired an elementary education in the public schools of Atlanta and a high school diploma at Spelman Seminary. She completed her college work at Spelman College and was the only graduate from that …

Watson, Jack Hearn, Jr.

Jack Hearn Watson Jr. is an attorney and former government official who served in a number of positions, including White House chief of staff, during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. Since leaving the White House, he has continued to be an active member of the legal and civic communities, both at home and abroad. Jack H. Watson Jr. was born on October 24, 1938, in El Paso, Texas. The son of a navy enlisted man and his wife, Watson grew up in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). He earned a BS from Vanderbilt University in 1960, and after a stint in the U.S. Marines, where he achieved the rank of captain, Watson attended Harvard Law School. After graduating in 1966, he …

Watson, John Brown

John Brown Watson was president of Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (AM&N), now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), from 1928 until his death in 1942. Watson was a member of the first generation of black Americans born after the Civil War and representative of that demographic among his cohorts, identified as what Professor Willard B. Gatewood Jr. called “aristocrats of color.” Watson was born near Tyler, Texas, on December 28, 1869, to Crystal and Frank Watson; he was named for the antebellum abolitionist John Brown. Educated near his home, Watson passed the county teacher examination in 1887 and taught  for two years. He entered Bishop College at Marshall, Texas, in 1891 at the seventh grade level and …

Watson, Patrick Samuel Gideon

Patrick Samuel Gideon Watson, the father of Baptist history in Arkansas, was one of the state’s early itinerate ministers and the editor of Arkansas’s first religious newspaper in 1859. Watson was born on May 2, 1816, in Falmouth, Kentucky, the son of local farmer Joseph Watson and Ann Anderson Watson. His writings indicate that he received an excellent classical education. He married Catherine Oldham Harris on March 14, 1839, in Kentucky. They were the parents of eleven children, only three of which were living by the time the family moved to Texas in the 1870s. In 1843, he was licensed to preach by the historic Forks of Licking Baptist Church in Falmouth. Shortly afterward, he and his family joined an …

Watson, Tom

Tom Watson was a longtime member of the Arkansas Senate. In just under two decades of service, he earned a reputation as a hardworking legislator who was particularly interested in advancing the cause of education. Thomas Watson was born on August 30, 1920, in Monette (Craighead County) to John Tilden Watson and Claud Brooks Watson. Little is known about his family or his early years. On December 24, 1943, he married Gladys Gilbert. The couple had one son. Watson developed a large, successful farming operation in a partnership with his brother and his son. Watson spent ten years as president of the Monette School Board and was also deeply involved in Craighead County governance. He served for six years as …

Watson, Wilson Douglas

Wilson Douglas Watson was an Arkansas sharecropper who joined the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action during the fighting at Iwo Jima in February 1945. Wilson Douglas Watson was born on February 16, 1922, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to Charles Watson and Ada Belle Posey Watson. He was the oldest of five sons and two daughters, and he received a total of five years of schooling amid his labors on the farm. By 1940, the family was living in the Tyronza Township in Crittenden County, sharecropping a farm for Tom Sellers of Earle (Crittenden County). Wilson Watson registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, and he enlisted in …

Weaver, Emily

Emily Weaver of Batesville (Independence County) was a young woman who found herself caught up in the unorganized Civil War legal apparatus. Though charged by the Union as a spy and sentenced to hang, her case was eventually dropped for insufficient evidence. Emily Weaver was born to Abram Weaver and Mary Burton Weaver in Chester Valley, Pennsylvania. No birth date for her is given. In 1859, she, her mother, and six of her seven brothers moved to Batesville to be near relatives while Weaver’s father and oldest brother stayed behind to finalize business affairs for an eventual relocation to Memphis, Tennessee. The family stayed at Ninth and Main streets in a house she called “Pleasant Hill.” Weaver’s family was divided, …

Webb, Doyle

Doyle L. Webb II is a lawyer and former state senator from Benton (Saline County). He began serving as chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party in 2008. Webb served as Lieutenant Governor Winthrop Paul Rockefeller’s chief of staff from 2002 to 2007. Webb lives in the historic Gann House with his wife, Barbara Webb, who served as Saline County’s prosecuting attorney from 1996 to 2002. Doyle Webb was born on December 3, 1955, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Doyle L. (D. L.) Webb and Dolores Cornett Webb. He has one sister, Candis. Webb attended Benton High School, graduating in 1974. His political career began as Saline County coordinator for Ken Coon’s gubernatorial campaign in 1974. Webb earned a BA …

Webb, John Lee

John Lee Webb was a well-known African-American contractor and philanthropist in Hot Springs (Garland County). John L. Webb was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, on September 17, 1877, to the Reverend B. L. Webb, who was a Baptist minister, and his wife, Henrietta Webb. The couple had ten other children. John Webb’s family was not wealthy, so he had to provide for many of his own wants. Webb began studying at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1897 at nineteen years old and was spoken of highly by the wife of Booker T. Washington, founder of the institute. He volunteered for the Spanish-American War, serving from April 25 to August 12, 1898. After the war, he returned to Tuskegee and finished …

Webb, Kathy Lynette

Kathy Webb—the first openly gay member of the Arkansas General Assembly—has had a long career in private business (most notably as co-owner of Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some restaurant), philanthropy, and local and state government. She has also been a leader in the women’s rights movement. Webb, who battled breast cancer, served as the founding president of the Chicago-area Susan G. Komen Cancer Foundation. Kathy Lynette Webb was born in Blytheville (Mississippi County) on October 21, 1949. The youngest of three children—with a brother twelve years older and a sister nine years older—of Maurice Webb and Atha Webb, she graduated from Hall High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) before going on to Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (now Randolph College) in …

Webber, Harold L. “Brother Hal”

Harold L. “Brother Hal” Webber was a popular morning announcer on the Little Rock (Pulaski County) radio station KLRA. A large part of central Arkansas woke up to his broadcast for over three decades. His morning show was always filled with homespun humor, storytelling, and advertisements that were more like recommendations from a friend—all interspersed with a mix of gospel and country music. Harold L. Webber was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on February 19, 1926. His grandparents were farmers in Poinsett County, Arkansas, and he spent time there in his younger days soaking up the rural culture and stories. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy Seabees. After the war, he returned to Memphis, where he married …

Weibel, Eugene John

aka: Johann Eugen Weibel
A Swiss-German Catholic priest and missionary, Father Eugene John Weibel founded so many churches and other ecclesiastical institutions that he has been termed the Catholic “Apostle to northeastern Arkansas.” Eugene Weibel was born on May 27, 1853, in the small town of Eschenbach, Canton Lucerne, Switzerland. (His name appears as Johann Eugen Weibel in some German-language sources.) In Weibel’s autobiography, he failed to mention his birth mother’s name, only that she died at age thirty-three, four weeks after his birth; his father, John Baptist Weibel, remarried when Eugene was two. Although he mentions that there were eleven children in the family, he does not indicate where in that order he arrived. After attending Catholic elementary school in his village and a …

Welch, Thomas Rice

Thomas Rice Welch was an early Presbyterian minister and leader in Arkansas. He played an important role in the establishment of Lyon College and served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Little Rock (Pulaski County) for twenty-five years. Thomas Rice Welch was born on September 15, 1825, on a farm near Nicholasville in Jessamine County, Kentucky, to John Welch and Elizabeth J. Rice (Betsey) Welch. He had at least four brothers and a sister and was named after his mother’s brother, who was a Methodist minister. Welch was encouraged by his uncle to pursue the ministry. Welch received his early education at Bethel Academy near Knoxville, Kentucky, before enrolling at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, in May 1844. He …