Entry Type: Person - Starting with L

Lawrence, Marjorie Florence 

Marjorie Florence Lawrence, an Australian native and star soprano with the Metropolitan Opera Company of New York City, became an exemplar for endurance when she rebuilt her career after being stricken by poliomyelitis (commonly known as polio). Despite the professional opinion that she would never sing again, she started over, first by singing from a wheelchair or platform, and then by managing to stand and sing. The subject of an Oscar-winning motion picture, Interrupted Melody, she later taught at Sophie Newcomb College at Tulane University and for an extended time at Southern Illinois University (SIU) at Carbondale. Beginning in 1941, Lawrence lived outside of Hot Springs (Garland County) and held summer opera coaching sessions at her ranch, Harmony Hills, which advanced …

Lawrence, Tracy Lee

With rural Arkansas beginnings, Tracy Lee Lawrence took Nashville, Tennessee, by storm in the early 1990s to become one of the most popular country recording artists of that decade. Lawrence quickly gained a fan base with his physical appeal, vocal ability, good-guy image, and succession of hit songs. Tracy Lawrence was born on January 27, 1968, in Atlanta, Texas. Reared by his stay-at-home mother, JoAnn Dickens, and his stepfather, Dwayne Dickens, a banker, Lawrence had two brothers and three sisters. In 1972, the Dickens family moved to Foreman (Little River County), where Lawrence sang in the choir of the local Methodist church and learned to play guitar. While his mother wanted him to become a Methodist minister, Lawrence aspired to …

Lawrence, William M.

William M. Lawrence was a prominent physician in Batesville (Independence County) from 1848 until his death. He was appointed the surgeon general of the state of Arkansas in 1881. William Lawrence was born on November 22, 1826, in Kentucky, the son of James McKinney Lawrence and his first wife, Lucy D. Martin Lawrence, who was from Missouri. He had two brothers (one of them a son to his father’s second wife, Margaret Ann Vaunter Lawrence) and three sisters. Lawrence moved with his family to Fulton, Missouri, when he was a young child. About 1843, he began “reading medicine” under Dr. Robert Blakely in Fulton. He attended medical school at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, studying under Dr. Joseph McDowell. Following …

Lay, Henry Champlin

The Right Reverend Henry Champlin Lay was the third missionary bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas. The diocese was land the Church defined as also including Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) and what would later become the states of New Mexico and Arizona. Lay was also bishop of the Diocese of Arkansas when it was allied with the Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. He again served the original missionary territory when the national church reunited in 1865. Henry Champlin Lay was born on December 6, 1823, in Richmond, Virginia. He was the son of John Olmsted Lay and Lucy May Lay. He was educated in Richmond and New York City. Lay graduated from the University of Virginia …

Leavy, Calvin James “Slim”

Calvin James “Slim” Leavy, vocalist and guitarist, recorded “Cummins Prison Farm,” a blues song that debuted on Billboard’s rhythm and blues chart on May 2, 1970, and stayed for five weeks, reaching No. 40. It was also the No. 1 song on the Memphis, Tennessee, station WDIA. Leavy was the first person charged under a 1989 Arkansas “drug kingpin law” targeting crime rings. Calvin Leavy was born on April 20, 1940, in Scott (Pulaski and Lonoke counties), the youngest son of fifteen children born to the musical family of Johnny Leavy and Cora James Leavy. Both parents sang in the church choir at Mount Lake Baptist Church in Scott, and several family members played musical instruments. Leavy started out singing …

Ledbetter, Calvin Reville (Cal), Jr.

Calvin Reville (Cal) Ledbetter Jr. was a professor, author, politician, and philanthropist. He taught political science at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) from 1960 to 1997, after which he was named Professor Emeritus of Political Science. He also served five consecutive terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives, from 1967 to 1977. Ledbetter is widely remembered for his dedication to higher education as well as his efforts to foster constitutional reform in Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s. Cal Ledbetter was born on April 29, 1929, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Virginia Ledbetter and Cal Ledbetter Sr. (II); his father served as president of the Boyle Realty Company. Ledbetter received his undergraduate degree from the Woodrow Wilson School …

Ledbetter, Mary Brown “Brownie” Williams

Mary Brown “Brownie” Williams Ledbetter was a lifelong political activist who worked in many controversial and crucial campaigns in Arkansas, as well as nationally and internationally. A catalyst in many local grassroots organizations, she exhibited a dedication to fair education and equality across racial, religious, and cultural lines. Born on April 28, 1932, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), Mary Brown Williams was the first of four children born to William H. Williams, a businessman and dairy farmer, and Helon Brown Williams. Born with brown eyes, she was nicknamed “Brownie” by her family. After her mother’s death in 1947 and her father’s death in 1950, Williams and her siblings were raised by relatives Grainger and Frances Williams, who moved into the …

Lee, Burwell

Burwell Lee came to Arkansas Territory from Tennessee in 1830 as a preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church and a missionary to the Indians. Because he organized the Methodist Society at Batesville (Independence County) in 1835, which hosted the first session of the new Arkansas Conference of the church the following year, he is referred to as one of the fathers of the Methodist Church in Arkansas. Burwell Lee was born on October 20, 1809, in Davidson County, Tennessee. His father was Braxton Lee, who had come to Davidson County from Virginia around 1796. In Davidson County records, there is a marriage for Braxton Lee to Polly Hunter on May 20, 1808, although it is uncertain if these are Lee’s …

Lee, Clifton Phifer (Cliff)

Arkansas native Cliff Lee is a major league baseball pitcher. He has pitched in both the National and American Leagues, winning All-Star recognition in both circuits. Clifton Phifer Lee was born on August 30, 1978, in Benton (Saline County) to Steve Lee, who was a firefighter and one-time member of the Benton City Council, and his wife, Sharon Lee. Lee grew up in Benton and graduated from Benton High School in 1997. Following graduation, he was drafted by the Florida Marlins but decided to attend Meridian Community College in Meridian, Mississippi. Drafted in 1998 by the Baltimore Orioles, he again deferred, instead attending the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). The left-handed Lee had one solid season pitching …

Lee, Haeng Ung

Haeng Ung Lee was the founder of the American Taekwondo Association (which later became ATA Martial Arts), headquartered in Little Rock (Pulaski County). ATA has over 300,000 members worldwide, making it the largest organization in North America dedicated to the discipline of taekwondo. Haeng Ung Lee was born on July 20, 1936, in Manchuria in northeastern China. Little is known about his early life, but shortly after World War II, he and his family moved to Korea. He began training in the martial arts in 1953. Lee progressed rapidly, earning his first-degree black belt only a year later. Upon graduating from high school in 1956, Lee joined the Republic of Korea Army, serving as a martial arts instructor for military …

Lee, Hubert L.

Hubert L. Lee, who lived in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) as a child, was a soldier in the U.S. Army who received a Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in battle during the Korean War. Hubert L. Lee was born in Arburg, Missouri, on February 2, 1915, the son of railroad fireman Charles Lee and Beulah Lee. Five years later, they were living in North Little Rock’s Ward 4. The family later moved to Leland, Mississippi, and it was there that Lee was inducted into the U.S. Army during World War II. He served with distinction, winning a Bronze Star and Silver Star for heroism in fighting in North Africa and Italy. Lee remained in the army and …

Lee, Lisa

aka: Alicia Faye Young Lee
Arkansas native Lisa Lee was a respected journalist in both print media and television, as well as a television producer and author. During the last few years of her life, she was senior vice president of creative content for the Academy of Country Music and produced the annual Academy of Country Music Honors. Alicia Faye Young, better known as Lisa, was born on December 24, 1968, in Cabot (Lonoke County) to Charlie and Faye Young; she had two brothers. She grew up in Cabot and graduated from Cabot High School in 1987, having served as the school yearbook editor. She graduated from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) with a BA in journalism and English in 1991, …

Lee, Lorelei

The fictional character of Lorelei Lee, who calls herself the “little girl from Little Rock,” was created by writer Anita Loos (1889–1981). Lorelei first appeared as a character in short stories, followed by the bestselling novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, several successful Broadway shows, and a hit movie. The Lorelei Lee character is closely identified with her fictitious home of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the state of Arkansas. After emerging in a series of short sketches published in Harper’s Bazaar during the early 1920s, what became known as the “Lorelei” stories were so popular that they tripled the magazine’s circulation. After Loos was encouraged by friends in the publishing business to adapt the stories into a book, her bestselling comedic …

Leflar, Robert Allen

Robert Allen Leflar was one of Arkansas’s most renowned legal scholars, a champion of racial equality, longtime dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville (Washington County), and president of two state constitutional conventions. Robert Leflar was born on March 22, 1901, in Siloam Springs (Benton County), the son of Lewis D. Leflar—who was a drayman, former deputy U.S. marshal in “Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker’s court, and former Alma (Crawford County) town marshal—and Viva Mae Pilkenton of Siloam Springs. The oldest of eight children, Leflar later said that his mother, a high school graduate, was the chief influence on him and his siblings getting an education. Leflar worked his way through the University of Arkansas (UA), beginning …

LeMaster, Carolyn Gray

Carolyn Gray LeMaster was the leading chronicler of Jewish life in Arkansas, through books, articles, and lectures, especially her book A Corner of the Tapestry: A History of the Jewish Experience in Arkansas, 1820s–1990s. Carolyn Gray was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 17, 1927, to Elisha Columbus Gray, who was a railroad engineer and brakeman, and Erma White Gray, a homemaker. She left high school after the tenth grade to help support her family and care for her widowed mother. She married Robert W. LeMaster, a hospital executive in Little Rock. They had four children. After the children were grown, LeMaster enrolled in 1975 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), where she graduated magna …

Lemke, Walter John

Walter John Lemke established the department of journalism at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1928 and served as the head of the department until his retirement in 1959. The university named the department the Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism in his honor in 1988. In addition, he founded several historical and journalistic organizations. Walter Lemke was born on January 6, 1891, in Wausau, Wisconsin, to Carl Lemke and Ulrika Block Lemke. Lemke attended the University of Wisconsin and the University of Indiana. He received his AB degree from Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, which is near Cleveland, in 1911. The college later awarded him an honorary doctor of letters degree in 1962. He earned …

Lemley, Harry Jacob Jr.

Harry Jacob Lemley Jr. was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who served during World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War before retiring as a lieutenant general in 1971. Harry Jacob Lemley Jr. was born on February 1, 1914, in Hope (Hempstead County), the son of future U.S. District Court judge Harry J. Lemley Sr. and Caroline McRae Lemley. After graduating from Hope High School, Lemley attended the Marion Military in Marion, Alabama, in preparation for his appointment to West Point. Remembering his time at West Point, Lemley wrote years later: “West Point devastated me mentally and physically, as I was grossly immature in every respect. I nevertheless toughed it out, as I …

Lenski, Lois

Lois Lenski wrote and illustrated children’s books throughout her career of more than fifty years. She visited parts of Mississippi County while researching her three books about Arkansas children: Cotton in My Sack, Houseboat Girl, and We Live by the River. Lois Lenski was born the fourth of five children in Springfield, Ohio, on October 14, 1893. Her father, Richard, was a Prussian immigrant and a Lutheran clergyman; her mother, Marietta, was a schoolteacher. Lenski attended grade school in Anna, Ohio, and rode a train each day to Sidney, Ohio, to attend high school. After graduating from Ohio State University in 1915 with a BS in education and a teaching certificate, Lenski studied at the Arts Students League in New …

Lester, Julius

Julius Lester, who spent considerable time in Arkansas as a child, was an author, musician, photographer, and civil-rights activist. A longtime educator, he was recognized by numerous organizations and institutions for his artistic and literary efforts. Julius Lester was born on January 27, 1939, in St. Louis, Missouri, to Woodie Daniel Lester, who was a Methodist minister, and Julia Smith Lester. Lester spent his earliest years in Kansas City, Kansas, living there from 1941 to 1954. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1954 but spent most summers on the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) farm of his grandmother, who was the daughter of a former slave and a German Jew. Her father had immigrated to the United States and settled in …

Lester, Ketty

Ketty Lester is a singer and actress best known for her chart-topping single “Love Letters,” as well as her appearance in the cult classic film Blacula (1972). Lester was a regular on the daytime drama Days of Our Lives and was especially known for her long-running role on the TV series Little House on the Prairie. Ketty Lester was born Revoyda Frierson in Hope (Hempstead County) on August 16, 1934. She was one of fifteen children born to a farm family. Her interest and talent for music led to her singing at church and in school choirs. She won a scholarship to San Francisco City College in California, where she studied music. In San Francisco, she began singing professionally at …

Letzig, Margaret Heller Himstedt

Margaret Heller Himstedt Letzig was the first Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) officer from Arkansas during World War II. She served from 1942 to 1943, achieving the rank of first lieutenant. Margaret Himstedt was born on November 4, 1898, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Henry Himstedt and Margaret Hickey Himstedt. Her father was the co-owner of Pfeifer-Himstedt Plumbing and Heating Company. Himstedt was educated in Little Rock’s public schools and graduated from Little Rock High School in 1915. She attended Trinity College in Washington DC, where she received BA degrees in English and chemistry. She later received a master’s degree in social work from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Himstedt worked as a medical social worker at St. …

Lewis, David Levering

David Levering Lewis is a Pulitzer Prize–winning American historian best known for his works on the African-American experience in the twentieth century. He has written biographies of two of the most important figures in the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. and W. E. B. Du Bois, as well as a reader on the Harlem Renaissance. In 1999, Lewis was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” David Lewis was born on May 25, 1936, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the son of John H. Lewis, an educator and principal of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, and Urnestine (Bell) Lewis, who taught high school math. Lewis attended parochial school in Little Rock and then continued his education in Ohio and …

Lewis, Henry Jackson

Henry Jackson Lewis, who was born into slavery, has been called the first black political cartoonist. His drawings appeared in publications across the nation. H. J. Lewis was born in Water Valley, Mississippi, in 1837 or 1838. As a child, he fell into a fire, maiming his left hand and blinding his left eye. Nothing further is known about his youth, but by 1872, he was living in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where he worked as a laborer in the mid- to late 1870s. By 1879, he was selling drawings of city and Arkansas River scenes to the national publication Harper’s Weekly, and he later sold similar drawings to Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. On October 25, 1882, a Pine Bluff …

Lewis, Kristin Allison

Opera singer Kristin Lewis of Little Rock (Pulaski County) is recognized for her richly hued voice capable of subtle emotional inflection. Based in Vienna, Austria, since 2005, Lewis has established herself in the opera houses of Europe as a lirico-spinto soprano specializing in Verdi’s heroines. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2019. Kristin Lewis was born in Little Rock in 1975 to the Reverend Bettye Lewis and Dr. Raphael Lewis. Lewis credits her mother as one of her earliest musical influences, as Rev. Lewis played organ for church and encouraged Kristin in her musical pursuits. After graduating from high school, Lewis followed her older sister, Tamara Lewis, to the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway (Faulkner …

Lewis, Mary Sybil Kidd

Mary Sybil Kidd Lewis was possibly the most publicized singer of the 1920s. Using her childhood training, she climbed her way to grand opera, gaining stage experience through vaudeville and operetta. Her career included radio performances and recordings with His Master’s Voice (HMV), Victor, and RCA. Mary Kidd was born on January 29, 1897, in Hot Springs (Garland County) to Charles and Hattie Kidd. Her father died about the time her brother was born two years later. Her impoverished mother moved with the children to Dallas, Texas. After the children lived in a series of foster homes, her brother was sent to Chicago, Illinois, to live with relatives. Her mother remarried but was unable to care for her children, and …