Entry Type: Person - Starting with N

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, Ira Hudson (1901–1990)

Ira Hudson Nunn was a U.S. Navy officer who was much decorated for his World War II actions, later serving as the Navy’s Judge Advocate General. Ira Hudson Nunn was born in Camden (Ouachita County) on March 16, 1901, to merchant James B. Nunn and Henrietta Hudson Nunn; he was a descendant of some of the earliest white settlers of the area. Nunn entered the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1920 after attending the Marion Military Institute at Marion, Alabama. He graduated from the academy on June 4, 1924, with the rank of ensign. Nunn married Esther Wagner of Washington DC. They had one daughter. Nunn served in the U.S. Navy’s Ordnance Bureau in Washington DC immediately after …

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 …