Entry Type: Person - Starting with R

Ricks, Earl Thornton

Major General Earl Thornton Ricks served as chief of the Air Force Division, National Guard Bureau, in Washington DC and as mayor of Hot Springs (Garland County), helping end Leo McLaughlin’s political domination there. The Ricks National Guard Armory in Little Rock (Pulaski County) was named for him to commemorate his career, which spanned the most significant years of early aviation history. Earl Ricks was born on July 9, 1908, in West Point, Mississippi, the only child of Nancy Jordan and Earl Paul Ricks, an ice plant owner/manager. The family moved to Stamps (Lafayette County) in about 1916. After high school graduation at Stamps, Ricks followed his lifelong interest in flying at Parks Air College in St. Louis, Missouri. After …

Riddle, Almeda James

Discovered by a ballad collector in the 1950s, Almeda James Riddle of Greers Ferry (Cleburne County) became a prominent figure in America’s folk music revival. Her memory of ballads, hymns, and children’s songs was one of the largest single repertories documented by folksong scholars. After two decades of concerts and recordings, she received the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts for her contributions to the preservation of Ozark folksong traditions. Almeda James was born on November 21, 1898, in the community of West Pangburn (Cleburne County). She was the fifth of eight children of J. L. James, a timber worker, and Martha Frances Wilkerson. In 1916, she married H. Pryce Riddle and started family life near Heber …

Rideout, Conrad Alfred

Conrad Alfred Rideout was an African-American man whose travels and controversial activities stretched from Florida and Arkansas to Seattle, Washington, to Africa and then back to the United States. His identity seemed to balance perilously on the border between activist and con man. With Rideout having left behind a trail of unverifiable claims and a legacy of unfulfilled hopes, the effort to chronicle his life becomes a lesson in separating fact from fiction. Little is known about Rideout’s early years. According to one source, he was born in Ohio, and he apparently stayed in the Midwest through college, as he is alternately reported to be a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor or the non-existent University of …

Ridge, John Rollin

John Rollin Ridge was a Cherokee/Puritan novelist, poet, essayist, and newspaper editor who is recognized as the first Native American novelist for his 1854 work The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Muríeta: The Celebrated California Bandit. John Rollin Ridge was born on March 19, 1827, in New Echota, Georgia. He was the grandson of Cherokee Chief Major Ridge and son of John Ridge, both wealthy slaveholding landowners and prominent tribal leaders in New Echota. His mother, Sarah Bird Northrup Ridge, descended from Puritans who landed in Boston in 1637. He often used the pen name Yellow Bird, an English translation of his Cherokee name Cheesquatalawny. Major Ridge, John Ridge, and John Rollin Ridge’s cousins Elias Boudinot and Stand Watie signed …

Ridge, Sarah Bird Northrup

Sarah Northrup Ridge, who married Cherokee leader John Ridge, was part of the forced removal of the Cherokee, culminating in the notorious Trail of Tears. Settling in Fayetteville (Washington County) after the murder of her husband, she was instrumental in establishing the town’s reputation as an educational center. Sarah Bird Northrup was born on December 7, 1804, in Cornwall, Connecticut, to Lydia Camp Northrup and John Prout Northrup, steward of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions School in Cornwall, which accepted Cherokee students. The Cherokee, primarily from Georgia, were assimilating in many cases into the white population. By the early 1800s, the Cherokee adopted Christianity, were residing in the same kinds of homes as the whites, raised the …

Riedel, Teddy DeLano

aka: Teddy Redell
Teddy DeLano Riedel was a professional musician and songwriter. He toured widely throughout the nation and world, and his songs were recorded by artists such as Elvis Presley and country music star Sonny James. Teddy Riedel was born on June 7, 1937, in Quitman (Cleburne and Faulkner counties) to Ted Wilson Riedel and Mabel Quinn Riedel. His parents were farmers, primarily growing strawberries, which were a major crop in the region. Riedel graduated from Rose Bud High School in Rose Bud (White County). While in high school, Riedel played piano on KWCB radio in Searcy (White County) and became a member of radio show host Lloyd Sutherland’s band. He was befriended by the harmonica virtuoso Wayne Raney, who recruited the …

Riggs, John Andrew

John Andrew Riggs was a pioneer, politician, early aviator, patent medicine business proprietor, and father of women’s suffrage in Arkansas. Riggs’s Act 186 of 1917 allowed women to vote in the Democratic primary in Arkansas. This enfranchisement of women paved the way for Arkansas’s ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. John Riggs was born on November 5, 1867, in Shelby County, Illinois, the eldest of six children of Elbridge Marion Riggs and Sarah Ann Hubbartt. His parents were farmers and merchants. In 1877, the extended Riggs family moved to Sumner County, Kansas, the Southern border of which was Indian Territory. In 1889, Riggs was one of over 50,000 pioneers in a line stretching for 100 miles along …

Riley, Billy Lee

Billy Lee Riley was a rockabilly musician whose career began in the Arkansas Delta and peaked in the 1950s after he signed a record deal with Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. He recorded many songs during his life, alternating between the rockabilly style that made him famous and the blues music that he loved. Billy Lee Riley was born in Pocahontas (Randolph County) on October 5, 1933, to Amos and Mae Riley; he was one of nine children. Although his father was a house painter by trade, the economic disparities of the time led the family into sharecropping. As a result, the Riley family moved frequently to different towns in Arkansas, at times living in intense poverty. Through this lifestyle, …

Riley, Bob Cowley

Bob Cowley Riley was a politician and educator who overcame debilitating World War II injuries to serve with distinction in both arenas. His career in state and local politics spanned four decades and culminated in two terms as lieutenant governor (1971–1975) and eleven days as governor (1975). He taught social sciences at Little Rock University (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock) and Ouachita Baptist University (OBU). On the political stump and in the classroom, Riley was a legendary raconteur. A black patch covering his blinded left eye was his trademark. Bob Riley was born on September 18, 1924, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the son of Columbus Allen and Winnie (Craig) Riley. He attended Pulaski County Rural School …

Riley, Emma Camille

Emma C. Riley was an educator, public servant, and philanthropist who left her mark on Arkansas state government—and on what is now Ouachita Baptist University, as one of the institution’s major benefactors of her time. Emma Camille Riley was born on February 26, 1879, in Water Valley, Mississippi. She was the youngest child of William H. Riley, who was a farmer, and Arminda Caroline Sumner Riley. When Riley was about three, her parents relocated to Arkansas, near Emmet (Nevada and Hempstead Counties). Riley graduated from public school in Hempstead County and pursued a college education from both Ouachita Baptist and Central College for Women, working as a teacher around Arkansas in summers and during alternate school years to pay tuition. …

Riley, Sallie Irene Robinson-Stanfield

The earliest recorded Arkansas woman to use a hyphenated name after her marriage, Sallie Irene Robinson-Stanfield Riley, owned and edited the Cleveland County Herald in Rison (Cleveland County) during the 1890s and again early in the twentieth century. She exemplified the progressive spirit among Arkansas women. Sallie Irene Robinson was born in Tennessee on January 5, 1873, to William B. Robinson and Laura Pettey Robinson. One of her mother’s sisters, Adah Lee Pettey, married newspaperman Leon Roussan of the Osceola Times. Robinson lived with her aunt and received her early training in that office. In 1892 or 1893, she moved to Rison, where she set type for George H. Tisdale at the Cleveland County Herald and shortly thereafter purchased the …

Ringo, Daniel

Daniel Ringo was the first chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court and helped to develop the foundation for the state’s legal system. Daniel Ringo was born on October 27, 1803, in Cross Plains, Kentucky, but little else is known about his life prior to his arrival in Arkansas. Ringo came to Arkansas in 1820, settling first in Batesville (Independence County) and then moving on to Clark County, where he served as a deputy clerk of the district court. He was elected clerk in 1825 and served most of three terms. He studied the law throughout this time and was admitted to the bar in 1830, at which time he moved to Hempstead County, where he established a partnership with …

Risley, Eleanor de la Vergne Doss

When the Arkansas State Library sponsored an event for supporters in 1939, librarian Vera Snook wrote Eleanor Risley, hoping to entice her to attend. Other honored guests were John Gould Fletcher, Charles J. Finger, and Charles Morrow Wilson. Risley’s inclusion on the list is an indication of the importance attached to her reputation as a nationally recognized Arkansas writer. Risley’s two novels, The Road to Wildcat: A Tale of Southern Mountaineering (1930) and An Abandoned Orchard (1932), had been published by Little, Brown and Company and were critically well received. Between 1928 and 1931, The Atlantic Monthly magazine published a series of Risley short stories about rural southern mountain life. The May 1931 Atlantic Monthly piece “Drought,” which was set …

Risner, James Robinson

James Robinson (Robbie) Risner, a native of Mammoth Spring (Fulton County), was a much-decorated fighter pilot famed for his resistance to his North Vietnamese captors as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Robbie Risner was born on January 16, 1925, in Mammoth Spring, the son of sharecroppers Grover W. Risner and Lora Grace Robinson Risner. He was the fifth of seven children. Risner apparently did not live in Arkansas for long, with census records showing the family living in Oak Grove, Missouri, in 1930, and in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by 1940. Risner joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 at age eighteen and served in Panama during World War II, seeing no action, although he trained as a …

Rivers, Diana

Diana Rivers is an author, artist, and promoter of women’s communities and art venues. Rivers has published numerous short stories and eight novels in the genre of speculative fiction, seven of which compose the Hadra series. Rivers lives in Madison County. Diana Rivers was born Diana Duer Smith on October 17, 1931, in New York City and grew up in suburban New Jersey near Morristown. Her parents, Schuyler Smith and Elizabeth Larocque, separated before she was three years old. Her mother wrote poems and stories, publishing a book of verse, Satan’s Shadow, in 1930. Rivers’s great-aunt Caroline King Duer was a poet and an editor for Vogue magazine, and her other great-aunt, Alice Duer Miller, wrote poems, stories, novels, plays, …

Rivers, Sam

Sam Rivers—a multi-instrumentalist, band leader, and composer who was on the cutting edge of jazz for sixty years—spent three formative years in Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he learned, at St. Bartholomew’s Catholic School, how to play the tenor saxophone, the instrument with which he is most closely identified. Samuel Carthorne Rivers Jr. was born on September 25, 1923, in El Reno, Oklahoma. His father, Sam Rivers Sr., was a singer with both the famed Fisk Jubilee Singers (consisting of students at Fisk University, a historically Black university in Nashville, Tennessee) and the Chicago-based Silvertone Quartet. Rivers’s mother, Lillian Taylor Rivers, was the accompanist for the quartet, which was on tour in Oklahoma when Sam Jr. was born. Both of …

Riviere, Paul

Paul Riviere served as Arkansas Secretary of State from 1979 until 1985 and was a candidate for Arkansas’s Second Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1984. Unsuccessful in that bid, he moved to Brentwood, Tennessee, in 1986, where he established himself as a respected and successful real estate professional in the central Tennessee area. Paul Riviere was born on July 17, 1947, in Monticello (Drew County) to Frank Riviere and Maybell Barnett Riviere. Raised in Monticello, he developed an interest in politics while campaigning with his father, who sought the position of Drew County tax assessor. While a student at Monticello High School, Riviere was elected student body president and selected to be a delegate to …

Roaf, Andree Yvonne Layton

Andree Yvonne Layton Roaf was an Arkansas attorney and jurist. A 1996 inductee to the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, Roaf distinguished herself in the fields of biology, law, and community service. Andree Layton was born on March 31, 1941, in Nashville, Tennessee. The daughter of William W. Layton, a government official, and Phoebe A. Layton, an educator, she grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and in White Hall and Muskegon Heights, Michigan. She had two sisters. She graduated from high school in Muskegon in 1958. Originally intending to pursue a career in the biological sciences, she attended Michigan State University and received a BS in zoology in 1962. While an undergraduate, she met, and subsequently married in July 1963, another …

Roaf, William (Willie)

Willie Roaf became one of the greatest football players in Arkansas sports history and one of the best offensive linemen ever in the National Football League (NFL). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. William Roaf was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on April 18, 1970, one of four children of dentist Clifton Roaf and attorney Andree Layton Roaf. (Andree Roaf was the first African-American female member of the Arkansas Supreme Court and the second woman ever to serve in that capacity.) Though he played football at Pine Bluff High School, graduating in 1988, he was not recruited by any major colleges. After he was told that he would need to gain more weight …

Roane, John Selden

John Selden Roane was a lawyer, planter, soldier, and governor of Arkansas. He is best known for his service in the Mexican War and his efforts to deal with the state’s financial crisis following the failure of its banking system. John Roane, the son of storekeeper and slaveholder Hugh Roane and Hannah (Calhoun) Roane, was born in Lebanon, Tennessee, on January 8, 1817. He was part of a prominent political family, and his uncle Archibald Roane served as governor of Tennessee from 1801 to 1803. John Roane was educated in a Tennessee common school and later attended Cumberland College in Princeton, Kentucky. Roane moved to Arkansas in 1837 and settled in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where he studied law under his …

Robbins, Bob

aka: Robert Spears
Bob Robbins became a fixture of Arkansas radio in 1967, when he began working for KAAY in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1979, Robbins moved to KSSN 96 FM, Arkansas’s top country station. Robbins stayed with KSSN until the end of 2013. After that, he was heard on classic country station 105.1 “The Wolf.” In 1996, Robbins was named Broadcast Personality of the Year by the Country Music Association. In 2008, he was inducted into the Country Radio Broadcasters’ DJ Hall of Fame. Bob Robbins was born Robert Spears in Auburndale, Florida, on May 16, 1944. His father died from cancer when Spears was one month old. Spears, his siblings, and their mother were living on a farm in Ashford, …