Entries - Entry Type: Person

Williams, Lucinda

Lucinda Williams is one of America’s most critically acclaimed songwriters and recording artists, as well as the daughter of poet Miller Williams. She has won three Grammy Awards and is considered a leading light of the so-called “alt-country” movement. Her songs, with their simple chord structures and gorgeous melodies, incorporate elements of rural blues, traditional country, and rock and roll. They are distinguished by evocative, plain-spoken lyrics that investigate the human mystery. In 2002, Time magazine called her “America’s best songwriter.” Lucinda Williams was born on January 26, 1953, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Her mother was Miller Williams’s first wife, Lucille Day. With her professor father moving from job to job, Williams grew up in southern towns such as Vicksburg, …

Williams, Miller

aka: Stanley Miller Williams
Stanley Miller Williams, known professionally as Miller Williams, was one of the foremost American poets of the post–World War II era. For thirty-three years, he was a professor of English, foreign languages, and comparative literature at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and was a key figure in the university’s nationally known programs in creative writing and translation. He was the author, editor, or translator of over thirty volumes of poetry, literary criticism, and fiction. Miller Williams was born on April 8, 1930, in Hoxie (Lawrence County) to Ernest Burdette and Ann Jeanette Miller Williams. In his early years, he lived in five Arkansas towns, where his father served as a Methodist minister. After graduating from high …

Williams, Robert Lee, II

Robert Lee Williams II was a leading figure in American psychology known for his work in the education of African-American children and in studying the cultural biases present in standard testing measures, especially IQ tests. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2011. Robert Lee Williams was born on February 20, 1930, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). His father, Robert L. Williams, worked as a millwright and died in 1935; his mother cleaned houses. He had one sister. He graduated from Dunbar High School at age sixteen and attended Dunbar Junior College for a year before dropping out, discouraged by his low score on an IQ test. He married Ava L. Kemp in 1948. They had …

Williams, Samuel Woodrow

Samuel Woodrow Williams was an African-American Baptist minister, college professor, and civil rights activist who had a major impact on race relations in the city of Atlanta, Georgia, from the mid-to-late 1950s until his sudden death in October 1970. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2009. Samuel Woodrow Williams was born on February 20, 1912, in Sparkman (Dallas County), the oldest of the eight children of Arthur Williams and Annie Willie Butler Williams. As a child, he enjoyed hunting, fishing, and playing baseball and basketball, but nothing gave him as much pleasure as reading; over his lifetime, he amassed a collection of more than 1,000 volumes. Lessons about racism came early for Williams. Before he …

Williams, Sidney Banks, Jr.

Sidney B. Williams Jr. was a pioneering African-American athlete as well as an accomplished businessman and attorney. The first black man to quarterback a Big Ten team when he was at the University of Wisconsin, he later combined his training in chemical engineering with a law degree to become a leading patent attorney. Sidney Banks Williams Jr. was born on December 31, 1935, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Sidney B. Williams Sr. and Eloise Gay Williams. He grew up in Little Rock as the only child in a single-parent household, being raised by his mother. Williams graduated from Dunbar High School in 1954. At Dunbar, he was president of the senior class and also starred in football, basketball, and …

Williams, Sterling B.

Dr. Sterling Williams was a groundbreaking leader in the field of obstetrics and gynecology (OB-GYN) who served in several important roles in national organizations dedicated to medicine and medical education. In addition, he was a gifted vocalist who performed with numerous choral groups. Sterling B. Williams was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on April 3, 1941. He grew up in Little Rock and graduated from Horace Mann High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, followed by a master’s degree in physiology from Northern Illinois University in 1966 and an MD from what is now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in 1973. He also completed work toward his …

Williams, Sue Cowan

Sue Cowan Williams represented African-American teachers in the Little Rock School District as the plaintiff in the case challenging the rate of salaries allotted to teachers in the district based solely on skin color. The tenth library in the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) is named after her. Born in Eudora (Chicot County) to J. Alex Cowan and Leila Roberts Cowan on May 29, 1910, Sue Cowan began life in a small town in Arkansas. Her mother died soon after her birth. Raised until age four by her maternal grandmother in Texas, Cowan returned to Arkansas to live with her father. From fifth grade until high school, she attended Spelman, a religious boarding school in Atlanta, Georgia. She undertook undergraduate …

Williams, Virginia Anne Rice

Biochemist Virginia Anne Rice Williams helped develop more nutritious grains through her pioneering studies of rice, a major Arkansas crop. She conducted important research on the B-vitamin content of rice, on ways to keep rice from turning rancid in storage, and on the vitamin fortification of rice. Virginia Rice was born in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Roderic J. Rice, a banker, and Mattie Thurman. Her high school teachers urged her to pursue music as a career, as she was a gifted musician. Fearing that she would not succeed as a concert musician, however, she opted for science, a field in which she also excelled. In 1940, Rice graduated from Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County) with a BA …

Williamson, “Sonny Boy”

aka: Aleck Miller
Sonny Boy Williamson first became famous as a blues harmonica player in 1941 on the groundbreaking King Biscuit Time radio program (often credited as the first regularly scheduled blues radio show) broadcast by station KFFA in Helena (Phillips County). Williamson’s fame spread, particularly through Europe, in the 1960s and has continued to grow since his death. The annual King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena-West Helena still features his music. Williamson went to great lengths to mislead would-be biographers, and facts about his life are difficult to verify. His real name was Aleck Miller; he was apparently sometimes called Rice, and he was most likely born in 1912 in Glendora, Mississippi, to Millie Ford. He took his stepfather Jim Miller’s surname. As a very young child, …

Williamson, Corliss Mondari

Corliss Mondari Williamson is a retired National Basketball Association (NBA) player from Russellville (Pope County). During his basketball career, Williamson played for the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and helped the Razorbacks win the 1994 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) National Basketball Championship. Corliss Williamson was born on December 4, 1973, in Russellville, one of two sons of Jerry and Bettye Williamson. During his career at Russellville High School, Williamson earned all-conference and all-state honors three times. During both the 1990–91 and the 1991–92 seasons, Williamson was awarded the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award. During his senior year, he averaged twenty-eight points and nine rebounds per game. He also holds the record for most points …

Wilshire, William Wallace

William Wallace Wilshire was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Third District of Arkansas in the Forty-Third and Forty-Fourth Congresses, serving from 1873 to 1874 and from 1875 to 1877. W. W. Wilshire was born on September 8, 1830, in Shawneetown, Illinois, to William Wilshire and Mary Akers Wilcher (the spelling of the name seems to have varied over the generations). He was educated in the local schools before heading to California in 1852 to prospect for gold. He returned to Illinois in 1855, pursing coal mining and mercantile endeavors in Port Byron while also studying law. His was admitted to the state bar in 1859, but his legal career was interrupted by the …

Wilson, Billy Roy

Scott County native Billy Roy Wilson is a raconteur, a mule and guinea fowl farmer, and a longtime civil and criminal defense attorney. In 1993, he began serving as U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas. In 2008, he chose to go on senior status designation, maintaining a ninety percent case load. Born to Roy Wilson and Vada Bowen Wilson in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 18, 1939, he was named Billy Roy Wilson. The doctor, who was a family friend, erroneously listed the name William R. Wilson Jr. on his birth certificate. The error was not discovered until some years later. After Wilson’s birth, the family returned home to Forester (Scott County), an isolated and company-owned …

Wilson, Charles Banks

Charles Banks Wilson was a world-renowned lithographer, painter, teacher, historian, and book illustrator whose art has been exhibited throughout the United States and the world. He is best known for his drawings and paintings of Native American life as well as for his vivid representations of the people, events, and landscapes of the Ozark Mountains, his primary artistic inspiration. Charles Banks Wilson was born on August 6, 1918, in Springdale (Washington County). His father, Charles Bertram Wilson, was serving in France during World War I when Wilson was born. His mother, Bertha Juanita Banks Wilson, was a public school teacher. Both parents had lived in Springdale but did not meet until each had moved eighty-five miles westward in the Ozark …

Wilson, Charles Kemmons

Charles Kemmons Wilson was a businessman who founded the Holiday Inn hotel chain. Called the “Father of the Modern Hotel,” he revolutionized the travel industry by providing affordable, comfortable, dependable lodging. Kemmons Wilson was born on January 5, 1913, in Osceola (Mississippi County) to Kemmons Wilson, who sold insurance, and Ruby “Doll” Wilson, a homemaker. He was their only child. His father died when Wilson was nine months old, and his mother took the baby to her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, where she found work as a dental assistant. Wilson’s business career began when he was six and sold subscriptions to The Saturday Evening Post. When he was fourteen, he was hit by a car while making deliveries on his …

Wilson, Charles Morrow

A native of Fayetteville (Washington County), Charles Morrow Wilson was a nationally known freelance author. While the majority of his many books and magazine articles were on international trade, agriculture, and medicine topics, a significant number were on Arkansas culture and politics. Charles Wilson was born in Fayetteville on June 16, 1905, to Joseph Dixon and Martha (Mattie) Maude Morrow Wilson. He was educated in Fayetteville Public Schools and graduated from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville in 1926. Wilson began writing when he was still a student, and author Charles J. Finger became his mentor. Wilson was included in the group of writers, artists, and scientists who frequently gathered at Finger’s home near Fayetteville, and he was associated …

Wilson, Donald Roller

Donald Roller Wilson is a nationally acclaimed artist whose paintings use distinctive and mysterious imagery. He lives in Fayetteville (Washington County). Roller Wilson was born on November 23, 1938, in Houston, Texas. At the age of six, he moved with his family to northern Nebraska when his father opened a company that made farm combines. In 1945, the family moved to Wichita, Kansas. The last of three children, he grew up essentially an only child because his brother and sister were much older. His first artistic experience was painting signs on beer trucks. After earning an MFA in painting and art history at Kansas State University in Wichita, he taught painting at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville from …

Wilson, George Nicholas (Nick)

Nick Wilson is a former Arkansas lawyer and political leader who served in the Arkansas Senate for almost thirty years, gaining a reputation as one of the most powerful people in the state. However, in 2000, arguably at the peak of his power, Wilson was identified as the ringleader of a wide-ranging corruption scheme. Convicted on multiple counts, he served just under six years in prison and was ordered to pay back over $1 million in restitution. George Nicholas (Nick) Wilson was born on March 12, 1942, in Monette (Craighead County). Wilson earned a BS from Arkansas State University, and he received a law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville (Washington County). He and his …

Wilson, Robert Edward Lee

Robert Edward Lee Wilson created a plantation empire out of the swamps of Mississippi County in the late nineteenth century, an empire that remains in place today. He was able to fashion his 65,000-acre plantation and lumbering operation by purchasing cut-over land considered worthless by less imaginative men and then draining and developing the swamps. His substantial holdings and creative financing allowed him to weather the economic catastrophe of the 1920s relatively unscathed. By the time the New Deal was implemented in 1933, Lee Wilson & Company was characterized as operating the largest cotton plantation in the South, and its founder enjoyed the kind of political and economic connections that made it possible for him to take best advantage of …

Wilson, Winston Peabody “Wimpy”

Winston P. Wilson was a major general in the U.S. Air Force. He also served as the chief of the National Guard Bureau. Winston Peabody “Wimpy” Wilson was born in Arkadelphia (Clark County) on November 11, 1911, to Winston Wilson and Eunice Cotton Wilson; he had a brother and a sister. The family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) during Winston’s childhood, and he attended Little Rock High School. He obtained the nickname “Wimpy,” as football coaches would yell “Win P. Wilson!” to get his attention. He enlisted in the Arkansas National Guard in 1929 and graduated from high school the same year. Wilson attended Hendrix College while also serving in the 154th Observation Squadron as a mechanic. Wilson graduated …

Winchester, James Ridout

James Ridout Winchester served as the sixth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas from 1912 until his retirement in 1931. His episcopate faced many fiscal difficulties brought about by the overzealous plans of his predecessor William Montgomery Brown and by economic challenges resulting from World War I and the Great Depression. James Ridout Winchester was born in Annapolis, Maryland, on March 15, 1852, to Jacob Winchester and Mary Ridout Winchester. He received a BA from the College of Washington and Lee in Lexington, Virginia, and graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. He earned four advanced degrees, including two Doctor of Divinity degrees. He married Elizabeth Atkinson Lee in Clarke, Virginia, on April 17, 1878. Francis McNeece Whittle, …

Winder, Ray

Ray Winder was a minor league baseball executive. After learning the ins and outs of the minor league baseball business through a decade of short-term stints with teams in the Southeast, Winder joined the Little Rock Travelers (now the Arkansas Travelers) for good in 1931. By the mid-1940s, he had become one of the team’s owners and was the driving force behind the team for the next twenty years. Ray Winder was born in Indian Springs, Indiana, on February 5, 1885. He moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) with his family in 1905 to run a livery stable. While the stable was the last in the city to close, it was still a dying business, and Winder was forced to …

Wingfield, James Gus

James Gus Wingfield is a former Arkansas legislator, state auditor, and state treasurer. He served as state auditor during the administrations of Governors Jim Guy Tucker and Mike Huckabee and served as state treasurer during Huckabee’s last term.  Gus Wingfield was born on September 17, 1926, in Antoine (Pike County) to grocery store clerk Clyde A. Wingfield and Margaret Wingfield. He began attending public schools in nearby Delight (Pike County), where his family eventually settled. After graduating from Delight High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in the latter part of World War II. After the war, like many other veterans at the time, he had some difficulties finding employment and reenlisted. During the Korean War, he served in the U.S. Air Force. After his honorable discharge, Wingfield briefly attended Southern Technical Institute in Dallas, Texas, before finishing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County).  He took a position at the …

Wingo, Effiegene Locke

In 1930, Effiegene Locke Wingo became the second of only four women from Arkansas to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she served from November 4, 1930, to March 3, 1933. Wingo introduced eighteen bills and served on three House committees during her congressional service. Effiegene Locke, daughter of George T. Locke and Callie Blanche Dooley Locke, was born in Lockesburg (Sevier County) on April 13, 1883. She attended Union Female College in Oxford, Mississippi, but it is unknown if she graduated from this institution. In 1902, she graduated from Maddox Seminary in Little Rock (Pulaski County) with a bachelor’s degree in music. On October 15, 1902, she married Otis Theodore Wingo, a lawyer and banker who …

Wingo, Otis Theodore

Otis Theodore Wingo was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Fourth District of Arkansas in the Sixty-third through the Seventy-first Congresses, serving from 1913 to 1930. Otis T. Wingo was born in Weakly County, Tennessee, on June 18, 1877, to Theodore Wingo and Jane Wingo. He received his early education in the local public schools before attending Bethel College in McKenzie, Tennessee; McFerrin College in Martin, Tennessee; and ultimately Valparaiso College in Indiana. Following college, Wingo taught school while he studied the law. He was admitted to the bar in 1900 and settled in De Queen (Sevier County), opening a legal practice there. On October 15, 1902, he married Effiegene Locke, and the couple …

Winkles, Bobby Brooks

Bobby Winkles’s career in baseball spanned over four decades. While he never played in the major leagues, he served an often pivotal role in the development of many who did. His influence was felt in the college ranks, where he turned Arizona State University (ASU) into a national powerhouse, as well as in all levels of the professional game, where he served as a coach, manager, front office executive, and broadcaster. Bobby Brooks Winkles was born on March 11, 1930, in Tuckerman (Jackson County) to Clifford Winkles and Devona Brooks Winkles. When he was nine years old, the family moved to Swifton (Jackson County), where he got his early education, graduating from Swifton High School before heading off to college. …

Winslow, Thyra Samter

Thyra Samter Winslow wrote more than 200 stories published between 1915 and 1955 in the heyday of American popular magazines. Her early life in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) provided background for her view of small towns as prejudiced, hypocritical, and suffocating places. She was a principal contributor to Smart Set, with stories in every issue from December 1914 to 1923. Some of her work was collected in books such as My Own, My Native Land (1935), People Round the Corner (1927), Picture Frames (1923, reprinted as Window Panes in 1945), and The Sex without Sentiment (1954). Published accounts of Winslow’s life are often contradictory. The authoritative work is a doctoral dissertation by Richard C. Winegard, who established Winslow’s biography from …

Wirges, Gene

Eugene Henry (Gene) Wirges was an Arkansas journalist noted for his crusade against the influence over Arkansas politics exerted in the early 1960s by Governor Orval Faubus and his political ally Sheriff Marlin Hawkins of Conway County. As a crusading editor and good-government advocate, Wirges, along with his wife, Betty, allied themselves with the forces of reform at serious personal risk. Principally as editor of the Morrilton Democrat, as well as other local papers, Wirges led a campaign for better government and honest elections, which resulted in lawsuits, criminal prosecution, physical altercations, and—allegedly—a contract on his life. His opponent and chief nemesis, Hawkins, vehemently denied being involved in such activities. Born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 5, 1927, …

Witherspoon, Jimmy “Spoon”

James John (Jimmy) Witherspoon, also known by the nickname “Spoon,” was a versatile singer who achieved commercial success and critical acclaim in the genres of blues, jazz, and rhythm and blues. His 1947 recording “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” was a hit in 1949 and became his signature song. Jimmy Witherspoon was born in Gurdon (Clark County) to Leonard Witherspoon, a Missouri Pacific Railroad brakeman, and Eva Tatum Witherspoon, a church pianist. The family was devoutly religious. His parents were members of the choir at their Baptist church. His date of birth is usually given as August 8, 1923, but some sources give the birth year as 1920, and more than one source gives the birth date as August 18, 1921, attributing …

Witt, James Lee

James Lee Witt served as the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under President Bill Clinton and is often credited with raising the agency’s level of professionalism and ability to respond to disasters. Since his departure from FEMA, he has worked as a consultant on emergency management issues across the nation and world. James Lee Witt was born in Paris (Logan County) on January 6, 1944. He grew up in Dardanelle (Yell County), attending Dardanelle public schools and playing football at Dardanelle High School, graduating in 1962. In 1961, he married Lea Ellen Hodges of Dardanelle; they have two sons. When Witt was twenty-four years old, he started Witt Construction Company. For the next ten years, while heading …

Witte, Albert Matthew Francis

Albert Witte was a longtime professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville (Washington County) and a one-time president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). He also was a central figure in the hiring of Bill Clinton, fresh out of law school, to teach at the university. Albert Matthew Francis Witte was born on October 25, 1923, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Albert M. Witte and Sara E. Witte. He spent most of his youth in Erie, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Erie East High School and in 1942 enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He flew thirty-five missions as a second lieutenant bombardier with the Fifteenth Air Force in Italy during World War II, earning the …

Wittenberg, Gordon Greenfield

Gordon Greenfield Wittenberg was a notable Arkansas architect who led one of the state’s premier architecture firms. During his career, he was honored for his architectural accomplishments and for his service to his profession. Also, he was a leader in business, civic, and social organizations in the community. Gordon Wittenberg, the second of three children of George Hyde Wittenberg and Minnie Greenfield Wittenberg, was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on August 12, 1921. After attending Little Rock public schools, he attended the School of Engineering at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) for one year and was president of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He then graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Illinois, …

Wolf, Jacob

Jacob Wolf was an Arkansas pioneer, territorial legislator, county official, militia officer, post master, and community leader. In 1825, he established the first permanent courthouse for Izard County, and it still stands as the oldest public structure in Arkansas. Jacob Wolf was born on May 12, 1786, in Rowan County, North Carolina, one of the eleven known children of Michael and Cathrina Wolf of Pennsylvania German descent. Shortly before 1800, the family moved to Hopkins County, Kentucky, where Wolf married his first wife, Mildred Meredith, on March 9, 1809. Before her death in about 1820, they are thought to have had five children. Shortly afterward, Wolf migrated to the Arkansas frontier to join members of his extended family, who had …

Wolf, John Quincy, Jr.

A college professor and self-trained folklorist, John Quincy Wolf Jr. left a lasting legacy in the mid-South folk music world through his intrepid collecting and field recording and his broad-ranging scholarship. Wolf was born in Batesville (Independence County) on May 14, 1901, the younger of the two children of John Quincy Wolf Sr. and Adele Crouch Wolf. Known as Quincy to distinguish him from his banker father, he spent the first twenty-one years of his life in Batesville, earning his bachelor’s degree from Arkansas College (now Lyon College) in 1922. One year later, Wolf received an MA in English at Vanderbilt University and returned to his alma mater to teach English and history for much of the next decade, with occasional …

Wolf, Judy Chaney Petty

Judy Chaney Petty Wolf, a political activist and Arkansas state legislator, was deeply involved in the Republican Party as it was developing into a viable electoral challenger of the long-dominant Democratic Party. She gained national attention in 1974 when she ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, offering the first real challenge that House Ways and Means Committee chairman Wilbur Mills had experienced in over two decades. Judy Chaney was born on September 4, 1943, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to John T. Chaney and Jostine Leming Chaney; she had one brother. She graduated with honors from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She married a pharmaceutical salesman in about 1963 and had a daughter. The …

Wolfe, Paul

Paul Wolfe was a lawyer and World War II veteran who later became the circuit judge for the Twelfth Judicial District of Arkansas (Scott and Sebastian counties) and was appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to organize and chair a committee to write what became the textbook for the new National Council of State Trial Judges under the administration of the American Bar Association. He also served as a member of the Arkansas Model Criminal Jury Instructions Committee. Paul Wolfe was born on January 5, 1908, in Weir, Kansas, to John Walter Wolfe and Myra Este Vasser Wolfe. His first name was Harry, but he preferred to use his middle name, Paul. The Wolfe family moved to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) …

Wood, Carroll D.

Carroll D. Wood was an important figure in Arkansas legal history. Although he served on the Arkansas Supreme Court for over thirty-five years, he is arguably best known for his unsuccessful candidacy for governor in 1904. Carroll D. Wood was born on July 8, 1858, in Ashley County; he was the son of Baptist minister John S. Wood and Martha Bussey Wood; Wood’s mother died when he was very young. The Reverend Wood remarried, and his second wife, Mary Kelsey Wood, provided the future jurist’s earliest education. Wood also attended local Hamburg (Ashley County) schools before pursuing a degree at what is now the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Following graduation in 1879, he read law with …

Wood, Forrest Lee

Forrest Lee Wood was known worldwide for his success in the sport fishing industry. In 1968, he founded Ranger Boats, which became the largest manufacturer of bass boats in the nation. Wood thus became known as an “outdoor legend” and the father of the modern bass boat. Forrest Wood was born in Flippin (Marion County) on June 9, 1932, to Ervin and Beulah Wood; he had one younger brother. His father served for a time as a game warden, and he and Wood worked on the construction of the Bull Shoals Dam. On April 21, 1951, Wood married Nina Kirkland; they had four daughters. The couple began raising cattle early in their marriage, but cattle prices dropped, and Wood found …

Wood, John Shirley

Drew County native Major General John S. Wood served for over thirty years in the United States military. He fought in both world wars and is considered by many military experts to have been one of the best divisional commanders of World War II. John Shirley Wood was born to Arkansas Supreme Court justice Carroll D. Wood and Reola Thompson Wood on January 11, 1888, in Monticello (Drew County). While attending the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), he was the quarterback and captain of the football team. He graduated in 1907 with a BS in chemistry. In 1908, he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, lettering in football, wrestling, and boxing. After his 1912 graduation, …

Wood, Wendy Scholtens

Wendy Scholtens Wood, who later became an attorney in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was one of the greatest women’s basketball players in Arkansas history. Earning All-American honors for her play at both Southside High School in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and Vanderbilt University, she also played professional basketball in Japan before pursuing a legal career. Wendy Scholtens was born on June 25, 1969, to John Dennis Scholtens and Carol Anne Scholtens in Geneva, Illinois, where her grandparents lived, but she grew up in Fort Smith, graduating from Southside High School in 1987. While the 6’4″ Scholtens also played volleyball and ran track, it was her basketball skill that truly set her apart. Over the course of her career, she led …

Woodruff, William Edward

William Edward Woodruff’s life spanned the years of Arkansas’s territorial days, statehood, Confederacy, and Reconstruction. Although best known today as the founder of the Arkansas Gazette, the state’s first newspaper, Woodruff became one of the state’s most important and colorful historical figures through his other business interests, political connections, and efforts to promote Arkansas. William Woodruff was born on December 24, 1795, on a small farm at Fire Place on Long Island, New York, the oldest of five sons born to Nathaniel Woodruff and Hannah Clarke Woodruff. His father died when Woodruff was twelve; two years later, his mother apprenticed him to Alden Spooner, a Sag Harbor, New York, printer who published the Suffolk Gazette. His original indenture document still …

Woodward, Comer Vann

Comer Vann Woodward was arguably the twentieth century’s foremost Southern historian. Although published in the 1950s, his Origins of the New South, 1877–1913 and The Strange Career of Jim Crow remain vital interpretive narratives. C. Vann Woodward was born November 13, 1908, to Hugh (Jack) and Emily (Bess) Woodward in Vanndale (Cross County). During Woodward’s youth, his father was a school administrator in Wynne (Cross County), then Arkadelphia (Clark County), and subsequently Morrilton (Conway County). Woodward graduated from high school in Morrilton in 1926 and enrolled at Henderson-Brown College, a small Methodist institution in Arkadelphia. After two years, he transferred to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, graduating in 1930 with an AB in philosophy. Inspired by his uncle and namesake, …

Wootton, Robert (Bob)

Robert (Bob) Wootton was a musician best known for having been Johnny Cash’s backing guitarist for thirty years. In addition to having played on most of Cash’s albums made after 1968, he released music with other members of Cash’s band, the Tennessee Three. He also worked as a driver for musical acts and as a stunt man. Bob Wootton was born on March 4, 1942, in Red Branch, which is a part of the town of Paris (Logan County). He was one of eight children of Rubin C. Wootton, who was a coal miner, and Noma Lucilla Moore Wootton. His father, who also played mandolin, taught him to play the guitar. Wootton’s first musical performances were in church. Among his …

Wordlaw, William

William Wordlaw (sometimes spelled Wardlow or Wordlow) was one of twelve men arrested and charged with murder following the events of the Elaine Massacre of 1919. After brief trials, the so-called Elaine Twelve—six who became known as the Moore defendants and six (including Wordlaw) who became known as the Ware defendants—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 freed in 1925. William Wordlaw was born to sharecroppers Edd and Georgia Wordlaw on August 19, 1897, in Pontotoc, Mississippi. William and his six siblings grew up helping their parents farm the land. According to his draft registration documents, he …

Worthen, William Booker (W. B.)

William Booker Worthen was a banker in Arkansas from 1874 until his death in 1911, and he also wrote a history of Arkansas banking. The bank he founded survived recessions and the Great Depression, becoming the largest bank holding company in the state, until being acquired by Boatmen’s Bank in 1994. It is now part of Bank of America. Born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on September 17, 1852, one of four children of George Alfonso Worthen and Louisa Booker Worthen, W. B. Worthen grew up in the turbulent times surrounding the Civil War. His father, a merchant with a variety of business interests, died as a civilian in 1864. After the Civil War, Worthen studied as a cadet at …

Wright, C. D.

aka: Carolyn Wright
Carolyn Wright was a poet whose work won acclaim for its experimental variety and rich colloquial sound. As a publisher and an exhibit curator, she was a long-term advocate of poets and poetry. Wright was a National Book Award finalist for her 2010 volume One With Others: [a little book of her days], which won the National Book Critics Circle Award that year. C. D. Wright was born on January 6, 1949, in Mountain Home (Baxter County) to Alyce E. Collins, a court reporter, and Ernie E. Wright, a judge for the chancery and probate court. She has one brother, Warren. Wright grew up in Boone County, graduated from Harrison High School, and received her BA in French from Memphis …

Wright, Richard Nathaniel

Richard Nathaniel Wright was a writer of fiction and nonfiction. His many works, influenced by the injustices he faced as an African American, protested racial divides in America. His most famous work, the autobiographical Black Boy, was a controversial bestseller that opened the eyes of the nation to the evils of racism. Richard Wright was born on September 4, 1908, on a farm in Roxie, Mississippi, the son of Nathan Wright, a sharecropper, and Ella Wright, a teacher. He had one younger brother, Leon. The family’s poverty forced them to move around the South during Wright’s childhood. In Memphis, Tennessee, his father left the family, and in 1915, his mother put Wright and his brother in a Memphis orphanage after …

Wright, Susan Webber

aka: Susan Webber Carter
As a U.S. district judge, Susan Webber Wright received international attention during the sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Paula Jones against U.S. president Bill Clinton. Wright later made global headlines in a landmark decision when she found Clinton, as president of the United States, to be in civil contempt of court. Susan Webber was born in Texarkana (Miller County) on September 6, 1948, to Betty Webber and attorney Thomas E. Webber III; she had one younger sister. When Webber was sixteen years old, her father died, and her mother went to work at a bank to provide for the family. Webber won a scholarship to Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia, from which she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in …

Wroten, Joyce

Joyce Wroten was an influential figure in Arkansas higher education. After working in state government, including a stint on the staff of Governor Bill Clinton, Wroten moved to the University of Arkansas System, where she served as the chief lobbyist for three different UA System presidents. She also played a critical role in the development of legislation that put Arkansas’s share of the 1998 tobacco settlement into the state’s healthcare system. Joyce Ann Ussery was born on April 26, 1940, in Perry County to Robert and Vida Ussery. She grew up and attended school in Perryville (Perry County). Ussery married her childhood sweetheart, Jimmy Wroten, when she was sixteen; they had a daughter and a son. Settling in Little Rock …

Yancey, John Howard

John Howard Yancey was one of Arkansas’s most colorful war heroes. His actions in the South Pacific in World War II and the Korean War garnered him two Navy Crosses, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. He was a champion of civil rights in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Arkansas. John Yancey was born on April 27, 1918, in Plumerville (Conway County) to Mary and John Benjamin Yancey, who owned a gas station; his younger brother, John Benjamin Yancey Jr., became a Little Rock (Pulaski County) police officer. He attended what is now Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) but left college in 1942 to join the Marine Corps as World War II was beginning. After basic …

Yarbrough, Anna Nash

Anna Idelle Nash Yarbrough was a prolific author and internationally recognized poet from El Dorado (Union County). She wrote for many publications, including the Arkansas Democrat, the Arkansas Gazette, and the Benton Courier, from the early 1930s until her death in 1993. She wrote one book of poetry, Flower of the Field (1962), and three books on the mechanics of poetry: Building with Blocks: How to Write Poetry with the Easy Block System (1965), Poetry Patterns (1968), and Syllabic Poetry Patterns (1978). She also co-authored a book of poetry, Laurel Branches (1969). Anna Idelle Nash was born on January 19, 1897, in El Dorado to Jessie Lee Cook Nash and Lelus Mecanlus Nash. Her paternal grandparents were also literary figures, …