Entry Type: Person

Armstrong III, Ralph Waldo

Ralph Waldo Armstrong III photographed the African-American community of Little Rock (Pulaski County) for more than fifty years. Between 1951 and 2006, a period of dramatic social change, he accumulated an invaluable archive of thousands of photographs of Little Rock’s black citizenry, houses, churches, schools, and professional and civic organizations. Ralph Armstrong was born on February 23, 1925, in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Ralph W. Armstrong II and Callie Armstrong; he had one older half-brother and two younger sisters. His father worked in a Little Rock furniture factory, and his mother took in washing to help the family meet expenses during the Great Depression. Later, she, too, worked in the factory. Armstrong developed an early love for classical music …

Armstrong, David Love

David L. Armstrong was born in Arkansas but had a long and distinguished career in Kentucky law and politics, serving as the commonwealth’s attorney general, mayor of Louisville, and chairman of the Kentucky Public Service Commission. A nationally known prosecuting attorney, he also was part of a delegation of prosecutors that visited the Soviet Union and served as a delegate to a United Nations mission in Austria. David Love Armstrong was born on August 6, 1941, in Hope (Hempstead County), where his maternal grandfather, Thompson Evans, was the railroad express manager and an alderman. The son of Elizabeth Evans Armstrong and Lyman Guy Armstrong, he grew up in Madison, Indiana, where he graduated from Madison High School. He attended Hanover …

Arnold, Bob “Sody”

Bob “Sody” Arnold was a longtime Arkansas state legislator, representing Clark County in the Arkansas General Assembly for almost two decades, a longer tenure than any other Clark County representative. Robert Clark (Bob or “Sody”) Arnold was born on October 6, 1943, in Camden (Ouachita County) to R. Myron Arnold and Glena Deaton Arnold. Arnold grew up in Arkadelphia (Clark County), where he was active in sports, especially in baseball and football. A lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, he took special pride in having been a member of the 1956 Arkansas State Champion Little League baseball team. He was also active in the Boy Scouts, earning the Eagle Scout rank. Nicknamed “Sody Pop” or “Sody” because of his family’s long …

Arnold, Mary Ann Ritter

Mary Ann Ritter Arnold became president of E. Ritter & Company, one of the most successful family-owned businesses in the state, in 1976. The company, established in the early twentieth century by Arnold’s great-grandfather Ernest Herman Ritter Jr. and based in Marked Tree (Poinsett County), distributes agricultural supplies and telecommunication services throughout northeast Arkansas and north-central Arkansas; it also includes farming and cotton-ginning operations. Arnold became the first female mayor of Marked Tree, was inducted into the Arkansas Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1998, and was an inaugural inductee into the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame in 2015. The only daughter of Louis V. Ritter Sr. and Betty Hart Ritter, Mary Ann Ritter was born on April 25, 1927, in …

Arnold, Morris Sheppard “Buzz”

Morris Sheppard “Buzz” Arnold is a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The U.S. Eighth Circuit comprises seven states: Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. From 1992 to 2004, Arnold and his older brother, Richard Sheppard Arnold, had the distinction of being the only brothers in U.S. history to serve simultaneously on the same federal court of appeals. Morris Arnold, known informally as Buzz, was born on October 8, 1941, in Texarkana, Texas, to Richard Lewis Arnold and Janet Sheppard Arnold. His father was a lawyer, as was his grandfather, William Hendrick Arnold, who founded the Arnold and Arnold law firm in 1883 in Texarkana (Miller County). Arnold received a …

Arnold, Richard Sheppard

Richard Sheppard Arnold served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (which includes Arkansas) for twenty-four years, including seven years as the court’s chief judge. Widely considered a top candidate for nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Arnold narrowly missed appointments in 1993 and 1994. President Bill Clinton attributed his selection of other candidates to concerns about Arnold’s health. Richard Arnold was born in Texarkana, Texas, on March 26, 1936, to Richard Lewis Arnold and Janet Sheppard Arnold. The family had long been prominent in legal and political circles. Arnold’s paternal grandfather, William Hendrick Arnold, founded Arnold and Arnold, the leading law firm of southern Arkansas. His maternal grandfather was Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas. Arnold was …

Arnold, William Howard “Dub”

William Howard “Dub” Arnold is a former prosecutor, municipal judge, and chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Dub Arnold was born on May 19, 1935, in Arkadelphia (Clark County) to Howard Arnold, who was a farmer and store owner, and Melvia Taylor Arnold. The Arnolds also had two daughters, both of whom died as children. Arnold grew up in Clark County and attended school in rural Clark County and Gurdon (Clark County) before graduating from Arkadelphia High School in 1954. He had been elected student body president. The family had moved to Arkadelphia when Howard Arnold was elected as Clark County sheriff. The Arnold family lived in an apartment under the jail during his high school years. Arnold attended …

Ashley, Chester

Chester Ashley was prominent in territorial and antebellum Arkansas. He was involved in the dispute over ownership of the site of Little Rock (Pulaski County), the Bowie land claims, and the ill-fated State and Real Estate Banks, as well as being the pre-eminent appellate attorney of the period. He was a member of the powerful Conway-Sevier-Johnson political faction, which controlled state politics until the Civil War. In addition, he was the third Arkansan elected to the U.S. Senate and was probably the wealthiest Arkansan for much of his life because of his land holdings. Chester Ashley was born on June 1, 1791, in Amherst, Massachusetts, to William Ashley and Nancy Pomeroy. Some sources list his birth year as 1790, but …

Ashley, Eliza Jane

Eliza Jane Burnett Dodson Ashley spent more than thirty years as the cook in the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, serving from the administration of Francis Cherry to Bill Clinton. Her 1985 book Thirty Years at the Mansion garnered her national attention. Eliza Jane Burnett was born in Pettus Township in Lonoke County on the Oldham Plantation on October 11, 1917. She was the daughter of William Burnett and Eliza Johnson Burnett. Eliza, who carried the same name as her mother, was often referred to as Liza or Janie. Although she had spent some time in Little Rock (Pulaski County) with her mother as a teenager, she was working on the Oldham Plantation when she married Calvin Dodson in 1933. Louis Calvin …

Ashley, Hubert Carl (Hugh)

Hubert Carl (Hugh) Ashley lived a life revolving around country and western music and public service. He wrote and recorded some of the earliest known recordings of Ozark folk music, was one of radio’s original “Beverly Hill Billies,” and wrote songs for five members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Hugh Ashley was born on September 27, 1915, near Wiley’s Cove (Searcy County). He was the first of four boys born to Hobart Ashley and Lillie Holsted Ashley. Music was a part of Ashley’s life from an early age. At seven, he rode a mule five miles from Sulphur Springs (Searcy County) to Leslie (Searcy County) for his first piano lesson, and at thirteen, he joined his father’s musical …

Ashmore, Harry Scott

Harry Scott Ashmore was the executive editor of the Arkansas Gazette during the 1957 desegregation crisis at Little Rock’s Central High School and wrote a series of Pulitzer Prize–winning editorials on the subject. His front-page calls for reason thrust him into the front lines of the escalating battle between civil rights and states’ rights. Harry Ashmore was born on July 28, 1916, in Greenville, South Carolina, to William Green Ashmore and Nancy Elizabeth Scott. He was the younger of two sons. Ashmore’s father owned part interest in a shoe store in Greenville. The family lived a comfortable middle-class life until the early 1930s, when William Ashmore’s declining health, coupled with the Depression, left the family in relative poverty. Ashmore attended …

Atkinson, James Harris (J. H.)

James Harris (J. H.) Atkinson was an educator, author, and historian who, through his leadership in state and local historical organizations, significantly advanced the preservation and awareness of Arkansas’s history, earning him the nickname “Mr. Arkansas History.” He helped organize and subsequently served as president of both the Arkansas Historical Association (AHA) and the Pulaski County Historical Society (PCHS), wrote numerous articles for each of their publications, served as chairman of the Arkansas History Commission (now called the Arkansas State Archives), and co-authored Historic Arkansas, a text for teaching Arkansas history. J. H. Atkinson was born on June 7, 1888, in a farmhouse near the community of College Hill in northern Columbia County, the son of Gracie Ella Finley and …

Atkinson, Willie Emmett

W. Emmett Atkinson was a farmer and teacher working in Arkansas in the later part of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. An active Democrat and local office holder, he became embroiled in controversy concerning his support for the American effort in World War I. Willie Emmett Atkinson was born on February 4, 1874, to Robert Atkinson and Eliza Ramsey Gordon Atkinson on the family’s farm near McNeil (Columbia County). He grew up in the Harrison Township of Columbia County; his father had been heavily involved with the development of the township. Atkinson taught school in Columbia, Lafayette, and Nevada counties from 1897 to 1916. Atkinson was often the only teacher in a school that might enroll …

Auburn, David

David Auburn is a Tony Award– and Pulitzer Prize–winning American playwright, screenwriter, and director best known for his 2000 play Proof, which he also adapted for the screen, and for the screenplay for the film The Lake House. His play The Columnist opened on Broadway in 2012. David Auburn was born on November 30, 1969, in Chicago, Illinois, to Mark Auburn and Sandy K. Auburn. He grew up in Ohio and moved with his family to Arkansas in 1982, where his mother worked first for the East Arkansas Area Agency on Aging in Jonesboro (Craighead County) and then as the assistant deputy director of the Division of Aging and Adult Services for the Arkansas Department of Human Services in Little …

Audubon, John James

John James Audubon, a frontier naturalist and artist, is famous for illustrating and writing The Birds of America. He visited Arkansas Territory in 1820 and 1822 and documented Arkansas’s birds, including the Traill’s flycatcher, also known as the willow flycatcher, which is the only bird originally discovered in Arkansas. John Audubon was born Jean Rabin on April 26, 1785, in Saint-Domingue (Haiti). He was the illegitimate child of Jean Audubon, a ship’s captain, and Jeanne Rabin, a French chambermaid. His mother died in 1785 or 1786, and Jean Audubon and his children returned to France after a slave revolt. Along with his sister, he was adopted by his father and stepmother in 1794. Audubon stayed with his father and stepmother …

Ausbie, “Geese”

aka: Hubert Ausbie
Hubert “Geese” Ausbie joined the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team in 1961 following a standout college career at Philander Smith College in Little Rock (Pulaski County). For the next twenty-four years, Ausbie played for the Globetrotters in more than 100 countries and became known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball” for his entertaining antics on the basketball court. Geese Ausbie was born in Crescent, Oklahoma, on April 25, 1938. He was one of eight children and the youngest son of Bishop and Nancy Ausbie. As a youth, Ausbie excelled in baseball, basketball, tennis, and track. He once scored seventy points in a basketball game for Crescent’s Douglas High School and helped lead Douglas to four straight Oklahoma Basketball State Championships. After …

Austin, Stephen Fuller

Stephen Fuller Austin, most widely known as the “Father of Texas,” spent a short period of his life in Arkansas after leaving Missouri and before heading south to establish the Lone Star Republic now known as Texas. Austin spent only a brief time in Arkansas, but there are various partnerships cited and references to his presence in historical notes regarding the settling of southwest Arkansas. Stephen Austin was born on November 3, 1793, near a lead mining area in Austinville in Wythe County, southwest Virginia, to Moses Austin and Mary Brown Austin. He was the second of five children. His father, Moses, was the pioneer who originally obtained the land grant from Mexico for an American colony in Texas. Moses …

Babbitt, Wayne Hubert

Wayne Hubert Babbitt was a Republican politician who, in 1972, became the only Republican ever to run against John McClellan, Arkansas’s long-serving and powerful U.S. senator. While his candidacy was unsuccessful, Babbitt’s effort represented another step forward in the development of a competitive Republican Party in Arkansas in the latter part of the twentieth century. Wayne H. Babbitt was born on April 21, 1928, in Macedonia, Iowa, to Darwin Merritt Babbitt and Frances Charron Babbitt. He spent most of his childhood in Nebraska. After high school, he served in the U.S. Navy, and upon completing his tour of duty, he returned to Nebraska, spending a year at the University of Omaha (now the University of Nebraska Omaha). Babbitt married Eleanor …