Entry Type: Person - Starting with W

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) …

Wolfe, Savannah Janine (Savvy) Shields

Savannah Janine (Savvy) Shields Wolfe, originally from Fayetteville (Washington County), was a pageant winner who became a public speaker, celebrity media presence, and artist. In 2016, as Savvy Shields, she won the title of Miss America 2017. She thus became the third Miss America from Arkansas, joining Donna Axum, who won the title in 1964, and Elizabeth Ward, the 1982 winner.  Savannah Janine (Savvy) Shields was born in Fayetteville on July 1, 1995. Her parents were homemaker Karen Shields and Todd Shields, a professor of political science at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville and later dean of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. At age fourteen, Shields won the title of Miss Arkansas’ Outstanding Teen 2009, going …

Womack, Stephen Allen (Steve)

Steve Womack is a Republican who began serving in local and national office in the late 1990s. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 as part of a wave of new conservatives who made up the Tea Party movement, the emergence of which helped the Republicans regain the majority in the House. Upon arriving on Capitol Hill, Womack began compiling a conservative record characterized by his strong support of the party’s programs, especially its support for President Donald Trump. Stephen Allen Womack was born on February 18, 1957, in Russellville (Pope County) to James Kermit Womack and Elisabeth Canerday Womack. He graduated from Russellville High School in 1975 and received a BA in communications from Arkansas …

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. She was later elected to a seat on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. 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 …

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, …

Woodward, John Wesley

John Wesley Woodward was a pioneer in the education of deaf children in Arkansas as well as an influential newspaperman and state government figure who, most notably, oversaw the relocation of state records during the Civil War. John Wesley Woodward was born on a Virginia plantation near Richmond to Dr. James Woodward and Virginia Woodward on April 20, 1820. He contracted scarlet fever at the age of three, causing him to lose his hearing. Around the age of ten, Woodward came under the care of an uncle, presumably because he was orphaned. Because few schools existed in the United States for the education of the deaf, Woodward’s uncle sent him to the world-famous Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris …

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 …

Worley, Ted Raymond

Ted Raymond Worley was a historian, teacher, editor of the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, and executive secretary of the Arkansas History Commission, as well as a prolific writer. Ted R. Worley was born on June 1, 1906, in Pope County to Ernest C. Worley and Dollie Koone Worley. After graduating from Russellville High School, he attended Arkansas State Teachers College (which later became the University of Central Arkansas) in Conway (Faulkner County), earning his degree in 1934. He received his master’s degree at the University of Texas in 1939. Worley taught at a rural Pope County school and schools at Pottsville (Pope County) and at Bald Knob (White County) while working on those degrees. He also worked toward a doctorate at …

Worthen, Mary Fletcher

Mary Fletcher Worthen was a cultural leader, volunteer, historian, and author whose life spanned an era of great changes in her home state of Arkansas. Mary Fletcher was born on October 6, 1917, on Fletcher Farm near Scott (Pulaski and Lonoke counties) to Tom Fletcher and Mamie Sandlin Fletcher. She was part of an old Arkansas family, as her great-great-grandparents—Henry Lewis Fletcher and Mary Lindsey Fletcher—arrived in what became Arkansas in 1815. Worthen was home-schooled until the ninth grade and attended one semester at East Side Junior High. She graduated from Little Rock High School (later called Central High) and Little Rock Junior College (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock). Inspired by her cousin Adolphine Fletcher Terry, she …

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 …