Entries - Gender: Male - Starting with B

Bond, Ulysses Scott (U. S.)

Prominent businessman and entrepreneur Ulysses Scott (U. S.) Bond, like his father and brothers, was a member of a small group of well-educated, wealthy African-American businessmen who encouraged the advancement of minorities. He grew up in a progressive family that provided him with the opportunity to achieve a level of success not typically found in the town of Madison (St. Francis County), and with this success, he encouraged the growth of the black community and economy in St. Francis County. U. S. Bond was born on August 1, 1897, in Madison. His parents were Scott Winfield Bond—a landowner, businessman, and notable resident of St. Francis County—and Magnolia (Nash) Bond. He was the tenth of the eleven sons born to Scott …

Bonner, Frank

aka: Frank Woodrow Boers Jr.
Best known for his role of sales manager Herb Tarlek on the television sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, which began in 1978, Frank Bonner is an actor and television director. He has also appeared in such popular shows as Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Just the Ten of Us, Murder, She Wrote, and Night Court. Frank Bonner was born Frank Woodrow Boers Jr. on February 28, 1942, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Frank Woodrow Boers, a saxophone player, and Grace Dobbins Boers, who had a singing career in the 1930s and 1940s. He has a sister, a brother, and a step-brother. He grew up Catholic, attending St. Edward’s and Our Lady of Good Counsel schools, before his family moved …

Booker, Joseph Albert

Joseph Albert Booker—noted editor, educator, and community leader—was for four decades a prominent leader in Arkansas racial relations and a pioneer in African-American education in the state. Joseph Booker was born into slavery on December 26, 1859, in Old Portland, east of modern Portland (Ashley County). He was the son of Albert and Mary (Punchardt) Booker, who were slaves on the large Bayou Bartholomew plantation of John P. Fisher. Booker’s mother died shortly after his birth. According to one source, when Booker was three, his father, a man with “some knowledge of books,” died when his slave master whipped him to death. His father’s crime was urging his fellow slaves to revolt by “teaching them to read.” At the end …

Bookout, Jerry

Jerry Bookout was a long-time member of the Arkansas General Assembly, where he represented northeastern Arkansas as both a three-term state representative beginning in 1967 and a state senator beginning in 1973. In a legislative career that spanned three decades, his emphasis was on far-reaching issues involving education, healthcare, and the military. Jerry Bookout was born on November 2, 1933, in Rector (Clay County) to Mary Mobley Bookout and Paul Otis Bookout. After attending Rector public schools, he enrolled at what is now Arkansas State University in Jonesboro (Craighead County), graduating in 1955 with a BA in history and political science. He was that year’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Distinguished Military Graduate, and, after being commissioned as an armor …

Boozman, Fay

Fay Boozman was a prominent ophthalmologist and public official in late twentieth-century Arkansas. The brother and business partner of Senator John Boozman, Fay Boozman also served in the state government and was heading the Arkansas Department of Health at the time of his sudden death at the age of fifty-eight. Fay Winford Boozman III was born on November 10, 1946, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) to Fay Winford Boozman Jr. and Marie Nicholas Boozman. His father was a U.S. Air Force master sergeant, causing the family to move frequently, but Boozman spent much of his youth in Fort Smith. He attended Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, from 1964 to 1966, then Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County) from 1966 …

Boozman, John

Businessman and rancher John Boozman became a leading Republican officeholder in the early part of the twenty-first century. First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2001, he was later elected to the Senate and became, in 2015, the state’s senior U.S. senator. John Boozman was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on December 10, 1950, to Fay Winford Boozman Jr. and Marie Nichols Boozman. Fay Boozman was a U.S. Air Force master sergeant, and the family moved frequently when John was young. Boozman spent his high school years in Arkansas, graduating from Northside High School in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Boozman played football for the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), which he attended from 1969 to 1972. …

Borland, Solon

Solon Borland was a physician, editor, United States senator, diplomat, and military officer. He was the first Arkansas politician to be given a major diplomatic assignment, which eventually resulted in the destruction of a town in Central America, one of the earliest examples of U.S. gunboat diplomacy.  According to an article in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Solon Borland was born in Suffolk, Nansemond County, Virginia, the youngest of three sons born to Thomas Wood Borland, a physician, and Harriet Godwin. Additional sources have his date of birth as August 8, 1811. His family moved to North Carolina by 1823. In 1831, he married Hildah (or Huldah) Wright of Virginia; they had two sons, Harold and Thomas. He …

Bossu, Jean Bernard

Jean Bernard Bossu was a French captain and adventurer who explored the region of the Mississippi River while Louisiana was a French colony. During his voyages, Bossu wrote extensive letters about his adventures among the natives of the Mississippi River Valley. The letters were published in two volumes, and both were translated into English. Influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s image of the “noble savage,” Bossu claimed that the Quapaw Indians were “capable of heroism, humanism, and virtue”; these people were not “barbarians” or “savages” but actual human beings. Although scholars have pointed out some inconsistencies and historical inaccuracies in his letters, the letters remain an important primary source on the early period of the history of French Louisiana. His work is …

Boudinot, Elias Cornelius

Elias Cornelius Boudinot was a mixed-lineage Cherokee lawyer, newspaper editor, and lobbyist. He was active in civic life and Democratic Party politics in Arkansas during the Civil War era, serving in the Confederate Cherokee forces and the Confederate Congress during the conflict. In the following years, he maintained close connections with leading Democratic politicians in Arkansas while engaging in legal, economic, and political activities. Elias Cornelius Boudinot was born on August 1, 1835, in New Echota, Georgia, to Elias Boudinot, who was Cherokee, and his white wife, Harriet Gold. He was one of six siblings. After the assassination of his father in 1839 in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), the Gold family raised the Boudinot children in the East. Boudinot returned …

Bowen, Thomas Meade

Thomas Meade Bowen was a Civil War officer for the Union, president of the 1868 Arkansas Constitutional Convention, and an Arkansas Supreme Court justice. He was involved in the extremely factionalized Republican Party during Reconstruction in Arkansas. After serving on the Arkansas Supreme Court, Bowen accepted an appointment from President Ulysses S. Grant to become governor of the Idaho Territory. Bowen returned to Arkansas shortly after and then moved to Colorado to pursue mining ventures. There, he also served in the Colorado State Senate. Thomas Bowen was born on October 26, 1835, near Burlington, Iowa. He attended Mount Pleasant Academy and began practicing law at age eighteen in 1853. In 1856, Bowen was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives. …

Bowen, William Harvey

William Harvey Bowen was a senior partner in Arkansas’s largest law firm, president of the state’s largest bank, chief executive officer of a health insurance company, and dean of the state’s largest law school, which was later named the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. He was a friend and adviser to Bill Clinton and managed the governor’s office for a year while Clinton was running for president. He was also a friend and adviser to Dale Bumpers and David Pryor when they were governors and U.S. senators. William H. Bowen was born on May 6, 1923, in Altheimer (Jefferson County), one of five children of Robert J. (Bob) Bowen, who farmed and managed …

Bowie, Jim

aka: James Bowie
Jim Bowie, the man who popularized the bowie knife and who served as the co-commander of the Texan forces at the Alamo, was also an adventurer and land speculator who achieved notoriety for a number of fraudulent land claims he made in Arkansas. Little is known about Bowie’s birth. His father was Rezin Bowie and his mother Alvina Jones (Elve) Bowie. Their son Jim was most likely born in Logan County, Kentucky, although some accounts place his birth in Tennessee or Georgia. Bowie had numerous brothers and sisters, and two of his brothers, Rezin P. and John, each owned property in Arkansas in Chicot County and Helena (Phillips County) during their lives. It is believed that John Bowie is buried …

Bowles (Lynching of)

Sometime around August 22, 1892, an African-American man identified only by his surname, which was Bowles, was hanged near Gurdon (Clark County) for allegedly raping sixteen-year-old Nellie Wilkes. Public records reveal no additional information about either Bowles or Wilkes. Although the incident was apparently not covered in Arkansas, several publications across the country reported on it, including a German-language newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland. According to the Hamilton, Ohio, Daily Republican, Bowles, a “burly negro,” “outraged” Wilkes and then fled the scene. This aroused the neighborhood, and a mob was soon in pursuit. He was discovered at a farmhouse, where he had compelled the occupants to give him food. He was brought back to the scene of the crime, where he …

Bowman, Malcolm Cleaburne

Malcolm Cleaburne Bowman was respected worldwide as an analytical chemist, researcher, and author. He and his associates are credited with devising many techniques and processes as well as developing much of the equipment that became common within the fields of chemistry and scientific research. Malcolm Bowman was born on December 6, 1926, in Alcedo, Texas, to Clyde C. Bowman, a Cotton Belt Railroad brakeman and conductor, and Lillian McBee Bowman, a teacher and retail clerk; he was the couple’s only child. The family moved to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) in 1936. Bowman graduated from Pine Bluff High School and went on to receive a BS in chemistry at Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) in Conway …

Boyle, John

John F. Boyle Jr. was a Little Rock (Pulaski County) businessman and philanthropist whose name survives in the Boyle Building downtown and Boyle Park in the west-central portion of the city. John F. Boyle Jr. was born on November 14, 1874, in Little Rock to John F. Boyle Sr. and Mary Matilda Dorsey Boyle. After completing primary and secondary school in Little Rock, around 1900, Boyle was hired to work for his father’s insurance firm, Adams & Boyle Insurance Company (1877–1921). He had a long career as a general insurance agent as well as cotton salesman and real estate investor. In 1910, Boyle started his first company, the Boyle Realty Company, but it failed a year later. In 1916, he …

Bradford, Jay T.

Jay Bradford is an Arkansas businessman and government official. A longtime member of the Arkansas General Assembly, he capped a public career of over thirty years with a six-year stint as state commissioner of insurance. Jay T. Bradford was born on April 30, 1940, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to J. Turner Bradford and Chrystal Jacobs Bradford. He had one brother and two sisters. After Bradford’s mother died when he was eight years old, his father, who was a traveling salesman, placed his children in the care of relatives in Paris (Logan County). After receiving his early education in the local schools, he attended Subiaco Academy, a Catholic college preparatory school in Subiaco (Logan County). After graduating from Subiaco, he …

Bradford, Roark

Roark Whitney Wickliffe Bradford was a popular journalist, novelist, and short story writer of the twentieth century. The subject matter of much of his fiction focused on African-American life, though in a humorous and stereotypical manner. Much of his inspiration is said to have been drawn from his childhood memories of growing up in Tennessee and Arkansas. His first book, Ol’ Man Adam an’ His Chillun (1928), was the basis for the 1930 Pulitzer Prize–winning drama Green Pastures. Roark Bradford, born in Lauderdale County, Tennessee, on August 21, 1896, was the eighth of eleven children born to the farming family of Richard Clarence Bradford and Patricia Adelaide (Tillman) Bradford. In 1911, when he was approximately fourteen years old, his family …

Bradford, William

William Bradford was a major in the U.S. Army, a veteran of the War of 1812, an explorer, a Kentucky legislator, and one of the first brigadier generals in the Arkansas militia. He was the builder and the first commander of Camp Smith, later named Fort Smith, located at Belle Point at the confluence of the Arkansas and Poteau rivers located in present-day Sebastian County. The old fort’s foundation can be visited today and is a part of the Fort Smith National Historic Site. Not much is known about Bradford’s early life. He was born in Virginia in 1771 and later moved to Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, where he held many county offices, including deputy sheriff. He was commissioned a captain …

Bradford, William Claude

William Claude Bradford served as assistant adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard and an officer of the 142nd Field Artillery in World War I. His service in the pre-war period was recognized with promotions and command assignments, and he played an active role in mobilizing the Arkansas National Guard for both the Mexican Border Campaign in the absence of the adjutant general and for service in France during World War I. Claude Bradford was born on June 3, 1885, in Lonoke County to Judge Henry Taylor Bradford and Martha Jane Wilson Bradford. The family had come to Prairie (later Lonoke) County about 1854 from Georgia. He attended Ouachita Baptist College (now Ouachita Baptist University) from 1901 to 1902 and …

Bradley, Thomas H.

Thomas H. Bradley was a planter, state legislator, and brigadier general of the Arkansas State Militia. Given his initial opposition to secession, however, he was unsuccessful with his command during the Civil War. Thomas Bradley was born on July 25, 1808, in Williamson County, Tennessee; records show he had perhaps five siblings. The son of farmers Thomas Bradley and Margaret Bradley, he became a merchant in Franklin, Tennessee. In 1835, Bradley joined the First Tennessee Volunteers to serve in the Second Seminole War. While in the military, he served as both a major and the regimental adjutant. In 1836, he moved to Crittenden County and became a planter. His holdings were located roughly eighteen miles upriver from Memphis, Tennessee. He …

Branch, Charley (Lynching of)

On December 26, 1882, Charley Branch (sometimes referred to as Charles, Charlie, or Charles B. Branch) was lynched by a mob of African Americans near Varner (Lincoln County) for allegedly raping and murdering Cora Wallace, the daughter of Dock Wallace. Both Branch and his alleged victim were African American. At the time of the incident, Charley Branch was reported by the Arkansas Gazette to be thirty-five years old. There is no likely listing for a Charley or Charles Branch in either the 1860 or 1870 Arkansas census. One possible Charles Branch listed in Arkansas in 1880 was living in Monroe Township in Mississippi County. However, there was also listed in the 1880 census one “Chas. Branch.” Born around 1857, he …

Brandon, Benton Douglas, Jr.

Benton Douglas Brandon Jr. was a legislator, businessman, and civic leader who brought a business presence into a state legislature dominated by attorneys, helping to open the state to outside commerce and financial growth. Brandon felt that unless Arkansas had adequate education, proper roads, and a strong civic presence, the state could not grow to its potential. He saw the Arkansas legislature as the vehicle for this growth. Doug Brandon was born on August 23, 1932, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Anne Maloney and Benton Brandon Sr., a local businessman and early aviator. Brandon graduated from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) with a business degree. He later joined the U.S. Army, graduating from Command and …

Branner, John Casper

John Casper Branner began serving as state geologist for the Arkansas Geological Survey on June 24, 1887, and served in that capacity until the state legislature abolished the position on March 16, 1893. Branner’s tenure was noted for a high standard of professionalism, and he made significant contributions to the economic and geologic resources of Arkansas that lasted for decades. John Branner was born in New Market, Tennessee, on July 4, 1850, to Michael T. Branner, who was a farmer, and Elsie Baker Branner. Educated in the local schools, Branner was an avid reader and developed a deep interest in the natural features of the Tennessee countryside. He enrolled at Maryville College, near Knoxville, Tennessee, but in 1870, after only …

Branton, Wiley Austin, Sr.

Wiley Austin Branton was a civil rights leader in Arkansas who helped desegregate the University of Arkansas School of Law and later filed suit against the Little Rock School Board in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court as Cooper v. Aaron. His work to end legal segregation and inequality in Arkansas and the nation was well known in his time. Wiley Branton was born on December 13, 1923, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), the second child of Pauline Wiley and Leo Andrew Branton. His father and paternal grandfather owned and operated a taxicab business. His mother was a schoolteacher in the segregated public schools prior to her marriage. He had three brothers and a sister. Branton was …

Bratton, Samuel Isaac

Sam Bratton was an influential figure in both the Arkansas government and the state’s Democratic Party for over three decades in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. A skilled lawyer and policy maker, he was particularly well respected for his expertise in the area of education law and policy. Samuel Isaac Bratton was born on January 28, 1945, in Montgomery, Alabama, to Samuel Isaac Bratton Sr. and Pauline Kilgore Bratton. The family later moved to Arkansas, and Bratton graduated from Earle High School, where he had played basketball. Majoring in history and political science, Bratton received his bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College in 1967. He then taught and coached basketball in Turrell (Crittenden County) and Gosnell (Crittenden County). Bratton …

Bratton, Ulysses Simpson

Ulysses S. Bratton was a prominent Arkansas attorney in the first part of the twentieth century. His advocacy on behalf of the state’s African-American population made him enemies in the white community, and in the early 1920s he left Arkansas and resettled in Detroit, Michigan, where he established a successful law practice. Ulysses Simpson Bratton was born on July 28, 1868, in Leslie (Searcy County) to Benjamin Bratton and Mary Redman Bratton. (He was probably named for General Ulysses S. Grant, as his father served with Union forces in the Third Arkansas Cavalry during the Civil War.) According to Fay Hempstead’s Historical Review of Arkansas, Bratton studied at Searcy County‘s public schools and at the Rally Hill Academy in Boone …

Breckinridge, Clifton Rodes

Clifton Rodes Breckinridge was a late-nineteenth-century Arkansas politician who attained national prominence. After serving as a leading congressman for more than a decade, he became the first Arkansan appointed to a major European diplomatic post, serving as minister to Russia for three years. Late in life, Breckinridge was a delegate to the 1917–1918 Arkansas Constitutional Convention. Clifton Breckinridge was born in Lexington, Kentucky, on November 22, 1846, to Mary Cyrene Burch and John Cabell Breckinridge. The Breckinridges were a political dynasty that began with his grandfather, John Breckinridge, who was President Thomas Jefferson’s attorney general. The dynasty continued with John Cabell Breckinridge, who served as a senator and vice president of the United States and as a general and secretary …

Breland, Keller Bramwell

Keller Bramwell Breland was perhaps best known in Arkansas as the co-owner and operator of the IQ Zoo, a tourist attraction in Hot Springs (Garland County) that featured trained animals performing a variety of amazing acts. In addition, Breland played a major role in developing scientifically-validated and humane animal training methods and in promoting the widespread use of these methods. Keller Breland was born on March 26, 1915, in Poplarville, Mississippi, to Aden Breland, a Methodist minister, and Eugenia Breland, an elementary school teacher. The youngest of eleven children, Keller was an inquisitive, resourceful child. An entrepreneur from an early age, he sold magazines door to door with his older brother, Homer, and picked cotton during the summers. Breland graduated …

Brewer, Adrian Louis

Adrian Louis Brewer, a native of Minnesota, is known in Arkansas primarily for his portraits of prominent citizens, but his artistic genius lay in pastoral landscape paintings of the Southwest and rural scenes of Arkansas, his adopted state. Brewer’s work was influenced by the American Impressionists and reflected the restlessness of modern artists. David Durst, a professor of art at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), credited him with contributing to the “healthy stature” of art and art activities in Arkansas and keeping “the spark of aesthetic sensibility alive during the difficult years of cultural neglect.” Probably his most famous painting is the 1941 “Sentinel of Freedom,” which has been reproduced millions of times and has received …

Brewer, Edwin Cook

Edwin Cook Brewer was a founding member of the Arkansas-based Mid-Southern Watercolorists in 1970 and helped his father, artist Adrian Brewer, organize the Arkansas Art League in the early 1950s. Edwin Brewer and his twin brother, Adrian Brewer Jr., were born on January 9, 1927, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Adrian Brewer and Edwina Cook Brewer. The twins had one sister. Brewer received his early art instruction in the studios of his father and his grandfather, Nicholas Richard Brewer, both renowned artists. His grandfather was known as a portrait painter and was represented in multiple exhibitions of the National Academy of Design in New York City beginning in 1885. Brewer attended Little Rock public schools and Wentworth Military Academy …

Brewer, Nicholas Richard

Nicholas Richard Brewer was an American landscape and portrait artist. He was active in Arkansas during the early twentieth century and is best remembered in the state as the father, teacher, mentor, and early financial backer of one of the state’s most notable painters, Adrian Brewer. Nicholas Brewer was born to Peter Brewer and Mary Ann Gordon Russell Rolph Brewer on June 11, 1857, in what is now Olmstead County, Minnesota. Brewer’s father was an immigrant from Cologne, Germany, who joined the California gold rush of 1849. In St. Joseph, Missouri, he met Mary, who had been recently widowed while also en route to the gold fields and was left nearly destitute with two sons. By 1857, the year Nicholas Brewer …

Breysacher, Augustus Louis

Augustus Louis Breysacher was one of the eight founders of the Arkansas Industrial University Medical Department, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Augustus Breysacher was born in Canton, Ohio, on February 2, 1831, to German immigrants George Breysacher and Elizabeth Keller Breysacher. Breysacher had three sisters. The family moved from Ohio to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1832. Breysacher received his general education in St. Louis, with additional courses in literature and the classics at St. Xavier College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated from Missouri Medical College in St. Louis in 1859 and was certified as a chemist and pharmacist. Immediately after graduation, Breysacher received an appointment as acting assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army. He was assigned …

Bridges, James

James Bridges was an Arkansan who became a movie producer, director, and screenwriter. He was known for some of the biggest hit films of the 1970s and 1980s, such as The China Syndrome and Urban Cowboy. He also filmed one of his movies, 9/30/55, in Conway (Faulkner County). James Bridges was born on February 3, 1936, in Paris (Logan County) in western Arkansas. From 1954 to 1956, he attended Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) in Conway, where he was drum major with the marching band and was involved with the performing arts. While in school, Bridges heard about the death of screen legend James Dean on September 30, 1955, an event that later influenced Bridges’s …

Briggs, Clinton (Lynching of)

Clinton Briggs, a twenty-six-year-old soldier who had just returned to Star City (Lincoln County) after serving in the U.S. Army during World War I, was lynched on September 1, 1919, after allegedly insulting a young white woman. According to the 1910 census, eighteen-year-old Briggs was living on a rented farm in Bartholomew Township, Lincoln County, with his parents, Sandy and Catherine Briggs. His father was a farmer, and Clinton was listed as a laborer. Clinton could both read and write, although he had not attended school. On June 5, 1917, he registered for the draft. On his draft registration, he stated that he was working for a farmer named Alex Dutton. Briggs served in the army from June 19, 1918, …

Brill, Howard Walter

Howard Walter Brill, a professor of law at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), earned a national reputation as an authority on legal ethics and served sixteen months, in 2015 and 2016, as chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. His 1986 book, Arkansas Professional and Judicial Ethics, and seven subsequent editions dictated the state’s regulation of the conduct of lawyers and judges for more than a generation. Howard Brill was born on October 18, 1943, in Englewood, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City. His parents, Edwin Lois Brill Jr. and Catharine Linsmann Brill, were born in the Bronx and married there but moved across the river to New Jersey before Howard and …

Brinkley, John Richard

John Richard Brinkley made a fortune in medical quackery, radio, and advertising in Del Rio, Texas. In the late 1930s, he moved his practice to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where his dishonest career came to light and collapsed. Born John Romulus Brinkley on July 8, 1885, in Jackson County, North Carolina, he was the illegitimate child of John Richard Brinkley and Sarah Candace Burnett, the twenty-four-year-old niece of his long-suffering wife, Sarah Mingus. There is some dispute as to why his middle name was changed from Romulus to Richard. The official biography by Clement Wood attributes the change to the Methodist minister who baptized Brinkley and rejected the name Romulus as heathen. Brinkley’s own account is that he took the …

Britt, “Footsie”

aka: Maurice Lee Britt
aka: Morris Britt
Maurice Lee “Footsie” Britt was an Arkansas native who rose to fame as an athlete, soldier, businessman, and state politician. He played football and basketball at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and then advanced to professional football, until the attack on Pearl Harbor propelled the country into World War II. Britt became an exemplary soldier as the first person in American history to earn all the army’s top awards, including the Medal of Honor, while fighting in a single war. After suffering numerous wounds, including one that caused his right arm to have to be amputated, Britt returned to Arkansas and undertook a career in business management. Later in life, he served two terms as the …

Britt, Elton

aka: James Elton Baker
Elton Britt was a popular country singer of the 1940s, with a yodeling style most often compared to Jimmie Rodgers. His most popular song, “There’s a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere,” was the first country performance awarded a gold record for selling more than a million copies. Britt also was a heavy influence on most subsequent yodelers in country music. James Elton Baker was born on June 27, 1913, to James M. Baker and Martella Baker in Zack (Searcy County), a small community in the Ozarks. He was the youngest of five children and was plagued with heart trouble most of his life. Because he was not expected to live, his parents did not name him until he was a …

Broadway, Shane

Shane Broadway was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1997 to 2002, serving as speaker of the House from 2001 to 2002. In addition, he was member of the Arkansas Senate from 2003 to 2010 and interim director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education from 2011 to 2014. In 2014, Broadway was appointed vice president of governmental relations at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County). Shane Broadway was born at Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton (Saline County) on August 30, 1972, to Charles and Bertha Broadway of Bryant (Saline County). He is the youngest of six children. Broadway attended Bryant High School and was designated an American Legion Boys State Delegate in 1989. Broadway …

Brock, Ed (Lynching of)

On August 10, 1923, a young African-American teamster named Ed Brock was lynched at Murphyville in Union County for allegedly insulting a white woman. In 1922, oil was discovered in what is known as the Smackover field in Union and Ouachita counties, and by 1923, J. T. Murphy was operating a number of wells there. Murphyville, which the Arkansas Gazette described as being located six miles northeast of Norphlet (Union County), was probably an oil camp. According to the Gazette, Brock had allegedly insulted Mrs. W. C. Ranoff, the wife of an oil field worker. She reported the incident to her husband, who got a gun and captured Brock on the afternoon of August 10. According to reports, Ranoff intended …

Brock, Lou

aka: Louis Clark Brock
Louis Clark (Lou) Brock, a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, played a major role in changing the way baseball was played by using the stolen base as an important offensive weapon. He retired as Major League Baseball’s all-time stolen bases leader, a record that stood until 1991. Lou Brock was born on June 18, 1939, in El Dorado (Union County). He was the seventh of nine children born to Paralee Brock, who worked as a domestic and a field laborer. After Brock’s father, Maud, left the family when Brock was two years old, Paralee Brock and her children moved to nearby Collinston, Louisiana, where Brock grew up in the poverty …

Brockmeier, Kevin John

Little Rock (Pulaski County) author Kevin John Brockmeier is an award-winning novelist and short story writer who has been called one of “America’s best practitioners of fabulist fiction.” Brockmeier has received Arkansas’s top literary prizes (the Porter Fund Award for Literary Excellence and the Worthen Prize) and has been recognized nationally with numerous awards, including three O. Henry prizes, for his masterful use of figurative language in stories that combine reality and fantasy. Kevin Brockmeier was born on December 6, 1972, in Hialeah, Florida. His father, Jack Brockmeier, was an insurance agent, and his mother, Sally Brockmeier, was a legal secretary. His father was transferred to Little Rock, and so the family, including his younger brother Jeff, moved to Arkansas …

Brooks, John Doyle

John Doyle Brooks was a stuntman and actor whose career included appearances in some of the most renowned television shows of the 1950s and 1960s, including The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin and Naked City, as well as several movies and commercials. Doyle Brooks was born on December 10, 1923, in Bethesda (Independence County) to John Henry Brooks and Deliah Ann Queary Brooks. Brooks developed an interest in show business at an early age, especially in the cowboy/western genre. On his parents’ farm in Bethesda, he learned to ride, rope, break horses, and shoot, becoming an expert marksman and sharpshooter. In 1942, he married Bernice Sheffield of Batesville (Independence County), who shared his interest in the entertainment industry. Together, they …

Brooks, Joseph

Joseph Brooks was a Methodist minister who came to Arkansas during the Civil War. He played a prominent role in post-war Republican politics. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1872 and was one of the participants in the subsequent Brooks-Baxter War. Joseph Brooks was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 1, 1821. Nothing is known of his parents or his early family life. He attended Indiana Asbury University in Greencastle, Indiana, now DePauw University, and after graduation entered the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was ordained in 1840 at the age of eighteen. His first assignment was as a circuit rider, traveling across an assigned territory to preach. He later rode circuit in Iowa, then moved to Illinois, …

Broonzy, “Big Bill”

aka: William Conley Lee Broonzy
Although William Lee Conley “Big Bill” Broonzy achieved fame and success in the Chicago blues scene and the folk revival in the United States and abroad, some of his earliest encounters with the blues and his earliest experiences as a performer and songwriter were in Arkansas. Sources differ as to the date and place of Big Bill Broonzy’s birth. Broonzy himself claimed to have been born in Scott, Mississippi, on June 26, 1893 (though some sources say 1898). However, more recent research has him born near Lake Dick, Arkansas, on June 29, 1903, with the name Lee Conley Bradley. His parents were Frank Broonzy (Bradley) and Mittie Belcher, and he was one of seventeen children. Broonzy spent most of his …

Brothers of Freedom

One of several farmers’ organizations formed in Arkansas during the early 1880s, the Brothers of Freedom originated in Johnson County in 1882. Founded by Isaac McCracken and Marion Farris, the organization spread rapidly across northwestern Arkansas, recruiting between 30,000 and 40,000 members within three years. The Brothers of Freedom ceased to exist in 1885 when it merged with another Arkansas-based farmers’ organization, the Agricultural Wheel, and assumed the name of the latter organization. The impact of the Brothers of Freedom lived on, however, not only through the Agricultural Wheel but also through the Union Labor and Populist parties. McCracken and Farris organized the Brothers of Freedom, originally (but only briefly) as a secret organization, in order to enable farmers to …

Brough, Charles Hillman

Charles Hillman Brough was an educator, a promoter, and the state’s twenty-fifth governor. Consistently rated by some historians as among the state’s best governors, he exemplified southern Progressivism in Arkansas. Charles Brough (whose much-mispronounced name rhymes with “rough”) was born July 9, 1876, in Clinton, Mississippi. His father, Milton Brough, was a captain in the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry in the Civil War. After the war, he engaged in mining and banking, first in the South and then in Utah. While in Mississippi, he met and married Flora Thompson, a schoolteacher, who came from Maine and was living in Utah when his son was born. Brough (known as Hillman in family circles) spent his first six years with his parents …

Brown, Benjamin Chambers

Benjamin Chambers Brown was among the first Arkansas artists to attain national and international recognition as a painter, lithographer, and etcher. He is best known for his plein-air impressionist landscapes of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and expanses of brilliantly colored poppy fields. His works are in major museums in the United States and Europe, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC and the British Museum in London, England. Benjamin Brown was born in Marion (Crittenden County) on July 14, 1865, one of five children born to Judge Benjamin Chambers Brown and Mary Booker Brown. He spent much of his boyhood in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Brown’s parents wanted him to become an attorney, but he wanted to be …

Brown, Dee

aka: Dorris Alexander Brown
Dorris Alexander (Dee) Brown is the only contributor to Arkansas literature included in The New York Public Library’s Books of the Century (1996), a selection of the “most significant works of the past 100 years.” He lived more than half his life in Arkansas and, beginning as a teenager, wrote continuously for publication, often long into the night, as he did for his best-known work, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970), which changed the way the world thinks about America’s westward expansion. His daytime profession as a librarian was the key to his international success as a writer: he knew how to find primary sources, such as Indian Treaties written in their own Native American words. His most famous …

Brown, Floyd B.

Floyd B. Brown founded the Fargo Agricultural School in Monroe County in 1919 to provide the equivalent of elementary and secondary vocational education for African-American students. The school was for both day and residential students and was modeled after the Tuskegee Institute, which Brown attended, where students learned practical skills intended to help them achieve success and economic security. Floyd Brown was born on April 27, 1891, in Stampley, Mississippi, the second of ten children and the son of black tenant farmers Charles and Janie Brown. As a youth, Brown worked with his father in the cotton fields of Mississippi and the cane fields of Louisiana. His mother, who had heard of the work of Booker T. Washington, encouraged him …