Gender: Male - Starting with B

Biffle, Leslie L.

Leslie L. Biffle was a national Democratic Party official from Arkansas. After serving as secretary for Arkansas congressional officials in Washington DC, Biffle became the Democratic Party secretary and finally the secretary of the U.S. Senate, serving from 1945 to 1947 and 1949 to 1953. Leslie (or Les) Biffle was born on October 9, 1889, in Boydsville (Clay County) in northeastern Arkansas. His parents were William B. “Billie” Biffle, who was a local Democratic Party official, and Minnie Ella Turner Biffle. The family soon moved to Piggott (Clay County), and many today continue to cite Piggott as Biffle’s birthplace. Biffle attended schools in Piggott and Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1909, he moved to Washington DC to be secretary for …

Billingsley, Edward Baxter

Rear Admiral Edward Baxter Billingsley was a decorated naval officer and veteran of World War II who went on to a second career as a professional historian and expert in the history of the U.S. Navy’s role in South American affairs. Edward Baxter Billingsley was born on June 18, 1910, in Melbourne (Izard County). He was the younger of the two children of Edmund Billingsley and Hattie Baxter Billingsley and a great-grandson of former Arkansas governor Elisha Baxter. His father spent most of his life as a merchant in Melbourne, though he maintained a store in Batesville (Independence County) for a time as well. Edward Billingsley was educated in the schools of both towns, graduating from Melbourne High School in …

Biltz, Joseph Henri

The Reverend Joseph H. Biltz, a Roman Catholic priest and human rights activist, was a staunch supporter of social and Church reform in Arkansas. His outspoken advocacy for reform brought him into direct confrontation with both religious and civil authorities. Joseph Henri Biltz was born on May 29, 1930, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Maurice Biltz and Hilda Rumbach Biltz. He studied philosophy at St. John’s Seminary in Little Rock, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1951. He then completed four years of additional study in theology and was ordained by the Catholic Church in 1955 at St. Andrew’s Cathedral. He went on to earn a master’s degree in theology (1957) and a doctorate in moral theology (1962) from the …

Black Union Troops

aka: African-American Union Troops
aka: United States Colored Troops
Many former African-American slaves and freedmen from Arkansas answered President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to help put down the Confederate rebellion. Across the war-torn nation, 180,000 black men responded. An estimated 40,000 lost their lives in the conflict. Lincoln later credited these “men of color” with helping turn the tide of the war, calling them “the sable arm.” The official records from the U.S. government credit 5,526 men of African descent as having served in the Union army from the state of Arkansas. Between 3,000 and 4,000 additional black soldiers served in Arkansas during the war, including in heavy artillery, cavalry, and infantry regiments. In addition, black soldiers manned all of the batteries and fortifications at Helena (Phillips County) …

Black, Daniel

Daniel Black is a nationally renowned, award-winning novelist. His works are inspired by African-American life, history, and heritage in the South—encompassing themes of race, religion, and sexuality. Daniel Black was born on November 28, 1965, in Kansas City, Kansas, but grew up in Arkansas in Blackwell (Conway County). His great-grandmother, Stella Swinton, was his childhood caregiver. He graduated from Morrilton High School in Morrilton (Conway County). Upon graduation from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1988, he was awarded a full fellowship to Temple University, where he earned a master’s in 1990 and a doctorate in 1992, both in African-American studies. Black also earned the prestigious Oxford Modern British Studies fellowship, leading him to study at …

Black, James

James Black, popularly known as the maker of the bowie knife, was one of the early pioneers of Arkansas and settled in the town of Washington (Hempstead County) in southwest Arkansas. James Black was born on May 1, 1800, in New Jersey; the names of his parents are unknown. His mother died when he was young, and his father remarried. Black did not get along well with his stepmother and ran away from home at the age of eight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While in Philadelphia, he was taken in as an apprentice to a silverplater named Stephen Henderson. During that time, Black apparently became strongly skilled in the art of silverplating. In 1818, when he was eighteen years old, his …

Black, John Charles

A Medal of Honor recipient for valor during the Battle of Prairie Grove and brevet brigadier general of volunteers, John Charles (Charlie) Black later served as a U.S. congressman and as the national commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Born on January 27, 1839, in Lexington, Mississippi, to the Reverend John Black and Josephine Culbertson Black, Charlie Black was the eldest of their four children. After Rev. Black died in 1847, Josephine Black moved her family to Danville, Illinois, to be near her brother James Culbertson. Soon thereafter, she married Dr. William Fithian. Fithian served in the Illinois state legislature with Abraham Lincoln in 1834, and Lincoln successfully represented Fithian in a lawsuit in 1850. …

Black, Pickens W., Sr.

Pickens W. Black Sr. was one of the most remarkable African-American agriculturalists in northeast Arkansas in the post–Civil War years. Although little has been written about his life, he is rightly entitled to appear in the annals of Arkansas history as an entrepreneur, community developer, philanthropist, and advocate for the education of black children in Jackson County. Pickens Black Sr. was born a slave about 1861 (no later than 1863) near Gadsden, Alabama. His mother, Mary Johnston, and her first and second husbands (the second was his father) were the slaves of a white plantation owner named Black, and they took the surname of their master. Black had an older half-brother, John V. Lee, from his mother’s first marriage. Black …

Black, William Perkins

A Medal of Honor recipient for valor during the Battle of Pea Ridge, William Perkins Black later served as an attorney and gained national prominence as lead counsel for the legal team that defended the accused bombers in Chicago’s Haymarket Square Riot case. Born on November 11, 1842, in Woodford County, Kentucky, to the Reverend John Black and Josephine Culbertson Black, William Black was the second son of their four children. After Rev. Black died in 1847, Josephine Black moved her family to Danville, Illinois, to be near her brother James Culbertson. Soon thereafter, she married Dr. William Fithian. Fithian served in the Illinois state legislature with Abraham Lincoln in 1834, and Lincoln successfully represented Fithian in a lawsuit in …

Blackburn, Sylvanus

Sylvanus Walker Blackburn is noted for building the first gristmill in Benton County, locating his mill on War Eagle River. After selecting a site, Blackburn built a home, followed by a gristmill, blacksmith shop, carpentry shop, sawmill, and school. Today, Blackburn’s two-story home still stands, while a 1973 reproduction of the mill sits on its original spot. War Eagle Mill is Arkansas’s only remaining working mill and is believed to be the only undershot waterwheel now in operation in the United States. This is also the site of the well-known annual Ozark Arts and Crafts Fair, generally known as the War Eagle Fair, established in 1954 and held in October. Born on February 15, 1809, Sylvanus Blackburn was the son …

Blackmon, Douglas A.

Douglas A. Blackmon is an American writer and journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and an American Book Award for Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (2008). Douglas Blackmon was born in the fall of 1964 in Stuttgart (Arkansas County). The family later moved to Leland, Mississippi, where Blackmon penned his first newspaper story at the age of twelve for the town’s Progress. The family relocated to Monticello (Drew County), where he graduated from high school. He then attended Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County), graduating in 1986. After graduation, Blackmon was a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat and managing editor of the Daily Record in …

Blackwell, Marlon Matthew

Marlon Matthew Blackwell is a professor of architecture at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and is recognized both nationally and internationally for his architectural design work. He also co-founded and conducts an international architectural program and is the principal architect in an award-winning private design firm. Marlon Blackwell was born on November 7, 1956, to a military family stationed in Munich, Germany. He was brought up in various locations including Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Montana, and the Philippines, and was a high school wrestler. Blackwell entered Auburn University in the summer of 1974, studying architecture and being selected as one of Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. In 1980, he was awarded a bachelor’s degree in …

Blackwood, Dwight Hale

Dwight Hale Blackwood was a minor league baseball player who, after retiring from the game, became involved with state politics. He had a successful career in public office, holding a number of positions in state and local government in a career that extended from the mid-1910s through the early 1930s. Dwight Blackwood was born on December 24, 1886, in Osceola (Mississippi County) to John Oscar Blackwood and Nancy Emery Hale Blackwood. One of twelve children, he received his early education in the Osceola schools. Later, he attended what are now Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia (Clark County) and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville (Washington County). Blackwood began his professional baseball career in 1908, playing in the minor leagues—including the …

Blade, Maxwell

Maxwell Blade is an illusionist and comedian based in downtown Hot Springs (Garland County) is a well-known attraction. He began holding Maxwell Blade’s Festival of Magic in 2013 and undertook the restoration of the city’s historic Malco Theatre. Maxwell Blade was born on January 24, 1962, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). As a child in the 1970s, he became interested in magic after watching magician and comedian Mark Wilson’s Funny Face Magic Show and Magic Circus on television. He began learning and practicing simple magic tricks as a hobby, in addition to teaching himself to play drums and piano. When he was eight years old, he began playing music at a local church. He graduated from Greenwood High School in …

Blaisdell, Frank M.

Frank M. Blaisdell was an architect and civil engineer who settled in Arkansas in 1905 and played a vital role in the growth of Little Rock (Pulaski County). While he was primarily a landscape architect, he left a permanent mark on the state by designing several buildings that still stand in the twenty-first century. Frank M. Blaisdell was born on September 17, 1855, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Mary A. Blaisdell and William Blaisdell. His father, who held the rank of general, was killed in battle at Petersburg, Virginia, during the Civil War in 1864. After his father’s death, Blaisdell became involved with the Massachusetts Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion. He attended West Point for three years …

Blake, Charles E.

Charles Edward Blake Sr. is the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). He is also pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, which has a membership of more than 25,000. In addition, Blake founded Save Africa’s Children, which provides orphan care programs across the continent of Africa. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2009. Charles E. Blake was born on August 5, 1940, in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Junious Augustus Blake and Lula Champion Blake. His father was a native of Camden (Ouachita County) who pastored various churches throughout Arkansas before moving to California. Charles Blake was ordained a minister himself in 1962. He received a BA …

Blakely, Joe (Lynching of)

On May 29, 1909, African-American man Sam Blakely—with his brother Joe Blakely as an accessory—allegedly murdered deputy sheriff Walter Cain in Portland (Ashley County). Sam briefly escaped, and Joe was eventually lynched for his role in the murder. The incident was covered by numerous newspapers across the country, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Tribune. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the difficulty started when a white farmer named Bud Harper killed Sam Blakely’s dog. The two Blakely brothers then went to Harper’s home, assaulting him “in his own yard, abusing him while he held Mr. Harper under gun cover, backed up by Joe.” Warrants were sworn out against the African-American brothers for disturbing the peace, and Cain …

Blass, Gustave (Gus)

Gus Blass was a Jewish immigrant who settled in Arkansas and became one of the state’s most successful merchants, establishing what became the largest department store in Arkansas, the Gus Blass Company. Gustave (Gus) Blass was born on February 15, 1849, in Obornik, Germany, a small town north of Poznan, which is now part of Poland. At the age of sixteen, he boarded a ship bound for New York, identifying himself on the ship’s manifest as a merchant. After a short stint in Memphis, Tennessee, he made his way to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he founded the Gus Blass Dry Goods Company in 1871. The following year, Blass married Bertha Katzenstein, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. They had …

Blass, Noland

Noland Blass Jr., an architect with the firm Erhart, Eichenbaum, Rauch, and Blass (EERB), worked at the firm during its heyday in the mid-twentieth century. Blass began working for the firm in 1946, brought in to help modernize the firm. During Blass’s time there, EERB became one of the most prominent architecture firms in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Blass was also known as one of the most prolific designers of Mid-Century Modern–style residential architecture in Little Rock. His obituary in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette noted that Blass was “one of Arkansas’ most respected architects,” and was also a “mentor to most of the fine architects in the city.” Noland Blass Jr. was born in Little Rock on May 28, 1920, to …

Blazes, Albert (Lynching of)

aka: Albert Blades (Lynching of)
In May 1926, an African-American man named Albert Blazes (sometimes referred to as Blades) was taken from authorities in Wilson (Mississippi County) and lynched for allegedly attacking a white girl. The story was covered both nationally and internationally, appearing in Time magazine and meriting a front-page illustration in Le Petit Journal, published in Paris, France. There is no information on the identity of either the girl or the alleged perpetrator. According to the May 27, 1926, Arkansas Gazette, a group of Wilson school children were on an outing when three girls became separated from their classmates. Albert Blazes (whose age is reported in various sources from nineteen to twenty-two) pursued them; two of them ran away, but one girl tripped, …

Bliss, Calvin Comins

Calvin Comins Bliss was in search of challenges when he and his new wife Caroline came to Arkansas from New England in 1854. He was involved in many business and other ventures including real estate, publishing, and politics. During the Civil War, he served for a time in the Union army, became the first lieutenant governor of Arkansas, and participated in establishing the new constitution that abolished slavery. His resourceful wife taught school and took care of the family, even traveling back across the front lines to New England in wartime. Calvin Bliss was born on December 22, 1823, in Calais, Vermont, the son of farmers William and Martha Bliss. He was the first of their four children. He attended …

Block, Abraham

aka: Abraham Bloch
Abraham Block was the patriarch of the first documented Jewish family to immigrate to the state of Arkansas. After a period as a businessman in Virginia, Block moved his family to southwest Arkansas in search of new economic opportunities. Along with his sons, he created a regional merchant empire with businesses in Washington (Hempstead County), Fulton (Hempstead County), and Paraclifta (Sevier County) in Arkansas, as well as in New Orleans, Louisiana, and at several stops along the railroad in Texas from Houston to Dallas. The family home in Washington has been restored and is currently a house museum in Historic Washington State Park. Abraham Block (or Bloch) was born on January 30, 1780, or 1781, in Schwihau, Bohemia. The names …