Entries - Race and Ethnicity: White - Starting with B

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 …

Babcock, Bernie

aka: Julia Burnelle Smade Babcock
In 1903, Julia Burnelle (Bernie) Smade Babcock became the first Arkansas woman to be included in Authors and Writers Who’s Who. She published more than forty novels, as well as numerous tracts and newspaper and magazine articles. She founded the Museum of Natural History in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was a founding member of the Arkansas Historical Society, and was the first president of the Arkansas branch of the National League of American Pen Women. Bernie Smade was born in Union, Ohio, on April 28, 1868, the first of six children, to Hiram Norton Smade and Charlotte Elizabeth (Burnelle) Smade. The Smades raised their children with a freedom uncharacteristic for that time. When Smade’s lively imagination was mistaken for lying …

Babcock, Lucille (Lucy)

Lucille (Lucy) Babcock was a noted actress in theater and television who established the first community theater in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She also fostered the literary organizations her grandmother, writer Bernie Babcock, founded. Lucy Babcock was born Lucille Thornburg on September 30, 1921, to Frances Babcock Thornburg and John Thornburg. She had one sibling. While she was still an infant, her father deserted the family. Her grandmother had purchased Broadview, a wooded acreage that overlooked Little Rock, and the family moved into her barn-cum-house. At school, she was often in trouble for defending the underdog, recalling, “No one ever told me fighting was wrong.” Her circumstances and the area where she lived branded her as “white trash.” She attended …

Bachman, Joseph

Joseph Bachman is widely recognized as Arkansas’s leading developer of grape varieties. During his career, he received national and international attention for his development of grape vines, winning several awards and supplying cuttings and plants to numerous nurseries. Joseph Bachman was born in 1853 in Lucerne, Switzerland. Little is known about his childhood, including his family, education, and early career. According to immigration records, Bachman arrived in New York on May 9, 1878, on a ship that had departed Le Havre, France, earlier that year. By 1881, following the advice of his relatives, Bachman had settled in the town of Altus (Franklin County), where many of his other countrymen resided. He held a wide array of occupations, serving as the …

Bacon, Nick Daniel (Nicky)

Nick Daniel Bacon stands as Arkansas’s only Medal of Honor recipient for actions in the Vietnam War. In addition, Bacon served for more than a decade as the director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, championing many programs for Arkansas’s veterans and playing an instrumental part in the erection of a memorial honoring all of Arkansas’s Medal of Honor recipients. Nicky Bacon was born on November 25, 1945, in Caraway (Craighead County), one of eight children. In the early 1950s, his financially struggling family moved to Arizona. Bacon dropped out of high school after the ninth grade to work but was inspired to do something else by his uncle’s tales of World War II. Despite being too young, he joined …

Baerg, William J.

William J. Baerg was a naturalist, entomologist, and teacher who served as head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) for thirty-one years. His research on black widow spiders, tarantulas, scorpions, and other arthropods led to descriptions of their behavior, biology, and natural history that had previously been largely ignored by biologists and entomologists. William Baerg was born in Hillsboro, Kansas, to Johann and Magaretha (Hildebrand) Baerg on September 24, 1885. His parents, who had left Russia in 1874, worked as field hands on a Kansas wheat farm. The family later acquired a small piece of land for their own. Baerg was the sixth of seven children. Baerg began school at age seven. At …

Bagley-Ridgeway Feud

“Officer Uses a Pistol Fatally,” an Arkansas Gazette headline stated on March 5, 1905. The incident that led to this headline was the catalyst for one of the state’s longest-running and bloodiest feuds. On March 4, 1905, Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County) city marshal Robert Lee Ridgeway shot Jesse Edward (Ed) Bagley, son of wealthy farmer Isham J. Bagley, three times. Bagley was reportedly drunk and resisting arrest when Ridgeway, acting in his legal capacity as law officer, shot and killed him. At a coroner’s inquiry, Ridgeway was found innocent of any wrongdoing. At the time of the shooting, Isham Bagley and his other two sons were “in the country” (that is, in the vicinity). It was reported, “When they learn …

Bailey, Bob

aka: Robert Ballard Bailey
Robert Ballard (Bob) Bailey was a prominent early to mid-twentieth-century lawyer and political figure who served two terms in the state Senate and three terms as lieutenant governor. He frequently served as acting governor when the governor was out of state. Bob Bailey was born on August 7, 1889, in Knott County, Kentucky, to John Marshall and Mollie (or Mallie) French Bailey. His father served as a district judge in the Hindman, Kentucky, area. Bailey attended high school in Hindman and acquired his early knowledge of law by accompanying his father to court. He later studied law under his father and attended Kentucky Wesleyan College in Winchester and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. On May 2, 1909, Bailey …

Bailey, Carl Edward

Carl Edward Bailey, a two-term governor of Arkansas in the 1930s, struggled to modernize state government and to cope with the Great Depression. He led a political faction consisting of state employees, which clashed with a coalition of federal workers over control of patronage. This conflict split the Democratic Party as well as the state into opposing political blocs. Carl Bailey was born on October 8, 1894, in Bernie, Missouri, to William Edward Bailey and Margaret Elmyra McCorkle. His father worked as a logger and hardware salesman. Bailey grew up in Campbell, Missouri, where he graduated from high school. He attended Chillicothe Business College in Missouri but lacked the funds to graduate. He held a series of jobs and read …

Bailey, Marian Breland

Marian (Ruth Kruse) Breland Bailey was a pioneer in the field of animal behavior. Marian and her first husband, Keller Breland, were the first to use operant conditioning technology for commercial purposes. From their Hot Springs (Garland County) farm, the Brelands exported the new technology all over the world. Marian Ruth Kruse was born on December 2, 1920, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Christian and Harriet (Prime) Kruse. Christian Kruse owned an auto parts supply house. Harriet was a registered nurse. Marian had one brother, Donald. She was known as “Mouse” to her friends; Marian’s father was the first to call her “Maus,” a common German term of endearment for girls. Later, when Marian met her soon-to-be husband, Keller, he also …

Bailey, O. C.

aka: Olin Cavanaugh Bailey
Olin Cavanaugh Bailey of El Dorado (Union County) was a leader in the Arkansas oil industry and served as the first chairman of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission. Both Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) and Hendrix College have buildings named in Bailey’s honor. O. C. Bailey was born in Blevins (Hempstead County) on July 28, 1894, the second child of Gentry Ethridge, a farmer from Haynesville, Louisiana, and Sarah Margaret Stephens Bailey, a housewife from Wallaceburg (Hempstead County). Bailey graduated from Ouachita College (now Ouachita Baptist University) with a BA in 1914. Bailey married Leila St. Clair Lide of Camden (Ouachita County) on September 12, 1917. The couple had no children. On October 18, 1918, Bailey joined the United States …

Baker, Basil

Basil Thorpe Baker served on the Arkansas Supreme Court from 1934 until his death in 1941, and while his service was not long, his name appeared on 333 opinions, most of which reflected the sentiments of a unanimous court. On those occasions when he did dissent, his vote was usually cast for the common man as opposed to the large corporation. He was, his colleagues recalled, “neither a confirmed conservative nor liberal in his interpretations of Arkansas statutes.” Instead, as Horace Sloan observed, “he had a natural legal mind.” Basil Baker was born on January 29, 1871, to Joshua D. and Bethia T. Jameson Baker on their Columbia County farm; he had one brother. His father was a farmer and …

Baker, Norman

Norman Glenwood Baker is best known in Arkansas as a promoter of alternative medicine who settled in Eureka Springs (Carroll County) in 1936 and was convicted of mail fraud in 1940. Anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic, he was also a radio pioneer and a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat and for governor of Iowa. Norman Baker, the tenth and last child of John and Frances Baker of Muscatine, Iowa, was born on November 27, 1882. His father reportedly held 126 patents and operated Baker Manufacturing Company in Muscatine. His mother, prior to her marriage, had written extensively. Baker left high school after his sophomore year, and his early adult years were spent working as a tramp machinist. After witnessing a vaudeville …

Bales, James David

aka: J. D. Bales
From 1944 to 1980, James David Bales was a professor of Bible and theology at Harding University (formerly Harding College) in Searcy (White County). Both in public and in print, Bales earned a national reputation as a fearsome debater of theological issues and political ideologies, becoming especially well known for his anti-communism stance. J. D. Bales was born on November 5, 1915, in Tacoma, Washington, the fifth of eight children. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Albany, Georgia. Bales was eleven when a train struck and killed his parents. Bales went to live with his paternal grandparents in Fitzgerald, Georgia, until 1930 when he enrolled in the Georgia Military Academy (now Woodward Academy) in College Park, Georgia, where …

Bandini, Pietro

Father Pietro Bandini is most widely remembered in Arkansas for the 1898 founding of Tontitown (Washington County), located in the northwest corner of the state, which he named after Henry de Tonti, an Italian explorer who established, with René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the first European settlement in Arkansas in 1686. However, the founding of Tontitown is but a regional capstone on a life spent working for the betterment of Italian immigrant communities in the nation. Bandini was born on March 31, 1852, in Forli, which is in the Romagna region of Italy. Little is known about Bandini’s family, described as of the upper class and refined. He is known to have had two older brothers, one of whom …

Barkman, Jacob

Jacob Barkman is known as the father of Clark County. An early settler along the Caddo River, Barkman eventually became a prominent landowner and planter. Jacob Barkman was born on December 20, 1784, in Kentucky. Little is known of his early life, but, by 1811, Barkman had married Rebecca Davis. Eventually, the couple had two sons and a daughter. Wishing to move west, the family joined Barkman’s brother John, John’s wife, and their several slaves at Bayou Sara in Louisiana in 1811. Joining another group organized by John Hemphill, the party moved up the Ouachita River. The Barkmans settled along the Caddo River, just a few miles from its merger with the Ouachita. This location was a few miles to …

Barnhill, John Henry “Barnie”

John Henry Barnhill was a successful head football coach both at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) but left the most lasting imprint in Fayetteville (Washington County) as UA’s athletic director. John Henry Barnhill was born on February 23, 1903, to James Monroe Barnhill and Margaret Alice Bryan in Savannah, Tennessee. His parents were farmers. Barnhill’s services were so greatly required on the family farm that they caused an interruption in his attending high school. He graduated from Savannah High School in 1923. He was nineteen when he enrolled at Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) in 1923. He transferred to the University of Tennessee in 1924 and excelled …

Barraque, Antoine

Antoine Barraque established the settlement called New Gascony, one of the earliest settlements in what is now Jefferson County. He also served as a government agent with the Quapaw, whom he guided to Louisiana in 1826 after the treaty of 1824, although his efforts to ease their transition to a new land were frustrated by other government officials. Antoine Barraque was born on April 15, 1773, in southwestern France. He was educated in Paris and served in the French army under Napoleon Bonaparte, fighting at the battles of Marengo, Austerlitz, Jena, Lodi, and Moscow. Following the end of Napoleon’s empire, Barraque relocated to Arkansas, arriving in 1816 at the age of forty-three. Living first at Arkansas Post, Barraque formed friendships …

Bartell, Fred Wallace

Frederick Wallace Bartell was a Siloam Springs (Benton County) merchant, church leader, and Circuit Chautauqua manager. He organized Associated Chautauquas, which was among the first “tent” or “traveling” Chautauqua circuits. Fred W. Bartell was born in Milford, Kansas, on October 12, 1872, to immigrant parents. His father, Edward Charles Bartell, was from Germany; his mother, Louesa (or Louise), Edward’s second wife, was from France. He was the fourth of their five children. There also were six children from Edward’s first marriage to Catharine Branscom, who died in 1860. Louesa died in 1878. Edward Bartell and other family members migrated to Siloam Springs sometime before May 1892, when Fred Bartell arrived. Bartell said of his arrival, “I came with the flood,” …

Bartlett, E. M.

aka: Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr.
With the exception of his protégé, Albert E. Brumley, no other Arkansas figure contributed more to the development of the Southern gospel music genre than singer, songwriter, and publisher Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr. E. M. Bartlett was born on December 24, 1883, in the small community of Waynesville, Missouri, according to Barlett’s World War I draft card, though historians have variously placed his year of birth in 1884 and 1885. He and his parents eventually relocated to Sebastian County, Arkansas. Educated at the Hall-Moody Institute in Martin, Tennessee, and William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, Bartlett received training as a music teacher. In 1917, Bartlett married Joan Tatum; they had two children. As an aspiring songwriter, Bartlett became an employee …

Barton, Dorothy Yarnell

Dorothy Yarnell Barton was a dedicated educator who taught at the secondary level and later as a professor at schools in Arkansas and Louisiana. She was also a prolific writer and wrote on subjects such as education theory, family history, and travel. Dorothy Atwood Yarnell was born on May 6, 1900, in Searcy (White County) to local salesman James S. Yarnell and his wife, Margaret Yarnell. She had one sibling, a brother named James who was born in 1903. She was also first cousin once removed to Ray Yarnell (1896–1974), who began the Yarnell Ice Cream Company in 1933. Dorothy Yarnell spent her childhood and young adult life in Searcy and attended Galloway Women’s College, graduating with a BA in …

Barton, Loy

Loy Edgar Barton was a prolific pioneer in the field of radio and television engineering. He was awarded a number of U.S. patents and was responsible for significant technical inventions in radio and television technology. Loy Barton was born on November 7, 1897, to Henry Barton and Mary Frances Barton in Washington County, Arkansas, and spent his early life there. He displayed an early interest in machinery and the relatively new fields of electricity and “wireless” transmission, leading to his enrollment in the engineering program at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). He received an undergraduate degree there and began teaching engineering courses at the school. During this period, Barton elected to pursue advanced engineering studies and, …

Barton, Thomas Harry

Colonel Thomas H. Barton, a pioneer El Dorado (Union County) oilman and philanthropist, launched his small Lion Oil Company into a major oil company that included exploration, production, marketing, distribution, refining, and research programs. Barton was born in Marlin, Texas, on September 20, 1881. His father, Thomas Killebrew Barton, was a merchant and farmer in Falls County. At age sixteen, he entered Texas A&M College, but limited funds forced him to leave school early in his second year. He entered the U.S. Army in 1901 and was discharged in 1904 with the rank of corporal. From 1905 to 1917, he worked in a variety of occupations that included banking and lumber in Dallas County. In 1906, he was commissioned with …

Bates, James Woodson

James Woodson Bates was an early Arkansas settler who was elected as the first Arkansas territorial representative to the U.S. Congress. After leaving that office, he went on to help develop Arkansas’s legal system as a judge and lawyer. Batesville (Independence County) was named after him in 1824. James Bates was born on August 25, 1788, in Belmont, Virginia, to Thomas F. Bates and Caroline Woodson Bates. Little is known of his early life, but he attended Yale College (now Yale University). He eventually graduated from Princeton College (now Princeton University) in 1807 and began practicing law in Virginia. In 1816, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where his brother Frederick Bates had been appointed territorial secretary. In 1819, he, …

Battle, Burrill Bunn

Burrill Bunn Battle was a prominent Arkansas attorney and jurist in the latter decades of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century. Although he was born in Mississippi, his family moved to Arkansas when he was a child, and it was there that he embarked on a legal career that culminated in a twenty-five-year tenure on the Arkansas Supreme Court. Burrill B. Battle was born on October 24, 1838, in Hinds County in Mississippi. His parents, Joseph Battle and Nancy Stricklin Battle, were native North Carolinians, but when Battle was six, the family relocated to Arkansas, settling in Lafayette County, where he received his early education. From there, Battle attended Arkansas College in Fayetteville (Washington County), …

Baucum, George Franklin

George F. Baucum was a Confederate officer and a Little Rock (Pulaski County) businessman. He served in many major battles of the Civil War’s western theater, including at Murfreesboro in Tennessee and Chickamauga and Atlanta in Georgia. After the war, he became a prominent grocer, cotton broker, and banker who owned plantations in central Arkansas. George Franklin Baucum was born on February 1, 1837, in St. Charles, Missouri. He was the son of Daniel Baucum and Kathryn Baucum, both of whom were natives of Mississippi. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1851. Two years later, the Baucums settled in Searcy (White County). At the outbreak of the Civil War, Baucum was working as a grocer in Searcy. He joined …

Baxter, Elisha

Elisha Baxter, a Unionist leader during the Civil War and a jurist, is best remembered as Arkansas’s last Republican governor during Reconstruction. The attempt to overthrow him became known as the Brooks-Baxter War. Baxter’s victory resulted in the end of Reconstruction and the adoption of the Constitution of 1874. Elisha Baxter was born on September 1, 1827, in Rutherford County, North Carolina, to William Baxter and his second wife, Catherine Lee. She was the mother to five sons and three daughters out of William Baxter’s twenty children. His father had emigrated from Ireland in 1789 and prospered in Rutherford County in western North Carolina, acquiring land and slaves. Baxter received a limited education and sought to better himself by obtaining …

Beall, Ruth Olive

Ruth Olive Beall was superintendent of Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Home from 1934 to 1961. She was largely responsible for the hospital’s survival during the financial difficulties of the Great Depression and for its expansion and improvement in the following years. Ruth Beall was born in St. Louis, Missouri, sometime in 1896, the daughter of Charles Carlton Beall, a traveling salesman, and Florance Walcott Beall. While she was attending a boarding school in Arcadia, Missouri, her parents moved to Rogers (Benton County). Beall graduated from Washington University in St. Louis before joining her family in Arkansas. In Rogers, Beall was advisor to the local chapter of the Junior Red Cross during World War I. She was briefly the owner and …

Beall, William Nelson Rector

William Nelson Rector Beall served as a Confederate brigadier general from Arkansas during the Civil War. He most notably served as an agent for the Confederate government to raise funds to purchase supplies for Confederate troops held in Federal prisons. William Beall was born on March 20, 1825, in Bardstown, Kentucky, the son of Samuel Beall and Sally Rector Beall. Sally Beall was a member of the Rector family, which was prominent in Arkansas politics. The Bealls moved to Arkansas in 1840, settling in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Both of Beall’s parents died soon thereafter, orphaning him and his four siblings. Beall graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1848, ranking thirtieth in a class of …

Becker, Jerome Bill

Jerome Bill Becker served as president of the Arkansas American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) from 1964 to 1996. At the time of his death, Becker was noted as the longest-serving state AFL-CIO president in the United States. J. Bill Becker was born on February 25, 1924, in Chicago, Illinois. His parents, Joseph and Hazel Becker, were Russian immigrants. In 1942, Becker graduated in the upper third of his class from John Marshall High School in Chicago, where he was a standout football player. Becker suffered a knee injury while playing high school football, which initially made him ineligible to serve in the U.S. armed forces during World War II. Instead, he worked at a defense …

Beebe, Mickey Dale (Mike)

A veteran of state government, Mickey Dale (Mike) Beebe was inaugurated as Arkansas’s forty-fifth governor on January 9, 2007. He remained popular with Arkansas’s electorate across his entire eight-year term of service, with support that crossed party lines during a time of polarization in American politics. The steadiness of the Arkansas economy and state finances during the Great Recession, the near total elimination of the state’s sales tax on groceries, and the culmination of the Lake View School District No. 25 v. Huckabee public school lawsuit were the hallmarks of the Beebe governorship, which was often characterized as “pragmatic.” However, Beebe also served as the leader of the state Democratic Party during its historic fall from power. Mike Beebe was …

Beebe, Roswell

Roswell Beebe was the first benefactor of the city of Little Rock (Pulaski County); the town of Beebe (White County) was named after him. In the late 1840s and the 1850s, he was one of the most important businessmen and politicians in Little Rock. He donated several pieces of land to the city. Roswell Beebe was born on December 22, 1795, in Hinsdale, New York, to a wealthy English family. When he was seventeen, he talked his father into letting him go to New Orleans, Louisiana. He was behind the cotton bales with Andrew Jackson when the United States turned back the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Roswell was successful in several businesses. The 1832 New …

Bell, Clarence Elmo

Clarence Elmo Bell was a prominent public school educator as well as a longtime, influential member of the Arkansas Senate. He announced his retirement just prior to the state’s adoption of constitutionally mandated term limits. Clarence Bell was born on February 1, 1912, in Camden (Ouachita County). The son of Joseph Dudley Bell and Dona Massengale Bell, he grew up in Camden and graduated from Camden High School, where he was a star athlete. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from what is now Ouachita Baptist University (OBU), where he continued to shine athletically. Graduating in 1934, he spent the following year working as assistant coach and Dean of Men at OBU. In 1935, Bell left Ouachita to …

Bell, Earl Holmes

Earl Holmes Bell of Jonesboro (Craighead County) is one of the most renowned U.S. men’s pole vaulters and coaches, a three-time Olympian, and five-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) record holder. His achievements include setting the world’s outdoor record in 1976; qualifying for the Olympic Games in 1976, 1984 and 1988; and winning the bronze medal at the 1984 Olympics. He was the U.S. national champion in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s—a remarkable three-decade achievement for an athlete. After turning to coaching by founding Bell Athletics in Jonesboro, he was named the 1998 National Olympic Coach of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee. In 2004, Bell Athletics alone produced half of the U.S. Olympic pole-vaulting team. Earl Bell was …

Bennett, Alvin Silas (Al)

Alvin Silas (Al) Bennett was a recording industry executive best known for his tenure as president and director of Liberty Records from 1958 to 1968. Known as a “music business wizard,” Bennett is largely credited with the transformation of Liberty Records from a struggling start-up operation to a dominant force in the recording trade. “Alvin” of Alvin and the Chipmunks was named after Bennett. Al Bennett was born in Joiner (Mississippi County) on September 21, 1926, to the farming family of Silas S. Bennett and Jessie Starling Bennett. The oldest of four children, he spent his early years working on the farm while attending Shawnee School, graduating in 1943. Bennett enlisted in the U.S. Army on November 5, 1945, for …

Bennett, Bruce

Bruce Bennett was Arkansas’s attorney general from 1957 to 1960 and from 1963 to 1966. As the state’s leading legal authority, he became known as much for flouting the law as for upholding it. In the wake of the Little Rock (Pulaski County) desegregation crisis, Bennett authored legislation to bypass federal desegregation orders, including acts “designed to harass” the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He gained further notoriety in asserting that communist influence underlay the racial unrest in Arkansas. Toward the end of his career, Bennett became infamous for his part in the securities fraud scandal involving the Arkansas Loan and Thrift. Bruce Bennett was born on October 31, 1917, to Oakley Adair Bennett and Anita …

Bennett, Harold George

Perry County native Harold George Bennett was a Green Beret serving in Vietnam in 1964 when he was captured in South Vietnam and held as a prisoner of war. He was executed on June 25, 1965—the first American prisoner of war to be executed during the Vietnam War. He was honored with a posthumous Silver Star in 2010. Harold George Bennett was born on October 16, 1940, in Thornburg (Perry County), one of nine children of Pauline Bennett and World War I veteran Garland Bennett. He was set on a military career from a young age, and on his seventeenth birthday in 1957 he quit school and went to Little Rock (Pulaski County) to enlist in the U.S. Army. Bennett …

Bennett, Henry Garland

Henry Garland Bennett was an Arkansas-born educator who played a transformative role in the development of the state of Oklahoma’s system of higher education. In addition, in his final years, he was appointed to help direct the U.S. State Department’s Point Four Program. He served from 1950 until his sudden death in a plane crash in December 1951. Henry G. Bennett was born on December 14, 1886, in Nevada County. The son of the Reverend Thomas Jefferson Bennett and Mary Elizabeth Bright Bennett, he had three sisters. The family moved from Arkansas to Texas before Bennett’s first birthday but settled in Arkadelphia (Clark County) before he started school. It was there that he grew up and received his early education. …

Benson, George Stuart

George Stuart Benson was the second president of Harding College (now Harding University) in Searcy (White County), but he is most remembered as a crusader against communism. He founded the National Education Program (NEP) at Harding to advocate for American values and the free enterprise system. George Benson, son of Stuart Felix Benson and Erma Rogers Benson, was born on his parents’ small Oklahoma farm in Dewey County on September 26, 1898. He attended several elementary and secondary schools in the area and then attended classes at Oklahoma A&M until transferring to Harper College in Harper, Kansas. In 1924, Harper College merged with Arkansas Christian College in Morrilton (Conway County) to form Harding College, a private school associated with the …

Benson, Jesse N. “Buddy”

Jesse N. “Buddy” Benson earned statewide recognition in Arkansas athletic circles, first as a football player for the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and later as the head football coach for thirty-one seasons at Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) in Arkadelphia (Clark County). Benson was a 1993 inductee into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and was inducted into both the Ouachita Sports Hall of Fame and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame. Buddy Benson was born on November 9, 1933, in Wright City, Oklahoma, to Jesse Benson and Louise Pate Benson. He was one of the nation’s most actively recruited football players after he graduated from high school at De Queen (Sevier County). …

Bentley, Edwin

Edwin Bentley was one of the eight founders of the Arkansas Industrial University Medical Department, now the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Edwin Bentley was born to George W. and Anne Williams Bentley on July 3, 1824, in New London, Connecticut. Bentley’s early education was in the local schools and under private tutors. He received, for the time, a quite thorough medical training at the New York City Medical College, the Twenty-third Street Medical College, the Bellevue Hospital Medical College, and the medical department of the University of the City of New York, from which he received his doctor of medicine degree in 1849. Bentley then established a thriving general practice in Norwich, …

Benton, Thomas Hart

Thomas Hart Benton—painter, muralist, and writer from Missouri—developed, along with artists Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry, a style of painting in the 1920s that became known as regionalism. Benton was influenced early in his career by a sketching trip he took through northwest Arkansas in 1926. He returned to Arkansas to sketch and paint periodically, primarily in the Buffalo River area. Benton also enjoyed floating and fishing on the Buffalo River and opposed efforts to dam it during the 1960s. Tom Benton was born on April 15, 1889, in Neosho, Missouri. He was the oldest of four children born to Maecenus Eason (M. E.) and Elizabeth (Wise) Benton. M. E. was a lawyer and served as a congressman from …

Berry, Danielle Bunten

aka: Daniel Bunten
Danielle (Dani) Berry was a revolutionary computer game designer who specialized in multi-player games at a time when few in the industry were interested in the idea. She is also remembered for breaking gender boundaries in the industry, having been born a male but undergoing gender reassignment surgery late in her career. Berry’s 1983 game M.U.L.E. was listed third on Computer Gaming World’s 1996 list of the best games of all time, and Will Wright, the designer of Sim City, once said, “Ask most game designers what their favorite computer game of all time is, and you’ll get M.U.L.E. as an answer more often than any other title.” She was a major influence upon the likes of Wright and Civilization …

Berry, James Henderson

James Henderson Berry served as a Civil War officer, lawyer, Arkansas legislator, speaker of the Arkansas house, and circuit judge for the Fourth Judicial District before being elected Arkansas’s fourteenth governor. A staunch Democrat, he was governor for two years and promoted increased taxation for railroads, repudiation of state debt, equal protection for all citizens, reform of the state penal system, and economy in government. Berry followed his stint as governor with twenty-two years of service as a United States senator, from 1885 to 1907. Berry was born in Jackson County, Alabama, on May 15, 1841. His parents, James M. and Isabelle (Orr) Berry, were farmers, and ten of their children lived to adulthood: Granville, Mary, Fannie, Dick, James, Arkansas, …

Berry, Robert Marion

Robert Marion Berry represented Arkansas’s First Congressional District as a Democrat for seven terms. First elected to the 105th Congress, he served from January 1997 until January 2011. Marion Berry was born in Stuttgart (Arkansas County) on August 27, 1942. The son of a rice farmer and his wife, he had two brothers. He was educated in local schools before graduating from DeWitt High School in DeWitt (Arkansas County). Berry went on to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he earned a BS in pharmacy in 1965. He settled in Gillett (Arkansas County) and became a licensed pharmacist and a farmer who grew rice and soybeans. He soon became involved in local politics, winning a seat …

Bertig, Adolph

Adolph Bertig, a Jewish immigrant, was one of the leading merchants and financiers in northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was later known as the “Merchant Prince of Paragould.” Ad Bertig was born on June 21, 1853, in Kraków, Galicia, part of what was then the Austrian Empire. He was the eldest son of Wolff Jozef Bertig and Maryem Cortel Bertig. Bertig was nineteen when he immigrated alone to the United States in 1872, arriving first in New York, then migrating west to Little Rock (Pulaski County). While in Little Rock, he gained employment from one of the town’s most prominent businessmen, Colonel John G. Fletcher, who sent Bertig peddling goods to …

Besser, Matthew Gregory (Matt)

Matthew Gregory Besser is an Arkansan comedian, actor, writer, director, and teacher best known as a founding member of the sketch-comedy group the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB). In his comedy, Besser draws upon his background as the child of a Jewish father and a Presbyterian mother from a fundamentalist family, exploring what this means for someone growing up in Arkansas. Matt Besser was born on September 22, 1967, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Sanford Michael Besser of Little Rock, who was an investment banker, and Diane Patricia Pettit Besser of Harrison (Boone County), a homemaker and volunteer in the Little Rock arts community. Besser is a first cousin twice removed of comic actor Joe Besser, who was a member …

Bethune, Edwin Ruthvin (Ed), Jr.

Edwin Ruthvin (Ed) Bethune Jr., a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington DC, served as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 to 1985 from the Second Congressional District of Arkansas. Ed Bethune was born on December 19, 1935, in Pocahontas (Randolph County) to Edwin Bethune Sr. and Delta Lewallen Bethune. He has one sister. Although he grew up in Pocahontas, Bethune spent one year in Little Rock (Pulaski County), attending Little Rock High School (later called Central High); Bethune graduated from Pocahontas High School in 1953. He attended one semester at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and followed that with four years in the U.S. Marine Corps (1954–1957), during which time he …

Betts, Louis L.

Louis L. Betts was a painter active in the first half of the twentieth century in the United States, especially noted for his portraits. His handling of paint and the subjects he chose gave his work a grand and conservative quality, recalling Old Master paintings from the Baroque era as well as styles popular in late nineteenth-century European art centers. Louis Betts was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on October 5, 1873, the son of Edwin Daniel Betts Sr., a landscape painter and his son’s first teacher. Young Louis’s mother died soon after his birth, and his father married one of her sisters. They did not remain in Little Rock long, however, for Betts’s three younger siblings (who all …

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 …