Race and Ethnicity: White - Starting with L

La Harpe, Jean-Baptiste Bénard de

Jean-Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe was a French officer, trader, and explorer. He was the first European explorer to record the existence of a large rocky bluff on the north bank of the Arkansas River. This major outcrop of rock is just upstream from a smaller rock, where it was possible to ford the river. It was at this location that the settlement of Little Rock (Pulaski County) subsequently developed. Jean-Baptiste de La Harpe was the second son of Pierre Besnard, Seigneur de la Harpe, and Jeanne le Breton. He was christened on February 4, 1683, in St. Malo, France, one of the couple’s twelve surviving children. His father’s family had lived in the area for nearly a century and …

La Salle, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de

In 1682, French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle journeyed down the Mississippi River in search of a water route to the Gulf of Mexico. Stopping in present-day Arkansas County at the current site of Arkansas Post National Memorial, La Salle erected a cross to designate the region “Louisiana” in honor of Louis XIV, king of France. He was one of the first European explorers to make alliances with the Native Americans of Arkansas and the first to try to establish a permanent settlement in Arkansas through his friend and fellow explorer, Henri de Tonti. La Salle was born in Rouen, France, on November 21, 1643. His parents, Catherine Gesset and Jean Cavlier, were wealthy merchants. Educated at the …

LaBeef, Sleepy

aka: Thomas Paulsley LaBeff
Sleepy LaBeef was a rockabilly musician who performed in the United States, Canada, and Europe for more than fifty years. He shared the stage with a long list of greats, including Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Kenny Rogers, and Glen Campbell. Sometimes called the Human Jukebox, he is said to have been able to play as many as 6,000 songs. Sleepy LaBeef was born Thomas Paulsley LaBeff (the family name was originally LaBoeuf) in the oil-boom town of Smackover (Union County) on July 20, 1935, the youngest of ten children. His family owned a farm, raising livestock and growing cotton and watermelons, before selling the land to be drilled for oil. He got the nickname “Sleepy” in the first grade because …

Lacewell, Larry Wayne

Larry Wayne Lacewell, the former football coach and athletic director at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County), took his teams to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I-AA playoffs for four straight years, to two Southland Conference championships, and to the 1986 Division I-AA National Championship game. In 1992, he began work as a scout for the Dallas Cowboys professional National Football League (NFL) team. Lacewell is the only coach in the nation to have led college teams to back-to-back championships and been a part of back-to-back NFL Super Bowl wins. Larry Lacewell was born on February 12, 1937, in Fordyce (Dallas County) to Arvel and Eloise Lacewell. He was the second of four children. He attended …

Lacy, Thomas J.

Thomas J. Lacy was a leader of the Arkansas legal community in the early days of statehood. One of the original members of the Supreme Court of Arkansas, he served for nine years before ill health forced him to step down in 1845. Thomas J. Lacy was born around 1806 in Rockingham County in North Carolina. The son of Batie Cocke Lacy and Elizabeth Overton Lacy, he was educated at what became the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, reportedly graduating at the top of his class in 1825. Following graduation, he read law in the Springfield, Kentucky, office of John Pope, an ally of Andrew Jackson who would later serve as territorial governor in Arkansas. From Kentucky, Lacy …

Ladd, Alan

aka: Alan Walbridge Ladd Jr.
Alan Walbridge Ladd Jr., a native of Hot Springs (Garland County), was a movie actor who rose from poverty and starred in forty-seven films, mostly in the 1940s and 1950s. He often portrayed a solitary hero with a conscience and is best known for his title role in the classic western Shane (1953). He is the father of actress Alana Ladd, actor/producer David Ladd, and producer Alan Ladd Jr., one-time president of 20th Century Fox and co-founder of The Ladd Company. Alan Ladd was born on September 3, 1913, to the American-born Alan Ladd Sr., a freelance accountant who traveled frequently, and the petite Selina Rowley Ladd (stage name Ina Raleigh), who was born in County Durham, England, in 1888 …

Lafferty, John

John Lafferty was, according to several sources, the first known white settler of record in Izard County and an eyewitness to the effects of the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811–1812 along the White River. John Lafferty was born in Donegal, Ireland, in 1759. His parents’ names are unknown. Lafferty grew up in Rutherford County, North Carolina. Lafferty signed the papers of the First Council of Safety of the Revolutionary Party in South Carolina in November 1775 and enlisted in a volunteer company of militia under Captain William Fullwood during the American Revolutionary War. For his service, he recived a land grand of 1,000 acres in the Camden District of South Carolina. At some point, Lafferty married Sarah Lindsey, who was …

Lake, Paul

Paul Lake is a poet, novelist, and professor residing in Russellville (Pope County). He received the Porter Prize, one of the most prestigious literary awards offered in Arkansas, in recognition of his poetry. Paul Lake was born on August 1, 1951, in Baltimore, Maryland. His mother, Barbara Hull Lake, was a fifth-grade teacher, and his father, Paul Saunders Lake, was a manager and salesman for Metropolitan Life. He had three siblings: James, Stephen, and Melody. Lake lived in a row house on Giddings Avenue as a child in Baltimore. When he was in the second grade, Lake and his family moved to rural Harford County, where he attended elementary school and junior high school. After graduating from Edgewood High School, …

Laman, William Fewell “Casey”

William Fewell “Casey” Laman exerted a vigorous—albeit dictatorial—style of leadership during his sixteen-and-a-half-year reign as mayor of North Little Rock (Pulaski County). Serving four terms from 1958 through 1972, and the balance of an unfilled mayoral term from 1979 through 1980, he modernized one of the state’s most populous cities by directing millions of federal, state, and local dollars for housing, education, recreation, and infrastructure. Casey Laman was born on October 20, 1913, on a farm north of Jacksonville (Pulaski County) to James Newton Laman and Anna Fewell Laman; he had two siblings. His father was a machinist-helper for the Missouri Pacific Railway Company and later opened a furniture store and served as an alderman in North Little Rock, where …

Lamb, Theodore Lafayette

Theodore Lafayette Lamb was a key participant in the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis in 1958–59. He was also a prominent civil rights and labor attorney from 1967 until his death. Ted Lamb was born on April 11, 1927 in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Foster Lamb and Theodosia Braswell Lamb. His father was a butcher by trade and moved his family to Arkansas in the early 1930s; the family settled on a farm near Bryant (Saline County). Lamb was educated in the Little Rock (Pulaski County) schools. He was president of the student council at Little Rock High School, now Central High School in 1944. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was posted to …

Lambert, Mary Martha

Mary Lambert is a motion picture director who has been at the helm of landmark music videos, television programs, and feature films—the latter mainly in the horror genre (including Pet Sematary, based on the Stephen King novel). Along with directing music videos for Debbie Harry, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Mick Jagger, Alison Krauss, Annie Lennox, Mötley Crüe, Sting, and the Go-Go’s, Lambert directed many well-known videos for her friend Madonna, including “Like a Virgin,” “Material Girl,” and the controversial “Like a Prayer,” which was seen by millions in a commercial during the 1989 Super Bowl. Mary Martha Lambert was born in Helena (Phillips County) on October 13, 1951, to Martha Kelly Lambert and Jordan Bennett Lambert, who farmed cotton and …

Lampkin, Sheilla Joyce Ezelle

Sheilla Lampkin was a state representative from Monticello (Drew County) who served in the Eighty-eighth, Eighty-ninth, and Ninetieth Arkansas General Assemblies from 2011 to 2016.  Sheilla Joyce Ezelle was born on August 23, 1945, in Rohwer, an unincorporated community in Desha County, to Lettie Lucille McIntyre Ezelle and James Edward Ezelle. She received her early education in the Desha Central Schools and graduated as salutatorian from Dumas High School. In 1966, Ezelle graduated magna cum laude from the Arkansas Agricultural and Mechanical College (now the University of Arkansas at Monticello) with a BS in education degree in social studies, and in 1981, she earned a master’s degree in special education from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County).   Ezelle, who had wanted to be a teacher since she was six years old, began her classroom career immediately after graduation. While teaching at McGehee Elementary School in McGehee (Desha County) in 1967, she married Damon Ray Lampkin, who ran …

Landers, Steve

Steve Landers is a businessman and philanthropist from Benton (Saline County) who founded Arkansas’s largest chain of automotive dealerships. In 2004, Landers Auto Sales, Inc., had the highest reported revenue among car dealers in the state according to business analysts Dun & Bradstreet. Steve Landers was born in Benton on September 23, 1953, to Bob and Bonnie Landers. He has two brothers. Reportedly, when Landers was five years old, he would walk to the Benton Courier office to buy newspapers using his allowance; he bought them for three cents each and then sold them on the street for five cents each. As a young man, he attended livestock and automotive auctions with his maternal step-grandfather, who taught him the art …

Landis, Reed Gresham

Reed Gresham Landis was a World War I flying ace who also served in World War II before retiring to Arkansas to run a resort near Hot Springs (Garland County). Reed G. Landis was born on July 17, 1896, in Ottawa, Illinois, the son of Winifred Reed Landis and Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a federal judge and longtime commissioner of major league baseball. Young Landis grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and, in the spring of 1916, enlisted in the First Illinois Cavalry, which was dispatched with other National Guard units to the Mexican border following Francisco “Pancho” Villa’s raid into U.S. territory. The unit returned to Chicago in November without seeing action, though the training the men experienced while deployed would …

Laney, Benjamin Travis, Jr.

Benjamin Travis Laney Jr. served two terms as governor of Arkansas. His most notable achievement was the state’s 1945 Revenue Stabilization Law, which prohibited deficit spending. Though he once said, “I am not a politician,” his conservative views put him in the spotlight at a time when the Democratic Party was becoming more liberal. Although he opposed desegregation, the University of Arkansas School of Law became the South’s first all-white public institution to admit black students during his tenure. Ben Laney was born on November 25, 1896, in Jones Chapel (Ouachita County), the son of Benjamin Travis Laney and Martha Ellen Saxon. He was one of eleven children, and his father was a farmer. He entered Hendrix College in Conway …

Langley, Isom P.

During the 1880s and early 1890s, Isom P. Langley was a leading figure in the farmer and labor movements in Arkansas. Active in organizations such as the Agricultural Wheel, which was founded in Des Arc (Prairie County) in 1882, and the Knights of Labor, he ran for the U.S. Congress twice. In 1891, he left Arkansas for Missouri, where he spent the second half of his life and served in the state legislature. Born in Clark County, Arkansas, on September 2, 1851, to Samuel S. Langley and Mary J. Browning Langley, Isom Langley grew up on a farm and was educated in county schools. In 1868, he earned a license to preach, and the following year he became an ordained …

Lauck, Chet

aka: Chester Harris Lauck
Chester Harris (Chet) Lauck and his partner, Norris “Tuffy” Goff, created Lum and Abner, a radio program based on life in Pine Ridge (Montgomery County) that was popular nationwide from 1931 to 1955. Lauck portrayed Lum Edwards (pronounced “Eddards”), Grandpappy Spears, and Cedric Wehunt, with Goff doing the voices of the other characters. Chet Lauck was born on October 10, 1902, in Alleene (Little River County) to W. J. and Cora Lauck. The family moved to Mena (Polk County) in 1911. The Lauck and Goff families were prominent in local events in Mena, and as children, the two boys began a lifelong friendship. Lauck was expected to continue his father’s business interests, banking and lumber, but was more interested in …

Lavers, Norman

aka: Cecil Norman Lavers
Throughout his career, Norman Lavers has been an award-winning author of several books and short stories, an English and creative writing professor at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County), an avid nature instructor/photographer/blogger, and winner of Arkansas’s annual Porter Prize. Cecil Norman Lavers was born in Berkeley, California, on April 21, 1935, to attorney Cecil Lavers and homemaker Mary Parker Lavers. He has two sisters. When Lavers was nine years old, he won first prize from the Young Author’s Club for a story published in the Berkeley Daily Gazette. His major influence for writing came from his grandfather, who was a successful short-story writer. Later in life, Lavers would write Growing Up in Berkeley with the Bomb (Summer …

Lavey, John Thomas “Jack”

John Thomas “Jack” Lavey was one of a handful of Arkansas lawyers who made equality claims for African Americans in courts and defended civil rights activists who were jailed during the turbulent civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. His cases in federal courts established the right of African Americans and women to equal pay and promotions in public and private workplaces. Jack Lavey was born on October 19, 1932, in a northern suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, to Francis Lavey and Theresa Lavey. His mother was Italian, and his father, who was Irish, was a telephone lineman and a union member. Lavey played football and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He received a …

Lavy, Thomas Lewis

Thomas L. Lavy was an accused terrorist who committed suicide, hanging himself in his jail cell in Little Rock (Pulaski County) while awaiting trial in December 1995. While his death ended the ongoing investigation, it also left numerous questions as to what he had done and what he had intended to do. Thomas Lewis Lavy was born on December 18, 1941, in Winfield, Missouri, the second child of Littleton Lavy and Cora Yates Lavy. He was raised in Troy, Missouri, where he received his basic education. Following school, Lavy apparently joined the U.S. Army, although there are questions about the time and nature of his service. While there are reports that he was a military policeman in the Korean War, …

Lawhon, Jay Noal

Jay Noal Lawhon of McCrory (Woodruff County) was a star Razorback football player. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1944 but turned down the offer on doctor’s advice. During World War II, Lawhon served in the U.S. Navy Air Corps. After the war, he taught vocational agriculture in Arkansas high schools and was a high school principal. He was the founder of Lawhon Farm Services, the 1988 Arkansas Business of the Year. In 1975, Lawhon and wife Lillian founded a non-denominational charity, the World Christian Relief Fund, Inc. (WCRF). Jay Lawhon was born on July 16, 1919, in Monarch (Marion County), a small hill community near Harrison (Boone County), to Thomas Jefferson and Sarah McPherson Lawhon. He was …

Lawrence, Marjorie Florence 

Marjorie Florence Lawrence, an Australian native and star soprano with the Metropolitan Opera Company of New York City, became an exemplar for endurance when she rebuilt her career after being stricken by poliomyelitis (commonly known as polio). Despite the professional opinion that she would never sing again, she started over, first by singing from a wheelchair or platform, and then by managing to stand and sing. The subject of an Oscar-winning motion picture, Interrupted Melody, she later taught at Sophie Newcomb College at Tulane University and for an extended time at Southern Illinois University (SIU) at Carbondale. Beginning in 1941, Lawrence lived outside of Hot Springs (Garland County) and held summer opera coaching sessions at her ranch, Harmony Hills, which advanced …