Race and Ethnicity: White - Starting with L

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 …

Lawrence, Tracy Lee

With rural Arkansas beginnings, Tracy Lee Lawrence took Nashville, Tennessee, by storm in the early 1990s to become one of the most popular country recording artists of that decade. Lawrence quickly gained a fan base with his physical appeal, vocal ability, good-guy image, and succession of hit songs. Tracy Lawrence was born on January 27, 1968, in Atlanta, Texas. Reared by his stay-at-home mother, JoAnn Dickens, and his stepfather, Dwayne Dickens, a banker, Lawrence had two brothers and three sisters. In 1972, the Dickens family moved to Foreman (Little River County), where Lawrence sang in the choir of the local Methodist church and learned to play guitar. While his mother wanted him to become a Methodist minister, Lawrence aspired to …

Lawrence, William M.

William M. Lawrence was a prominent physician in Batesville (Independence County) from 1848 until his death. He was appointed the surgeon general of the state of Arkansas in 1881. William Lawrence was born on November 22, 1826, in Kentucky, the son of James McKinney Lawrence and his first wife, Lucy D. Martin Lawrence, who was from Missouri. He had two brothers (one of them a son to his father’s second wife, Margaret Ann Vaunter Lawrence) and three sisters. Lawrence moved with his family to Fulton, Missouri, when he was a young child. About 1843, he began “reading medicine” under Dr. Robert Blakely in Fulton. He attended medical school at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, studying under Dr. Joseph McDowell. Following …

Lay, Henry Champlin

The Right Reverend Henry Champlin Lay was the third missionary bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas. The diocese was land the Church defined as also including Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) and what would later become the states of New Mexico and Arizona. Lay was also bishop of the Diocese of Arkansas when it was allied with the Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. He again served the original missionary territory when the national church reunited in 1865. Henry Champlin Lay was born on December 6, 1823, in Richmond, Virginia. He was the son of John Olmsted Lay and Lucy May Lay. He was educated in Richmond and New York City. Lay graduated from the University of Virginia …

Lebow (Lynching of)

A group of men lynched a white man named Lebow (also spelled as Lebo), described as a “villain, murderer and horse-thief,” in Polk County in August 1877, apparently ending a series of crimes by which he had terrorized the area. The Fort Smith Independent reported on August 8, 1877, that “an old man named Lebow was hung by a party of men last week in Polk County, for foully murdering two men who were travelling in the direction of Hot Springs. Lebow has been a terror to the citizens of Polk County for many years.” He apparently operated from his home on one of the major roads through the county to kill and steal. “Many travelers have lost their horses, …

Ledbetter, Calvin Reville (Cal), Jr.

Calvin Reville (Cal) Ledbetter Jr. was a professor, author, politician, and philanthropist. He taught political science at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) from 1960 to 1997, after which he was named Professor Emeritus of Political Science. He also served five consecutive terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives, from 1967 to 1977. Ledbetter is widely remembered for his dedication to higher education as well as his efforts to foster constitutional reform in Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s. Cal Ledbetter was born on April 29, 1929, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Virginia Ledbetter and Cal Ledbetter Sr. (II); his father served as president of the Boyle Realty Company. Ledbetter received his undergraduate degree from the Woodrow Wilson School …

Ledbetter, Mary Brown “Brownie” Williams

Mary Brown “Brownie” Williams Ledbetter was a lifelong political activist who worked in many controversial and crucial campaigns in Arkansas, as well as nationally and internationally. A catalyst in many local grassroots organizations, she exhibited a dedication to fair education and equality across racial, religious, and cultural lines. Born on April 28, 1932, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), Mary Brown Williams was the first of four children born to William H. Williams, a businessman and dairy farmer, and Helon Brown Williams. Born with brown eyes, she was nicknamed “Brownie” by her family. After her mother’s death in 1947 and her father’s death in 1950, Williams and her siblings were raised by relatives Grainger and Frances Williams, who moved into the …

Lee, Burwell

Burwell Lee came to Arkansas Territory from Tennessee in 1830 as a preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church and a missionary to the Indians. Because he organized the Methodist Society at Batesville (Independence County) in 1835, which hosted the first session of the new Arkansas Conference of the church the following year, he is referred to as one of the fathers of the Methodist Church in Arkansas. Burwell Lee was born on October 20, 1809, in Davidson County, Tennessee. His father was Braxton Lee, who had come to Davidson County from Virginia around 1796. In Davidson County records, there is a marriage for Braxton Lee to Polly Hunter on May 20, 1808, although it is uncertain if these are Lee’s …

Lee, Clifton Phifer (Cliff)

Arkansas native Cliff Lee is a major league baseball pitcher. He has pitched in both the National and American Leagues, winning All-Star recognition in both circuits. Clifton Phifer Lee was born on August 30, 1978, in Benton (Saline County) to Steve Lee, who was a firefighter and one-time member of the Benton City Council, and his wife, Sharon Lee. Lee grew up in Benton and graduated from Benton High School in 1997. Following graduation, he was drafted by the Florida Marlins but decided to attend Meridian Community College in Meridian, Mississippi. Drafted in 1998 by the Baltimore Orioles, he again deferred, instead attending the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). The left-handed Lee had one solid season pitching …

Lee, Hubert L.

Hubert L. Lee, who lived in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) as a child, was a soldier in the U.S. Army who received a Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in battle during the Korean War. Hubert L. Lee was born in Arburg, Missouri, on February 2, 1915, the son of railroad fireman Charles Lee and Beulah Lee. Five years later, they were living in North Little Rock’s Ward 4. The family later moved to Leland, Mississippi, and it was there that Lee was inducted into the U.S. Army during World War II. He served with distinction, winning a Bronze Star and Silver Star for heroism in fighting in North Africa and Italy. Lee remained in the army and …

Lee, Lisa

aka: Alicia Faye Young Lee
Arkansas native Lisa Lee was a respected journalist in both print media and television, as well as a television producer and author. During the last few years of her life, she was senior vice president of creative content for the Academy of Country Music and produced the annual Academy of Country Music Honors. Alicia Faye Young, better known as Lisa, was born on December 24, 1968, in Cabot (Lonoke County) to Charlie and Faye Young; she had two brothers. She grew up in Cabot and graduated from Cabot High School in 1987, having served as the school yearbook editor. She graduated from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) with a BA in journalism and English in 1991, …

Lee, Lorelei

The fictional character of Lorelei Lee, who calls herself the “little girl from Little Rock,” was created by writer Anita Loos (1889–1981). Lorelei first appeared as a character in short stories, followed by the bestselling novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, several successful Broadway shows, and a hit movie. The Lorelei Lee character is closely identified with her fictitious home of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the state of Arkansas. After emerging in a series of short sketches published in Harper’s Bazaar during the early 1920s, what became known as the “Lorelei” stories were so popular that they tripled the magazine’s circulation. After Loos was encouraged by friends in the publishing business to adapt the stories into a book, her bestselling comedic …

Leflar, Robert Allen

Robert Allen Leflar was one of Arkansas’s most renowned legal scholars, a champion of racial equality, longtime dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville (Washington County), and president of two state constitutional conventions. Robert Leflar was born on March 22, 1901, in Siloam Springs (Benton County), the son of Lewis D. Leflar—who was a drayman, former deputy U.S. marshal in “Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker’s court, and former Alma (Crawford County) town marshal—and Viva Mae Pilkenton of Siloam Springs. The oldest of eight children, Leflar later said that his mother, a high school graduate, was the chief influence on him and his siblings getting an education. Leflar worked his way through the University of Arkansas (UA), beginning …

LeMaster, Carolyn Gray

Carolyn Gray LeMaster was the leading chronicler of Jewish life in Arkansas, through books, articles, and lectures, especially her book A Corner of the Tapestry: A History of the Jewish Experience in Arkansas, 1820s–1990s. Carolyn Gray was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 17, 1927, to Elisha Columbus Gray, who was a railroad engineer and brakeman, and Erma White Gray, a homemaker. She left high school after the tenth grade to help support her family and care for her widowed mother. She married Robert W. LeMaster, a hospital executive in Little Rock. They had four children. After the children were grown, LeMaster enrolled in 1975 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), where she graduated magna …

Lemke, Walter John

Walter John Lemke established the department of journalism at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1928 and served as the head of the department until his retirement in 1959. The university named the department the Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism in his honor in 1988. In addition, he founded several historical and journalistic organizations. Walter Lemke was born on January 6, 1891, in Wausau, Wisconsin, to Carl Lemke and Ulrika Block Lemke. Lemke attended the University of Wisconsin and the University of Indiana. He received his AB degree from Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, which is near Cleveland, in 1911. The college later awarded him an honorary doctor of letters degree in 1962. He earned …

Lemley, Harry Jacob Jr.

Harry Jacob Lemley Jr. was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who served during World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War before retiring as a lieutenant general in 1971. Harry Jacob Lemley Jr. was born on February 1, 1914, in Hope (Hempstead County), the son of future U.S. District Court judge Harry J. Lemley Sr. and Caroline McRae Lemley. After graduating from Hope High School, Lemley attended the Marion Military in Marion, Alabama, in preparation for his appointment to West Point. Remembering his time at West Point, Lemley wrote years later: “West Point devastated me mentally and physically, as I was grossly immature in every respect. I nevertheless toughed it out, as I …

Lenski, Lois

Lois Lenski wrote and illustrated children’s books throughout her career of more than fifty years. She visited parts of Mississippi County while researching her three books about Arkansas children: Cotton in My Sack, Houseboat Girl, and We Live by the River. Lois Lenski was born the fourth of five children in Springfield, Ohio, on October 14, 1893. Her father, Richard, was a Prussian immigrant and a Lutheran clergyman; her mother, Marietta, was a schoolteacher. Lenski attended grade school in Anna, Ohio, and rode a train each day to Sidney, Ohio, to attend high school. After graduating from Ohio State University in 1915 with a BS in education and a teaching certificate, Lenski studied at the Arts Students League in New …

Lester, Julius

Julius Lester, who spent considerable time in Arkansas as a child, was an author, musician, photographer, and civil-rights activist. A longtime educator, he was recognized by numerous organizations and institutions for his artistic and literary efforts. Julius Lester was born on January 27, 1939, in St. Louis, Missouri, to Woodie Daniel Lester, who was a Methodist minister, and Julia Smith Lester. Lester spent his earliest years in Kansas City, Kansas, living there from 1941 to 1954. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1954 but spent most summers on the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) farm of his grandmother, who was the daughter of a former slave and a German Jew. Her father had immigrated to the United States and settled in …

Letzig, Margaret Heller Himstedt

Margaret Heller Himstedt Letzig was the first Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) officer from Arkansas during World War II. She served from 1942 to 1943, achieving the rank of first lieutenant. Margaret Himstedt was born on November 4, 1898, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Henry Himstedt and Margaret Hickey Himstedt. Her father was the co-owner of Pfeifer-Himstedt Plumbing and Heating Company. Himstedt was educated in Little Rock’s public schools and graduated from Little Rock High School in 1915. She attended Trinity College in Washington DC, where she received BA degrees in English and chemistry. She later received a master’s degree in social work from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Himstedt worked as a medical social worker at St. …