Entries - Race and Ethnicity: White

Washburn, Cephas

Cephas Washburn was a Presbyterian missionary who helped found Dwight Mission to serve the Cherokee. Washburn, who struggled along with his colleagues to bring Christianity to Native Americans on the territorial Arkansas frontier, served as an educator and minister for four decades. Cephas Washburn was born on July 25, 1793, in Randolph, Vermont, to Josiah Washburn and Phebe Cushman Washburn, who were farmers. Washburn turned from farming to education when he feared he might be disabled permanently from a broken leg. While teaching in Groton, Massachusetts, in the winter of 1814–1815 to raise money for further education, he became a Congregationalist and soon decided he wanted to be a missionary to the Indians. After graduating from Vermont University in 1817, …

Wassell, Corydon McAlmont

Rear Admiral Corydon McAlmont Wassell was one of the first national heroes of World War II. His service for the United States in early 1942 earned him the Navy Cross and praise from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his story inspired a movie starring Gary Cooper. Cory Wassell was born on July 4, 1884, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the son of Albert and Leona Wassell of Little Rock. He studied medicine at the University of Arkansas Medical School (now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences), where he obtained a medical degree in 1909. He did postgraduate work at Johns Hopkins University. After graduation, he practiced in Tillar (Desha and Drew counties) for a short time. Wassell married a …

Wassell, Elizabeth McConaughey (Bettie)

Elizabeth McConaughey (Bettie) Wassell was the honorary state regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a member of the Political Equality League, and the chairperson of the History Committee of the Arkansas Equal Suffrage State Central Committee. Bettie McConaughey was born on October 12, 1859, in Searcy (White County) to James W. McConaughey and Albina McRae McConaughey. Her parents were prominent social and cultural figures during the Civil War; James was a captain in the Confederate army, and Albina was the sister of Confederate general Dandridge McRae. McConaughey married Samuel Spotts Wassell on April 8, 1978. Samuel Wassell was a Cornell University graduate and attorney in Memphis, Tennessee, and later in Little Rock (Pulaski County). They had four …

Watkins, Charles Lee

Charles Lee Watkins served as the first parliamentarian of the U.S. Senate. For more than a half century, he sat at the dais in the Senate chamber, advising hundreds of legislators and ten vice presidents on the Senate’s complex rules and procedures. Charles Watkins was born on August 10, 1879, in Mount Ida (Montgomery County), the oldest of seven children of John A. and Nancy Rebecca (Smith) Watkins. He graduated from the Mount Ida Normal Academy in 1900 and attended the University of Arkansas law school in Little Rock (Pulaski County), though sources differ as to whether or not he graduated. Watkins married Martha Heard Walker on October 3, 1903, and they had one son. Martha died on April 27, 1923, …

Watkins, Claibourne

Claibourne Watkins was one of three native Arkansan founders of the Medical Department of the Arkansas Industrial University, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Watkins was born on March 3, 1844, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the second son of George Claibourne Watkins and Mary Crease Watkins. His father was state attorney general and chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He had two brothers: Colonel Anderson Watkins, who was killed at Atlanta during the Civil War, and Captain Walton Watkins. Watkins was educated in a number of institutions, both private and public. The Civil War broke out just prior to his completing his undergraduate degree at St. Timothy’s Hall in Cantonsville, Maryland. A Southerner by birth and …

Watkins, George Claibourne

George Claibourne Watkins was a prominent attorney in nineteenth-century Arkansas. His partnership with Chester Ashley is one of the roots from which one of the state’s most respected firms, the Rose Law Firm, grew. In addition to his role in the development of the firm, Watkins also served briefly as chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. George C. Watkins was born on November 25, 1815, in Shelbyville, Kentucky, to Isaac Watkins and Marie Toncray Watkins. In late 1820, seeking new opportunities, the family set out for the newly opened territory of Arkansas. They arrived in March 1821, and, settling in what would become Little Rock (Pulaski County), the family quickly earned a place among the town’s most prominent early …

Watkins, Travis Earl

Travis Earl Watkins was an Arkansas native who served in the U.S. Army during World War II and the Korean War. He received a posthumous Medal of Honor for gallantry during a four-day engagement with North Korean soldiers. Travis E. Watkins was born on September 5, 1920, in Waldo (Columbia County) to salesman Joe E. Watkins and Angie Watkins. By 1930, the couple had divorced, and his mother had returned to her native Texas, living at Winters in Runnels County with her sons Travis (age nine), Tris (eight), and Truman (five). The family later moved to Troup, Texas, and in 1939, Watkins joined the army. He served in the Pacific during World War II, earning a Bronze Star during the …

Watson, Jack Hearn, Jr.

Jack Hearn Watson Jr. is an attorney and former government official who served in a number of positions, including White House chief of staff, during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. Since leaving the White House, he has continued to be an active member of the legal and civic communities, both at home and abroad. Jack H. Watson Jr. was born on October 24, 1938, in El Paso, Texas. The son of a navy enlisted man and his wife, Watson grew up in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). He earned a BS from Vanderbilt University in 1960, and after a stint in the U.S. Marines, where he achieved the rank of captain, Watson attended Harvard Law School. After graduating in 1966, he …

Watson, Patrick Samuel Gideon

Patrick Samuel Gideon Watson, the father of Baptist history in Arkansas, was one of the state’s early itinerate ministers and the editor of Arkansas’s first religious newspaper in 1859. Watson was born on May 2, 1816, in Falmouth, Kentucky, the son of local farmer Joseph Watson and Ann Anderson Watson. His writings indicate that he received an excellent classical education. He married Catherine Oldham Harris on March 14, 1839, in Kentucky. They were the parents of eleven children, only three of which were living by the time the family moved to Texas in the 1870s. In 1843, he was licensed to preach by the historic Forks of Licking Baptist Church in Falmouth. Shortly afterward, he and his family joined an …

Watson, Tom

Tom Watson was a longtime member of the Arkansas Senate. In just under two decades of service, he earned a reputation as a hardworking legislator who was particularly interested in advancing the cause of education. Thomas Watson was born on August 30, 1920, in Monette (Craighead County) to John Tilden Watson and Claud Brooks Watson. Little is known about his family or his early years. On December 24, 1943, he married Gladys Gilbert. The couple had one son. Watson developed a large, successful farming operation in a partnership with his brother and his son. Watson spent ten years as president of the Monette School Board and was also deeply involved in Craighead County governance. He served for six years as …

Watson, Wilson Douglas

Wilson Douglas Watson was an Arkansas sharecropper who joined the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action during the fighting at Iwo Jima in February 1945. Wilson Douglas Watson was born on February 16, 1922, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to Charles Watson and Ada Belle Posey Watson. He was the oldest of five sons and two daughters, and he received a total of five years of schooling amid his labors on the farm. By 1940, the family was living in the Tyronza Township in Crittenden County, sharecropping a farm for Tom Sellers of Earle (Crittenden County). Wilson Watson registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, and he enlisted in …

Weaver, Emily

Emily Weaver of Batesville (Independence County) was a young woman who found herself caught up in the unorganized Civil War legal apparatus. Though charged by the Union as a spy and sentenced to hang, her case was eventually dropped for insufficient evidence. Emily Weaver was born to Abram Weaver and Mary Burton Weaver in Chester Valley, Pennsylvania. No birth date for her is given. In 1859, she, her mother, and six of her seven brothers moved to Batesville to be near relatives while Weaver’s father and oldest brother stayed behind to finalize business affairs for an eventual relocation to Memphis, Tennessee. The family stayed at Ninth and Main streets in a house she called “Pleasant Hill.” Weaver’s family was divided, …

Webb, Doyle

Doyle L. Webb II is a lawyer and former state senator from Benton (Saline County). He began serving as chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party in 2008. Webb served as Lieutenant Governor Winthrop Paul Rockefeller’s chief of staff from 2002 to 2007. Webb lives in the historic Gann House with his wife, Barbara Webb, who served as Saline County’s prosecuting attorney from 1996 to 2002. Doyle Webb was born on December 3, 1955, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Doyle L. (D. L.) Webb and Dolores Cornett Webb. He has one sister, Candis. Webb attended Benton High School, graduating in 1974. His political career began as Saline County coordinator for Ken Coon’s gubernatorial campaign in 1974. Webb earned a BA …

Webb, Kathy Lynette

Kathy Webb—the first openly gay member of the Arkansas General Assembly—has had a long career in private business (most notably as co-owner of Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some restaurant), philanthropy, and local and state government. She has also been a leader in the women’s rights movement. Webb, who battled breast cancer, served as the founding president of the Chicago-area Susan G. Komen Cancer Foundation. Kathy Lynette Webb was born in Blytheville (Mississippi County) on October 21, 1949. The youngest of three children—with a brother twelve years older and a sister nine years older—of Maurice Webb and Atha Webb, she graduated from Hall High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) before going on to Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (now Randolph College) in …

Webber, Harold L. “Brother Hal”

Harold L. “Brother Hal” Webber was a popular morning announcer on the Little Rock (Pulaski County) radio station KLRA. A large part of central Arkansas woke up to his broadcast for over three decades. His morning show was always filled with homespun humor, storytelling, and advertisements that were more like recommendations from a friend—all interspersed with a mix of gospel and country music. Harold L. Webber was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on February 19, 1926. His grandparents were farmers in Poinsett County, Arkansas, and he spent time there in his younger days soaking up the rural culture and stories. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy Seabees. After the war, he returned to Memphis, where he married …

Weibel, Eugene John

aka: Johann Eugen Weibel
A Swiss-German Catholic priest and missionary, Father Eugene John Weibel founded so many churches and other ecclesiastical institutions that he has been termed the Catholic “Apostle to northeastern Arkansas.” Eugene Weibel was born on May 27, 1853, in the small town of Eschenbach, Canton Lucerne, Switzerland. (His name appears as Johann Eugen Weibel in some German-language sources.) In Weibel’s autobiography, he failed to mention his birth mother’s name, only that she died at age thirty-three, four weeks after his birth; his father, John Baptist Weibel, remarried when Eugene was two. Although he mentions that there were eleven children in the family, he does not indicate where in that order he arrived. After attending Catholic elementary school in his village and a …

Welch, Thomas Rice

Thomas Rice Welch was an early Presbyterian minister and leader in Arkansas. He played an important role in the establishment of Lyon College and served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Little Rock (Pulaski County) for twenty-five years. Thomas Rice Welch was born on September 15, 1825, on a farm near Nicholasville in Jessamine County, Kentucky, to John Welch and Elizabeth J. Rice (Betsey) Welch. He had at least four brothers and a sister and was named after his mother’s brother, who was a Methodist minister. Welch was encouraged by his uncle to pursue the ministry. Welch received his early education at Bethel Academy near Knoxville, Kentucky, before enrolling at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, in May 1844. He …

Welch, William Blackwell

In the late nineteenth century, physician William Blackwell Welch was a leader in the movement to modernize medicine in Arkansas. A cofounder and first president of the Arkansas Medical Society (AMS), he later led the effort to establish a city hospital in Fayetteville (Washington County). W. B. Welch was born on December 9, 1828, in Scottsville, Kentucky, to Christopher A. Welch, who was a farmer, and his wife, Elizabeth Lyles Welch. In 1829, his family, which eventually included two brothers and three sisters, moved to Somerville, Alabama. He attended schools in Huntsville, Alabama, and studied medicine under his older brother. After graduating from Tennessee’s University of Nashville medical department (later merged with the Vanderbilt University Medical School) in 1849, he …

Wells, George Henson

George Henson Wells was a reporter and editor at the Pine Bluff Commercial and Arkansas Gazette. His long career was marked at the end by his distinguished reporting on two epic federal trials. George Wells was born on February 9, 1938, in Hot Springs (Garland County), the son of George Wells, who was at one time an insurance salesman, and Annette Wilson Wells. While his father worked at construction jobs around the country during World War II, he and his mother lived in Camden (Ouachita County), his mother’s hometown. They lived in an apartment over a grocery store until Wells graduated from Camden High School and they moved to Hot Springs. At Ouachita Baptist College (now Ouachita Baptist University) in …

West Memphis Three

The West Memphis Three are Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr., who—as teenagers—were convicted in 1994 of triple murder in West Memphis (Crittenden County). Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley were accused of killing three eight-year-old boys: Chris Byers, Stevie Branch, and Michael Moore. Their trial, which included assertions that the killings were part of a cultic ritual, and subsequent conviction set off a firestorm around the nation and world, inspired books and movies, and led to a movement to re-try or free the three men, believed by many to have been wrongly convicted. On May 6, 1993, Byers, Branch, and Moore were found in a water-filled ditch in the woods of the Robin Hood Hills subdivision less than twenty-four …

West, Dan Carlos

Dr. Dan Carlos West served as president of Arkansas College, now Lyon College, from 1972 to 1988. As stated in Brooks Blevins’s history of the college, the physical and curricular changes, along with West’s administrative style, made his presidency “the most turbulent, the most exciting, the most confusing, [and] the most successful” time in the school’s history up to that point. Dan C. West was born on May 29, 1939, in Galveston, Texas, one of four children of Embry Carlos West and Mildred Louise Junker West. The family later moved to Dallas, Texas, where West attended Woodrow Wilson High School, graduating in 1957. He attended the University of Texas for a year and then went on to the U.S. Naval …

West, Donald W. (Don)

Donald W. West was a farmer, educator, writer, and folklorist who became a local legend in northwestern Arkansas, especially Fayetteville (Washington County). West moved with his family to the thickly forested mountains, abandoned farmland, and isolated hollows of southern Washington County near Winslow (Washington County) in 1938. He published a memoir about his family’s subsistence farming experience and worked as itinerant teacher. (A different Don West was also a writer and proponent of folk culture and rural life who co-founded the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, in 1932.) Don West was born in Oklahoma on September 12, 1905, the fourth of five children of John West and Mollie West. West was a resident of Garrett, Oklahoma, and Santa Fe, …

West, Timothy (Tim)

Tim West was a reclusive artist who lived and worked in the woods near Winslow (Washington County) for more than forty years. The son of writers Don West and Muriel Leitzell West, who had homesteaded in the Winslow area beginning in 1938, West completed a graduate degree in art before pursuing his very private life as an eccentric sculptor, painter, and ink artist near the land where he roamed as a young boy. Timothy (Tim) West was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on July 7, 1937, before coming to Arkansas as a baby with his parents and older sister Petra. Homeschooled as a child by his mother, West eventually attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). …

Westerman, Bruce Eugene

Bruce Westerman is a Republican Party office holder who, after a stint in the Arkansas House of Representatives, moved up to the U.S. House after the 2014 election, succeeding Tom Cotton, who was elected to the U.S. Senate. As a member of the House, Westerman compiled a conservative record characterized by his strong support of the party’s programs, especially its support for President Donald Trump. Bruce Eugene Westerman was born on November 18, 1967, in Hot Springs (Garland County) to Andy and Jeanette Westerman. He grew up in Hot Springs and was the valedictorian of Fountain Lake High School. He then went on to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he played football for the Arkansas …

Weston, Joseph Harry

Joseph Harry Weston was a journalist who retired to the mountains of Sharp County in 1962 and became famous for a crude but crusading newspaper called the Sharp Citizen. The paper’s lurid headlines and stories packed with scandal and scurrilous descriptions of business and political leaders kept him in trouble with the law. His arrests ultimately led the Arkansas Supreme Court to invalidate the state’s 105-year-old criminal-libel law. In the six years that he printed the paper, he twice ran for governor, unsuccessfully. Joseph Weston was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on August 6, 1911. Little is known of his life from then until his retirement to a farm near Cave City (Sharp and Independence counties) except what he …

Wheeler, Henry

Henry W. Wheeler was an Arkansas native who earned a Medal of Honor for valor while fighting with a Maine regiment during the 1861 Battle of Bull Run in Virginia. Henry W. Wheeler was born in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) on September 23, 1841, the son of Hiram Wheeler and Elizabeth Wheeler. His father may have been working as a carpenter during construction of the second U.S. military installment at Fort Smith when Wheeler was born, but the family had returned to his father’s native Maine by 1860; at that time, Hiram Wheeler recorded 1,800 in real property and $2,000 in personal property in Bangor. Henry Wheeler, age eighteen, was working as a clerk, and the family included a second …

Wheeler, Stephen

Stephen Wheeler was a veteran of the Civil War, a longtime court clerk for the Western District of Arkansas, an auditor for the State of Arkansas, a state senator, and the publisher of a journal. Stephen Wheeler was born on February 28, 1839, in Steuben County, New York. His mother, Millicent Clark Wheeler, died when he was nine years old, at which time his father, farmer Daniel Wheeler, moved to Wisconsin. Stephen Wheeler began a three-year apprenticeship with a druggist when he was sixteen. He later moved back to New York and became a salesman at a dry goods wholesale warehouse. He later moved to Michigan, and in 1861, he volunteered in the Union army and enlisted at Battle Creek, …

Whipple, Win “Skinny”

aka: James Winfield Whipple
James Winfield “Skinny” Whipple of Arkadelphia (Clark County) was a track and field star in high school and college. He set numerous records in the broad jump while at Arkadelphia High School and at Louisiana State University. He set an Arkansas high school long jump record of twenty-four feet, which stood for more than fifty years. Win Whipple was born in Crowley, Louisiana, on September 10, 1915, to Fredrick and Pearl Maxwell Whipple. He had three sisters and two brothers. Shortly after Winfield’s birth, the family moved to Arkadelphia, where his father opened a restaurant. At Arkadelphia High School, Whipple participated in football, basketball, and track and field. Although he trained in all of those areas, the broad jump (now …

White Revolution

Headquartered in Mountain View (Stone County), White Revolution was a neo-Nazi group founded by Arkansas native Billy Roper in 2002. Roper copyrighted the name White Revolution and set up a website and forum for members to exchange ideas, post events, and build an online community. Although not an indicator of total group membership, on March 17, 2011, the White Revolution forum had more than 1,200 participants. Before the election of Barack Obama as U.S. president in 2008, the forum hovered at around 300. Roper encouraged members of his group to contribute to the forum and use other social networking media to promote the organization and recruit members. The anti-Semitic organization promoted the interests of whites over other ethnic/racial groups, recruited racially aware …

White River and Attack on the Steamer Clara Bell, Operations on the

The Union army undertook the operations on the White River in late July 1864 to protect the lines of communication between the Mississippi River and Major General Frederick Steele’s headquarters in Little Rock (Pulaski County) as Confederate brigadier general Joseph O. Shelby’s troops rampaged through eastern Arkansas. Shelby and his men crossed the Arkansas River in May 1864 and began operations behind Union lines, including a June attack in Clarendon (Monroe County) in which they captured and sank the USS Queen City on the White River. On June 22, some 300 Confederates under Colonel Robert Lawther attacked Captain J. R. C. Hunter’s fifty-man command from the Twelfth Iowa Infantry in their camp at the mouth of the White, retreating under …

White, Frank Durward

Frank Durward White was best recognized as the little-known Republican candidate who defeated Bill Clinton in 1980 after Clinton had served only one term as governor. White himself was limited to one term when Clinton reclaimed the office of governor in 1982. Though his tenure in office was marked mostly by his support of teaching “creation science” in schools, White later became the grand old father of the Grand Old Party (GOP), known for his expansive sense of humor and his ability to relate to people of all political leanings. Born on June 4, 1933, in Texarkana, Texas, to Durward Frank Kyle and Ida Bottoms Clark Kyle, White was given the name Durward Frank Kyle Jr. His father died when …

White, Gay Daniels

Gay Daniels White was the wife of Frank White (who was the forty-first governor of Arkansas) and the state’s thirty-sixth first lady. Outside of politics, she has been best known for her love of Arkansas’s outdoors—hiking, camping, and canoeing—leading her to serve on the board of trustees of the Arkansas Nature Conservancy for a number of years. She has also publicly shared her experience of personal struggle and the role of faith in her life. Gay Daniels was born in Oakland, California, on March 7, 1947, to Russell and Nan Daniels. She was the youngest of three daughters born into a career U.S. Navy family. After her father retired from naval service, the family settled in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she …

White, Hercules King Cannon

Hercules King Cannon White was a Civil War soldier and guerrilla, a prominent figure in the Brooks-Baxter War during Reconstruction, and a six-term mayor of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Hercules King Cannon White was born on April 4, 1845, in Louisville, Kentucky, the fifth of nine children of James M. White and Dorcas Trimble White. When the Civil War began, he ran away from home and, in March 1861, joined Company E of the Second Kentucky Infantry (CS), but his father found him and had him released from service on the grounds that he was only fifteen years old. The youth soon joined Company C of the First (Helm’s) Kentucky Cavalry, and he was captured at Louisville on November 26, …

Whitehead, James Tillotson (Jim)

James Tillotson Whitehead was a Mississippi-reared athlete who received a classical education at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee to prepare himself for a career writing poetry and fiction and teaching in Arkansas. He won some literary acclaim for his single completed work of fiction, the novel Joiner, and published four books of poetry. With his Vanderbilt pal William Harrison, he started the creative-writing program at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Jim Whitehead was born on March 15, 1936, in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Dick Bruun Whitehead and Ruth Ann Tillotson Whitehead. The family moved to Jackson, Mississippi, at the end of World War II, and Whitehead attended school there. His large size, strength, and agility …

Whiteside, John Garrett

John Garrett Whiteside was a congressional secretary who served many of Arkansas’s delegation of U.S. representatives and senators from 1907 through 1947. In the era when ninety-six senators represented the forty-eight states, he was often called “the ninety-seventh senator.” In a twist of history, he also participated in the declaration of both world wars. Garrett Whiteside was born in 1885 in Nashville (Howard County). Whiteside’s father, John Elkanah Whiteside, was a clerk in Robert Burns’s store at Moscow (Nevada County). Whiteside served for a time as a court reporter, but little is known of his early life until he arrived in Washington DC on March 4, 1907, as secretary to Representative Ben Cravens of Fort Smith (Sebastian County), from Arkansas’s …

Whitfield, Inez Harrington

Inez Harrington Whitfield, noted for her community work in Hot Springs (Garland County), was nationally recognized for her paintings of Arkansas wildflowers. She was one of forty Arkansans to appear in American Women in 1935. The publication was a who’s who of female leaders in America. Inez Whitfield was born May 25, 1867, in German Flatts, New York, to James and Ida Dota Whitfield. She received her early education in Ilion, New York, and graduated in 1889 from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, with a bachelor of letters degree. After graduation, she taught at the Gardner Institute for Girls in New York City. Whitfield later left the school and formed the Whitfield-Bliss School for Girls in New York City with …

Whittington, Hiram Abiff

Hiram Abiff Whittington was a businessman, politician, and philanthropist. He established the state’s first lending library, ran several businesses in Hot Springs (Garland County), and served as a state representative. He donated land to both the First Presbyterian Church and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hot Springs. His letters to his family provide a wealth of information about life in early frontier Arkansas. Hiram Whittington was born January 14, 1805, in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Whittington Jr., a Puritan schoolmaster, and Hepsabeth Lincoln. He had four brothers and five sisters. At age fifteen, Whittington learned the printing trade and found a job with the Nantucket Enquirer, where he stayed three years. He moved to Brooklyn, New York, where …

Whitworth, Donna Axum

Donna Axum Whitworth was the first Miss Arkansas to win the title of Miss America. She retained the distinction of being the only Miss Arkansas crowned Miss America from 1964 until 1982, when Elizabeth Ward was crowned. Donna Axum was born in 1942 in El Dorado (Union County) to Idelle and Hurley B. Axum. Her father was a banker. She said she began entering beauty pageants because, as a young person, she had an inferiority complex about being too thin and not having “a figure.” She was determined to work at improving herself and enhancing her feeling of self-worth. She won her first title, Miss Union County, in 1958 as a high school senior in El Dorado when she was …

Whitworth, William Alvin

William Alvin Whitworth began his newspaper career in Little Rock (Pulaski County) when he was a high school student. He has come to be recognized as one of the nation’s most reputable journalists, having been a writer and associate editor of the New Yorker and editor-in-chief of the Atlantic Monthly. Bill Whitworth was born on February 13, 1937, in Hot Springs (Garland County). He attended Central High School in Little Rock, where he also spent time working as an advertising department copy boy for the Arkansas Democrat. He attended the University of Oklahoma (OU) at Norman. During summers and a year he took off from school, Whitworth continued to work at the Democrat with editor Roberta Martin and photographer Will …

Wilkins, Gina Ferris Vaughan

Gina Ferris Vaughan Wilkins is the author of more than 100 books. A life-long resident of central Arkansas, Wilkins obtained a journalism degree from Arkansas State University (ASU) and worked in advertising and human resources until she sold her first book in 1987 to Harlequin. Gina Vaughan was born on December 20, 1954, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Vernon Vaughan, an electrician, and Beth Vaughan, an executive secretary. She has three younger brothers. In February 1972, she married John Wilkins, a wood turner. They have three children. When she sold her first book, he used his savings to buy her a typewriter. She returned the one she had borrowed from her mother-in-law. After graduating from ASU in May 1976, …

Williams, C. Fred

Dr. C. Fred Williams was a professor of history who chaired the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock) history department through its largest expansion. Williams authored several works on Arkansas and served in many capacities at UA Little Rock; he also volunteered his services as a consultant for the Little Rock School District, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Society, the Old State House Museum, Ouachita Baptist University, the Arkansas Humanities Council, and the Historic Arkansas Museum. Williams was the recipient of the Arkansas Historical Association’s lifetime achievement award. Charles Fredrick Williams was born in Allen, Oklahoma, on December 24, 1943, to Charles H. Williams and Willie Mae Williams. He had two brothers and five sisters. Williams married Glenda …

Williams, Claude Clossey

Claude Clossey Williams was a Presbyterian minister and human rights activist who was long involved in the civil rights movement. In addition, he was an active labor organizer and served as national vice president of the American Federation of Teachers. Claude Clossey Williams was born on June 16, 1895, in Weakley County, Tennessee, to Jess Williams and Minnie Bell Galey Williams. His parents were tenant farmers and sharecroppers who were members of the fundamentalist Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In 1910, he left his family and moved in with cousins, working on their farm. During the winters, he worked as a railroad laborer, carpentry assistant, and painter. He also heaved coal for Mississippi River steamboats. In 1916, with the United States on …

Williams, Harold Gene

Harold Gene Williams was a promoter of country music, a radio and television personality, and a businessman, becoming the host of the most widely syndicated country music television show outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Gene Williams was born on January 3, 1938, in Tyronza (Poinsett County) to Abe Rubel Williams and Myrtis Elease Williams, both Mississippi natives. He was one of three children. His father was a farmer and carpenter. As a boy, Williams helped his family in the cotton fields. Williams and his family moved to Dyess (Mississippi County), where they had purchased land, in 1943. Williams attended high school in Dyess, where he began his lifelong obsession with music. He also excelled as a basketball player and wrote for …

Williams, Hubert Ethridge (H. E.)

Hubert Etheridge Williams was a twentieth-century religious, educational, and civic leader. He founded what is now Williams Baptist University and made an unsuccessful race for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1960. In 1941, he became the youngest college president in the nation. Hubert Etheridge (H. E.) Williams was born on April 8, 1913, in Casa (Perry County) to Robert L. Williams and Anna Emma Williams. Robert Williams, who was a Baptist deacon, had progressive leanings, which he instilled in his son. Williams graduated from Casa High School and enrolled at Arkansas Polytechnic College—which later became Arkansas Tech University—in Russellville (Pope County). He also attended Ouachita Baptist College—which later became Ouachita Baptist University—in Arkadelphia (Clark County), and the George Peabody …

Williams, J. Paul

J. Paul Williams made notable contributions to the field of church music. His catalog of published lyrics exceeds 925 songs, running the gamut of sacred and secular texts. A leader of choral clinics and composer symposiums, he was also a member of the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP). James Paul Williams was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on December 29, 1937. He was the only child of Ferris Woodrow Williams (a taxi driver) and Violet Simonton Williams (a bank supervisor). He was a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Oklahoma City until he left for college. Williams admired the church’s minister of music, and he decided to pursue that career, even though he had never had a …

Williams, Jack

Jack Williams was a U.S. Navy corpsman from Harrison (Boone County) who received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in ministering to wounded U.S. Marines during the fighting on Iwo Jima in 1945. Jack Williams was born on October 18, 1924, in Harrison, the son of blacksmith and machinist William O. Williams and Dorothy Lee Williams. He had a younger sister, Fern. The Williams family lived at 420 North Second Street in Harrison, and Jack Williams worked at the Lyric Theater. He attended Harrison High School, where he was a member of the Future Farmers of America. He graduated in 1943. Eighteen-year-old Williams registered for the World War II draft on December 23, 1942. He did not …

Williams, Jason Donald

El Dorado (Union County) native Jason Donald Williams is a pianist, singer, and songwriter based in Memphis, Tennessee, whose music combines elements of rockabilly, boogie-woogie, rock and roll, country, and jazz. Often compared to Jerry Lee Lewis, Williams is known for his dynamic piano-playing style and outlandish stage antics (including balancing items on his head and tap-dancing). Williams’s inspirations include Leo Kottke, John Fahey, and Memphis Slim. Jason D. Williams was born on January 28, 1959, in El Dorado and is the adopted son of Henry J. Williams Jr. and Dorothy Carpenter Williams. Williams learned to play the piano by ear when he was two years old and received a piano at the age of three. He took lessons from …

Williams, Jeff

aka: Thomas Jefferson Williams
Thomas Jefferson (Jeff) Williams was a farmer, preacher, and Union officer in the Civil War. He serves as an example of mountain Unionists, and his experiences show how the Civil War affected farm families in northern Arkansas. Jeff Williams was born in Caswell County, North Carolina, the son of Nathan Williams and Rebecca (Jackson) Williams, a Cherokee Indian. During his childhood, the family moved to Franklin County, Tennessee. Williams married Margaret Ann Hill there in 1832, and the couple had thirteen children. Williams saw Arkansas for the first time in the spring of 1838, when he and two of his brothers formed part of a Tennessee militia company that escorted several hundred Cherokees west to Indian Territory. Six years later, following …

Williams, John Gilbert

A champion of the modern approach to architectural design, John Gilbert Williams was an architect, landscape architect, and the founding faculty member of the Department of Architecture at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). John G. Williams was born on April 30, 1915, in Van Buren (Crawford County) to Vera Jane Wallace Williams and Charles Bunyan Williams; he had one older brother. He studied engineering at Arkansas Polytechnic College (now Arkansas Tech University) in Russellville (Pope County) before pursuing his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Oklahoma State University). After graduating in 1940, he returned to Russellville to teach drawing and math at Arkansas Polytechnic College for two years. While in Russellville, he …

Williams, Lucinda

Lucinda Williams is one of America’s most critically acclaimed songwriters and recording artists, as well as the daughter of poet Miller Williams. She has won three Grammy Awards and is considered a leading light of the so-called “alt-country” movement. Her songs, with their simple chord structures and gorgeous melodies, incorporate elements of rural blues, traditional country, and rock and roll. They are distinguished by evocative, plain-spoken lyrics that investigate the human mystery. In 2002, Time magazine called her “America’s best songwriter.” Lucinda Williams was born on January 26, 1953, in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Her mother was Miller Williams’s first wife, Lucille Day. With her professor father moving from job to job, Williams grew up in southern towns such as Vicksburg, …