Entries - Time Period: Early Twentieth Century (1901 - 1940) - Starting with R

Rabbit Foot Lodge

Built in 1908, Rabbit Foot Lodge in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties) is one of the best examples of Adirondack-style architecture in Arkansas. It was most notably home to J. William Fulbright and his family from 1936 to 1941. Located at 2711 Silent Grove Road, on a hillside above a spring and creek, the two-story residence was built for Dr. Charles F. Perkins and Edith Clark Perkins on land that had formerly been the old Jonathan “Uncle Bud” Smith homestead. The property had once been owned by Joseph L. Dickson as part of an 1857 land grant, deeded as remedy for claims arising under the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek (1830); this treaty was mentioned on the abstract deed and …

Rabies

 Rabies, a viral disease that attacks the body’s central nervous system, causes convulsions, hallucinations, and an inability to swallow liquid—hence its earlier name, hydrophobia, or “fear of water.” Until Frenchman Louis Pasteur’s 1885 creation of a vaccine that successfully treated rabies in humans, the bite from a rabid animal almost always resulted in a death excruciating to endure and horrifying to witness. Pasteur’s discovery was publicized in Arkansas, but it would be almost thirty years before the state had a treatment center using his methods, though it lasted only briefly. Two months after Pasteur’s breakthrough, four New Jersey children who had been bitten by a rabid dog traveled to France and were cured using the vaccine. News of these boys’ …

Ragon, Hiram Heartsill

Hiram Heartsill Ragon was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Fifth District of Arkansas in the Sixty-Eighth through the Seventy-Third Congresses, serving from 1923 to 1933. He also served as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas from May 1933 until September 1940. H. Heartsill Ragon was born in Dublin (Johnson County) on March 20, 1884, to Alfred Jackson Ragon and Anne E. Heartsill Ragon. (His congressional biography lists 1885 as his birth year, but his draft card, 1900 census data, and grave stone give 1884 as the year.) He received his early education in the local common schools and at Clarksville High School. He attended the College …

Randolph County Courthouse

The Randolph County Courthouse is an Art Deco–style brick and concrete building erected in 1940–1941 as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in Pocahontas (Randolph County). The courthouse was built in a natural depression of one city block across the street to the west from what became known as the Old Randolph County Courthouse, the former seat of county government. The Randolph County Courthouse, which houses the offices and government of Randolph County, was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 22, 1996. Citizens of Randolph County voted their approval for the building of a new courthouse in 1940. After the election, Judge Joe S. Decker appointed an advisory board and building commissioners for the construction of …

Randolph, Vance

Vance Randolph was a folklorist whose wide-ranging studies in the traditional culture of the Ozarks made him famous with both academic and popular readers from the 1930s to the present. Vance Randolph was born on February 23, 1892, in Pittsburg, Kansas, to John Randolph, an attorney and Republican politician, and Theresa Gould, a public school teacher. He was the eldest of three sons. Born to the respectable center, he was as a young man attracted to the margins, to the rich ethnic and cultural diversity and radical politics of the region’s mining communities. He dropped out of high school and published his first writing for leftist periodicals such as the socialist Appeal to Reason, published in nearby Girard. He graduated …

Raney, Wayne

Wayne Raney was an American country singer and harmonica player best known for his hit song “Why Don’t You Haul Off and Love Me.” Raney, along with fellow Arkansan Lonnie Glosson, played a major role in making the harmonica a popular instrument through their musical performances as well as through their mail-order harmonica business. Wayne Raney was born on August 17, 1921, on a farm near Wolf Bayou (Cleburne County), the youngest of five children of William Franklin (Frank) Raney and Bonnie Davis Raney. Due to a foot deformity, he could not do heavy labor. Instead, he pursued an interest in music, learning to play harmonica at an early age. He was drawn to the harmonica after hearing a street performer …

Ray Winder Field

Ray Winder Field in Little Rock (Pulaski County) was the longtime home of the minor league baseball team originally known as the Little Rock Travelers, a name that was later changed to the Arkansas Travelers. Known as Travelers Field when it opened in 1932, the stadium’s name was changed in 1966 in honor of Ray Winder, whose involvement with the Travelers, in roles ranging from ticket taker to part-owner and general manager, spanned half a century. The stadium, designed by the Little Rock architecture firm of Thompson, Sanders and Ginocchio, was built in 1931. It was located in what was known as Fair Park (later War Memorial Park), with the Little Rock Zoo as a neighbor to the west. In …

Ray, Mary Lee McCrary

Mary L. Ray spent thirty-seven years educating African Americans. She applied the self-help approach she learned at the Tuskegee Institute to formal education in private and public schools, and then in informal education as the first African-American female employee of the “Negro” division of the Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service—that is, the first black home demonstration agent in the state. Mary Lee McCrary’s birth year and early life remain a mystery. During the late nineteenth century,  as African Americans faced increased assaults to their civil liberties, many turned to capitalism, another American ideal, as visible evidence of citizenship. McCrary apparently embraced this approach. She learned the self-help philosophy from one of the most celebrated advocates of the approach, Booker T. Washington, …

Rayburn, Otto Ernest

Otto Ernest Rayburn was a writer, magazine publisher, and collector of Arkansas and Ozark lore. Vance Randolph, in his introduction to Rayburn’s autobiography, Forty Years in the Ozarks (1957), defined Rayburn as a “dedicated regionalist” and added, “There is no denying that, in the period between 1925 and 1950, Rayburn did more to arouse popular interest in Ozark folklore than all of the professors put together.” Otto Rayburn was born on May 6, 1891, in Hacklebarney settlement, Davis County, Iowa, to William Grant Rayburn, a farmer, and Sarah Jane Turpin Rayburn. The family soon moved to Woodson County, Kansas, where Rayburn grew up. In 1909–1910, he attended Marionville College in Marionville, Missouri. In the spring of 1917, Rayburn bought forty …

Read, Lessie Stringfellow

Lessie Stringfellow Read was an early champion of women’s rights, a writer for six national periodicals of her day, a correspondent for two large newspapers, and a newspaper editor herself. She was a founder of the Women’s Suffrage Association of Washington County and was an officer for the local Red Cross during World War I. In addition, she served many years as national press chairperson for the largest women’s organization of the early twentieth century, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Lessie Read was born Mabel Staples on January 3, 1891, in Temple, Texas, to William and Lillian Staples. Both her parents died from a fever when she was two years old, and the renowned horticulturist Henry Martyn Stringfellow and …

Rector, James Alcorn “Indian”

James Alcorn “Indian” Rector, who took the silver medal in the 100 meters at the 1908 Olympic Games, was the first Arkansan to win an Olympic medal. His nickname “Indian” is said to have been given to him by his teammates or East Coast track fans who said he ran like an Indian. Born on June 22, 1884, in Hot Springs (Garland County), James Alcorn Rector was the fourth of six children of Elias William Rector and Rosebud Alcorn Rector. His paternal grandfather, Henry Massie Rector, served as governor of Arkansas, while his maternal grandfather, James Lusk Alcorn, served as governor of Mississippi. His father practiced law and was a representative in the Arkansas General Assembly. After attending schools in Hot Springs, …

Red Scare (1919–1920)

aka: First Red Scare
In the United States, the First Red Scare (1919–1920) began shortly after the 1917 Bolshevik Russian Revolution. Tensions ran high after this revolution because many Americans feared that if a workers’ revolution were possible in Russia, it might also be possible in the United States. While the First Red Scare was backed by an anti-communist attitude, it focused predominately on labor rebellions and perceived political radicalism. While Arkansas was not immune to the Red Scare, it did see comparatively little labor conflict. Nationally, 7,041 strikes occurred during the 1919–1920 period; Arkansas contributed only twenty-two of those strikes. This was not because Arkansas had a weak labor movement. In fact, Arkansas was home to the Little Rock Typographical Union, railroad unions, and sharecropper …

Redbug Field

Redbug Field in Fordyce (Dallas County) is a high school football field with its significance lying in the fact that future University of Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant learned to play the game there in the late 1920s. The regulation-sized football field was listed on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places on August 6, 2014. Football is important to the history of Fordyce, a town where Arkansas’s first high school football program was started in 1904 when New York native Tom Meddick organized a high school team at the Clary Training School. By 1909, Fordyce High School also fielded a team. The original playing field was behind the high school, but in the mid-1920s, it was relocated to accommodate a …

Reed, James Byron

James Byron Reed was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Sixth District of Arkansas in the Sixty-eighth through the Seventieth Congresses, serving from 1923 to 1929. James B. Reed was born near Lonoke (Lonoke County) on January 2, 1881, to William R. Reed and Georgia A. Reed. He attended the local schools as well as Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County) before ultimately graduating from the law department of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1906. He was admitted to the bar that same year and began a private practice. He also ventured into politics, winning election to the Arkansas House of Representatives, where he served in 1907. Reed was …

Reid, Charles Chester

Charles Chester Reid was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Fourth District of Arkansas in the Fifty-Seventh Congress, but following redistricting, he represented Arkansas’s Fifth District in the Fifty-Eighth through the Sixty-First Congress. His overall tenure in the House ran from 1901 to 1911. Charles Chester Reid was born on June 15, 1868, in Clarksville (Johnson County) to Charles C. Reid and Sarah Robinson Reid. He received his early education in the local public schools before attending the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) for three years. There, Reid won the annual debate medal, besting a son of U.S. Senator James D. Walker. Reid graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, in …

Remmel Dam

aka: Lake Catherine
Remmel Dam is situated on the Ouachita River at Jones Mills (Hot Spring County). It was constructed in 1924 by Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), now Entergy, in response to the growing demand for electrical power in southern Arkansas and surrounding states. The dam impounds Lake Catherine and, together with Carpenter Dam in Hot Springs (Garland County), provides hydroelectric power for southern Arkansas. Part of a three-dam project on the Ouachita River along with Carpenter Dam (completed in 1931) and Blakely Mountain Dam (completed in 1953), it played an important role in the early development of AP&L. In 1916, former riverboat captain Flave Carpenter met with Harvey Couch, who founded AP&L in 1913, to discuss the possibility of building dams on …

Remmel, Harmon Liveright

Harmon Liveright Remmel succeeded Powell Clayton as leader of Arkansas’s Republican Party in 1913. His tenure was plagued by an ongoing dispute between Lily White and African-American Republicans. His role in the movement remains a topic of debate among historians. Harmon Remmel was born on January 15, 1852, in Stratford, New York, to German immigrants Gottlieb Remmel and Henrietta Bever. Gottlieb Remmel was a tanner and a staunch Republican. Harmon Remmel, who had four brothers and two sisters, attended Fairfield Seminary in Fairfield, New York. He taught school for a year, and in 1871, he and his brother Augustus Caleb (A. C.) Remmel entered the lumber business in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1874, he returned to New York, and in …

Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC)

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) is a university-based training program designed to train students to serve as officers in the U.S. military upon graduation. The U.S. Army operates four ROTC battalions in Arkansas, while the U.S. Air Force operates one unit. The U.S. Navy supports ROTC programs, but no such programs operate in the state. Many high schools in the state have Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs. The nation’s federal service academies are tasked with providing trained officers for the military, but these institutions cannot train enough graduates to lead units during times of conflict. The first military unit at an institution of higher education in the United States was created at Norwich University in Vermont in …

Reynolds, John Hugh

John Hugh Reynolds—Arkansas author, longtime president of Hendrix College, and founder of the Arkansas History Commission (now called the Arkansas State Archives)—was born near Enola (Faulkner County) on January 3, 1869. He was one of the seven children born to Jesse M. and Elizabeth Grimes Reynolds. His father was a carpenter, a mechanic, a blacksmith, and a county doctor. After a stint as a rural schoolteacher, Reynolds graduated from Hendrix College, a Methodist institution in Conway (Faulkner County) in 1893. Four years later, he received an MA degree in political science from the University of Chicago. Returning to Arkansas, he became a professor of history and political science at Hendrix College. During his tenure, he also served for four years …

Rhoton, Lewis Nathan

Lewis Nathan Rhoton was a Little Rock lawyer who, as Sixth District prosecuting attorney (covering Pulaski and Perry counties) from 1904 to 1908, exposed the Boodle Scandal in the spring 1905 session of the Arkansas General Assembly (“boodle” is a slang term meaning bribe money). His actions in fighting corruption played an important role in the rise of Progressivism in the state. President Theodore Roosevelt, while visiting Little Rock (Pulaski County) on October 25, 1905, congratulated him for “invaluable service to the state and nation” in calling corrupt public officials to account. Lewis Rhoton was born on May 13, 1868, to Franklin Rhoton and Susannah Garrett Rhoton, in Henry County, Indiana. An outstanding student, Rhoton received his higher education from …

Rialto Theater (El Dorado)

The Rialto Theater stands as a testament to the cosmopolitan atmosphere found in El Dorado (Union County) during the prosperous 1920s oil-boom era. Completed in September 1929, the Rialto is one of the largest and most elaborate theaters in southern Arkansas. Restoration efforts on the theater were begun as part of phase two of the Murphy Arts District (MAD) plan to revitalize downtown El Dorado. Located at 117 East Cedar Street in downtown El Dorado, the Rialto Theater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 21, 1986. Designed by the local architectural firm of Kolben, Hunter, and Boyd, and built at a cost of $250,000, the Rialto is an example of the Classical Revival style. The …

Rice, Jenny Eakin Delony

aka: Jenny Delony
aka: Jenny Meyrowitz
Jenny Eakin Delony Rice was the first woman artist from Arkansas to rise to national and international prominence as a painter and the founder of collegiate art education in Arkansas. Though Delony specialized in portraiture, her subject matter included miniatures, landscape, wildlife, still life, and genre (scenes of everyday life). Jenny Delony was born in Washington (Hempstead County) on May 13, 1866, to Alchyny Turner Delony, a capitalist, lawyer, and educator, and Elizabeth Lawson Pearson Delony, a teacher. She had four siblings. The Delony family lived in Washington until 1885, when they moved to Nashville (Howard County). In 1890, the Delonys moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County). After finishing elementary schooling in Washington, Delony attended Wesleyan Female Institute (Stuart Hall) …

Richmond, Ted

aka: James Theodore Richmond
James Theodore (Ted) Richmond was the founder of the Wilderness Library on Mount Sherman in Newton County. For twenty-five years, the library provided free reading material to citizens in northwest Arkansas. Ted Richmond was born in Ogallala, Nebraska, on May 26, 1890, the second of five sons of Albert, a pioneer physician, and Etta Richmond. Drafted in 1917, he served during World War I as a private in the infantry and helped establish an American library at the University of Toulouse, France, after the war. He attended several educational institutions: Iowa Business College, University of Chicago, and Missouri Teachers College (now Missouri State University). His journalistic career included editorial and reporting positions at many newspapers: the Quincy Whig, Gem City …

Riddle, Almeda James

Discovered by a ballad collector in the 1950s, Almeda James Riddle of Greers Ferry (Cleburne County) became a prominent figure in America’s folk music revival. Her memory of ballads, hymns, and children’s songs was one of the largest single repertories documented by folksong scholars. After two decades of concerts and recordings, she received the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts for her contributions to the preservation of Ozark folksong traditions. Almeda James was born on November 21, 1898, in the community of West Pangburn (Cleburne County). She was the fifth of eight children of J. L. James, a timber worker, and Martha Frances Wilkerson. In 1916, she married H. Price Riddle and started family life near Heber …

Riggs-Hamilton American Legion Post 20

Riggs-Hamilton American Legion Post 20, located at 215 North Denver Avenue in Russellville (Pope County), is a Rustic-style structure erected in 1936 with assistance from the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a pair of Depression-era federal relief programs. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 15, 1994. In January 1919, veterans in Russellville organized an Army-Navy Club to serve as a civic organization for the veterans and their families, with members having to have received honorable discharges from the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps after serving overseas or on home guard duty and with honorary membership open to relatives of men who died in service. Robert A. Ragsdale, who came …

Riggs, John Andrew

John Andrew Riggs was a pioneer, politician, early aviator, patent medicine business proprietor, and father of women’s suffrage in Arkansas. Riggs’s Act 186 of 1917 allowed women to vote in the Democratic primary in Arkansas. This enfranchisement of women paved the way for Arkansas’s ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. John Riggs was born on November 5, 1867, in Shelby County, Illinois, the eldest of six children of Elbridge Marion Riggs and Sarah Ann Hubbartt. His parents were farmers and merchants. In 1877, the extended Riggs family moved to Sumner County, Kansas, the Southern border of which was Indian Territory. In 1889, Riggs was one of over 50,000 pioneers in a line stretching for 100 miles along …

Risley, Eleanor de la Vergne Doss

When the Arkansas State Library sponsored an event for supporters in 1939, librarian Vera Snook wrote Eleanor Risley, hoping to entice her to attend. Other honored guests were John Gould Fletcher, Charles J. Finger, and Charles Morrow Wilson. Risley’s inclusion on the list is an indication of the importance attached to her reputation as a nationally recognized Arkansas writer. Risley’s two novels, The Road to Wildcat: A Tale of Southern Mountaineering (1930) and An Abandoned Orchard (1932), had been published by Little, Brown and Company and were critically well received. Between 1928 and 1931, The Atlantic Monthly magazine published a series of Risley short stories about rural southern mountain life. The May 1931 Atlantic Monthly piece “Drought,” which was set …

Rison Cities Service Station

The Rison Cities Service Station is located at the corner of Main and Magnolia streets in Rison (Cleveland County). Constructed in 1938 in an English Revival style, the building was used as a location for the sale of gasoline and other related automobile products for more than thirty years. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 10, 2001. The growing popularity of automobiles in the early twentieth century led to the establishment of various businesses to supply gasoline and other products to drivers. With many located in residential areas, these buildings were often constructed to resemble nearby homes. The design of this station resembles that of several other stations in the state, including the …

Rison Texaco Service Station

The Rison Texaco Service Station is an Art Deco–style former gas station located in Rison (Cleveland County). Constructed around 1926 at the corner of Main and Third Streets, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 25, 2002. Little is known about the history of the building. An article appeared in the Cleveland County Herald on April 29, 1926, announcing the opening of the business. Part of the Texas-based Texaco company, the station was one of a chain that offered gasoline and automobile-related products in every state by 1928. Interviews with local residents conducted at the time of the property’s addition to the National Register indicate that the business operated as part of the Lion Oil …

Rivervale Inverted Siphons

Completed in 1926, the Rivervale Inverted Siphons were a prerequisite to permanent settlement in eastern Poinsett County and adjacent areas in the St. Francis River and Little River basins. The siphons provided relief from overflow and outlet for runoff from Craighead and Mississippi counties and portions of southeastern Missouri. One of the first components in the comprehensive drainage plan devised for Drainage District Number Seven of Poinsett County, the Rivervale Inverted Siphons also permitted the immediate agricultural development and economic exploitation of parts of Poinsett County and those counties in Missouri and Arkansas tributary to District Seven. They were also a necessary response to the proliferation of organized drainage and levee districts in the early twentieth century. The siphons were …

Robertson, Frank (Lynching of)

There is much confusion about the lynching of alleged arsonist Frank Robertson, which occurred in late March 1903. Newspapers from the time give a variety of dates for the event, ranging from March 26 to March 28. Many of the reports were datelined Lewisville (Lafayette County), although other newspapers called it New Louisville or New Lewisville; this would be the present-day Lafayette County seat of Lewisville, which was referred to as “New Lewisville” after the town moved closer to the railroad line in the late nineteenth century. Adding to the confusion, when the U.S. Congress issued an apology in 2005 for its historical inaction on lynching, its report said that Robertson’s lynching occurred on March 27 just across the Louisiana–Arkansas …

Robertson, Irene

Irene Robertson was an interviewer and writer for the 1930s Federal Writers’ Project in Arkansas. She preserved the life stories and experiences of former slaves—or, in some cases, their children—then living in the counties of Crittenden, Lee, Monroe, Phillips, Prairie, and St. Francis. Using her straightforward style of reporting, she prepared 290 out of a total of 300 slave narratives produced in the above counties. She also prepared approximately 116 narratives from interviews with older white residents. Irene Robertson was born in May 1893, possibly in Troy in Greenwood County, South Carolina, near the “Hard Labor” section of Edgefield County, where her parents had lived. Robertson’s father, Samuel Elisha Robertson, a farmer, was born in Edgefield County; he was a …

Robinson Center Music Hall

aka: Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium
aka: Robinson Auditorium
Built in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the Great Depression as a Public Works Administration (PWA) project, the Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium—known since 1973 as the Robinson Center Music Hall—frequently hosts touring performances, including Broadway musicals, and is home to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Named for Lonoke County native Joseph Taylor Robinson, who was governor of Arkansas and a U.S. senator, the Art Deco building on Markham Avenue near Broadway Street is a major Little Rock landmark. Prior to the construction of the Robinson Center, Little Rock’s largest auditorium for concerts and other public events was at Little Rock High School (now called Central High School). Senator Robinson, a strong supporter of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, helped …

Robinson, John Marshall

John Marshall Robinson was a prominent physician, civic leader, and co-founder and president of the Arkansas Negro Democratic Association (ANDA). As a physician, Robinson performed pioneering medical surgery and was involved with a number of medical institutions and organizations in Little Rock (Pulaski County). As a politician, Robinson was the main voice in the state demanding equal black participation in the Arkansas Democratic Party between 1928 and 1952. Born on July 31, 1879, in Pickens, Mississippi, John Robinson was one of eight children of Isabell Marshall and Amos G. Robinson. Robinson attended Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1904. While in Nashville, Robinson met and married India Cox. Robinson’s only …

Robinson, Joseph Taylor

Joseph Taylor Robinson was governor only a short time before taking office as a U.S. senator. He became Senate majority leader during the Great Depression, after his nomination as the Democratic Party candidate for vice president—the first Arkansan ever on a major party ticket. Joe T. Robinson was born on August 26, 1872, in Concord Township (Lonoke County) to James Madison Robinson—a doctor, farmer, and lay preacher from New York—and Matilda Jane Swaim of Tennessee. Usually attending the local one-room schoolhouse during the summer, he received fewer than forty-six months of formal education. He augmented his schooling by reading classics from his father’s extensive library. In his childhood, he chopped cotton and tended to his father’s apple orchard. During his …

Robinson, Willis (Lynching of)

On December 18, 1918, an African-American man named Willis Robinson was hanged by a mob in Newport (Jackson County) for allegedly murdering police officer Charles Williams and wounding Chief of Police Gus C. Martin. Reports indicate that Robinson was a resident of Little Rock (Pulaski County), and the 1910 census listed nineteen-year-old Willis W. Robinson as living in Owen Township with his parents, Charley and Martha Robinson. According to newspaper reports, by December 1918, Robinson, who was described by the Arkansas Democrat as “a very large black negro, weighing about 240 pounds,” was living with his wife at 1003 Jones Street in Little Rock. Robinson was reportedly well known to local authorities. In defiance of a 1917 Arkansas statute forbidding …

Rock Island Line, The

“The Rock Island Line” is a world-famous song—recorded by the likes of Johnny Cash, Harry Belafonte, and Grandpa Jones—the earliest known performances of which are two 1934 recordings made in Arkansas prisons. A tall tale in rhyme, the song’s subject is a train so fast that it arrives at its destination in Little Rock (at 8:49) before its departure from Memphis (at “half past nine”). The collectors responsible for the first recordings were an unlikely pair. John Lomax was a white, Mississippi-born college teacher already well known as a folksong collector, while Huddie Ledbetter was a black, Louisiana-born singer and guitar player just released from prison and soon to be even better known as “Leadbelly.” Arriving in Arkansas in late …

Rodriguez, Dionicio

Dionicio Rodriguez, recognized as one of America’s foremost faux bois sculptors, created works that resembled wood, though made of concrete, with its peeling bark, wormholes, and signs of decay. Arkansas was a major beneficiary of his work, which was an outgrowth of a Mexican folk tradition known as el trabajo rustico (rustic work). Under the designation “The Arkansas Sculptures of Dionicio Rodriguez,” his Arkansas work was collectively listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 4, 1986. Dionicio Rodriguez was born in Toluca, Mexico, the son of Catarine Rodriguez; his birthdate is a matter of some dispute, usually stated as either April 11, 1891, or April 8, 1893. With little formal education, he began, at the age of …

Roe, “Preacher”

aka: Elwin Charles Roe
Elwin Charles “Preacher” Roe played professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Brooklyn Dodgers. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Roe was one of the top pitchers in the game. Preacher Roe was born on February 26, 1916, to Charles Edward Roe and Elizabeth (Ducker) Roe in Ash Flat (Sharp County). The Roe family, which included six boys and one girl, moved from Wild Cherry (Fulton County), where they had moved in 1918, to Viola (Fulton County) when Roe was six. Roe’s father played for a semi-professional team in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) but gave up baseball as a career and became a country doctor. Roe got his nickname at about three years of age when …

Roescher, Gustavus

aka: Gus Rusher
Gustavus Roescher, who later went by the Anglicized version of his name, Gus Rusher, was a leading figure in the town of Brinkley (Monroe County), serving as an alderman, restauranteur, hotelier, and banker. Little is known about the early life of Gustavus Roescher. Born in 1860, he immigrated to the United States with his father, Charles Roescher (1833–1890), from the German town of Baden-Baden in the mid-1800s. They settled on a farm outside of Brinkley. Gustavus Roescher owned the Arlington Hotel, which was struck by a cyclone in 1909. Roescher also purchased the Brinkley House, which burned down in 1914. This event prompted Roescher to begin construction on a new hotel with three stories and sixty rooms, which was christened …

Rogers, Betty Blake

Betty Blake Rogers was the wife of Will Rogers, one of the most beloved entertainers of the twentieth century. In addition to her roles as wife and mother, she managed the family’s finances, a job made difficult by Will’s enormous success and generous nature. She was a partner in his career, encouraging him to start on the lecture circuit and helping him choose film scripts. Betty Blake was born on September 9, 1879, at Silver Springs, later called Monte Ne (Benton County), to James Wyeth Blake, a miller, and Amelia Crowder Blake. Her father died when she was young, and the family moved a few miles north to Rogers (Benton County). Betty was seventh in a family of nine, and …

Rosenwald School (Delight)

The Rosenwald School, located on Arkansas Highway 26, is a one-story, wood-frame building erected between Delight (Pike County) and Antoine (Pike County) in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era public relief program. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 17, 1990. Three schools were built in Pike County between 1923 and 1927 with assistance from the Julius Rosenwald Fund to serve the county’s African-American children. The Rosenwald Fund had been created by a Sears, Roebuck and Company executive to help construct educational facilities for minority children in the South; a total of 389 school buildings would be constructed in thirty-five Arkansas counties with assistance from the Rosenwald Fund. One of those buildings, …

Rosenwald Schools

Julius Rosenwald was one of the most significant figures in Southern black education. Although Rosenwald was a successful businessman, his philanthropic work has always overshadowed his financial success. His involvement in providing grants to build schools for African Americans across the South, including Arkansas, contributed greatly to the creation of better educational opportunities for Arkansas’s African-American population. Rosenwald was born on August 12, 1862, in Springfield, Illinois, to Jewish immigrant parents. He never finished high school or attended college but went into the clothing business instead. His philanthropy began with the support of Jewish immigrants, which surely came from his family’s heritage, and then expanded to include African Americans after he was influenced by Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, Up From …

Roundtop Filling Station

The Roundtop Filling Station in Sherwood (Pulaski County), which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1936 by the Pierce Oil Company. Pierce Oil was one of the “baby Standards” formed after the U.S. government ordered the breakup of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company in 1911. Pierce operated gasoline stations in Arkansas, southern Missouri, western Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and Mexico. In 1936, Pierce Oil contracted with the Justin Matthews Company to construct a uniquely shaped gasoline station along U.S. Highway 67. With its mushroom-shaped roof and arched windows and doors, the Roundtop is anexample of the Mimetic/Programmatic architecture style common in smaller oil company station designs from the 1920s through the 1960s.It is believed …

Rowe, “Schoolboy”

aka: Lynwood Thomas Rowe
Lynwood Thomas “Schoolboy” Rowe was a sports star from El Dorado (Union County) who became one of the most famous major league baseball pitchers of the 1930s and 1940s. With three other pitchers—Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, and Smokey Joe Wood—Rowe still (as of 2011) holds the American League record for most consecutive victories, winning sixteen straight games in 1934. Lynwood “Schoolboy” Rowe was born on January 11, 1910, in Waco, Texas, the son of Thomas M. Rowe and Ruby Hardin Rowe. The Rowes soon moved to El Dorado, where Rowe and his brother, Mark, attended El Dorado schools. He established himself as a superior athlete in elementary school and was later a star in football, track, basketball, tennis, and baseball. …

Royal Theatre

The Royal Theatre on South Market Street in downtown Benton (Saline County) dates back to the early 1920s, making it one of the oldest theaters of its kind in the state. Although it no longer shows Hollywood films, the Royal remains a beloved landmark for the people of Saline County. It has been owned by a local family, a corporation, a celebrity, and, finally, a group of locals who took their name, the Royal Players, from the theater’s marquee. What is now the Royal Theatre began its life when Wallace Kauffman, a native of Princeton (Dallas County), moved to Benton in 1917. Kauffman, who had worked at a similar establishment in Fordyce (Dallas County), started working for Alice Wooten, owner …

Rucker House

The Rucker House in Bauxite (Saline County) is one of only two standing structures that date back to Bauxite’s early history as a company town, the other being the 1926 Bauxite Community Hall, which now houses the Bauxite Historical Museum. The Rucker House was built in 1903 by employees of what was then called the Pittsburgh Reduction Company and later became Alcoa for plant superintendent William Armour Rucker. Rucker and his family occupied the home until 1938. Since 1986, the Rucker House has been owned by the Bauxite Historical Association and Museum. The Rucker House, which was listed on the National Register on June 16, 1988, serves as a residence for the museum’s caretaker. William Armour Rucker was born on …

Rudd, Daniel

Daniel A. Rudd was a lay leader within the Catholic Church during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who used his own experience and influence to usher in a sense of black consciousness among Catholics in the United States and to advocate for the equality of all African Americans. He published the American Catholic Tribune, organized the first Negro Catholic Conferences, and developed relationships with some of the most influential black and Catholic leaders in Arkansas. Daniel Arthur Rudd was born on August 7, 1854, in Bardstown, Kentucky. He was the eleventh of twelve children born to Robert Rudd and Elizabeth (Eliza) Rudd, who were enslaved to two different owners—Robert to Richard and Margaret Rudd and Eliza to Charles …

Runyan, Paul

Paul Runyan is a household name in Arkansas golf history. He won the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Championship twice, in 1934 and 1938. At the diminutive size of 5’7″ and 125 pounds, Runyan earned the nickname “Little Poison” both because of his stature and because of his style of play—producing only short drives but relying on tremendously accurate freeway wood play. Paul Scott Runyan was born in Hot Springs (Garland County) on July 12, 1908, to Walter and Mamie Runyan; he had an older brother, Dixon. His father was a farmer who also worked at the Majestic Hotel across the street from Hot Springs Country Club. Despite numerous chores, Runyan escaped to the golf course, where he made money caddying …

Rural Electrification

The first major effort to provide electricity to rural Arkansas began with the passage of the federal Rural Electrification Act in 1936, creating the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). The agency was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs to improve the economic condition of farmers hit hard by depression, flood, and drought. It provided twenty-five-year loans at three percent interest for constructing power lines in rural areas. With REA loans, farmers could afford to electrify their homes and farms. Electrified farms, officials believed, would improve farm incomes and raise farm standards of living. Providing electricity to Arkansas farms and communities of fewer than 2,500 people was costly. Rural areas averaged fewer than five customers per mile of electric …