Time Period: World War II through the Faubus Era (1941 - 1967) - Starting with W

Wainwright, Larry (Murder of)

The 1967 murder of Larry Wainwright, an African-American teenager, near his home in the black neighborhood of Morning Star rocked the city of El Dorado (Union County) and remains an important civil rights–era cold case. This was not the first time Morning Star had been subjected to racist violence. Whites would regularly drive through the neighborhood and throw bottles or bricks at the black men, women, and children, seriously injuring them. Wainwright’s parents, Melvin and Louise Wainwright, and the African American community of Morning Star mourned the loss but also rallied in the wake of Wainwright’s death, ensuring that the murder was publicized beyond Union County and El Dorado. Although national attention was lacking, newspapers such as the Northwest Arkansas …

Wair, Thelma Jean Mothershed

Thelma Jean Mothershed Wair made history as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the African-American students involved in the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed desegregation of the formerly all-white high school. Mothershed was a junior when she entered Central. Despite the fact that she had a cardiac condition since birth, she had a near perfect record for attendance. Thelma Mothershed was born on November 29, 1940, in Bloomberg, Texas, to Arlevis Leander Mothershed and Hosanna Claire Moore Mothershed. Her father was a psychiatric aide at the Veterans Hospital, and her mother was a homemaker. She has three sisters and two brothers. …

Wakely, James Clarence (Jimmy)

Jimmy Wakely, an American country and western singer and actor from the 1930s through the 1950s, made several recordings and appeared in B-western movies with most major studios as a “singing cowboy.” Wakely was one of the last singing cowboys after World War II and also appeared on radio and television; he even had his own series of comic books. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1680 Vine Street. Jimmy Wakely was born James Clarence Wakeley on February 16, 1914, in Mineola (Howard County) to Major Anderson Wakeley, a farmer, and Caroline (or Carolin) “Cali” Burgess Wakeley. As a teenager, he changed “James” to “Jimmy” and dropped the second “e” in his last name, making …

Walker, Hazel Leona

aka: Hazel Walker Crutcher
Recognized as the greatest amateur women’s basketball player of the 1930s and 1940s, eleven-time Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) All-American Hazel Leona Walker was the only woman ever to own, manage, and star for her own professional basketball team. For sixteen seasons, from 1949 to 1965, Hazel Walker’s Arkansas Travelers barnstormed the country playing only men’s teams under men’s rules and winning eighty to eighty-five percent of their games. Hazel Walker was born on August 8, 1914, on her family’s farm near Oak Hill (Little River County), nine miles from Ashdown (Little River County). She was the middle child and only daughter of Herbert S. Walker and Minnie L. Chancey Walker, both Arkansas natives of part Cherokee descent. Walker first played …

Walnut Ridge Army Flying School

The Walnut Ridge Army Flying School was one of seven U.S. Army Air Forces pilot training schools established in Arkansas as part of the nationwide expansion of World War II pilot training. Contract primary flying schools were located in Camden (Ouachita County), Helena (Phillips County), and Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Newport (Jackson County) and Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County) had basic flying schools, while Blytheville (Mississippi County) and Stuttgart (Arkansas County) had advanced twin-engine flying schools. The Walnut Ridge Army Flying School enrolled during its existence 5,310 students, 4,641 of whom graduated. In early April 1942, a board of three army air forces officers—Lieutenant Colonel Burton Hovey Jr., Lieutenant Colonel John R. Cume Jr., and Captain Blanton Russell—went in search of …

War Memorial Stadium

War Memorial Stadium, built in 1947, is located in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The venue has been home to numerous events, including football games featuring the Razorbacks of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Since its opening in War Memorial Park, the stadium has drawn millions of spectators to central Arkansas and has had a tremendous impact on the local economy. In 1947, the Arkansas state government paid $1.2 million to build the stadium. Architect Bruce R. Anderson designed the venue, which had an original seating capacity of 31,075. The stadium’s first event, a football game between UA and Abilene Christian, was held on September 18, 1948. Before the game, the stadium was formally dedicated by former Razorback and Medal …

Ward, John Paul

John Paul Ward was a lawyer and politician from Independence County who spent the last twenty-six years of his career as a trial and appellate judge. He was an associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court from 1951 until 1968.  John Paul Ward—who went by Paul—was born on February 20, 1890, in Batesville (Independence County), the son of W. J. Ward and Mollie Churchill Ward. He was educated in the Batesville public schools, received a bachelor’s degree at Arkansas College (now Lyon College) in Batesville in 1912, attended Tulane University in New Orleans, and received a law degree at the University of Oklahoma in Norman in 1915. When the United States entered World War I, he enlisted and became a commissioned officer in the American Expeditionary Force’s hundred-day offensive, the Meuse River-Argonne Forest Campaign in France, during the fall of 1918, the …

Warfield, William Caesar

William Caesar Warfield was a noted African-American bass-baritone concert artist who had an extensive career that included major roles in two Hollywood films as well as stints on stage and on television. Probably no one ever performed “Ol’ Man River” from Jerome Kern’s Show Boat more times than Warfield, who performed it in several languages. William Warfield was born on January 22, 1920, to Robert Warfield and Bertha McCamery Warfield in West Helena (Phillips County). He spent only a few years in Arkansas; however, because of a strong family background in Arkansas and Mississippi, he described himself as “an Arkansas boy from tip to toe.” His multiracial ancestry included a paternal grandfather who appeared in photographs to be a white man …

Washburn, Alexander Henry

Alexander Henry (Alex) Washburn was a prominent conservative newspaperman in southern Arkansas who served as the editor and publisher of the Hope Star for fifty-four years. Washburn sought to stay ahead of the technology curve, and in 1942, the Star began one of the world’s first transmissions by wire of newspaper content from other papers. The Star was also an early user of offset printing, 35 mm photography, and the four-color process. Alex Washburn was born on August 12, 1899, in Toronto, Canada, to American parents from Pennsylvania and Illinois. His father, William Henry Washburn, was an official with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and his mother, Annie Henry Washburn, was a homemaker. Washburn was the oldest of three sons and …

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 …

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, 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 …

Wells, Ira James Kohath

A pioneer in education and journalism, Ira James Kohath Wells was a gifted scholar, businessman, and humanitarian with humble rural beginnings. Ira J. K. Wells was born in Tamo (Jefferson County) on July 1, 1898, to William James Wells and Emma Brown Wells. When he was young, half of his leg was amputated after he injured it trying to hop on to a moving freight train. For the rest of his life, he had a wooden prosthetic leg. He finished his secondary education at Branch Normal College in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County)—now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB)—and then went on to earn a degree in business from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1923. Even as a student, …

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, …

White, Delores Brumfield

Delores Brumfield (Dee) White began playing in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) as a young teenager in the post–World War II years, helping take the Fort Wayne Daisies to two league championships. She later taught physical education and was a coach at Henderson State University (HSU) in Arkadelphia (Clark County). Dee Brumfield was born on May 26, 1932, in Prichard, Alabama, to Earl Henry Brumfield and Miriam McKay Turner Brumfield. She had a younger brother and sister. Her father was an auto mechanic. Her mother was a homemaker until World War II, when she started as an office worker, eventually becoming an office manager for an insurance firm. Brumfield was an athletic girl who played in sandlot games …