Entries - 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, …

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 …

Wilburn Brothers

The Wilburn Brothers were among the most successful and influential sibling duos in the country music industry during the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. Brothers Virgil Doyle (“Doyle”) Wilburn (1930–1982) and Thurman Theodore (“Teddy”) Wilburn (1931–2003), who hailed from Hardy (Sharp County), were stars of the Grand Ole Opry, recording artists with over thirty albums, recipients of the only “Lifetime Recording Contract” ever given by Decca Records, and hosts of their own nationally syndicated country music show for eleven years. In addition, they were talent agents who helped launch the careers of many other legendary country music stars, including Loretta Lynn, Patty Loveless, and the Osborne Brothers. Their Surefire Music, formed in 1957, is the only remaining family-owned music-publishing house …

Wilkerson v. State

The 1947 landmark case of Wilkerson v. the State of Arkansas, in which two African-American men were prosecuted after a deadly highway shooting incident, ended the exclusion of African Americans from Jefferson County juries, marking the first time black jurors had served in the state since Reconstruction. The case also received extensive media coverage because the defense attorneys—William Harold Flowers, who was a leading figure in the civil rights movement in Arkansas in the 1940s, and Zephaniah Alexander Looby, a civil rights leader and attorney from Tennessee—directly attacked unfair and discriminatory Jim Crow laws and practices in open court. On February 9, 1947, off-duty Jefferson County special deputy sheriff George Cletus Bryant, his brother Archie Bryant, and C. W. Winston …

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, J. Mayo “Ink”

J. Mayo “Ink” Williams was the first African-American producer at a major record label and the most successful record producer of music by black performers, particularly blues and jazz, from the 1920s through the 1940s. The son of Daniel and Millie Williams, J. Mayo Williams was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on September 25, 1894. He left Pine Bluff with his mother at age seven after his father was murdered in a shooting at the local railway station. After moving to Monmouth, Illinois, he attended public schools, where he excelled in academics and football. In 1916, he enrolled at Brown University, where he became a star athlete. In the early 1920s, Williams became one of the first black players in the National …

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, 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, Samuel Woodrow

Samuel Woodrow Williams was an African-American Baptist minister, college professor, and civil rights activist who had a major impact on race relations in the city of Atlanta, Georgia, from the mid-to-late 1950s until his sudden death in October 1970. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2009. Samuel Woodrow Williams was born on February 20, 1912, in Sparkman (Dallas County), the oldest of the eight children of Arthur Williams and Annie Willie Butler Williams. As a child, he enjoyed hunting, fishing, and playing baseball and basketball, but nothing gave him as much pleasure as reading; over his lifetime, he amassed a collection of more than 1,000 volumes. Lessons about racism came early for Williams. Before he …

Williams, Sue Cowan

Sue Cowan Williams represented African-American teachers in the Little Rock School District as the plaintiff in the case challenging the rate of salaries allotted to teachers in the district based solely on skin color. The tenth library in the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) is named after her. Born in Eudora (Chicot County) to J. Alex Cowan and Leila Roberts Cowan on May 29, 1910, Sue Cowan began life in a small town in Arkansas. Her mother died soon after her birth. Raised until age four by her maternal grandmother in Texas, Cowan returned to Arkansas to live with her father. From fifth grade until high school, she attended Spelman, a religious boarding school in Atlanta, Georgia. She undertook undergraduate …

Williams, Virginia Anne Rice

Biochemist Virginia Anne Rice Williams helped develop more nutritious grains through her pioneering studies of rice, a major Arkansas crop. She conducted important research on the B-vitamin content of rice, on ways to keep rice from turning rancid in storage, and on the vitamin fortification of rice. Virginia Rice was born in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Roderic J. Rice, a banker, and Mattie Thurman. Her high school teachers urged her to pursue music as a career, as she was a gifted musician. Fearing that she would not succeed as a concert musician, however, she opted for science, a field in which she also excelled. In 1940, Rice graduated from Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County) with a BA …

Williamson, “Sonny Boy”

aka: Aleck Miller
Sonny Boy Williamson first became famous as a blues harmonica player in 1941 on the groundbreaking King Biscuit Time radio program (often credited as the first regularly scheduled blues radio show) broadcast by station KFFA in Helena (Phillips County). Williamson’s fame spread, particularly through Europe, in the 1960s and has continued to grow since his death. The annual King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena-West Helena still features his music. Williamson went to great lengths to mislead would-be biographers, and facts about his life are difficult to verify. His real name was Aleck Miller; he was apparently sometimes called Rice, and he was most likely born in 1912 in Glendora, Mississippi, to Millie Ford. He took his stepfather Jim Miller’s surname. As a very young child, …

Williwaw War

The “Williwaw War” has become the common term for the World War II conflict between American and Japanese troops in the Arctic Aleutian Islands. The term “williwaw” apparently dates to the nineteenth century, though its origin is uncertain; it describes sudden violent gusts of wind, often accompanied by rain, snow, and fog. The Aleutian theater in the war held particular interest for Arkansans: according to a story widely believed at the time (and which may actually be true), the loss of a coin toss in July of 1941 resulted in assignment of the 206th Coast Artillery Regiment of the recently federalized Arkansas National Guard to Aleutian duty. The winners (as they then thought), New Mexico’s 200th, were dispatched to the tropical …

Wilson, Charles Kemmons

Charles Kemmons Wilson was a businessman who founded the Holiday Inn hotel chain. Called the “Father of the Modern Hotel,” he revolutionized the travel industry by providing affordable, comfortable, dependable lodging. Kemmons Wilson was born on January 5, 1913, in Osceola (Mississippi County) to Kemmons Wilson, who sold insurance, and Ruby “Doll” Wilson, a homemaker. He was their only child. His father died when Wilson was nine months old, and his mother took the baby to her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, where she found work as a dental assistant. Wilson’s business career began when he was six and sold subscriptions to The Saturday Evening Post. When he was fourteen, he was hit by a car while making deliveries on his …

Wilson, Charles Morrow

A native of Fayetteville (Washington County), Charles Morrow Wilson was a nationally known freelance author. While the majority of his many books and magazine articles were on international trade, agriculture, and medicine topics, a significant number were on Arkansas culture and politics. Charles Wilson was born in Fayetteville on June 16, 1905, to Joseph Dixon and Martha (Mattie) Maude Morrow Wilson. He was educated in Fayetteville Public Schools and graduated from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville in 1926. Wilson began writing when he was still a student, and author Charles J. Finger became his mentor. Wilson was included in the group of writers, artists, and scientists who frequently gathered at Finger’s home near Fayetteville, and he was associated …

Wilson, Winston Peabody “Wimpy”

Winston P. Wilson was a major general in the U.S. Air Force. He also served as the chief of the National Guard Bureau. Winston Peabody “Wimpy” Wilson was born in Arkadelphia (Clark County) on November 11, 1911, to Winston Wilson and Eunice Cotton Wilson; he had a brother and a sister. The family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) during Winston’s childhood, and he attended Little Rock High School. He obtained the nickname “Wimpy,” as football coaches would yell “Win P. Wilson!” to get his attention. He enlisted in the Arkansas National Guard in 1929 and graduated from high school the same year. Wilson attended Hendrix College while also serving in the 154th Observation Squadron as a mechanic. Wilson graduated …

Wingmead

Wingmead, a farming operation south of DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) on State Highway 33, has long been recognized as one of the nation’s foremost duck-hunting clubs. Wingmead was established in 1937 by Edgar Monsanto Queeny, son of John Francis Queeny, who founded Monsanto Chemical Co. Wingmead is a word of Scottish origin that means “meadow of wings.” Edgar Queeny served in the U.S. Navy during World War I and then earned a chemistry degree from Cornell University in 1919. He married Ethel Schneider after graduation and began working for Monsanto in St. Louis, Missouri. He became a vice president of the company in 1924 and Monsanto’s president in 1928. By the time Queeny retired from Monsanto in 1960, it had …

Wirges, Gene

Eugene Henry (Gene) Wirges was an Arkansas journalist noted for his crusade against the influence over Arkansas politics exerted in the early 1960s by Governor Orval Faubus and his political ally Sheriff Marlin Hawkins of Conway County. As a crusading editor and good-government advocate, Wirges, along with his wife, Betty, allied themselves with the forces of reform at serious personal risk. Principally as editor of the Morrilton Democrat, as well as other local papers, Wirges led a campaign for better government and honest elections, which resulted in lawsuits, criminal prosecution, physical altercations, and—allegedly—a contract on his life. His opponent and chief nemesis, Hawkins, vehemently denied being involved in such activities. Born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 5, 1927, …

Wirges, Joseph Bernard (Joe)

Joe Wirges, whose long, colorful career with the state’s oldest newspaper earned him the sobriquet “Joe Gazette,” was a crime reporter of national repute who spent more than half a century writing about crooks and tragedies for the Arkansas Gazette. Wirges started delivering the Gazette to homes as a youngster a few years after John Netherland Heiskell and his brother Fred Heiskell bought the paper in 1902. He became a full-time reporter when he was nineteen and retired fifty years later. He was a natural detective and helped the police break down suspects and solve crimes. During the heyday of the national pulp detective magazines—the 1930s through the 1950s—Wirges was a frequent contributor to, and subject of, journals like True …

Witherspoon, Jimmy “Spoon”

James John (Jimmy) Witherspoon, also known by the nickname “Spoon,” was a versatile singer who achieved commercial success and critical acclaim in the genres of blues, jazz, and rhythm and blues. His 1947 recording “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” was a hit in 1949 and became his signature song. Jimmy Witherspoon was born in Gurdon (Clark County) to Leonard Witherspoon, a Missouri Pacific Railroad brakeman, and Eva Tatum Witherspoon, a church pianist. The family was devoutly religious. His parents were members of the choir at their Baptist church. His date of birth is usually given as August 8, 1923, but some sources give the birth year as 1920, and more than one source gives the birth date as August 18, 1921, attributing …

Wolfe, Paul

Paul Wolfe was a lawyer and World War II veteran who later became the circuit judge for the Twelfth Judicial District of Arkansas (Scott and Sebastian counties) and was appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to organize and chair a committee to write what became the textbook for the new National Council of State Trial Judges under the administration of the American Bar Association. He also served as a member of the Arkansas Model Criminal Jury Instructions Committee. Paul Wolfe was born on January 5, 1908, in Weir, Kansas, to John Walter Wolfe and Myra Este Vasser Wolfe. His first name was Harry, but he preferred to use his middle name, Paul. The Wolfe family moved to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) …

Woman They Almost Lynched

An interesting film lurking behind an exploitative title, Republic Pictures’ 1953 western Woman They Almost Lynched is set in early 1865 in “Border City,” a fictitious Ozarks town bisected by the Arkansas-Missouri border. The town has been militantly neutral throughout the Civil War, under a “petticoat government” led by tyrannical mayor Delilah Courtney (Nina Varela). Made in California, the movie is a typical B-western (though better than most) with no real Arkansas atmosphere except one old man with a mandolin. The town and the rural scenery look like routine Hollywood western locales. None of the hillbilly stereotypes found in other Hollywood films set in Arkansas are present, and no one attempts a local accent. Border City is said to attract …

Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC)

Before World War II, Arkansas was predominately an agricultural state, and jobs for women were very limited. Serving in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) gave Arkansas women a chance to assist in the war efforts and to do jobs they never thought they could do. Women in the WAAC aided the war effort in a variety of roles across the state and nation. On May 28, 1941, as the United States was preparing for the possibility of becoming involved in World War II, Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts introduced a bill to the U.S. Congress to establish the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps. Rogers used what women had done in the navy and marines in World War I as …

Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC)

The Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC) was formed on September 12, 1958, to combat the governor’s closing of Little Rock (Pulaski County) high schools. The first meeting of the organization was held on September 16. During the summer after the 1957 desegregation crisis at Central High School in Little Rock, Governor Orval Faubus invoked a recently passed state law and closed the schools to prevent further desegregation. The WEC became the first organization to publicly support reopening the schools under the district’s desegregation plan. It remained active until 1963. Forty-eight women met in September 1958 in the antebellum home of Adolphine Fletcher Terry, the widow of U.S. Congressman David D. Terry and a local activist for libraries, …

Wood, John Shirley

Drew County native Major General John S. Wood served for over thirty years in the United States military. He fought in both world wars and is considered by many military experts to have been one of the best divisional commanders of World War II. John Shirley Wood was born to Arkansas Supreme Court justice Carroll D. Wood and Reola Thompson Wood on January 11, 1888, in Monticello (Drew County). While attending the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), he was the quarterback and captain of the football team. He graduated in 1907 with a BS in chemistry. In 1908, he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, lettering in football, wrestling, and boxing. After his 1912 graduation, …

Woodward, Comer Vann

Comer Vann Woodward was arguably the twentieth century’s foremost Southern historian. Although published in the 1950s, his Origins of the New South, 1877–1913 and The Strange Career of Jim Crow remain vital interpretive narratives. C. Vann Woodward was born November 13, 1908, to Hugh (Jack) and Emily (Bess) Woodward in Vanndale (Cross County). During Woodward’s youth, his father was a school administrator in Wynne (Cross County), then Arkadelphia (Clark County), and subsequently Morrilton (Conway County). Woodward graduated from high school in Morrilton in 1926 and enrolled at Henderson-Brown College, a small Methodist institution in Arkadelphia. After two years, he transferred to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, graduating in 1930 with an AB in philosophy. Inspired by his uncle and namesake, …

World War II

During World War II, Arkansas underwent fundamental social and economic changes that affected all parts of the state. From the creation of ordnance plants to the presence of prisoners of war (POWs) and Japanese-American internees, the impact of the war meant that the Arkansas of 1945 was vastly different from the Arkansas of 1941. In some ways, this reflected issues particular to Arkansas, while in other ways it reflected the profound changes that the United States as a whole underwent during the war. Along with the lingering effects of the Great Depression, the transformations that were brought about by World War II were to form a clear break between prewar and postwar Arkansas. Industrialization, urbanization, and migration all dramatically transformed …

World War II Ordnance Plants

aka: Arkansas Ordnance Plant (AOP)
aka: Maumelle Ordnance Works (MOW)
aka: Southwestern Proving Ground (SPG)
aka: Ozark Ordnance Works (OOW)
aka: Shumaker Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD)
During World War II, Arkansas was home to six ordnance plants. The sites were located near Jacksonville (Pulaski County), Marche (Pulaski County), Hope (Hempstead County), El Dorado (Union County), Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and Camden (Ouachita County). The uses for the locations included the manufacture of detonators, fuses, primers and bombs; proving grounds for testing munitions; rocket loading, testing and storage; and producing chemical agents needed in bombs and explosives. Four of the plants were government owned and contractor operated (GOCO). These plants were over seen by a military staff, but a private corporation had the contract to operate the plants. The Southwestern Proving Ground and the Pine Bluff Arsenal were government owned and operated. All the plants depended heavily …

World War II Prisoner of War Camps

aka: Prisoner of War Camps (World War II)
aka: POW Camps (World War II)
During World War II, the United States established many prisoner of war (POW) camps on its soil for the first time since the Civil War. By 1943, Arkansas had received the first of 23,000 German and Italian prisoners of war, who would live and work at military installations and branch camps throughout the state. The presence of POW camps in the United States was due in part to a British request to alleviate the POW housing problems in Great Britain. Initially, the U.S. government resisted the idea of POW camps on its soil. The huge numbers of German and Italian POWs expected to occupy the camps created many problems for the federal government and the military. The military did not …

World War II through the Faubus Era, 1941 through 1967

Developments during World War II loosened Arkansas from its rural moorings as it moved toward full integration with the national economy and society. Beginning in the war years and through the 1950s, the state resumed an industrialization process that had been interrupted by the Great Depression. Arkansans migrated from the countryside to the cities and participated in the expanding consumer economy. Federal dollars subsidized infrastructure improvements. Although state political leaders welcomed the largesse from Washington, they resisted external pressures to acknowledge African-American rights. Encouraged by ground-breaking federal court decisions, a new generation of civil rights leaders mounted direct challenges to discriminatory practices. Governor Orval Faubus responded to changing conditions with an ambitious expansion of state services, while mollifying white residents …

Worley, Ted Raymond

Ted Raymond Worley was a historian, teacher, editor of the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, and executive secretary of the Arkansas History Commission, as well as a prolific writer. Ted R. Worley was born on June 1, 1906, in Pope County to Ernest C. Worley and Dollie Koone Worley. After graduating from Russellville High School, he attended Arkansas State Teachers College (which later became the University of Central Arkansas) in Conway (Faulkner County), earning his degree in 1934. He received his master’s degree at the University of Texas in 1939. Worley taught at a rural Pope County school and schools at Pottsville (Pope County) and at Bald Knob (White County) while working on those degrees. He also worked toward a doctorate at …

Wright v. Wright

Wright v. Wright was a 1970 case heard by the Arkansas Supreme Court that addressed the basic question of whether a person who murders his or her parent can then inherit from the estate of the victim. The case of Wright v. Wright had its roots in the September 1953 rifle slaying of Junius Everett Wright and his wife, Macle Cullum Wright, by their son Leslie A. Wright. Accused of a double murder, Wright was convicted for killing his mother and received a life sentence for that crime. Prosecutors opted not to try the seventeen-year-old former high school basketball player for the murder of his father. He was subsequently paroled in 1964, and upon release from prison, he married Lynda …