Entries - Time Period: Modern Era (1968 - the Present) - Starting with B

Babbitt, Wayne Hubert

Wayne Hubert Babbitt was a Republican politician who, in 1972, became the only Republican ever to run against John McClellan, Arkansas’s long-serving and powerful U.S. senator. While his candidacy was unsuccessful, Babbitt’s effort represented another step forward in the development of a competitive Republican Party in Arkansas in the latter part of the twentieth century. Wayne H. Babbitt was born on April 21, 1928, in Macedonia, Iowa, to Darwin Merritt Babbitt and Frances Charron Babbitt. He spent most of his childhood in Nebraska. After high school, he served in the U.S. Navy, and upon completing his tour of duty, he returned to Nebraska, spending a year at the University of Omaha (now the University of Nebraska Omaha). Babbitt married Eleanor …

Back-to-the-Land Movement

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, nearly one million people throughout the United States left urbanized areas for rural settings, intent on establishing themselves as “back-to-the-landers.” While many of these people moved to the Northeast or the West, which had long been centers of counter-cultural movements, a significant number were drawn to the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. It is difficult to state how many back-to-the-landers (BTLs) moved to Arkansas between 1968 and 1982, but rough estimates suggest that it was somewhere between 2,000 and 6,000. Nearly all of the BTLs who moved to the region were in their early to mid-twenties. On the whole, the BTLs were well educated, with over seventy percent having completed an undergraduate degree. Approximately …

Bacon, Nick Daniel (Nicky)

Nick Daniel Bacon stands as one of three people connected to Arkansas to have received the Medal of Honor for actions in the Vietnam War. In addition, Bacon served for more than a decade as the director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, championing many programs for Arkansas’s veterans and playing an instrumental part in the erection of a memorial honoring all of Arkansas’s Medal of Honor recipients. Nicky Bacon was born on November 25, 1945, in Caraway (Craighead County), one of eight children. In the early 1950s, his financially struggling family moved to Arizona. Bacon dropped out of high school after the ninth grade to work but was inspired to do something else by his uncle’s tales of World …

Baker, Oliver Keith

Oliver Keith Baker is a Yale University physicist who has conducted groundbreaking research in particle physics and is a nationally known educator for his work on integrating technology into the classroom. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2006. Oliver Baker was born on July 18, 1959, in McGehee (Desha County) to Oliver Walter Baker and Yvonne Brigham Baker of Tillar (Drew and Desha counties); he has ten siblings. His parents were both college educated, having met at what is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). He discovered a talent for science and mathematics while in junior high. His family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, when he was in middle school. After graduating from …

Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge

The Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) consists of 14,800 acres of forest wetlands and croplands lying along the Little Red River in White County. The refuge provides a habitat for migratory waterfowl and other birds and various endangered species, as well as recreational and environmental educational opportunities. The refuge is located approximately two miles south of Bald Knob (White County). The Bald Knob refuge was acquired as part of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan in 1993. Most of the land consists of a rice farm that had been owned by John Hancock Insurance Company. Unlike many wildlife refuges, Bald Knob NWR includes cropland that continues to be farmed, but much of the crop is left unharvested to feed …

Bales, James David

aka: J. D. Bales
From 1944 to 1980, James David Bales was a professor of Bible and theology at Harding University (formerly Harding College) in Searcy (White County). Both in public and in print, Bales earned a national reputation as a fearsome debater of theological issues and political ideologies, becoming especially well known for his anti-communism stance. J. D. Bales was born on November 5, 1915, in Tacoma, Washington, the fifth of eight children. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Albany, Georgia. Bales was eleven when a train struck and killed his parents. Bales went to live with his paternal grandparents in Fitzgerald, Georgia, until 1930 when he enrolled in the Georgia Military Academy (now Woodward Academy) in College Park, Georgia, where …

Band Museum

The Band Museum in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) housed an extensive collection of wind instruments and offered a history of the American band movement. Beginning as the personal collection of its founder, the museum grew to approximately 1,500 antique instruments and was, before its closure, the only museum in the United States devoted entirely to the history of band music and instruments. Jerry Horne, founder of the Band Museum and a member of the American Musical Instrument Society, began collecting unusual instruments when he purchased the Wallick Music Company in 1970. His first was an old helicon (similar to a sousaphone), made by the C. G. CONN Company in 1925, which he found in the Wallick family’s garage. Soon, he began scouring …

Bank OZK

Bank OZK grew from a small-town bank in Ozark (Franklin County) to have offices in ten states by 2019, also becoming a major lender for commercial construction projects in metropolitan centers throughout the country. The bank was recognized thirteen times from 2011 to 2019 as the top-performing bank in the nation by various trade publications. It has maintained significant profitability through all economic cycles and has rewarded its stockholders through stock price appreciation and increasing dividends. In 1979, George Gleason, a twenty-five-year-old attorney with the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock (Pulaski County), purchased the small Bank of Ozark. He left law practice and moved to Ozark and took over bank management as chairman and CEO. The bank, which had …

Banks, James Albert

James Albert Banks is an educator who has been called the “father of multicultural education,” a discipline that seeks to develop awareness and skills in teachers and students for living in a culturally diverse United States and world. Growing up as an African-American youth in the Arkansas Delta during the Jim Crow years, Banks developed a commitment to social justice. Banks became the first black professor in the College of Education at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle and is also founding director of UW’s Center for Multicultural Education. James Banks was born on September 24, 1941, near Marianna (Lee County) to Matthew Banks and Lula Holt Banks, both farmers. His formal education began at the McCullough Union School, …

Baptist Health v. Murphy

Baptist Health v. Murphy was an extended legal battle culminating in a 2010 ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court. Addressing the issue of economic credentialing, and resolving a dispute that had first entered the judicial system in February 2004, the court eventually ruled in favor of a group of doctors whose part ownership in competing hospitals had been deemed a violation of the contracting hospital’s conflict of interest policy, which had resulted in the severance of their association and employment. In its ruling, the court upheld a previously issued permanent injunction, and Baptist Health was permanently prevented from implementing the policy. The genesis of the case was the adoption in May 2003 of the Economic Conflict of Interest Policy by …

Barber, Miller Westford Jr.

Miller Barber was a successful professional golfer who played on both the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour and the Senior Tour. While perhaps best known for his unorthodox swing, he had many accomplishments, including multiple tournament victories on both tours while accumulating over $5.6 million in career earnings. He was a graduate of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1975. Miller Westford Barber Jr. was born on March 31, 1931, in Shreveport, Louisiana, to Miller Westford Barber and Susie Mae Lawrence Barber. He grew up in Texarkana, Texas, living with his mother, who ran a grocery store. He began playing golf when he was around eleven …

Barnes, Bruce “Sunpie”

Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes is a musician, writer, naturalist, park ranger, ethnographic photographer, and actor from Saline County. He also played for National Football League (NFL) for a time. Along with his band, the Louisiana Sunspots, Barnes pioneered a unique mixture of zydeco (a créole musical style originating in Louisiana), blues, gospel, jazz, and African and Afro-Caribbean music into a musical gumbo that he dubbed “Afro-Louisiana” music. Barnes plays accordion, harmonica, piano, trombone, rub board, and various other instruments. Bruce Barnes was born on May 18, 1963, in Benton (Saline County). The tenth of eleventh children, (five whole and five half siblings), Barnes grew up in what is now Benton’s Ralph Bunche community. Barnes’s parents were sharecroppers who worked on various …

Batesville Regional Airport

The Batesville Regional Airport is located on Highway 167 (Batesville Boulevard) in the town of Southside (Independence County), about four miles south of Batesville, the county seat of Independence County. The City of Batesville owns the airport, which is a public-use general aviation airport averaging ninety-five aircraft operations per day (approximately six percent of which are military). The airport and hangars accommodate light general aviation aircraft of all sizes, including small jets. In 2015, the airport had more than fifty based aircraft and employed seventy-two people. The economic impact of the airport on Batesville and Independence County—including on motels, restaurants, transportation businesses, and the poultry industry—has been estimated by the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics to be approximately $5,486,400 annually. The …

Batson, Luenell

aka: Luenell
aka: Luenell Campbell
Luenell, who goes by only her first name professionally, is a comedian and a film and television actress known for her appearances in such movies as Borat: Cultural Learning of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) and Hotel Transylvania (2012). She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2015. Luenell was born Luenell Batson on March 12, 1959, in Tollette (Howard County), a historically black community. Her father was murdered while her mother was pregnant with her. As her mother already had seven other children, she was adopted by family members out of state, becoming Luenell Campbell and moving to California. She attended school in the community of Castro Valley in the San Francisco …

Bauxite Historical Association and Museum

The Bauxite Historical Association and Museum (BHAM) works to preserve the history and culture of the company-owned town of Bauxite (Saline County). The organization started its life as the Alcoa Employees Descendants Association (AEDA), which was created on October 15, 1986, as a non-profit organization charged with the maintenance, protection, and everyday business of the Bauxite Community Hall and all other property deeded to it by the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). The community hall building houses the Bauxite Historical Museum. The building’s main hall is run by the association and functions as a venue for local events. The community hall was finished in 1926. Built by the Republic Mining & Manufacturing Company, the building itself was dedicated as the …

Becker, Jerome Bill

Jerome Bill Becker served as president of the Arkansas American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) from 1964 to 1996. At the time of his death, Becker was noted as the longest-serving state AFL-CIO president in the United States. J. Bill Becker was born on February 25, 1924, in Chicago, Illinois. His parents, Joseph and Hazel Becker, were Russian immigrants. In 1942, Becker graduated in the upper third of his class from John Marshall High School in Chicago, where he was a standout football player. Becker suffered a knee injury while playing high school football, which initially made him ineligible to serve in the U.S. armed forces during World War II. Instead, he worked at a defense …

Beebe, Ginger Kay Croom

Ginger Kay Croom Beebe is the wife of Mike Beebe, who was the forty-fifth governor of Arkansas. In 2007, she became the state’s fortieth first lady. Outside of politics, she has been best known for her efforts in adoption, literacy, and removing the stigma from mental illness. Ginger Kay Croom was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on September 3, 1949. Adopted at the age of four, she was raised in Searcy (White County) by Buell and Virginia Croom. Her adoptive father was an Amoco Oil Company wholesale distributor, and her adoptive mother was a homemaker. She has no photographic record of life before her adoption, stating, “I was born in Little Rock, and then adopted at age 4 by …

Beebe, Mickey Dale (Mike)

A veteran of state government, Mickey Dale (Mike) Beebe was inaugurated as Arkansas’s forty-fifth governor on January 9, 2007. He remained popular with Arkansas’s electorate across his entire eight-year term of service, with support that crossed party lines during a time of polarization in American politics. The steadiness of the Arkansas economy and state finances during the Great Recession, the near total elimination of the state’s sales tax on groceries, and the culmination of the Lake View School District No. 25 v. Huckabee public school lawsuit were the hallmarks of the Beebe governorship, which was often characterized as “pragmatic.” However, Beebe also served as the leader of the state Democratic Party during its historic fall from power. Mike Beebe was …

Bell, Al

aka: Alvertis Isbell
Al Bell is considered the driving force behind Stax Records as a producer, songwriter, and executive during the company’s most productive period, from 1965 to 1975. He was responsible for promoting the careers of such talent as the Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes, and Otis Redding, among many others. Al Bell was born Alvertis Isbell on March 15, 1940, in Brinkley (Monroe County). One of his earliest musical memories was that of listening to his father’s Louis Jordan records. In an interview published in 2001, Bell claimed Jordan, also a Brinkley native, as a distant relative. Bell’s family moved to North Little Rock (Pulaski County) when he was five years old. After attending Catholic and Seventh-Day Adventist private schools, Bell attended Scipio A. …

Bell, Clarence Elmo

Clarence Elmo Bell was a prominent public school educator as well as a longtime, influential member of the Arkansas Senate. He announced his retirement just prior to the state’s adoption of constitutionally mandated term limits. Clarence Bell was born on February 1, 1912, in Camden (Ouachita County). The son of Joseph Dudley Bell and Dona Massengale Bell, he grew up in Camden and graduated from Camden High School, where he was a star athlete. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from what is now Ouachita Baptist University (OBU), where he continued to shine athletically. Graduating in 1934, he spent the following year working as assistant coach and Dean of Men at OBU. In 1935, Bell left Ouachita to …

Bell, Earl Holmes

Earl Holmes Bell of Jonesboro (Craighead County) is one of the most renowned U.S. men’s pole vaulters and coaches, a three-time Olympian, and five-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) record holder. His achievements include setting the world’s outdoor record in 1976; qualifying for the Olympic Games in 1976, 1984 and 1988; and winning the bronze medal at the 1984 Olympics. He was the U.S. national champion in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s—a remarkable three-decade achievement for an athlete. After turning to coaching by founding Bell Athletics in Jonesboro, he was named the 1998 National Olympic Coach of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee. In 2004, Bell Athletics alone produced half of the U.S. Olympic pole-vaulting team. Earl Bell was …

Bell, Lasker (Las)

Lasker Bell Sr., founder of the Las Bell Variety Show television and radio program, hosted the show from 1967 to 1985, ushering in a shift in entertainment options in southern Arkansas and the Arkansas-Louisiana-Mississippi region. Bell also made contributions in public affairs in Arkansas, holding civil appointments under Governors Dale Bumpers, David Pryor, and Bill Clinton. Las Bell was born in Homer, Louisiana, on May 21, 1928. He was the son of Union Bell and Bethena Randolph. Bell was raised by Frank and Irene Brooks, his maternal grandparents. Early in his life, Bell worked as a sharecropper alongside his grandparents. Bell only attended school through the eighth grade and, in 1944, relocated to Camden (Ouachita County) to find employment. He …

Bella Vista (Benton County)

Bella Vista was originally planned as a summer recreation resort. Half a century later, the resort began transforming into a graduated retirement community. In 2006, citizens voted to incorporate, setting the stage for the next transformation for Bella Vista. Louisiana Purchase through Early Statehood Bella Vista sits in the Ozark Plateau geographical region where many native groups, including the Osage, Caddo, and Quapaw, lived. The 1808 and 1809 treaties between the United States and the Great and Little Osage in Missouri and the Osage residing on the Arkansas River transferred 30 million acres of Native American land titles to the government. A portion of this land, once the heartland of the Osage, eventually became Bella Vista. Early Twentieth Century William …

Bella Vista Historical Museum

The Bella Vista Historical Museum, located on Highway 71 in Bella Vista (Benton County), preserves more than 100 years of the history of the local community, which originated as a summer resort, became a retirement and recreation village, and eventually became an incorporated municipality. The Bella Vista Historical Society, organized in 1976 as an outgrowth of the American bicentennial celebration that year, opened the original museum in 1985, with one addition completed in 1995 and a second addition completed in 2015. The museum receives some funding from the City of Bella Vista, and also relies on donations and membership dues to help pay for operating expenses. The starting point for the museum collection was the receipt of materials from the Linebarger …

Bennett, Fran

Fran Bennett is an actress who has worked in theater, television, and films. She appeared on stage across the nation and in Europe, and she has played roles on television from the 1960s onward in such hit shows as Guiding Light, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Scandal. Bennett was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2005. Fran Bennett was born on August 14, 1937, in Malvern (Hot Spring County). Bennett earned a BS and an MA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and went on to earn credit toward a PhD there before leaving the program. She studied voice under Kristin Linklater, a Scottish actress who relocated to the United States in 1963 to work …

Benson, Jesse N. “Buddy”

Jesse N. “Buddy” Benson earned statewide recognition in Arkansas athletic circles, first as a football player for the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and later as the head football coach for thirty-one seasons at Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) in Arkadelphia (Clark County). Benson was a 1993 inductee into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and was inducted into both the Ouachita Sports Hall of Fame and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame. Buddy Benson was born on November 9, 1933, in Wright City, Oklahoma, to Jesse Benson and Louise Pate Benson. He was one of the nation’s most actively recruited football players after he graduated from high school at De Queen (Sevier County). …

Berry, Danielle Bunten

aka: Daniel Bunten
Danielle (Dani) Berry was a revolutionary computer game designer who specialized in multi-player games at a time when few in the industry were interested in the idea. She is also remembered for breaking gender boundaries in the industry, having been assigned male at birth but undergoing gender transition late in her career. Berry’s 1983 game M.U.L.E. was listed third on Computer Gaming World’s 1996 list of the best games of all time, and Will Wright, the designer of Sim City, once said, “Ask most game designers what their favorite computer game of all time is, and you’ll get M.U.L.E. as an answer more often than any other title.” She was a major influence upon the likes of Wright and Civilization …

Berry, Robert Marion

Robert Marion Berry represented Arkansas’s First Congressional District as a Democrat for seven terms. First elected to the 105th Congress, he served from January 1997 until January 2011. Marion Berry was born in Stuttgart (Arkansas County) on August 27, 1942. The son of a rice farmer and his wife, he had two brothers. He was educated in local schools before graduating from DeWitt High School in DeWitt (Arkansas County). Berry went on to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he earned a BS in pharmacy in 1965. He settled in Gillett (Arkansas County) and became a licensed pharmacist and a farmer who grew rice and soybeans. He soon became involved in local politics, winning a seat …

Besser, Matthew Gregory (Matt)

Matthew Gregory Besser is an Arkansan comedian, actor, writer, director, and teacher best known as a founding member of the sketch-comedy group the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB). In his comedy, Besser draws upon his background as the child of a Jewish father and a Presbyterian mother from a fundamentalist family, exploring what this means for someone growing up in Arkansas. Matt Besser was born on September 22, 1967, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Sanford Michael Besser of Little Rock, who was an investment banker, and Diane Patricia Pettit Besser of Harrison (Boone County), a homemaker and volunteer in the Little Rock arts community. Besser is a first cousin twice removed of comic actor Joe Besser, who was a member …

Bethune, Edwin Ruthvin (Ed), Jr.

Edwin Ruthvin (Ed) Bethune Jr., a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington DC, served as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 to 1985 from the Second Congressional District of Arkansas. Ed Bethune was born on December 19, 1935, in Pocahontas (Randolph County) to Edwin Bethune Sr. and Delta Lewallen Bethune. He has one sister. Although he grew up in Pocahontas, Bethune spent one year in Little Rock (Pulaski County), attending Little Rock High School (later called Central High); Bethune graduated from Pocahontas High School in 1953. He attended one semester at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and followed that with four years in the U.S. Marine Corps (1954–1957), during which time he …

Big Dam Bridge 100

The Big Dam Bridge 100 (BDB100) is a 100-mile bicycle tour that takes place each fall in central Arkansas, traditionally on the last Saturday in September. The event has been held annually since the inaugural ride on October 1, 2006, and it has become the largest cycling event in the state. In addition to the 100-mile tour, several shorter routes are offered. The additional courses in the 2016 event included 68-mile, 50-mile, 32-mile, and 11-mile distances. The route has varied over the years, but, in 2016, the ride started at Riverfront Drive and Willow in downtown North Little Rock (Pulaski County), headed west toward Perryville (Perry County), and finished on Main Street in North Little Rock’s Argenta Historic District. The …

Billingsley, Carolyn Earle

Carolyn Earle Billingsley was a noted historian and author who worked to connect the fields of history, anthropology, and genealogy. The founding editor of the journal of the Saline County History and Heritage Society, she received the Booker Worthen Literary Prize in 2005 for her book Communities of Kinship. Carolyn Earle was born on August 5, 1948, in Dallas, Texas. Her parents, Robert Shelton Earle and Lillian Jean Young, were both Little Rock (Pulaski County) natives. In 1966, she married James Lloyd Billingsley, and the couple settled in Alexander (Pulaski and Saline counties). They had two sons and two daughters. Billingsley was a founding member of the Saline County History and Heritage Society and the first editor of the Saline …

Billingsley, ReShonda Tate

ReShonda Tate Billingsley is a journalist, public speaker, publisher, editor, ghostwriter, and producer; however, it is for her work as an award-winning national bestselling author that she is most known. Since publishing her first novel, My Brother’s Keeper (2001), through her own publishing company before Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books began publishing it, she has authored more than forty additional novels and contributed to several anthologies. Most of her novels have been published by Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books and have spanned several genres, including nonfiction and both teen and adult fiction. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2010. ReShonda Tate was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Bruce Tate and Nancy Kilgore. She moved to Arkansas …

Biloxi Blues

Biloxi Blues is a 1988 movie made entirely in Arkansas. Shooting locations included Van Buren (Crawford County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Barling (Sebastian County), and Fort Chaffee. The film, written by humorist Neil Simon, is semi-autobiographical with elements of both comedy and drama. It was directed by Academy Award winner Mike Nichols, and it starred Matthew Broderick along with Academy Award winner Christopher Walken. In 1985, Simon had written a semi-autobiographical play of the same title. Biloxi Blues was the second in what is known as the “Eugene trilogy,” with the first being Brighton Beach Memoirs and the third being Broadway Bound. He adapted Biloxi Blues for the screen, maintaining the characters and plot elements of the play. Broderick, who …

Biltz, Joseph Henri

The Reverend Joseph H. Biltz, a Roman Catholic priest and human rights activist, was a staunch supporter of social and Church reform in Arkansas. His outspoken advocacy for reform brought him into direct confrontation with both religious and civil authorities. Joseph Henri Biltz was born on May 29, 1930, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Maurice Biltz and Hilda Rumbach Biltz. He studied philosophy at St. John’s Seminary in Little Rock, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1951. He then completed four years of additional study in theology and was ordained by the Catholic Church in 1955 at St. Andrew’s Cathedral. He went on to earn a master’s degree in theology (1957) and a doctorate in moral theology (1962) from the …

Bioregionalism

aka: Ozark Area Community Congress
Bioregionalism is both a deep ecological philosophy and an apolitical, decentralized, volunteer egalitarian movement. Whereas environmentalists conserve to preserve the human environment—an anthropocentric view—bioregionalists re-inhabit, living simply and sustainably, to preserve all species—a biocentric view. Bioregionalists hold that if humanity is to avoid ecological and social collapse, people must recognize, nurture, sustain, and celebrate relations to land, air, plants, and animals; springs, rivers, lakes, groundwater, and oceans; and families, friends, neighbors, and community. They also engage in local systems of production and trade whenever possible. A bioregion is a geographically defined landform, bounded by watersheds with distinct plants and animals. The Ozark Plateau is one of fifty discrete ecoregions on the North American continent. The Ozark Highlands cover north-central and northwestern …

Black Americans for Democracy (BAD)

aka: Students Taking a New Direction (STAND)
aka: Black Students Association (University of Arkansas, Fayetteville)
The Black Americans for Democracy (BAD) was a group organized by African-American students at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) to provide a united voice seeking to change discriminatory practices on campus. The campus was officially integrated in 1948 when Silas Hunt enrolled in the University of Arkansas School of Law. However, two decades after integration, the black student population was still small, and black faculty and staff even fewer. In April 1968, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the black students on campus formed BAD to advocate for themselves. The organization exists today as the Black Students Association. BAD’s first public action took place the month after King’s assassination. The student newspaper, the …

Black History Commission of Arkansas

The Black History Commission of Arkansas (BHCA) was created as the Arkansas Black History Advisory Committee in 1991. Senator Jerry Donal Jewell introduced legislation that passed as Act 1233, establishing the seven-member, governor-appointed committee. In 1995, Act 980 changed the committee’s name to the Black History Commission of Arkansas. The BHCA was charged with preserving and promoting Arkansas’s black history, as well as advising the Arkansas History Commission (which later became the Arkansas State Archives) with respect to gathering, developing, and keeping the history of black Arkansans. Ronnie A. Nichols, director of the Delta Cultural Center in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County), and North Little Rock (Pulaski County) educator and civic leader Curtis Henry Sykes were elected as the first chairman …

Black Oak Arkansas

Black Oak Arkansas, a popular rock and roll band of the 1970s from rural Arkansas near Black Oak (Craighead County), was the first Arkansas rock band to have significant commercial success. Originally called the Knowbody Else, the band was formed in 1965 by singer James “Jim Dandy” Mangrum from Black Oak and guitarist Ricky Reynolds from Manila (Mississippi County). The band was signed to Stax Records and released an album, The Knowbody Else, on Enterprise, a Stax subsidiary, as well as Early Times, which was released on Stax. Despite the failure of these albums, the band continued touring the nation and was “discovered” in California by Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records, who signed the band in 1970. They changed their …

Black Power Movement

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) worker Willie Ricks coined the “black power” slogan in June 1966 during the March Against Fear in Mississippi. The term was subsequently popularized by national SNCC chair Stokely Carmichael. Those who used the slogan often left its precise meaning deliberately ambiguous. In general terms, the black power movement is usually taken to mark a shift in emphasis from the earlier civil rights movement by advocating black separatism and black nationalism over inter-racialism and racial integration, and by advocating armed black self-defense over a strict adherence to nonviolence. More recently, historians have questioned just how dramatic a break the black power era represented from the civil rights era. Instead, they have noted that many of the …

Black River Technical College

Black River Technical College (BRTC) is a comprehensive, two-year accredited institution of higher learning serving college transfer and career and technical education (CTE) students in northeast Arkansas, southeast Missouri, and beyond. It offers both traditional and distance education options. The main campus is in Pocahontas (Randolph County), with a second campus in Paragould (Greene County). Lawrence and Clay counties are also in BRTC’s service area. Enrollment in credit classes as of the fall of 2014 was 1,962, with some students enrolling in college basics and others enrolling in one of the college’s seventeen different associate’s degree programs and twenty-nine certificate programs. Both campuses also serve a significant number through continuing education and business outreach, as well as GED/adult education programs. …

Black United Youth (BUY)

Black United Youth (BUY) was a militant, black power–inspired youth organization that grew out of War on Poverty programs in Pulaski County in the mid-to-late 1960s. It had chapters in Little Rock (Pulaski County), North Little Rock (Pulaski County), Arkadelphia (Clark County), and Benton (Saline County). BUY’s activities in Little Rock are the best documented of all the chapters. BUY’s Little Rock president was Bobby Brown, the younger brother of Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine. BUY was, according to Brown, “an eyeball to eyeball organization” dedicated to “direct confrontation with white people for making changes.” Brown stated that BUY included “schoolteachers [and] professional people” as well as “street people [and] gangsters” from the local neighborhoods among …

Black, Daniel

Daniel Black is a nationally renowned, award-winning novelist. His works are inspired by African-American life, history, and heritage in the South—encompassing themes of race, religion, and sexuality. Daniel Black was born on November 28, 1965, in Kansas City, Kansas, but grew up in Arkansas in Blackwell (Conway County). His great-grandmother, Stella Swinton, was his childhood caregiver. He graduated from Morrilton High School in Morrilton (Conway County). Upon graduation from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1988, he was awarded a full fellowship to Temple University, where he earned a master’s in 1990 and a doctorate in 1992, both in African-American studies. Black also earned the prestigious Oxford Modern British Studies fellowship, leading him to study at …

Blackmon, Douglas A.

Douglas A. Blackmon is an American writer and journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and an American Book Award for Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (2008). Douglas Blackmon was born in the fall of 1964 in Stuttgart (Arkansas County). The family later moved to Leland, Mississippi, where Blackmon penned his first newspaper story at the age of twelve for the town’s Progress. The family relocated to Monticello (Drew County), where he graduated from high school. He then attended Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County), graduating in 1986. After graduation, Blackmon was a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat and managing editor of the Daily Record in …

Blackwell, Marlon Matthew

Marlon Matthew Blackwell is a professor of architecture at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and is recognized both nationally and internationally for his architectural design work. He also co-founded and conducts an international architectural program and is the principal architect in an award-winning private design firm. Marlon Blackwell was born on November 7, 1956, to a military family stationed in Munich, Germany. He was brought up in various locations including Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Montana, and the Philippines, and was a high school wrestler. Blackwell entered Auburn University in the summer of 1974, studying architecture and being selected as one of Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. In 1980, he was awarded a bachelor’s degree in …

Blade, Maxwell

Maxwell Blade is an illusionist and comedian based in downtown Hot Springs (Garland County) is a well-known attraction. He began holding Maxwell Blade’s Festival of Magic in 2013 and undertook the restoration of the city’s historic Malco Theatre. Maxwell Blade was born on January 24, 1962, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). As a child in the 1970s, he became interested in magic after watching magician and comedian Mark Wilson’s Funny Face Magic Show and Magic Circus on television. He began learning and practicing simple magic tricks as a hobby, in addition to teaching himself to play drums and piano. When he was eight years old, he began playing music at a local church. He graduated from Greenwood High School in …

Blair, Diane Frances Divers Kincaid

Diane Frances Divers Kincaid Blair was a nationally respected educator, writer, speaker, political scientist, and public servant who authored two influential books, served as board chair of the Arkansas Educational Television Commission, chair of the U.S. Corporation for Public Broadcasting, member of the Electoral College, and professor of political science at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Diane Divers was born on October 25, 1938, in Washington DC to William Keeveny Divers and Minna Rosenbaum Divers, both attorneys; she had one older sister. Divers, selected for membership in Phi Beta Kappa as a college student, graduated cum laude from Cornell University’s Department of Government in 1959. Returning to Washington after college, she served as analyst for the …

Blake, Charles E.

Charles Edward Blake Sr. is the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). He is also pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, which has a membership of more than 25,000. In addition, Blake founded Save Africa’s Children, which provides orphan care programs across the continent of Africa. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2009. Charles E. Blake was born on August 5, 1940, in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Junious Augustus Blake and Lula Champion Blake. His father was a native of Camden (Ouachita County) who pastored various churches throughout Arkansas before moving to California. Charles Blake was ordained a minister himself in 1962. He received a BA …

Blockbusting

Blockbusting, or “panic peddling,” was a process whereby real estate agents urged white property owners to sell their property at low prices (often below market value) in response to their fear that black families would move into their neighborhood. Emerging primarily out of the Great Migration, or the resettlement of African Americans from the rural South seeking employment in the industrialized North between approximately 1915 and 1970, blockbusting matured as a real estate tactic amid population growth in urban areas of major cities all over the country and the racial tension accompanying it. Other processes in the housing market aided real estate agents who operated as blockbusters. With mortgage lenders denying loans to residents of certain areas who were deemed …

Bloody Mama

In 1969, Roger Corman, who had found success directing and producing low-budget exploitation films for American International Pictures, chose as his next project a fictionalized account of the exploits of the infamous Ma Barker and her gang. After a scouting trip to Arkansas, Corman decided to shoot the film in the Ozark Mountains and around the Little Rock (Pulaski County) area. Corman described the experience as one of the “smoothest and most successful” shoots of his career. For the part of the notorious Ma Barker, Corman had only one actress in mind—Oscar-winner Shelley Winters. After agreeing to the role, Winters helped Corman cast the film. She showed him a video of Robert De Niro performing in a low-budget Brian De Palma film, …