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

Nahziryah Monastic Community

aka: Purple People
Nahziryah Monastic Community is a remote esoteric spiritual center located in rural Marion County in the Ozark Mountains. The African-American commune was built by the Reverend Nazirmoreh K. B. Kedem in the mid-1990s on a 100-acre parcel of land as a survivalist compound in preparation for Y2K. By the early 2000s, Kedem had begun to advertise the place as a spiritual retreat center. His initiates had to take strict vows of silence and abstinence under the “Nazir Order of the Purple Veil.” Initiates were required to wear purple clothing, so they were referred to by outsiders as “The Purple People.” Followers agreed to relinquish all possessions, past relations, and birth names. They were prohibited from speaking, except when spoken to …

Nance, Jack

Arkansas native Jack Nance was a musician, songwriter, and entertainment manager who worked with many of the top acts in the music business. Nance first gained notice in Sonny Burgess’s backing band the Pacers. He later went on to play with Conway Twitty—and in fact wrote one of Twitty’s biggest hits. In his later years, while based in Nashville, Tennessee, Nance worked in tour management and as a music promoter for acts such as Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues, and the Monkees. Richard Jackson (Jack) Nance was born on April 22, 1935, in Newport (Jackson County), the youngest of three children born to the farming family of Arkansas natives Roscoe A. Nance and Mary E. …

Nash, Bob J.

Bob J. Nash is a businessman and consultant who has assisted political, corporate, and nonprofit organizations. Most notably, he served in the administration of Governor Bill Clinton in the 1980s and then was part of the administration of President Clinton in the 1990s. Bob Nash was born on September 26, 1947, in Texarkana (Miller County). He graduated from Washington High School in Texarkana and then earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1969. Nash went on to receive a master’s degree in urban studies from Howard University in Washington DC in 1972. For the next two years, Nash held jobs in municipal government in Washington and in Fairfax, Virginia. Returning …

National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR)

The National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) in Jefferson (Jefferson County) is thirty-five miles southeast of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and twenty miles north of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). The site, consisting of 496 acres with numerous buildings and research laboratories, is under the control of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which was part of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) at the time the center formed. HEW became the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) in 1980. The facility addresses the toxicity of various chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs, assesses the risks of microbial food contamination, and identifies microbiological pathogens that could be used for acts of terrorism. Including various contractors, research assistants, and scientists, …

National Championship Chuckwagon Races

The National Championship Chuckwagon Race is held every Labor Day weekend at Dan and Peggy Eoff’s ranch in Clinton (Van Buren County). Spectators from across the United States travel to the small town nestled in the Ozark Mountains to see the largest outdoor chuckwagon race in the country. The chuckwagon is associated with Charles Goodnight, who designed the first wagon to follow the cattle trails in the 1800s. Stories hold that, at the end of the cattle drive, the cowhands would collect their pay, pack up their supplies, and race into town. Legend has it that the last one there had to buy the first round of drinks for all. The races were started in 1986 when Dan and Peggy …

National Park College

National Park College (NPC), formerly National Park Community College (NPCC), is located in Mid-America Park just west of Hot Springs (Garland County). It offers associate degrees, technical certificates, continuing education, community services, workforce training, and adult basic education. NPC is the fourth-largest community college in Arkansas. National Park College resulted from Act 678 of the 2003 Arkansas General Assembly, which merged Garland County Community College (GCCC) and Quapaw Technical Institute (QTI). The act went into effect on July 1, 2003. GCCC had been established as a two-year college in 1973 to provide post-secondary higher education opportunities to the citizens of Garland County and the surrounding areas. QTI was first established as Quapaw Vocational Technical School, a branch campus of the Ouachita …

Natural State Golf Trail

The Natural State Golf Trail is a public-private partnership created to showcase the scenic golf courses of the state. The trail consists of twelve courses in eleven different locations across the Arkansas. First discussed in the early 2000s, the Natural State Golf Trail came about due to the efforts of Lang Zimmerman, a co-founder and managing partner of Big Creek Golf and Country Club in Mountain Home (Baxter County), and because of the interest of Mike Beebe, then serving as an Arkansas state senator. Beebe suggested the possibility of a statewide golf trail to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, and with the help of Jim Shamburger— a commissioner on the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission and …

Nature Conservancy of Arkansas

The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas is part of the international Nature Conservancy headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. The Nature Conservancy’s mission is to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. The Nature Conservancy was incorporated on October 22, 1951, in Washington DC as a nonprofit organization. The Arkansas field office, established on April 12, 1982, became the organization’s twenty-ninth state program. The Arkansas program, which opened with about 250 members and a staff of three, has grown steadily in capacity and achievement. The conservancy now has about 6,000 members in Arkansas (the worldwide membership is about one million) and a staff of more …

Ne-Yo

aka: Shaffer Chimere Smith Jr.
Ne-Yo is one of the most prominent and active Arkansas-born recording artists and songwriters performing in the early twenty-first century. Initially known for songs he wrote for other artists, Ne-Yo began releasing solo rhythm and blues (R&B) albums of his own in 2006. Shaffer Chimere “Ne-Yo” Smith Jr. was born on October 18, 1982, in Camden (Ouachita County) to Lorraine and Shaffer Smith. Smith displayed his songwriting acumen at a young age, writing his first song at the age of five. After his parents separated, he relocated with his mother to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he spent the remainder of his formative years. His mother worked in a variety of jobs before becoming a bank manager, though music was a …

Neal v. Still

Neal v. Still was a case decided by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1970 that addressed issues of free speech and free expression. After thoughtful deliberations, the Arkansas Supreme Court held that the statute under which the alleged violators, Joe and Barbara Neal, were arrested and charged was unconstitutionally vague and violated the free speech rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The case had its roots in the February 21, 1969, arrest of Joe Neal and his wife, Barbara Wink Neal, on the campus of Henderson State College (now Henderson State University) in Arkadelphia (Clark County). The couple, who were distributing information at the college’s Student Union Building, was charged with violating Act 17 of 1958, which prohibited creating a …

Neal, Olly, Jr.

Olly Neal Jr. headed up a community health clinic in Marianna (Lee County) in the 1970s, became the first black district prosecuting attorney in Arkansas, and served as a circuit court judge and on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Historian Grif Stockley described him as a civil rights activist, political agitator, Arkansas Delta advocate, and a “black devil incarnate to many of Marianna’s whites.” Olly Neal Jr. was born on July 13, 1941, on a farm eleven miles west of Marianna in the rural New Hope community to Ollie Neal and Willie Beatrice Jones Neal. Neal grew up poor in a home with no electricity. His parents impressed upon him and his twelve siblings the importance of education. Neal’s father …

Needham, Harold Brett “Hal”

Hal Needham was an American stuntman, stunt coordinator, writer, and director who performed stunts in scores of films and television shows. The director of hit movies like Smokey and the Bandit, Smokey and the Bandit II, Stroker Ace, Cannonball Run, Cannonball Run II, and Hooper, Needham was considered a pioneer in the stunt industry, having introduced techniques and safety equipment still in use today. Harold Brett “Hal” Needham was born on March 6, 1931, in Memphis, Tennessee, the third of three children of Howard and Edith Needham. Needham’s father left the family soon after he was born. Eventually, Needham’s mother married a sharecropper named Corbett, who moved the family to Arkansas when Needham was four. She and Corbett had two …

Nelson, Edward Sheffield

Edward Sheffield Nelson, a Little Rock (Pulaski County) attorney, utility executive, and political leader, served as president and chief executive officer of Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company (Arkla) from 1973 to 1984 and twice ran for governor of Arkansas. Sheffield Nelson was born on April 23, 1941, near Keevil in rural Monroe County to Robert F. Nelson and Thelma Mayberry Nelson. He, his parents, and three sisters lived an itinerant life, moving from place to place in eastern Arkansas for work. His father abandoned the family in 1957, leaving his sixteen-year old-son as the main breadwinner. Nelson worked after school in a Brinkley (Monroe County) grocery store until he graduated from high school. He married his high school sweetheart, Mary Lynn …

Nelson, Knox

Knox Nelson was a member of the Arkansas General Assembly for thirty-four years in the second half of the twentieth century, achieving power in legislative halls that was rarely rivaled. Nelson was elected to the state House of Representatives from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) in 1956 and served two terms, but he attained a position of immense power in the thirty-year career in the state Senate that followed. Governors and groups interested in legislation often had to win Nelson’s favor to get bills passed or defeated in the Senate. Knox Nelson was born on April 3, 1926, in the Goatshed community near Moscow (Jefferson County), a farming community a few miles south of Pine Bluff. His father, Knox Augustus Nelson, …

Newbern, William David

William David Newbern, who chased the twin passions of music and law, devoted a career to soldiering, teaching, judging, and being a troubadour. He taught law, spent eighteen months as a judge on the first Arkansas Court of Appeals, served fourteen years on the Arkansas Supreme Court, and was a state utility regulator, a special master for the Supreme Court, and manager of a folk music and cultural center in the Arkansas Ozarks. He retired from the Supreme Court in 1998 to devote more of his energies to music. He sang and played several instruments in many groups covering many genres. David Newbern was born on May 28, 1937, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His father, Charles Banks Newbern, was a …

Newth, Rebecca

aka: Rebecca Newth Harrison
Rebecca Newth Harrison is a writer working in Fayetteville (Washington County). Her literary corpus includes six books of poetry, a memoir, and a collection of children’s books. Newth is also the founder of Will Hall Books and an advocate for the arts in northwest Arkansas. Rebecca Newth was born on September 21, 1940, in Lansing, Michigan, to William Arthur Newth and Catherine Messenger Newth. She is the eldest of four children. Newth’s parents both worked at Michigan State University (MSU), her father as an accountant and her mother as a medical technician. Newth attended MSU, graduating with a BA in English literature in 1962. At MSU, Newth met and married John Harrison, who was pursuing a career in library science. …

Nichols, Jeffrey Ryan (Jeff)

Jeffrey Ryan Nichols directed and wrote the screenplays for the critically acclaimed movies Shotgun Stories (2007), Take Shelter (2011), Mud (2013), and Loving (2016). Jeff Nichols was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 7, 1978. He grew up in Little Rock, graduating from Central High School. He studied filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he befriended fellow Little Rock–born director and frequent collaborator David Gordon Green. He graduated in May 2001. Following his father’s advice to write about Arkansas, Nichols began contemplating his youth in the land between Little Rock and England (Lonoke County), a landscape he says he romanticizes from childhood visits to his grandparents. Yet in writing and filming, Nichols …

Niehues, Leon Albert

Leon Albert Niehues is a highly regarded basket maker in the United States and internationally. In 2002, he was chosen by his peers as one of the top twenty-eight fiber artists working the “new basket” form in the United States. Leon Niehues (pronounced: “nee house”) was born to Edwin and Rosalita Niehues on July 13, 1951, in Seneca, Kansas, and raised on a farm with six siblings, including a twin. Niehues attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence for two years. Niehues married Sharon Coffey on May 1, 1974, in Lawrence, and the couple spent their honeymoon in Arkansas at a Madison County hunters’ cabin. They liked the state so much that they decided to stay. They bought forty acres …

Nix, Barbara

Barbara Ann Nix served as member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from Benton (Saline County). Nix taught for the Benton Public School District for thirty-eight years before running as a Democrat in 2008 for a seat in the Arkansas General Assembly. Nix left teaching in 2009 after winning a seat in the House of Representatives. She served one term. Barbara Ann Farley was born on June 2, 1949, in Leavenworth, Kansas, to Ruth Farley and U.S. Army sergeant Embra Farley. Her father was stationed in Kansas at the time of her birth, but when she was three years old, he began working for Alcoa and moved the family to Benton. She has one brother, Paul Farley. She graduated from …

Nix, Joe Franklin

Joe Nix is a water chemist, environmentalist, naturalist, and educator considered by many to be the watchdog of Arkansas rivers and lakes with respect to water quality and usage patterns. His mission has been to have society use good scientific data in making decisions about environmental matters. Joe Franklin Nix was born on August 28, 1939, the only child of Frank and Era Nix, in Malvern (Hot Spring County). His father was a mechanic; his mother was a homemaker. He was a sickly child, so the doctor advised that he spend a lot of time outdoors. As a youth, he fell under the personal tutelage of family friend and former state geologist Joe Kimzey of Magnet Cove (Hot Spring County). …

Nixon, Esther DeWitt

Esther DeWitt Nixon was the founding librarian of the Jacksonville (Pulaski County) public library and served there for nearly three decades. The Jacksonville branch library of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) was named in her honor in 1992. Esther DeWitt, with her twin sister Ruth, was born on November 24, 1916, in Corsicana, Texas, to Marcus Henry DeWitt and Allie Ellis DeWitt. The twins had three brothers and two sisters. Esther married Watson Nixon Jr., on February 22, 1943—a marriage that lasted more than fifty years until his death on April 20, 1993—and they had two sons. The family lived in Jacksonville. Esther Nixon and her children were avid users of the Pulaski County Library’s bookmobile, and, as her …

Norful, Smokie

aka: Willie Ray Norful Jr.
Smokie Norful—a popular pastor in Chicago, Illinois, and a Grammy Award–winning gospel singer—spent most of his developing years in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and is one of the most commercially successful gospel recording artists to have emerged from Arkansas. Born Willie Ray Norful Jr. in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on October 31, 1975, to the Reverend W. R. Norful and Teresa Norful, Norful is the oldest of three boys. Like so many other African-American gospel singers, he found church to be a nurturing environment in which his musical skills could be honed. At a 2012 taping of the Trinity Broadcast Network’s flagship program, Praise the Lord, Norful joked before a studio audience about growing up as a “P. K.” (preacher’s kid) …

North Arkansas College (Northark)

North Arkansas College (Northark), a public two-year college created in 1974 and located in Harrison (Boone County), serves the citizens of Boone, Carroll, Marion, Searcy, Newton, and Madison counties. Originally known North Arkansas Community College, Northark was created to offer the first two years of most baccalaureate degree programs at an affordable price in response to community needs. It added technical certificates and degree majors with its merger in 1993 with Twin Lakes Vocational-Technical School, also located in Harrison, and is now a comprehensive community college. Northark has three campuses in Harrison. Under the leadership of founding president Dr. Bill Baker, Northark grew steadily. Dr. Jeffery R. Olson was selected on March 2, 2001, as the second president of Northark. …

Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives (NEARA)

The Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives (NEARA) is one of two regional branches of the Arkansas State Archives (previously called the Arkansas History Commission). Located in Powhatan Historic State Park in Lawrence County, NEARA serves a sixteen-county area, including Baxter, Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Fulton, Greene, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Lawrence, Mississippi, Poinsett, Randolph, Sharp, and Stone counties. The facility was established to collect, preserve, and make available resources related to this region of northeast Arkansas and its people. Nearly all the original records, and many of the microfilm and published records, originated from these counties, making NEARA a key resource for research about the area. NEARA was created as a collaborative effort between Arkansas State Parks, the Arkansas State Archives, and the …

Northern Snakehead

aka: Channa argus
aka: Snakehead
The northern snakehead (Channa argus) is a modern bony fish belonging to the family Channidae. It is native to China, eastern Russia, and parts of the Korean peninsula. The fish was discovered in Arkansas in 2008, leading to attempts to eradicate it. The northern snakehead has an elongate body, with long dorsal and anal fins, and a truncated tail. Coloration is dark tan to brown with darker spots laterally, extending above and below the midline. The jaws have sharp, pointed teeth. The fish can reach a size of one meter and weigh as much as eight kilograms. The northern snakehead breathes with gills but also possesses a suprabranchial organ, which consists of chambers filled with folded tissue that allow atmospheric …

NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC)

NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) is a comprehensive public two-year college serving the citizens of Benton and Washington counties, as well as the surrounding region. Established in 1989, the college has grown rapidly to become the second-largest community college in the state. The college’s main campus is in Bentonville (Benton County), with educational centers located throughout the two-county area. The college offers four associate’s degrees (Associate of Arts, Associate of Arts in Teaching, Associate of Science, and Associate of Applied Science) and a wide variety of workforce training programs, technical certificates, and adult education classes. NWACC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. NWACC was created after a special election on August 15, 1989, in …

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA)

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, or XNA after its International Air Transportation Association (IATA) code, is located in Highfill (Benton County) and is roughly equidistant from Bentonville (Benton County), Fayetteville (Washington County), Rogers (Benton County), Siloam Springs (Benton County), and Springdale (Washington County). It is a mixed-use airport with both commercial and private airplanes. It has the second-largest amount of scheduled commercial service in the state of Arkansas and, in 2007, served more than 1.2 million passengers. Local business leaders including Sam Walton, founder of Walmart Inc., and several local and state elected officials joined together to push for a new airport. Due to the rapid growth in population and business (especially the continued expansion of Walmart Inc.), Drake Field, located …

Northwest Arkansas Writers

Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop of the Springdale (Washington County) and Fayetteville (Washington County) area is dedicated to helping aspiring writers learn their craft and succeed in their chosen field of writing. It welcomes writers from all genres of fiction and nonfiction. The group got its start in 1986 when Dusty Richards, Velda Brotherton, Judy Ballard, and Charlie Pierson began meeting in each other’s homes once a week to learn more about the craft of writing. They gathered and shared information, and others joined. There has never been a membership fee, and no officers are elected. Every year, the group takes up a collection to sponsor a writing contest at the Ozark Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs (Carroll County) and …

Nunn, Walter Harris

Walter H. Nunn was a respected teacher, scholar, and author whose books on Arkansas politics were well regarded and widely read. He was also one of the leading authorities on the Arkansas constitution and, in the 1970s, founded Rose Publishing Company, which was for a time the sole press devoted to Arkansas-related material. In addition, Nunn was a local organizer dedicated to the creation and maintenance of inclusive neighborhoods. Walter Harris Nunn was born in Monticello (Drew County) on February 17, 1942. His parents were Wallace Nunn, who worked as a cashier at a local cotton mill, and Ilene Wicker Nunn, a homemaker. He grew up in Crossett (Ashley County), where he attended the local schools. He earned a BA …