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

Painted House, A

A Painted House is a book which takes place in Arkansas and was written by bestselling author John Grisham. It was based on his childhood in Arkansas, and when the book was made into a television movie, it was filmed in Arkansas. Born in Jonesboro (Craighead County) on February 8, 1955, and raised in northeast Arkansas near Black Oak (Craighead County), Grisham created an evocative portrait of the time and place of his childhood in A Painted House. Set in 1952 Arkansas, it is a departure from his usual legal thriller style, with Grisham writing, “There is not a single lawyer, dead or alive, in this story. Nor are there judges, trials, courtrooms, conspiracies or nagging social issues.” In 2000, …

Palmer, Bob

aka: Robert Franklin Palmer Jr.
Robert Franklin (Bob) Palmer Jr. was an author, music critic, musician, ethnomusicologist, lecturer, record producer, and documentary filmmaker, not to be confused with the British rock singer of the same name. Critic Greil Marcus called Palmer “one of the few distinguished pop music critics to come out of the South.” Bob Palmer was born on June 19, 1945, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to teacher/pianist Robert F. Palmer Sr. and award-winning poet and freelance writer Marguerite Bowers Palmer. He grew up in the lower Pulaski Heights area of Little Rock. He had one sister, a half brother, and a half sister. From an early age, Palmer had his ear to the radio. Unbeknownst to his parents, the teenaged Palmer sometimes …

Panel of American Women

The Little Rock Panel of American Women was organized in 1963 by Sara Alderman Murphy. It was based on the national Panel of American Women that emerged in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1956, and it offered participants the opportunity to learn more about people of different races, religions, and cultures. In the aftermath of the 1957 school desegregation crisis in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and the continued efforts to desegregate schools across the state, the panel provided a structured forum for open discussion about racial and religious differences. The organization’s members traveled around Arkansas to speak. The panels consisted of five or six women—Jewish, Catholic, African American, white Protestant, and occasionally Asian American—and a moderator. Each woman spoke about her …

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996) is a documentary filmed for HBO (but later released into theaters) by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky dealing with the 1994 trials of three teenagers charged with murdering and mutilating three eight-year-old boys in 1993. The defendants became known as the West Memphis Three because the murders happened in West Memphis (Crittenden County). The directors spent ten months interviewing those involved with the case. The documentary brought to light inadequacies in the local judicial system and led many to believe that the defendants had been wrongly accused and prosecuted. The film won a Primetime Emmy and was followed by two sequels: Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000) and Paradise Lost 3: …

Paris, Twila

aka: Twila Inez Paris Wright
Twila Inez Paris Wright is a prolific contemporary Christian singer, songwriter, pianist, and author who lives in Fayetteville (Washington County). She is the winner of ten Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove Awards and three American Songwriter Awards and has hundreds of published and recorded songs to her credit. Hymns and choruses she has composed have appeared in such widely varying hymn collections as the United Methodist Hymnal and the Baptist Hymnal, as well as those of various Pentecostal and non-denominational churches. Twila Paris was born on December 28, 1958, in Fort Worth, Texas, one of four children of Oren Paris II, the founder of Youth With A Mission ministries and Ecclesia College in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties), and Rachel …

Parker, Jimmy Dale “Red”

Jimmy “Red” Parker was a football coach at the high school and college levels who was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. Parker coached until just weeks before his death in January 2016. In a career that began in 1953 and ended in 2015, Parker’s combined record as a college and high school head coach at six colleges and universities and five high schools was 322–221–13. Jimmy Dale Parker was born on October 26, 1931, to Floyd Parker and Madelyn Parker of Hampton (Calhoun County). He graduated from Rison High School in 1949, where he was a star football player, and attended Arkansas A&M at Monticello (Drew County)—now the University of Arkansas at Monticello—where he was …

Parker, Mamie Aselean

Mamie Aselean Parker is a trail-blazing conservationist. The first African American to hold numerous positions in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), she ultimately served as northeastern regional director of the service. Since her retirement from the USFWS, she has been an active consultant and public speaker. Mamie Parker was born on October 14, 1957, in Wilmot (Ashley County). Her mother, Cora Parker, was a single parent who supported her family as a sharecropper and was determined that her eleven children (of whom Mamie was the youngest) would receive an education. Named after President Dwight Eisenhower’s wife, Mamie Eisenhower, Parker shared her mother’s love of fishing, which ended up shaping her eventual career path. Parker grew up in Wilmot …

Parler, Mary Celestia

Mary Celestia Parler was responsible for developing and implementing the most extensive folklore research project in Arkansas history. She was a professor of English and folklore at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and the wife of noted Ozark folklore collector Vance Randolph. Through her vast knowledge and appreciation of Arkansas culture, she enabled many future generations to glimpse the state’s cultural history, much of which remains only in the stories, songs, and images she collected with the help of her students and assistants. Mary Parler was born on October 6, 1904, in Wedgefield, South Carolina, the daughter of a country doctor and farmer, Marvin Lamar Parler, and a local historian, writer, and teacher, Josie Platt Parler. Mary had …

Pass the Ammo

A satire of greedy televangelists, Pass the Ammo (1988) was made in Eureka Springs (Carroll County). It opens with a helicopter shot of the giant Christ of the Ozarks statue. This is followed by a television sermon by the Reverend Ray Porter (Tim Curry), who asks, “Why be afraid of nuclear war? Welcome it! For it is part of God’s prophecy.” The congregation in Porter’s megachurch and his TV audience listen raptly and, when he gets to his key point (“Today’s goal—$1 million for Jesus!”), they burst into an enthusiastic rendition of “Give Me That Old-Time Religion.” As contributions pour in from thousands of low-income donors, Porter sings ecstatically, “Lay your money down for Jesus! You owe your life to …

Patterson, Anne W.

Anne W. Patterson was a longtime member of the United States Foreign Service. Over the course of a distinguished career, she served in numerous diplomatic posts, including a lengthy term as interim U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She was promoted to career ambassador, the highest rank in the career Foreign Service, in 2008. Anne Woods was born on October 4, 1949, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) to John Davis Woods and Carolyn Ackley Woods. She has one brother. She grew up in Fort Smith and attended the Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas, before enrolling at Wellesley College, from which she graduated in 1971 with a BA in economics. She attended graduate school at the University of North Carolina but …

Patterson, Hugh Baskin, Jr.

Hugh Baskin Patterson Jr. was publisher of the Arkansas Gazette for thirty-eight years and is considered the unsung hero of the triumvirate that led the newspaper through the 1957 desegregation crisis at Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Its coverage of the crisis won two Pulitzer Prizes. Hugh Patterson was born in Cotton Plant, Mississippi, on February 8, 1915, the youngest of three children of Hugh B. Patterson Sr. and Martha Rebecca Wilson. His father was a merchant with experience in general stores in Cotton Plant and other places in Mississippi as well as Monticello (Drew County). The family moved to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) in 1917. As a young man, Patterson worked for a commercial printing business …

Paul Ruiz and Earl Van Denton (Crime Spree)

Paul Ruiz and Earl Van Denton escaped from an Oklahoma prison and embarked on a crime spree that took them across multiple states, including Arkansas. The men were convicted in Arkansas of killing town marshal Marvin Ritchie and park ranger Opal James in Logan County. They were executed along with a third man at the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction on January 8, 1997. At the time of their escape, Ruiz was serving a life sentence for armed robbery, while Van Denton was serving a life sentence for murder. Working as part of a twenty-member crew tasked with tearing down a brick factory near the prison in McAlester, Oklahoma, the pair escaped on June 23, 1977. They …

Payne, “Sunshine” Sonny

aka: John William Payne
“Sunshine” Sonny Payne was the longtime host of King Biscuit Time, the radio program broadcast on KFFA 1360 AM in Helena (Phillips County) (now Helena-West Helena) that has done much to popularize blues music. As blues journalist Don Wilcock wrote, “Sunshine Sonny Payne exists totally outside the boundaries that define and confine most of society. That he loves blues music and the people…all people…who make it and that he has a vehicle for expressing that love to thousands who then in turn influence millions makes the contribution of his cherub wisdom and good humor of incalculable value.” Sonny Payne was born John William Payne on November 29, 1925, to Gladys Swope Payne and William G. Payne, in Helena (Phillips County). …

Pea Ridge Mule Jump and Show

The Pea Ridge Mule Jump is an annual event held each autumn in Pea Ridge (Benton County). Each year on the second Saturday in October, spectators come from Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma to enjoy this unique competition. In 2008, the crowd numbered more than 1,000. Mule jumping events occur mostly in the South. Mule jumping originally began when raccoon hunters taught their mules to jump fences on hunts. The riders dismounted, climbed over the fence, placed a blanket on the fence so the mule could see it, and urged their mules to jump over. The Pea Ridge Mule Jump began when local resident Colonel Negel Hall, along with his friend Don Shockley from Powell, Missouri, set up the event …

Pea Ridge National Military Park

Located near Rogers (Benton County), the 4,300-acre Pea Ridge National Military Park was created by an act of Congress in 1956. The park, which preserves the battlefield of the 1862 Battle of Pea Ridge, was dedicated as a national park during the nation’s Civil War Centennial in 1963. Pea Ridge is one of the best-preserved Civil War battlefields in the country. The Pea Ridge National Military Park came into being through the work of several Arkansas congressmen. Representative Clyde T. Ellis of Arkansas’s Third Congressional District began corresponding with the National Park Service in 1939, reviving a proposal to preserve the Pea Ridge battlefield. In 1956, the Arkansas congressional delegation proposed legislation to make Pea Ridge a national military park. …

Pendleton, Donald Eugene (Don)

Donald Eugene Pendleton was a pulp fiction, action, science fiction, and mystery writer best known for the Executioner series books, which centered on the character Mack Bolan, who waged a one-man war against the Mafia. Pendleton is generally credited with creating the action-adventure genre in the 1970s. Don Pendleton was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 12, 1927, to Louis Thomas Pendleton, a machinist, and Drucy Valentine. On December 7, 1942, Pendleton lied about his age and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, days before his fifteenth birthday. He served as a radioman first class until November 1947. He served in all the war theaters and received several medals, including the Naval Commendation Medal, Iwo Jima, in 1945. He …

Pharr, Suzanne

Suzanne Pharr is a longtime activist for social justice. As an author, organizer, and strategist, she has led numerous campaigns aimed at ensuring equality and opportunity for often-marginalized people. Pharr founded the feminist, anti-racist organization the Women’s Project in the 1980s, which worked with women in small towns throughout Arkansas. Suzanne Pharr was born in 1939 in Hog Mountain, Georgia, to Cecil Pharr and Willie Mae “Peggy” Moore Pharr. Her father was a farmer, and Pharr, the youngest of eight children, grew up on a farm in Hog Mountain, Georgia, about six miles outside of Lawrenceville. After attending the local schools and earning a reputation as an outstanding high school basketball player, Pharr attended Women’s College of Georgia in Milledgeville, …

Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas (PCCUA)

Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas (PCCUA) in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County) is an institution of higher education in the middle section of eastern Arkansas. PCCUA is a leader in providing cultural enrichment and continuing education in a region often lacking these opportunities. PCCUA began as Phillips County Community College (PCCC) after the electorate in Phillips County passed a ballot measure providing local financial support for a community college on October 23, 1965. Community leaders felt that providing higher education to residents of the Delta would enhance the economy of the community and the quality of life of the residents the college would serve. Subsequently, Governor Orval Faubus appointed the first board of trustees for PCCC, which held …

Phillips, Charles E., Jr

Charles Phillips Jr. is the CEO of Infor, a company that specializes in industry-specific software. His long career on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley include high-level positions in financial services corporation Morgan Stanley and the computer technology corporation Oracle. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2012. Charles Phillips was born in 1959 in Little Rock (Pulaski County). His father was stationed at the nearby Little Rock Air Force Base, and the family moved frequently during his youth, including stints in Germany and Spain. Aiming to follow in his father’s footsteps, Phillips enrolled in the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Although he graduated with a degree in computer science in 1981, worsening …

Phillips, et al. v. Weeks, et al.

Phillips, et al. v. Weeks, et al. was a sweeping lawsuit in federal district court at Little Rock (Pulaski County) alleging that the municipal police engaged in systematic discrimination against African Americans, including illegal detention, physical brutality, verbal abuse, and segregation in jail. The class-action suit was filed in January 1972, and the trial lasted two and a half months in 1974–1975. The case languished in the court for another eight years before all the issues were finally settled, with only a partial victory for the class of people for whom the suit was filed. U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Eisele eventually ordered an end to jail segregation and to the illegal detention of blacks, an infamous system in which …

Phillips, Helen Ann Evans

Ceramist, sculptor, and teacher Helen Ann Evans Phillips played a major role in the development of contemporary crafts in Arkansas. Helen Evans was born on April 18, 1938, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Harold S. Evans, a livestock dealer, and Lorna B. Evans, a homemaker. She grew up in Union City, Tennessee, and as a child spent much of her time around farm animals, drawing and making objects, as well as taking private art lessons. These early experiences influenced her sculpture later in life. She began teaching art in the Memphis City school system in 1959 before receiving her BS in painting and art education at Memphis State University in 1961. She married Joe Phillips, a medical student, science teacher, and …

Pierce, Charles Bryant

Charles Bryant Pierce was an independent filmmaker from Arkansas whose movies have become cult classics. Films that he wrote, directed, and/or produced include The Legend of Boggy Creek, Bootleggers, and The Town that Dreaded Sundown, which were not only made in Arkansas with local actors but also drew their inspiration from Arkansas themes. He is believed to be the source of one of the most famous lines in American film history: “Go ahead, make my day.” Charles B. Pierce was born in Hammond, Indiana, on June 16, 1938, the son of Mack McKenny Pierce and Mayven Bryant Pierce. When he was a few months old, the family moved to Hampton (Calhoun County) in the south-central part of Arkansas. Living in …

Pig Trail Scenic Byway

The “Pig Trail” is the name of a winding, mountainous byway between Fayetteville (Washington County) and Ozark (Franklin County), one used for decades by students from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville and sports fans. A driver following the route travels on State Highway 16 southeast from Fayetteville just past Greasy Creek in Madison County to a junction called Brashears Switch, then turns right on the southbound State Highway 23 to Ozark and the intersection with U.S. Highway 64—some fifty-two miles. The Pig Trail Scenic Byway is a nineteen-mile stretch of this road located in the heart of the Boston Mountains, running through Ozark National Forest and over the Mulberry River. Today’s traveler is more likely to use the …

Pike, Annie Zachary

Annie Zachary Pike is a farmer and community activist from Phillips County who became the first African-American appointee to a state board and was later appointed to a variety of federal organizations by President Richard M. Nixon. Annie Ruth Davidson was born on May 12, 1931, in Big Creek in Phillips County to Mississippi-born farmer Cedel Davidson and native Arkansan Carrie Washington Davidson. She was first educated at Trenton Elementary School in Trenton (Phillips County). Later, she attended the Consolidated White River Academy (CWRA), a co-educational boarding school founded in Monroe County by black Baptists in 1893. While at CWRA in the mid-to-late 1940s, Davidson was class secretary and president. She also played baseball and basketball and was a member …

Pine Bluff Arsenal

The Pine Bluff Arsenal was established on November 2, 1941, eight miles northeast of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Built on 14,944 acres and named the Chemical Warfare Arsenal (changed to Pine Bluff Arsenal in 1942), the facility produced millions of magnesium and thermite incendiary munitions for World War II and experimented with microbiological pathogens for potential germ warfare. During the war years, the arsenal employed 10,000 civilians and was an operational base to 350 military personnel. It long served as a repository for World War II stockpiles of aging chemical warfare agents and now includes hundreds of operational and production facilities, primarily for white and red phosphorus munitions and smoke munitions. As World War II raged in Europe, and to …

Pine Bluff Film Festival

The Pine Bluff Film Festival was inaugurated in 1994 by local residents who wanted to honor the legacy of the silent film era and help revitalize downtown Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Since that time, the annual event screened silent classics (often accompanied by a symphony orchestra), hosted world-famous guest stars, expanded to two theaters, implemented a silent film competition, and encouraged film and theater restoration. It was hosted each year by two world-renowned cultural experts from New York who were with the festival since its inception. The festival was recognized internationally as one of the oldest silent film festivals in the United States and the only one that regularly presented silent films with full orchestral accompaniment. The festival originated with …

Pippen, Scottie Maurice

Scottie Pippen is one of the most talented and successful athletes from the state of Arkansas. An essential member of the championship Chicago Bulls basketball team from the 1990s, Pippen was in 1996 named one of the “50 Greatest Players in NBA History.” During his seventeen seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA), he participated in the play-offs in all but his last season, was named to the NBA All-Star team seven times, and won six NBA championships, all with the Bulls; Pippen also has won gold medals with two Olympic basketball teams. Scottie Maurice Pippen was born on September 25, 1965, in Hamburg (Ashley County) to Preston and Ethel Pippen, the youngest of their twelve children. Pippen’s father worked …

Pitts, Elijah Eugene

Elijah Eugene Pitts was a football player who grew up in Mayflower (Faulkner County), played at Philander Smith College, and starred for the Green Bay Packers in the first Super Bowl. He was one of the early black stars of the National Football League (NFL) from the segregated South and had a long career as a player and a professional coach. Elijah Pitts was born on February 3, 1938, one of two sons of Samuel and Gertha Pitts, who were sharecroppers on land near Mayflower. Since there was no nearby school for African Americans, he attended the Pine Street School in Conway (Faulkner County), which black children from Conway and surrounding communities attended before the schools were integrated in 1968. …

Plum Point Energy Station

The Plum Point Energy Station (PPES) is a 665-megawatt (MW) energy facility located approximately five miles east of Osceola (Mississippi County). The station began commercial production of electricity on September 1, 2010, serving members of the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (MJMEUC) in the Arkansas communities of North Little Rock (Pulaski County), Osceola, and Piggott (Clay County), along with the Missouri communities of Carthage, Kennett, Malden, and Poplar Bluff, plus all thirty-five members of the Missouri Public Energy Pool No. 1 (MoPEP). The Empire District Electric Company, East Texas Electric Cooperative, and Municipal Energy Agency of Mississippi own smaller shares of the company. Development and ConstructionSpurred by recent economic setbacks in the community and surrounding areas, the city of …

Plum Thicket, The

The Plum Thicket was Janice Holt Giles’s seventh book (her sixth novel) and the first to be set in her home state of Arkansas. It was first published in 1954 by Houghton Mifflin. The Plum Thicket was a deviation from the anticipated continuation of a series of historical novels about the settlement of Kentucky, which had begun with the publication of The Kentuckians in 1953 and would resume with publication of Hannah Fowler (1956) and The Believers (1957). Giles felt compelled to write the book following a pilgrimage to her paternal grandparents’ home place in Arkansas near Charleston (Franklin County), a place she had visited often as a child. The story told in the book is fictional but has some …

Poesia

Poesia was a literary quarterly of poetry, commentary, and poetry reviews with an emphasis on previously unpublished poets—principally from northwest Arkansas, though submissions were accepted statewide and nationally as well. The commentary frequently focused on current issues concerning literary arts in Arkansas and the nation, such as the developing commercial trends in publishing and the politics of poetry and art. The journal also featured foreign poets, with their poetry published in English as well in the poet’s native language. Poets from Russia, Romania, Brazil, Italy, Canada, Slovenia, Jordan, and Israel were published in Poesia. Poesia was established in 2003 by Delta House Publishing Company, Indian Bay Press of Fayetteville (Washington County), founded by William R. Mayo, its publisher and editor. …

Point of Grace

Point of Grace, which originated in Arkadelphia (Clark County) in 1990, is a female vocal trio—formerly a quartet—that sings contemporary Christian music. Three of the singers in Point of Grace—Denise Jones, Heather Floyd, and Terry Lang—were life-long friends from Norman, Oklahoma. They had sung together in their church choir and school musicals. The trio enrolled at Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) in Arkadelphia in 1988. While singing in the “Ouachitones,” an OBU-sponsored group, they met fellow student Shelley Phillips from North Little Rock (Pulaski County), and in 1991, they formed a quartet. Originally, the four named themselves Sayso from a biblical verse in Psalms: “Let the Redeemed of the Lord say so.” The quartet began singing at local churches, retreats, and other …

Pointer, Anita

Anita Marie Pointer is an original member of the singing group the Pointer Sisters. She started singing gospel in her father’s church in West Oakland, California, and went on to attain pop/R&B stardom. The group’s top-ten hits include the songs “Fire,” “Slow Hand,” “He’s So Shy,” “Jump (For My Love),” “Automatic,” “Neutron Dance,” and “I’m So Excited.” Anita Pointer was born on January 23, 1948, in Oakland, California, the fourth of six children (four of them daughters) of Elton Pointer and Sarah Elizabeth Silas Pointer. Her parents were Arkansas natives, and Pointer’s two older brothers, Fritz and Aaron, were born in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Shortly thereafter, their parents moved the family to Oakland. The family traveled by car almost …

Political Animals Club

The Political Animals Club of Little Rock (Pulaski County), an organization consisting of people interested in Arkansas politics, was formed by James L. “Skip” Rutherford in 1983. Rutherford, who has been dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service since 2006, had left the staff of U.S. Senator David Pryor shortly before the formation of the club and moved to the private sector to work for Mack McLarty, chief executive officer at Arkansas Louisiana Gas Co. (Arkla). Rutherford wanted there to be a place for those with a strong interest in politics to gather on an occasional basis and talk about what was going on in Arkansas. He wanted the group to hear from politicians, political consultants, and …

Pollan, Carolyn

Carolyn Pollan, a longtime Republican officeholder, served twelve two-year terms and twenty-four years in the Arkansas House of Representatives, making her both the longest-serving Republican and longest-serving woman in Arkansas House history. Carolyn Joan Clark was born on July 12, 1937, in Houston, Texas, to Rex Clark and Faith Basye Clark. After years working in the oil fields in Texas, Rex Clark moved his family to Springdale (Washington and Benton counties), where he worked in the poultry business. Carolyn Clark graduated from Springdale High School in 1955 and then went on to what later became John Brown University, a private Christian college in Siloam Springs (Benton County). She graduated in 1959 but retained close ties with the school, later serving …

Pollard, Odell

Odell Pollard was an Arkansas lawyer credited with playing a major role in the development of the two-party political system in Arkansas during the last half of the twentieth century. Pollard was chairman of the Arkansas Republican (GOP) state executive committee during Governor Winthrop Rockefeller’s administration. Odell Pollard was born on April 29, 1927, on a farm in Union Hill (Independence County). Pollard was the third of four children of Joseph Franklin Pollard and Beulah Scantlin Pollard. He attended a one-room school at Union Hill through the eighth grade and then attended high school in Oil Trough (Independence County) until his graduation at age sixteen. He then entered the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), attending for two …

Ponca Elk Education Center

The Ponca Elk Education Center was established in 2002 to serve wildlife enthusiasts coming to Newton County to view elk, which were introduced to the state in 1981. The center is in a handsome log building on Arkansas Highway 43 in the village of Ponca in western Newton County. The building was for a short time used as a charter school by a religious organization and was later leased by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). The Ponca facility has displays of elk and many other Arkansas wildlife. It features eye-catching photographs and a gift shop selling nature-related items, as well as hunting and fishing licenses. There is also a small meeting room. Porches offer visitors a chance to …

Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge

Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge, the 501st refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System, protects and preserves one of the last remaining bottomland hardwood tracts in the Red River Basin. Established in 1994 under the Emergency Wetlands Resources Act, the refuge encompasses approximately 28,000 acres and is located in southwest Arkansas along the Texas/Oklahoma border. Originally established as Cossatot National Wildlife Refuge, the name was changed in 1997 at the request of citizens to retain the local name, Pond Creek Bottoms. Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuge is one of four refuges managed as part of the South Arkansas National Wildlife Refuge Complex with headquarters at Crossett (Ashley County). Geographically positioned in an area where the Central and Mississippi flyways overlap, …

Porter Prize

aka: Porter Fund Literary Prize
The Porter Fund, established in 1984, is a not-for-profit unincorporated association founded in honor of Dr. Ben Kimpel, who was chairman of the English department at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). It supports the written arts in the state of Arkansas, specifically by awarding an annual prize, which has been designated as the “Porter Prize,” to an Arkansas writer. (At Kimpel’s request, the prize was named in memory of his mother, Gladys Crane Kimpel Porter.) The prize is funded strictly with private donations and is presented annually at an awards ceremony to an Arkansas writer who has accomplished a substantial and impressive body of work that merits enhanced recognition. Its prize, $2,000, makes it one of the …

Porter, Art, Jr.

aka: Arthur Lee Porter Jr.
Arthur Lee (Art) Porter Jr. was an extremely talented musician proficient on saxophone, drums, and piano. He was an energetic, engaging entertainer and a creative composer whose work ranged across jazz, rhythm and blues, funk, and ballads. The son of legendary jazz musician Art Porter Sr., he released four albums through Polygram/Verve Records before his accidental death in 1996. Art Porter Jr. was born on August 3, 1961, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Thelma Pauline Porter and Arthur Porter Sr.; he had four siblings. Porter played alto saxophone in the Benkenarteg, Inc., sound group, which was composed of the five siblings. Porter was awarded the title of most talented young jazz artist in America by the Music Educators of …

Porter, Art, Sr.

aka: Arthur Lee Porter Sr.
Arthur Lee (Art) Porter Sr., referred to as an “Arkansas treasure,”was a pianist, composer, conductor, and music teacher. Though best known as a jazz musician, he also performed classical compositions and spirituals. Some of his more memorable performances include two gubernatorial inaugurations for Governor Bill Clinton. Joined by Art Porter Jr. on saxophone, he performed at President Clinton’s Inaugural Interfaith Prayer Service in January 1993 at one of the inaugural receptions in Washington DC. Porter was also responsible for entertaining many heads of state who visited Arkansas during the tenure of governors Dale Bumpers, David Pryor, and Jim Guy Tucker. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1994. Art Porter was born on February 8, 1934, in Little …

Porter, Jim Skillern, Jr.

In the early 1960s, Jim Skillern Porter Jr. was a leader in integrating the music venues in Little Rock (Pulaski County), and he produced Arkansas’s first integrated-seating concert. Later that decade, he operated Arkansas’s first integrated country club, the Riverdale Club, offering golf, tennis, swimming, dining, and dancing. (The name is not to be confused with Riverdale Country Club, whose members had previously moved west and formed Pleasant Valley Country Club.) During the two years the club was open (1968–1970), integrated groups played jazz nightly to full houses. Porter continued his work as a booking agent, trying to interest other venues in hiring integrated groups. Jim Porter Jr. was born on September 1, 1932, in Little Rock to James Skillern Porter …

Portis, Charles McColl

One of the finest of Arkansas’s fiction writers, Charles McColl Portis was best known for the western novel True Grit. Portis’s other novels—Norwood, The Dog of the South, Masters of Atlantis, and Gringos—are set in the twentieth century and are more purely comical. Whereas True Grit has sold copies into the millions and was made into films in 1969 and 2010 (with an Oscar-winning performance by John Wayne in the first adaptation), Portis’s other novels, though of high quality, have gone in and out of print over the years and have sold much more modestly. Portis’s protagonists are staid and ill at ease in modern society. The possibility of “true grit”—unyielding courage in the face of danger—is absent from the worlds of …

Potlatch Conservation Education Center at Cook’s Lake

Potlatch Conservation Education Center at Cook’s Lake is located near the small community of Casscoe (Arkansas County) approximately twenty miles southeast of Stuttgart (Arkansas County). The general purpose of the facility is conservation education, focusing on the bottomland hardwood forests and upland community of forests that surround the center. This is accomplished by introducing various audiences to hands-on outdoor learning activities. The property is recognized as an important wildlife sanctuary, especially for migrating waterfowl. In 1990, the forty-nine nations of the Ramsar Convention (an international treaty for conserving and sustainably utilizing wetlands) recognized the 200-acre Cook’s Lake and its surrounding property as a “wetland of international importance,” representing the diverse natural features of the Cache/Lower White River ecosystems. In 2001, …

Powell, Nathan Lee (Nate)

Nathan Lee (Nate) Powell, winner of a National Book Award and an Eisner Award, is a New York Times bestselling graphic novelist. He is best known for his graphic novels Swallow Me Whole and Any Empire, which he wrote and illustrated, as well as the March series of graphic novels, co-written by Congressman John Lewis, for which he provided the art. Nate Powell was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on July 31, 1978. He grew up as an ardent comics fan in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), reading such titles as The ’Nam, Transformers, X-Men, Daredevil, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Appleseed, and G.I. Joe. In the 1990s, Powell became involved in the DIY (do-it-yourself) punk subculture, self-publishing a zine …

Preston, Alice L.

Alice Luberter Walker Preston was an African-American schoolteacher who was instrumental in the peaceful integration of Murfreesboro (Pike County) city schools in 1965. Over her lifetime, she left an enduring legacy in the field of education in Arkansas. Alice Luberter Walker was born on December 16, 1907, in Paraloma (Howard County), the first of two children born to Lizzie Walker and the Reverend R. W. Walker. Because there was no high school for black students in Paraloma or nearby Nashville (Howard County), her family made arrangements for her to live with a cousin, the Reverend Bennie Neal, and his family in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), and she attended Fort Smith High School. She later stayed with a cousin in Hope …

Priest, Sharon

Sharon Priest served as a city director in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and as mayor of Little Rock before being elected Arkansas secretary of state in 1994, the first woman to be elected to that position in the state’s history. She was reelected and also selected to serve as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. After her time as Arkansas secretary of state, she served as executive director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, working on the revitalization of the city’s Main Street area. Sharon Mary Devlin was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on September 12, 1947, to Daniel Gerard Devlin and Margaret Meehan Devlin. While working for a Canadian distribution company for Munsey Products, based in …

Primary Colors

Loosely based on Governor Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential bid, Joe Klein’s controversial novel Primary Colors was published anonymously in 1996. A film based on the novel was released in 1998. The controversy stemmed from the resemblance of many characters to real-life counterparts, leading many to believe that the novel must have been written by a political insider. The novel follows the presidential campaign of Governor Jack Stanton, an overweight womanizer with a gift for politics, and is narrated by Henry Burton, an idealistic young black man who quickly rises within the ranks of Stanton’s staff. Themes of the book include adultery, sexual promiscuity, idealism, politics, and the role of the media in the political process and celebrity, culminating with Burton …

Prison Reform

The poor condition of Arkansas prisons has long been a subject of controversy in the state. The national prison system as a whole, and particularly in the South, was substandard up to the 1960s. Repeated scandal, evidence of extensive violence and rape, and violation of human rights brought national attention to Arkansas, placing pressure on the state to reform its penal system. Through a series of reforms beginning in 1967, the Arkansas prison system greatly improved, although issues of overcrowding still plague the state today. Calls for prison reform began in the late nineteenth century, especially with regard to the system of convict leasing, whereby prisoners were rented out to labor for private enterprises, often in horrible conditions. Governor George …

Private School Movement

aka: Segregation Academies
Beginning in the mid-1960s and continuing into the early 1970s, there was a rapid expansion in the establishment of new, non-parochial private schools across the South. This phenomenon, often called the “segregation academy” or “white academy” movement, was commonly viewed as a means for white parents to avoid having their children attend increasingly integrated public schools. Within Arkansas, the establishment of new private schools was concentrated in two areas—the Delta region and Pulaski County. Starting in the mid-1960s, both of these areas, which had the highest concentration of African Americans in the state, truly began to integrate their schools. The resulting increased level of integration provided the impetus for the start of the private school movement in Arkansas, which was …