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

Salassi, Otto

Otto Russell Salassi was a librarian and writer best known for the young-adult novel Jimmy D., Sidewinder, and Me (1987). Salassi attended and worked at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and lived in Fayetteville from 1974 until his death. Otto Salassi was born on October 2, 1939, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, to Walter Salassi and Ruby Lee Salassi. He served in the U.S. Air Force and worked as a mathematician at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California before attending Memphis State University, where he was awarded a BS in English and philosophy in 1967. He earned an MLS from Vanderbilt University in 1968 and worked as a librarian first at Bemidji State College in Minnesota (where he …

Saline Memorial Hospital

Originally known as the Saline County Memorial Hospital, present-day Saline Memorial Hospital was constructed in 1954 in Benton (Saline County). The hospital was created in response to the rising population of the Benton area following World War II, the Korean War, and Saline County’s postwar industrial boom. The hospital had forty-two beds at its creation and cost about $325,000 to build. In 2017, Saline Memorial Hospital encompassed approximately 400,000 square feet, with 177 beds and more than 180 active and consulting physicians. According to census data, the population of Benton was 3,502 in 1940 and had nearly doubled by 1950 to 6,277. In February 1955, Saline County judge Charles O. Smithers named the first governing board for the hospital. Dr. …

Salt Bowl

Competition between football teams representing Saline County’s two largest cities, Benton and Bryant, gave birth to the Salt Bowl in the fall of 2000. Played between the Benton High School Panthers and the Bryant High School Hornets, the game attracts fans and alumni representing all of Saline County. The average number attending annually exceeds 20,000; according to the Saline Courier, 34,086 attended in 2015. The Salt Bowl is played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1973, Fort Smith Southside ended its contract with Benton and would no longer play against its team. Meanwhile, Bryant was looking for a new rival, having just become a 3-A school. It was decided that Benton and Bryant would face-off the …

Salvest, John Joseph

John Joseph Salvest has gained national acclaim through his site-specific installations, object-based and performance art, and teaching. Salvest’s art is noted for exploring issues of time and mortality, the paradoxes of life, and the true and proverbial in literature. His success is evident through awards and solo exhibitions across the nation and a career that has spanned decades. Born on February 13, 1955, John Salvest was the oldest of three children born to John and Jeanne Salvest. He grew up in Kearny, New Jersey, and attended Regis High School in New York City, New York. He received a BA in English from Duke University in North Carolina in 1977, an MA in English from the University of Iowa in 1979, …

Sanders, Amy

Amy Sanders was a longtime city clerk for the City of Sherwood (Pulaski County), which named its new Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) branch library in her honor in 1989. A new library building that opened in Sherwood in 2018 retained the name. Amy Sanders was born on August 4, 1924, in Prescott (Nevada County), the child of William Hayes Barnes and Allie Mae Dye Barnes. She married Reo Dale Sanders in Texarkana (Miller County) in 1944, and the couple had two children. They were married for more than sixty-three years, until his death on June 7, 2007. Sanders went to work for the City of Sherwood in the early 1970s and, in April 1973, was appointed to replace a …

Santuario Arco Iris

aka: Arco Iris Earth Care Project (AIECP)
Santuario Arco Iris, an intentional land community located in Ponca (Newton County) near the Buffalo National River in northwestern Arkansas, was founded by Maria Christina DeColores Moroles (also known by her ceremonial names Sun Hawk and Aguila) originally as a sanctuary, or “sacred land space,” for all women and children, particularly women and children of color. Moroles, who identifies as a so-called two-spirit woman of Mexican and Indigenous American descent, has lived on the wilderness preserve since 1976, when she moved there with her five-year-old daughter, Jennifer. Her partner from 1982 to 2011, Miguela Borges, was also instrumental in the development of Santuario Arco Iris and its associated nonprofit organization, the Arco Iris Earth Care Project (AIECP). (Moroles prefers the …

Sartain, J. Peter

James Peter Sartain was the sixth bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Little Rock, which encompasses all of the state of Arkansas. Although he was only briefly in Arkansas, Sartain’s reign coincided with great growth: under his watch, the Diocese of Little Rock increased from 90,600 members to 107,000, Hispanic ministry became more focused, and the numbers of seminarians and ordinations rose dramatically. J. Peter Sartain was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on June 6, 1952, to Joseph and Catherine Sartain; he was the youngest of five and the only boy. Faith was very important to the Sartains, who passed on this influence to their children: one of Sartain’s sisters became a Dominican sister, and three of his sisters have …

Sarver, Charles Robert (Bob)

Charles Robert (Bob) Sarver was a war veteran, a lawyer, and the first man appointed commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Correction, established in 1968. Named commissioner during the administration of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, Sarver sought to institute reforms based on a modern and enlightened approach to corrections. He was one of the litigants in the landmark Holt v. Sarver case, which ruled that Arkansas’s prisons were unconstitutional. After leaving the Department of Correction, Sarver worked as a prison consultant and was a college professor in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Bob Sarver was born in Fairmont, West Virginia, on January 3, 1931, to Pennsylvania natives Charles Leasure Sarver and Tenie Elizabeth McCurdy Sarver. His father was an accountant, and his …

Saunders, Michael Earl (Mike)

aka: "Metal Mike"
Little Rock (Pulaski County) native Michael Earl Saunders is the lead singer and guitarist of the Angry Samoans, a California-based band that formed in 1978 out of the first wave of American punk music. Saunders, a music journalist in earlier years, was also the first to use the term “heavy metal” to describe the musical genre. Mike Saunders (a.k.a. Metal Mike) was born on May 1, 1952, to Earl L. Saunders Jr., who was an architectural photographer, and Jean Cox Saunders, who was an office manager for Burns Security in Little Rock. He has one younger sibling. Saunders attended Hall High School in Little Rock, where he played trombone in the marching band. His first album review was published in …

Schexnayder, Charlotte Tillar

Journalist and state politician Charlotte Tillar Schexnayder co-owned the Dumas Clarion newspaper in Dumas (Desha County) with her husband for more than four decades and served in the Arkansas House of Representatives for fourteen years. She was the first woman appointed to the Arkansas Board of Pardons and Parole, and she was the first female president of the Dumas Chamber of Commerce. She was also president of several associations for professional journalists, including the Arkansas Press Women, the Arkansas Press Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the National Newspaper Association. Charlotte Tillar was born on December 25, 1923, in Tillar (Drew and Desha counties) to Jewell Stephen Tillar and Bertha Terry Tillar. The family moved to McGehee (Desha County) in …

Scott, Bob

Bob Scott is a lawyer, politician, and longtime Republican operative. He is best known for his work during Governor Winthrop Rockefeller’s administration as a legal advisor on the state’s prisons and as a finance manager. Despite being a Republican his entire adult life, Scott became an outspoken critic of what he came to see as his party’s extremism and abandonment of its core principles and historical legacy. Bob Scott was born on October 6, 1933, in Gravette (Benton County) but grew up in Rogers (Benton County). He was the youngest of three sons born to Rogers native Kenneth Holmes Scott and Missouri native Jeffa June Beck Scott. In September 1940, Scott’s father died in a truck accident while working as …

Scott, Cynthia

Cynthia Scott is a Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist known for her work as one of Ray Charles’s “Raelettes” and for her subsequent solo career. She was named Jazz Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State in 2004 and was Wynton Marsalis’s choice for the first person to give a concert in the Lincoln Center’s Rose Room. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2016. Cynthia Scott was born on July 20, 1951 (some sources say 1952), to the Reverend Sam Scott and Artelia Scott in El Dorado (Union County), the tenth of twelve children—six boys and six girls. She began singing at age four in her father’s church but exposed her ear to secular music by sneaking …

Scott, Dortha Delena Shaw

Dortha Delena Shaw Scott of Mount Ida (Montgomery County) created the design for the Arkansas quarter. Her design was chosen from among more than 9,300 entries in a statewide contest by a panel of ten judges and Governor Mike Huckabee. The final design was unveiled to the public on October 7, 2002, at the Old State House in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The quarter officially entered circulation October 28, 2003, at Murfreesboro (Pike County). Dortha Shaw was born on January 11, 1936, near Mount Ida. Her parents were Henry and Carrie (Manley) Shaw. Henry Shaw, who died on September 7, 1936, was a carpenter most of his life, and Carrie Shaw was a homemaker. Dortha had five siblings: Gene, Helen, …

Scott, Ralph Downing, Sr.

Ralph Downing Scott Sr. had a long career in law enforcement and served as director of the Arkansas State Police during most of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller’s administration. In this capacity, Scott enacted many reforms to the Arkansas State Police that improved the professionalism of the department. Ralph Scott was born in McCaskill (Hempstead County) on February 2, 1914, to Burton L. Scott and Grace Bonner Scott. He was the oldest of the couple’s three sons and graduated in 1931 from high school in Prescott (Nevada County). He received a BA in chemistry from Hendrix College in 1935. In 1939, he received a Bachelor of Commercial Science in accounting from Southeastern University in Washington DC. Scott married Ruth Hirst in 1940, …

Seals, Frank “Son”

Frank “Son” Seals was a singer who became a driving force behind a brief but stormy rejuvenation of the blues throughout the mid- to late 1970s. For three decades, he dominated the Chicago blues as no one has since. Son Seals was born on August 13, 1942, in Osceola (Mississippi County). His father was musician Jim “Son” Seals. He acquired the nickname “Son” while a child in Osceola. Seals came to the blues early. He grew up in a juke joint operated by his father, who had been a member of the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. Juke joint the Dipsey Doodle featured some of the greatest of all blues performers, including Albert King, Robert Nighthawk, and Sonny Boy Williamson. The Dipsey Doodle …

Sellers, Barney

Professional photographer Barney Sellers, a native of Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County), accumulated many honors in his lifetime, including a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. His photographs of Arkansas barns, old houses, and rural scenes attracted many fans of his work and aspiring followers to northeastern Arkansas and the Ozarks. Born on March 28, 1926, to John and Edith Sellers, Barney Bryan Sellers was the younger of two sons. He grew up in Walnut Ridge, where he graduated from high school in 1944. Following high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served two years aboard the USS De Haven. In the navy, he served in an administrative capacity and advanced to the rank of yeoman third …

September 30, 1955

Following the success of the film The Paper Chase in 1973, writer and director James Bridges, who was born in Paris (Logan County), turned his attention to a more personal project. Bridges wrote a script based on his college experiences in Arkansas and convinced the studio to allow him to shoot the movie in his home state. September 30, 1955 is about a college student, played by Richard Thomas, who is devastated by the death of his idol, actor James Dean. At the time of Dean’s death, Bridges was a student at Arkansas State Teachers College, now the University of Central Arkansas (UCA), in Conway (Faulkner County). According to his college friend Tom Bonner, a former weatherman at KARK-TV in …

Sequoyah National Research Center

The Sequoyah National Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), located in the University Plaza in Little Rock (Pulaski County), seeks to acquire and preserve the writings and ideas of Native North Americans by collecting the written word, art, and other forms of expression by Native Americans and to create a research atmosphere that invites indigenous peoples to make the center the archival home for their creative work. The mission is fulfilled by serving tribal communities, promoting scholarly research both on the UALR campus and worldwide, creating educational programs, providing access to the center’s collections, and collaborating with like–minded institutions and organizations across the United States. What is now the Sequoyah National Research Center began in …

Sesquicentennial Celebration

The Arkansas Sesquicentennial Celebration was a year-long event in 1986 commemorating the 150th anniversary of Arkansas’s admission into the Union. The celebration sparked a renewed interest in Arkansas and local history. Arkansas was admitted to the Union as a state on June 15, 1836. In 1986, a series of statewide and local events were held to honor the anniversary. Planning for the sesquicentennial began in 1982, with Governor Frank White appointing an Arkansas Sesquicentennial Commission. Tom W. Dillard, director of the Department of Arkansas Natural and Cultural Heritage (now the Department of Arkansas Heritage), was appointed by White to lead the commission. In early 1985, the Arkansas General Assembly passed legislation awarding a $400,000 grant to the Department of Arkansas …

Shackelford, Lottie Lee Holt

Lottie Lee Holt Shackelford is a prominent African-American political leader who became the first female mayor of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and commanded leadership roles in the national Democratic Party for three decades. She was an Arkansas delegate to every Democratic National Convention from 1980 through 2012, often as a so-called superdelegate, and was chosen to be an automatic superdelegate for the 2016 convention. In addition, she was the longest-serving national vice chair in the Democratic Party’s history. She is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Lottie Lee Holt was born on April 30, 1941, in Little Rock, one of four children—with two sisters and a brother—of Curtis Holt Sr. and Bernice Linzy Holt. Her father was …

Shakespeare Series

aka: Lily Bard Series
The Shakespeare series consists of five novels in the “cozy” crime genre by Charlaine Harris, who lived in Arkansas for many years. Shakespeare and Bartley, the fictional Arkansas towns where the novels are set, resemble several small communities in the state, and Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Memphis, Tennessee, are both referred to as conveniently nearby. Like other books in this genre, these novels do not focus on police procedure or the reasoning of a genius detective. Instead, a lay person, generally a woman, investigates and solves a crime, sometimes with the help of a police officer or other trained investigator. In order of publication, Harris’s Shakespeare novels are Shakespeare’s Landlord (1996), Shakespeare’s Champion (1997), Shakespeare’s Christmas (1998), Shakespeare’s Trollop …

Shannon, Robert Fudge

A pioneer in mental healthcare for Arkansas, Robert Fudge Shannon was the first chief resident in psychiatry at the University of Arkansas Medical School, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). He also established the state’s first psychiatric outpatient program for adolescents, helped launch Arkansas’s first private psychiatric inpatient treatment unit, founded the first private psychiatric clinic in the state, and served as commissioner of mental health. Born on April 15, 1933, in Melbourne (Izard County), the second of three children of newspaperman Karr Shannon and Ollie Ellen (Fudge) Shannon, Bob Shannon attended school in Melbourne until 1944, when the family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County). He graduated from Little Rock High School (now Little Rock Central …

Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre

Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2016) is a television movie, distributed by SyFy, that is set in Arkansas, though it was filmed in Florida. It capitalizes on the popularity of sharks as villains in such productions as Jaws and its sequels (1975–1987), Shark Week documentaries on the Discovery Channel (1988–), and the zany Sharknado films on the SyFy (formerly SciFi) Channel (2013–). Director Jim Wynorski is a prolific veteran of both SyFy fodder (such as 2010’s Dinocroc vs. Supergator) and mild exploitation movies (Sexy Wives Sindrome, 2011), and Sharkansas combines the conventions of both cinematic types. The SyFy Channel’s original films are parodies of old creature features, but they use cheap computer-generated-image (CGI) special effects rather than the more professional effects …

Shaver, Richard Sharpe

Richard Sharpe Shaver was an American writer and “outsider” artist best known for his controversial stories known collectively as “the Shaver Mystery,” which were presented as nonfiction in science fiction magazines, most notably Amazing Stories. These stories, in which Shaver claimed to have discovered an ancient, sinister civilization in underground caves, led to Shaver Mystery Clubs and influenced many artists and writers, including Harlan Ellison and Phillip K. Dick. Shaver died in the Arkansas town of Summit (Marion County), where he had moved in the mid-1960s. Richard Shaver was born on October 7, 1907, in Virginia, but his family moved to Berwick, Pennsylvania, sometime before 1910. Little is reliably known about Shaver’s early life. According to Shaver, in 1932, while …

Shead, Henry Wallace, Sr.

aka: Henry Shed
Henry Wallace Shead Sr. (a.k.a. Henry Shed) was a pianist, vocalist, composer, recording artist, actor, choral director, and teacher. He grew up playing and singing in his father’s church, and by the time he had finished college, he had developed the singing and piano-playing styles for which he became famous. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame in 2018. Henry Wallace Shead was born in Fordyce (Dallas County) on March 31, 1941, the third of five children born to the Reverend Henry Arthur Shead and Willie Labehel Reed Shead. He was raised in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and was introduced to the piano at the age of six …

Sheffield, Ronald Lee

Ronald Lee Sheffield, a lawyer, was a state insurance regulator for many years and served for a year as a justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Sheffield overcame many misfortunes to become the sixth African American to serve on the state’s highest court. Ron Sheffield was born on June 30, 1946, in Coshocton, Ohio, to Mildred Hattie Sheffield. He never learned who his father was. His mother had been married and divorced; her son Billy Richards, who was reared by a grandparent, became a Muslim and changed his name to Hakim Bey. After Sheffield was born, his mother married Lee Evans Taylor Jr., a laborer at a General Electric (GE) plant. She worked as a maid and occasionally at the …

Sheid, Vada Webb

Vada Webb Sheid was the first woman to serve in both the Arkansas Senate and the Arkansas House of Representatives in a political career that stretched across five decades. Vada Webb was born on August 19, 1916, in Izard County, the only child of J. W. “Bill” Webb and Gertrude Reynolds Webb. Her father was a cattle buyer. She grew up in Calico Rock (Izard County) and graduated from high school there in 1934. She later attended Draughon School of Business in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1935, Webb went to work as Izard County welfare director and then became an interviewer for the state welfare department. She married Carl Sheid of Norfork (Baxter County) on December 31, 1940. They …

Shelter

Shelter (1998) is a modestly budgeted action thriller made in Little Rock (Pulaski County) by director Scott Paulin. The film features no significant Arkansas landmarks. The movie centers upon hero Martin Roberts (John Allen Nelson), an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) whose corrupt superior Landis (Charles Durning) tries to have him killed. Martin flees and is protected by Dimitri (Peter Onorati), head of the Arkansas-based “Greek Mafia” that dominates illegal gunrunning throughout the American South from its headquarters in an Arkansas mansion. Landis joins forces with a rival gangster, Cantrell (Kurtwood Smith), to wipe out Dimitri’s gang. However, Martin gets into more trouble when he falls in love with Helena (Brenda Bakke and stand-in Monica …

Shelton, Louie

Millions of people have heard Louie Shelton’s smooth guitar-playing on hit records and albums without knowing who he was. Since the 1960s, he has worked as a session guitarist or a producer for Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, John Lennon, Lionel Richie, Boz Scaggs, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson Five, Seals and Crofts, Marvin Gaye, and many other famous pop, rock, and jazz musicians. William Louis Shelton was born on April 6, 1941, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) but grew up in the Levy neighborhood of North Little Rock (Pulaski County). He was the youngest child and only son of five children born to William Lewis Shelton and Carrie Lois Middleton Shelton. His mother was a housewife, and his father was in …

Sherman, Jerome Kalman

Jerome (Jerry) Kalman Sherman, considered the “Father of Sperm Banking,” was a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) from 1958 until 1992, when he became professor emeritus, remaining active until 1994. During his decades as a research scientist and teacher of anatomy, he significantly shaped the field of cryobiology—the study of biological materials at low temperatures—and the emergence of human sperm banks as part of reproductive medicine. Through his involvement in multiple charitable organizations in the Little Rock (Pulaski County) area, he has also improved the lives of many Arkansans. Jerry Sherman was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 14, 1925, the only child of Murray and Beatrice Sherman. An eager student, he graduated from …

Shiloh Museum of Ozark History

The Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale (Washington County) serves the public by providing resources for finding meaning, enjoyment, and inspiration in the exploration of the Arkansas Ozarks. The museum takes its name from the pioneer community of Shiloh, which became Springdale in the 1870s. In 1881, a five-year-old Nebraska boy named Guy Howard found an arrowhead in the family garden, sparking an interest in Native American lore that would last a lifetime. The Howard family moved from Nebraska to Springdale by covered wagon in the 1890s, and Guy Howard soon discovered that the Ozarks were full of American Indian artifacts. His collection grew and grew. By the 1920s, local people were flocking to the Howard home to see …

Shirek, Maudelle

Arkansas native Maudelle Shirek was a longtime California-based civic activist who entered the political arena late in life. She won her first race for a seat on the Berkley, California, city council at the age of seventy-one, and when she retired at ninety-two, she was the oldest publicly elected official in the United States. Maudelle Miller was born on June 18, 1911, in Jefferson County, the oldest of ten children of Eddie and Hattie Miller. She grew up on a farm, and her father was a school teacher. The granddaughter of slaves, she once witnessed the lynching of a relative. One longtime friend observed that Maudelle spent the first third of her life cooking, helping with the crops, and getting …

Shoffner, Martha

Martha Shoffner was the Arkansas state treasurer from 2007 until she was forced to resign from office after an arrest on federal charges of extortion and bribery in May 2013. After being found guilty on multiple counts in March 2014, she began serving a thirty-month prison sentence in November 2015. Martha Shoffner was born on July 10, 1944, in Jackson County. One of two daughters of James Edwin Shoffner and Helen Deaton Shoffner, she was raised in Jackson County. After she graduated from Newport High School, she attended Memphis State University and Arkansas State University; she did not earn a degree. Shoffner began work in the private sector, first joining a Little Rock (Pulaski County) advertising firm. In addition, she …

Silas, Paul Theron

Paul Silas was an All-Star player and then coach in the National Basketball Association (NBA) over a period from 1964 to 2002.  Playing for five different teams throughout his career, he was a two-time All-Star as well as a member of three NBA championship teams over the course of sixteen seasons. He then served as a head coach for over a decade. Paul Theron Silas was born on July 12, 1943, in Prescott (Nevada County) to Leon Silas, who was a railroad laborer, and his wife, about whom little is known. The family moved a few times and lived in New York and Chicago before returning to Prescott when Silas was six. When he was eight, Silas was sent to …

Silitch, Mary Frances

Mary Frances Files Silitch is the first woman to be editor-in-chief of a national aviation magazine. A licensed pilot, she has flown 250 kinds of aircraft and logged 5,000 hours of flight. Mary Frances Files was born on November 9, 1935, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to William Thomas Files and Johnnie Caldwell Files of Parkdale (Ashley County); she has two sisters. Her first flight was in an open-cockpit crop-duster airplane over the family farm at the age of four. She attended schools in Parkdale and Wilmot (Ashley County) but graduated from All Saints Episcopal School in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She attended Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College), where she began her journalism career as the managing editor of the Sou’wester, …

Simmons, Ronald Gene

On December 22, 1987, Ronald Gene Simmons began a killing spree that would be the worst mass murder in Arkansas history and the worst crime involving one family in the history of the country. His rampage ended on December 28, 1987, leaving dead fourteen members of his immediate family and two former coworkers. Ronald Gene Simmons was born on July 15, 1940, in Chicago, Illinois, to Loretta and William Simmons. On January 31, 1943, William Simmons died of a stroke. Within a year, Simmons’s mother married again, this time to William D. Griffen, a civil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The corps moved Griffen to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1946, the first of several transfers that …

Simple Life, The

The Simple Life is a reality television series broadcast on the Fox network depicting two wealthy young socialites, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, as they struggle with everyday tasks, including manual labor and low-paying jobs such as doing farm work, serving meals in fast-food restaurants, and working as camp counselors. The first season of The Simple Life (2003–2004) was set in Altus (Franklin County), a small town in the Arkansas Valley known for its vineyards. Fox executives wanted to return to the heyday of the sitcom, when such low-concept shows as Green Acres originally aired. The idea for the show involved doing Green Acres as a reality show. Hilton was chosen because of her popularity with young people. Richie was …

Six Bridges Book Festival

The Six Bridges Book Festival is an annual celebration of literacy, language, and the written word. The event was begun by Arkansas Literacy Councils, Inc., (ALC) with the goals of increasing awareness of the importance of literacy and raising funds for adult literacy programs in Arkansas—all through a culturally vibrant event that highlights the state of Arkansas and its rich literary heritage. The festival started in 2002 as the Arkansas Literary Festival (known as Lit Fest), and the Central Arkansas Library System took over management of the festival in 2008, renaming it the Six Bridges Book Festival in 2019. Proceeds from the event benefit the state’s community-based literacy programs that recruit and train volunteers to help adults improve their basic …

Slater, Rodney Earl

Rodney Earl Slater rose from poverty to become an Arkansas assistant attorney general and served in several positions under Arkansas governor (and later U.S. president) Bill Clinton. He was chairman of the Arkansas Highway Commission, director of governmental affairs for Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County), the first African-American director of the Federal Highway Administration, and U.S. secretary of transportation. Rodney Slater was born on February 23, 1955, in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. Soon after, Slater’s mother married Earl Brewer, a mechanic and maintenance man about whom Slater has said, “My stepfather was my father.” When Slater was a small child, the family moved across the Mississippi River to Marianna (Lee County), where, by age six, Slater was picking …

Sling Blade

Filmed entirely in Benton (Saline County) by Arkansas native Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade was one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 1996 and earned Thornton—who wrote, directed, and starred in the movie—an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as a nomination for Best Actor. Sling Blade opens on the day that Karl Childers (Thornton), a developmentally challenged man, is released from an asylum for the criminally insane, twenty-five years after murdering his mother and her lover with a sling blade—a scythe-like tool that Karl prefers to call a kaiser blade. Karl demonstrates a talent for fixing small engines and is able to find work as a repairman in his hometown of Millsburg. One day at a …

Smith, Eugene Wilson

Eugene W. Smith became a professor and administrator at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County), and his work was instrumental in gaining the institution university status. He was appointed president of ASU in 1984 and oversaw major expansions of the university’s physical plant, double-digit growth in enrollment, and the establishment of ASU’s first doctoral program. A native of Forrest City (St. Francis County), Eugene Wilson Smith was born on June 10, 1930, to Milton Samuel Smith II and Frank Leslie Wilson Smith; he had two siblings. His father and mother were longtime educators, serving as school superintendent and classroom teacher, respectively, in the Forrest City school system. Smith enjoyed fishing and quail hunting with his father and developed …

Smith, George Rose

George Rose Smith was a prominent twentieth-century lawyer and state Supreme Court justice. As of 2015, he remains the longest-serving Arkansas Supreme Court justice. George Rose Smith was born on July 26, 1911, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), one of five children of Hay Watson Smith, a minister who served as the pastor of Little Rock’s Second Presbyterian Church for almost forty years, and Jessie Rose Smith. He received his early education in the Little Rock schools before graduating first in his class from Little Rock High School in 1928. Following graduation, Smith went to Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He soon returned home, however, to attend the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). He graduated …

Smith, Lavenski Roy

Lavenski Roy Smith, the son of a black county farm agent at Hope (Hempstead County), became a justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court at age forty-one and became the second African American to serve on the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the second-highest level of courts in the country, as well as the first to serve as chief justice. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2003. Lavenski Smith was born on October 31, 1958, to Cayce B. Smith and Olee M. Smith at Hope. He began school in still racially segregated schools, but the city’s schools soon integrated under court orders. He graduated from Hope High School, the school from which future Arkansas governor …

Smith, Norman Eugene

Norman Eugene Smith was a classically trained pianist and musicologist from Benton (Saline County). He spent most of his career as a professor of music at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, specializing in the study of early polyphonic (multiple melody) music and classical piano. His scholarly works focused on musical theory, particularly in music from the twelfth century. Norman Eugene Smith was born on November 4, 1931, the second son of Fred C. Smith and Ocie Clara Bryant Smith in Benton. As a young man, he began playing the piano. His teacher, Lorene Carson Houston, composed the Benton High School alma mater. Smith quickly became her protégé. As a member of Houston’s Junior Music Club at Benton Junior High, …

Smith, Ocie Lee (O. C.), Jr.

Ocie Lee (O. C.) Smith Jr. started out singing jazz before moving into the genres of country and rhythm & blues/soul. After touring with Count Basie’s band in the early 1960s, he had his biggest hit with the song “Little Green Apples,” which reached number two on the pop and R&B charts in 1968. In the 1980s, he put aside his career as a recording artist to become a minister. Smith was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1996. O. C. Smith was born in Mansfield, Louisiana, on June 21, 1936 (although some sources say 1932). His parents, Ocie Lee Smith Sr. and Ruth Edwards Shorter Smith, who were both teachers, moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) …

Smith, P. Allen

P. Allen Smith is an award-winning designer, a nationally known gardening/lifestyle expert, and the host of two public television programs, P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home and P. Allen Smith’s Garden to Table, as well as the syndicated show P. Allen Smith Gardens. He appears frequently as a guest on such programs as the CBS Early Show and the Today show on NBC, and on the Weather Channel, sharing design and gardening tips with viewers. He is a contributor for a number of national publications such as Elle Décor, House Beautiful, Southern Accents, Southern Living, and Woman’s Day, and is the author of several bestselling books. Paul Allen Smith Jr., the oldest of four children, was born on March 12, 1960, …

Snell, Richard Wayne

Richard Wayne Snell—a member of a number of white supremacy groups, including the Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSA), which was founded in 1971 in Elijah, Missouri, by polygamist James Ellison—was also reported to be a member of the Aryan Nation. In addition, there are unsubstantiated reports connecting Snell to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh; perhaps not coincidentally, McVeigh’s act of domestic terrorism occurred only hours before Snell’s execution for two murders he had committed in the 1980s. Richard Wayne Snell was born in Iowa on May 21, 1930, to Charles Edwin Snell and Mary Jane Snell. Snell’s father was a pastor of the Church of Nazarene, and Snell himself trained in the ministry but did …

Snyder, Larry Lloyd

As a jockey who raced thoroughbred horses, Larry Lloyd Snyder won 6,388 races from 1960 to 1994. Many of his wins came at Oaklawn Park (now Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort) in Hot Springs (Garland County). Larry Snyder was born on June 29, 1942, in Toledo, Ohio. He dropped out of school in tenth grade and began working as a stable boy, with the hope of getting the opportunity to race. While cleaning stables and walking horses, he developed a relationship with the Van Berg family, which owned and trained many of the nation’s top thoroughbreds. With the help of Wendy Smith, who would book many of Snyder’s races, he won his first race on September 2, 1960. Snyder led the …

Snyder, Victor F.

Victor Frederick Snyder served seven terms in the U.S. Congress representing Arkansas’s Second Congressional District. Snyder’s experiences in the U.S. Marine Corps, as a family physician, and as a lawyer have helped shape his career in government service. Vic Snyder was born on September 27, 1947, in Medford, Oregon, to Don Snyder, a bartender, and Marjorie Snyder, a bookkeeper. He has one younger sister. In 1965, Snyder graduated from Medford High School and enrolled in Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Two years later, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps, serving from 1967 to 1969, including one year in Vietnam. Returning to school, Snyder graduated from Willamette in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and then went on to earn …

So Sad about Gloria

aka: Visions of Doom
aka: Visions of Evil
So Sad about Gloria is a ninety-minute horror/thriller movie that was filmed in central Arkansas and released in October 1975. Rated “PG” for Parental Guidance, it was directed by Arkansan Harry Thomason for Centronics International, a production company based in Little Rock (Pulaski County). So Sad about Gloria was also re-released under the titles Visions of Doom and Visions of Evil. The plot, credited to Marshall Riggan, centers around a young woman who moves back to the family home after being released from a mental hospital. She soon experiences frightening visions concerning a series of ax murders. There is an element of romance after she meets young writer Chris Kenner, who is lounging in a tree. His rationale: “I sit …