Time Period: Modern Era (1968 - the Present)

Abrams, Annie Mable McDaniel

Annie Mable McDaniel Abrams is a retired educator and a political, social, civic, and community activist in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She was instrumental in campaigns to rename various Little Rock streets in honor of Daisy Bates and Mayor Charles Bussey. Most notably, she was a leader in the campaign resulting in the renaming of High Street in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and in the institution of Little Rock’s first Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. Annie McDaniel was born on September 25, 1931, in Arkadelphia (Clark County). She is the eldest of four children born to Queen Victoria Annie Katherine Reed. McDaniel’s father died when she was eighteen months old, and she was reared with the help …

Accomplices to the Crime

Accomplices to the Crime is penologist Thomas O. Murton’s 1969 nonfiction account of his efforts to reform the Arkansas prisons during the administration of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller. The book provides a graphic description of the brutality and corruption at Tucker Unit in Jefferson County, where Murton spent most of his time as a prison manager. The book also examines Murton’s brief but controversial tenure at Cummins Unit in Lincoln County. The book, written by Murton and Hollywood writer Joe Hyams, sold well and became the basis for the 1980 film Brubaker, starring Robert Redford. Some of the claims Murton made in the book, however, were later challenged. The book begins with the Murton arriving in Arkansas, where he was responsible …

Act 1220 of 2003

aka: Childhood Obesity Act
Act 1220 of 2003, which launched comprehensive efforts to curb childhood obesity in Arkansas, established one of the nation’s first statewide, school-focused initiatives to help children reach and maintain a healthy weight. Shaped largely by key legislators, including Senator Hershel Cleveland, with input from state and national public health experts, the act passed through the Arkansas General Assembly with strong support from the House and Senate under the administration of Governor Mike Huckabee. After passage, however, several components of the act faced vocal opposition. Opponents feared the largely unfunded mandates would strain educational and healthcare systems in addition to shaming overweight students. This vocal opposition prompted changes to the act in the years following its passage. Subsequent evaluation of Act …

Act 250 of 2021

aka: Stand-Your-Ground Law
On March 3, 2021, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law Act 250, a so-called “stand-your-ground” bill. This bill eliminated the “duty to retreat” prior to the use of physical force, even lethal force, in an act of alleged self-defense. Such laws, often called “shoot first” laws by their critics, have been highly controversial, being linked in some studies to increased murder rates in those states that passed them.  Modern “stand-your-ground” legislation has its genesis in 2005 in the state of Florida and swiftly spread to some twenty-five other states by 2020, supported by the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council. Each of Arkansas’s neighboring states passed such legislation years before Arkansas did. A review of gun death statistics by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2021 found that, in all but one of Arkansas’s …

Act 38 of 1971

Act 38 of 1971, which reorganized sixty state government agencies into thirteen cabinet-level departments, was the culmination of reform efforts that had begun during the administration of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller but were only achieved under Governor Dale Bumpers, who was widely credited with the successful passage of the measure. Bumpers described the act, which was designed to increase the economy and efficiency of state government, as the most vital part of his legislative program. As the first general reorganization of state government in the twentieth century, Act 38 was hailed for simplifying state operations and curbing graft. Prior to Act 38, the governor had little authority to dismiss uncooperative or corrupt agency heads, who served at the pleasure of their …

Act 626 of 2021

aka: Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act
aka: HB 1570
Act 626 of 2021 was the first ever bill passed in the United States to outlaw any gender-affirming medical treatment for persons under eighteen years of age. It became law over the veto of Governor Asa Hutchinson on April 6, 2021, attracting national and international criticism of the Arkansas legislature. Groundbreaking though the bill was, it was but one of many passed during the 2021 Arkansas General Assembly that specifically targeted trans citizens, and Arkansas was one of more than thirty states in 2021 in which Republican Party legislators introduced such bills. House Bill 1570, dubbed the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act,” was written by Representative Robin Lundstrum of Elm Springs (Washington and Benton counties) and introduced into the Arkansas House of Representatives on February 25, 2021. The following reasons …

Act 710 of 2017

aka: Anti-BDS Law
Act 710 of 2017 prohibits the state from contracting with, or investing in, companies that “boycott Israel.” The law was passed at a time when the BDS movement (boycott, divestment, sanctions) was gaining increasing success internationally, sparking a backlash, especially in the United States, a country with significant military and economic ties to the nation of Israel, as well as a large population of evangelical Christians who believe that American support for Israel is necessary for advancing the Second Coming of Christ. The BDS movement formally originated in 2005 as part of the Palestinian-led resistance to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. The movement was inspired by similar actions taken internationally against the apartheid regime of South Africa and sought to …

Act 76 of 1983

aka: Teacher Testing Law
Act 76 of 1983 was a law passed by the Arkansas General Assembly mandating that practicing teachers had to take a series of tests in order to continue to hold their teaching license. Passed during a special session of the legislature, the law was part of a package of education reforms championed by Governor Bill Clinton. Some teachers’ unions and other teachers’ organizations opposed the implementation of the law, leading to a public debate about the impact of the law. The implementation of the act made Arkansas the first state in the nation to test teachers after their entrance into the education field. The complete title of the act is “An act to require teachers, counsellors, administrators, and certified personnel …

Act 910 of 2019

aka: Transformation and Efficiencies Act of 2019
Act 910 of 2019 was a piece of signature legislation for Governor Asa Hutchinson, who sought to reduce the size of Arkansas state government and the number of agency heads reporting directly to the governor. In state government, an agency designated as a “department” is typically headed by a secretary who is appointed by the governor as part of the cabinet. Many of the changes brought about by Act 910 involved departments becoming “divisions,” such as the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) becoming the Division of Environmental Quality within the new Department of Energy and Environment. Hutchinson looked to Act 38 of 1971, the last large-scale reorganization of Arkansas state government, which consolidated sixty state government agencies into thirteen. …

Act 911 of 1989

aka: Arkansas Conditional Release Program
Act 911 of 1989 pertains to the evaluation, commitment, and conditional release of individuals acquitted of a crime when found Not Guilty by Reason of Mental Disease or Defect. The evaluation process, completed by a certified forensic psychologist or psychiatrist, assesses the defendant’s fitness to proceed to trial and, if the defendant is found fit to proceed, mental state at the time of the crime. If the defendant is found not fit to proceed, the proceedings against the defendant are suspended, and the court may commit him/her for detention, care, and treatment at the Arkansas State Hospital (ASH) until restoration of fitness to proceed. Once fit to proceed, a re-evaluation includes an assessment of mental state at the time of …

Act 975 of 2015

aka: Religious Freedom Restoration Act
The Arkansas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB975 of the 2015 regular legislative session) was passed overwhelmingly by both houses of the Arkansas General Assembly and signed into law as Act 975 by Governor Asa Hutchinson. It closely aligns Arkansas law with the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993. Under the legislation, any governmental action in Arkansas that is a “substantial burden” to an individual’s free exercise of religion may only stand if it furthers a “compelling governmental interest” in the “least restrictive” manner possible. Like the federal RFRA, the Arkansas RFRA was meant to return to the “balancing test” established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Sherbert v. Verner (1963) but overturned in the 1990 Employment Division v. …

Adams, Elizabeth Lucille (Betty Lu) Hunter Sorensen

Elizabeth Lucille (Betty Lu) Hunter Sorensen Adams was a pioneer occupational therapist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital as well as the founder and second president of the Arkansas Occupational Therapy Association and its first delegate to a national conference. She has also distinguished herself as an artist and writer. Betty Hunter was born on February 3, 1926, in Tokyo, Japan, the daughter of Joseph Boone and Mary Cleary Hunter, both missionaries; she has one brother. The Hunter family came to Arkansas when, due to the Depression, there were no funds to return to missions. They lived in Little Rock (Pulaski County), where her father founded Pulaski Heights Christian Church. In 1940, the family left Little Rock to return to Japan but …

Adams, Joey Lauren

Joey Lauren Adams, a North Little Rock (Pulaski County) native, is an actress, writer, and director. Adams has appeared in a number of movies, mostly independent films, and TV shows. Her most recent appearances include the films Love, Fear and Rabbits (2006) and The Break-Up (2006), as well as a guest star spot on the TV show Veronica Mars (2005). Adams made her directorial debut in Come Early Morning (2006). Joey Lauren Adams was born on January 9, 1968, in North Little Rock. Adams moved to California in the late 1980s at the age of nineteen, first to attend college in San Diego and then to become an actress in Hollywood. Adams said of her decision to move to Los …

Adkisson, Richard B.

Richard B. Adkisson was a prominent figure in the Arkansas legal community in the latter part of the twentieth century. He worked as both a prosecutor and a judge, and he served as chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court at the end of his career. Richard Blanks Adkisson was born on October 12, 1932, to Sam E. Adkisson and Kathleen Blanks Adkisson of Mount Vernon (Faulkner County). He received his early education in the local public schools of Mount Vernon, Conway (Faulkner County), and Russellville (Pope County) before serving in the U.S. Air Force from January 1951 to July 1954. Following his discharge from the air force, he studied at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), …

African American Perspectives Northeast Arkansas

The quarterly African American Perspectives Northeast Arkansas magazine was established in Jonesboro (Craighead County) in 2007 by Diversified Publishing Company, LLC. Founding members of the publishing group included Drs. Lonnie R. Williams, George Grant, and Glen Jones, who were administrators at Arkansas State University (ASU), and community leaders, Everett Fair and Emma Agnew. Agnew served as editor for the first five years until Williams assumed a co-editing role during the last two years of publication, 2011–2013. Four seasonal issues were published each year, and content consisted of feature articles from various contributing writers as well as advertising. Standing columns included an African-American business directory, church directory, and calendar of events. According to its vision statement, Perspectives was created to uplift …

Agee, Sarah Edith Sonneman

Sarah Agee of Prairie Grove (Washington County) served as a state representative in the Eighty-second, Eighty-third, and Eighty-fourth Arkansas General Assemblies from 1999 to 2004.   Sarah Edith Sonneman was born in Fayetteville (Washington County) on January 2, 1946, to Gladys Margaret Gosnell Sonneman and Emil Herman Sonneman. Thiers was a prominent Washington County family. The Gosnells of Springdale (Washington and Benton counties) had the only bookstore in town, and reading was a prime concern for the family, which had no television. Her mother, who played the organ for the silent movies at the UARK Theater and Palace Theater and was the organist for more than fifty years at First Baptist Church in Fayetteville, was a field representative for the state Welfare Department. The Sonneman family built and operated seven movie theaters in the area, the UARK Bowl, and apartments near campus. Her father owned and operated the Fayetteville Country Club and Razorback Golf Course, supported community projects such …

AIDS

By 2007, a cumulative 4,119 Arkansans had been diagnosed with Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the disease caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), with 196 of those cases being newly diagnosed in that year. Of all cases diagnosed in Arkansas, more than eighty percent were among men, fifty-seven percent were among whites, and forty percent were among African Americans. However, among cases newly diagnosed in 2007, the majority (fifty-five percent) were among African Americans, with only thirty-seven percent of new cases being among whites. This trend follows national rates of proportionally more cases being diagnosed among African Americans and other minorities. Of those 4,119 diagnosed with AIDS, more than 2,000 were people living with AIDS as of the end of …

Alamo, Tony

aka: Tony Alamo Christian Ministries
Tony Alamo was a well-known evangelist who, after a radical conversion to Christianity, founded what is now called Tony Alamo Christian Ministries with his wife, Susan, later establishing its headquarters in Dyer (Crawford County). Widely regarded as a cult, Tony Alamo Christian Ministries was at the center of a number of lawsuits and government actions, and its leader was jailed on a variety of charges, including income tax evasion, the theft of his late wife’s body, and taking underage girls across state lines for sex. Much of the information on Alamo’s early, pre-conversion life is spurious at best, on account of Alamo’s constant exaggerations of his importance and/or sinfulness. He was born Bernie Lazar Hoffman on September 20, 1934, in …