Mark Christ

Host, Encyclopedia of Arkansas Minute

Mark Christ produces and hosts Encyclopedia of Arkansas Minute on KUAR. He is head of adult programming for the Central Arkansas Library System. He previously served as community outreach director for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, which he joined in 1990 after eight years as a journalist.

A 1982 graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, he received his Master’s degree in 2000 from the University of Oklahoma. The Arkansas Historical Association presented him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 and the Civil War Trust awarded him the 2013 State Preservation Leadership Award. He is president of the board of trustees of the Arkansas Historical Association, a former member of the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and the Arkansas World War I Centennial Commemoration Committee, and former chairman of the board of directors of the Arkansas Humanities Council.

He has written, edited and co-edited several books including “Rugged and Sublime The Civil War in Arkansas,” “Sentinels of History: Reflections on Arkansas Properties Listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” which won an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History, “Getting Used To Being Shot At: The Spence Family Civil War Letters,” “All Cut to Pieces and Gone to Hell: The Civil War, Race Relations and the Battle of Poison Spring,” “The Earth Shook and Trees Trembled: Civil War Arkansas 1863-1864,” “Ready, Booted, and Spurred: Arkansas and the U.S.-Mexican War,” “The Die is Cast: Arkansas Goes to War, 1861,” “Civil War Arkansas, 1863: The Battle for a State,” which won the Military Order of the Stars and Bars' 2010 Douglas Southall Freeman Award and the Central Arkansas Library System's 2013 Booker Worthen Literary Prize, "This Day We Marched Again: A Union Soldier’s Account of War in Arkansas and the Trans-Mississippi Region,” “I Do Wish This Cruel War Was Over: First Person Accounts of Civil War Arkansas from the Arkansas Historical Quarterly,” “Competing Memories: The Legacy of Arkansas’s Civil War” and “A Confused and Confusing Affair: Arkansas and Reconstruction.”

His next edited work, “The War At Home: Perspectives on the Arkansas Experience During World War I,” will be published in spring 2020 by the University of Arkansas Press. He has also written many articles for such publications as Civil War News, North and South, Blue and Gray, Arkansas Historical Quarterly and Pulaski County Historical Review. The Pulaski County Historical Society awarded him its Peg Smith-Mary Worthen Award for his article “’An Abolition Hole’: Life in Union Little Rock, 1863-1865.”

The Presbyterian Church was at the vanguard of teaching Black children in Hot Springs in the late nineteenth century.

Reverend A.E. Torrence opened a parochial school for Black students in the early 1890s, which was “highly regarded locally for it program of culture and quality education.” In 1904, Reverend C.S. Mebane took over the school, including ownership of its property and equipment. While many referred to the school as the Mebane Academy, he called it the Hot Springs Normal and Industrial Institute.

Jonesboro was home to two Baptist Colleges, neither of which lasted long. The Mount Zion Baptist Association founded Woodland College in 1901 and built two structures before it failed in 1913. Seven years later, ground was broken for a two hundred thousand dollar administration building for Jonesboro Baptist College.

Fayetteville was home to the first degree-conferring college charted by the state.

Englishman Robert Graham emigrated to the U.S. and after attending a Disciples of Christ college in Virginia became a missionary for the faith. He organized a Disciples congregation in Fayetteville in 1848 and became its pastor, and in 1851 he bought ten acres on what is now College Avenue to hold a college.

An Ozark native enjoyed a career as an artist that spanned much of the United States.

Kathryne Bess Hail was born in 1894 and studied art in high school and college before attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1911, where she met her future husband, Olin Herman Travis.

For nearly forty years, Benton County’s Monte Ne was home to a summer camp for girls that coupled outdoor activities with dancing and dramatics.

Iris Armstrong, who ran a private dramatic academy in Little Rock, founded Camp Joyzelle in 1923 on a hundred acres of leased land around the Monte Ne train depot, which became the camp’s office. Catering to well-to-do families, Camp Joyzelle’s cabins were named for mythical goddesses such as Pandora and Daphne and the main lodge featured a handicrafts shop, library, art studio and theater.

Bette Greene’s 1973 novel "Summer Of My German Soldier," set in eastern Arkansas during World War II, remains a perennial young adult bestseller and one of the most-banned books in the U.S.

For more than a century, a North Little Rock nursery cultivated and shipped flowers across the United States.

Quaker horticulturalist J.W. Vestal moved from Indiana to the Baring Cross area in 1881, attracted by the warmer climate and inexpensive and fertile land near the Arkansas River. Continuing publication of a catalog he had founded in 1861, by 1914 J.W. Vestal and Son were mailing fifty thousand catalogs worldwide, promoting roses, magnolias and more than one hundred seventy varieties of strawberries, some of them purple and orange.

An African American civil rights pioneer and teacher helped one of Arkansas’s most famous poets find her voice.

Beulah Lee Sampson was born in Hempstead County in 1883, the daughter of former slaves. Gaining her teacher’s license in 1902, she moved to Stamps in neighboring Lafayette County seven years later after marrying Alonza Flowers. She became a community leader and helped her son W. Harold Flowers found the Committee on Negro Organizations, a civil rights group.

At the turn of the twentieth century, a fierce debate raged over which floral emblem would become Arkansas’s official state flower.

Margaret Pittman was born in Prairie Grove in 1901.

The daughter of a country doctor, she sometimes helped him by administering anesthesia or vaccinations. This led her to pursue a career in microbiology after receiving a 1929 doctorate from the University of Chicago.

The state legislature authorized creation of a state sanatorium in 1909, selecting a site about three miles south of Booneville to house white Arkansans with tuberculosis.

Various buildings were constructed to serve the patients over the next twenty years, and in 1938 the Nichols-Nyberg Act allowed creation of a five-story, five-hundred twenty-eight foot long hospital building with doctors’ offices, cafeteria and kitchen, and a morgue. Named the Nyberg Building, it could hold five hundred eleven patients and was soon known worldwide for its treatment of tuberculosis patients.

In 1918, Arkansas and the world were reeling from the deadliest pandemic in human history: the Spanish flu.

The disease may have started in Haskell County, Kansas, from which it quickly spread to a military base crowded with World War I recruits. At North Little Rock’s Camp Pike, the infirmary was soon admitting up to a thousand men a day, leading to a quarantine.

The Arkansas State Hospital has seen a number of changes in its 147-year history.

The General Assembly appropriated $50,000 to create the State Lunatic Asylum in 1873, but political battles kept it from being built until 10 years later.

The asylum was often overcrowded, leading to a series of expansions, and its name was changed to the Arkansas State Hospital for Nervous Disorders in 1905. It became the Arkansas state hospital in 1933.

A New York carpetbagger attempted a coup d’état amid the political upheaval remembered as the Brooks-Baxter War.

Volney Voltaire Smith came to Arkansas following the Civil War working as a newspaperman, a Freedmen's Bureau agent and as Lafayette County clerk. In 1872 he ran as a Republican for lieutenant governor with Elisha Baxter leading the ticket.

B-movie king Roger Corman gave an early boost to the career of the man who later directed “The Silence Of The Lambs.”

Jonathan Demme wrote and directed “Fighting Mad,” a 1976 epic starring Peter Fonda and featuring Scott Glenn. The movie about a horse farmer who seeks bloody retribution after a strip mining firm kills his family members fit Corman's formula of a little violence but not too much, a little sex but not too much, a little politics but not too much.

From 1911 to 1975 the ethnicity of Arkansans was legally defined by the blood of their ancestors.

Act 320 of 1911, also known as the “one drop rule,” defined anyone “who has … any negro blood whatever” as a “Negro,” consigning people with even remote African ancestry to second-class citizenship in segregated Arkansas.

Since 1871, water from a Garland County spring has been consumed for its curative powers, resulting in a multi-million dollar business in the twenty-first century.

Arkadelphia brothers Peter and John Greene were the first to sell Mountain Valley Spring Water, building a hotel at the spring site and marketing the water as a cure for dyspepsia, dropsy, Bright’s Disease, and kidney and liver ailments.

For more than sixty years, the City of Little Rock had a Censor Board to evaluate the “moral appropriateness” of public entertainment.

Created in 1911, the board met sporadically until it was revamped in 1926 and voted a year later to ban two African American newspapers that had covered the lynching of John Carter.

A pair of Searcy County twins played a significant role in the folk revival of the mid-twentieth century.

Abbie Sherman Morrison and Absie Sheridan Morrison were born in 1876, the sons of a Civil War veteran who served in both armies but favored the Union, giving his sons the names of Yankee generals as their middle names.

Anyone who has driven up Highway 65 in Central Arkansas has doubtless noticed the work of African American stonemason Silas Owens.

Torii Hunter, born in Pine Bluff in 1975, had one of the greatest baseball careers of any Arkansan who played the game. A natural athlete, Hunter gravitated toward baseball after a home run in a Little League game at age 13 led to reporters interviewing him.

He was the first draft pick for the Minnesota Twins in 1993, playing with them until the California Angels wooed him away with a ninety million dollar contract in 2007. He later played two seasons with the Detroit Tigers before returning to the Twins.

A cross-dressing Confederate guerrilla pulled off a remarkable subterfuge to give his men a memorable Christmas present in 1864.

Howell A. “Doc” Rayburn, born in 1841, joined the Twelfth Texas Cavalry in October 1861, traveling to Des Arc the following March to board steamboats to cross the Mississippi.

Fred Marshall, born in Memphis and raised in Little Rock, was a talented musician, sculptor, inventor and educator, but is best know for his work on a classic Christmas cartoon.

Marshall, whose mother taught art at Arkansas Tech University, began playing piano at five and was playing bass and drums by the time he went to Little Rock Central High. As a teenager he played at jazz clubs on Ninth Street, remembering that he would hide behind his bass when police entered: “Not only was I underage, I was a white man playing in a black club.”

Cold War tensions led to a nuclear weapon test being named for the Natural State.

Following the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, the Soviet Union announced in August 1961 that it would resume atmospheric testing after a three-year moratorium; the U.S. followed suit in October. The United States conducted thirty-six nuclear tests in the Pacific as part of Operation Dominic.

On December 22nd, 1956, Arkansas hosted the first national championship football game of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Arkansas beat efforts by three other states to land the event, in part because the Louisiana legislature passed a law banning integrated sporting events in the state.

The Little Rock Chamber of Commerce worked with the Aluminum Company of America and Reynolds Metals Company to raise the fifty-thousand dollar fee to pay the CBS television network for hosting rights to what would be known as the Aluminum Bowl.

The spring of 1937 witnessed some of the worst flooding in Arkansas history. January saw nearly thirteen inches of rain fall in Arkansas – eight inches above normal – and similar downpours in other states dropped 165 billion tons of water along the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys.

Two Arkansas National Guard units – the Two Hundred Sixth Coast Artillery and One Hundred Fifty Third Infantry Regiments – fought World War II in an often-overlooked arena of the Pacific Theater: Alaska.

On January 31st, 1897, the Arkansas Gazette reported on a “horrible monster” terrorizing Searcy County.

Called the gowrow based on its horrifying roar, the beast had been slaughtering cattle until a posse tracked it to its cave, littered with human and animal remains, and killed the beast with several volleys of rifle fire, but not before the twenty-foot long, fearsomely tusked gowrow ripped the leg from a posse member.

Woodruff County’s Anita Blackmon wrote more than one thousand short stories and several novels, including mysteries in the “had I but known” school.

Born in Augusta in 1892, Blackmon published her first short stories in 1922 under her married name, Mrs. Harry Pugh Smith, but she would publish her novels using her maiden name. Blackmon’s work was published in Love Story Magazine, Cupid’s Diary and Detective Tales, as well as in serialized versions in the Arkansas Democrat and Arkansas Gazette.

A fake documentary shot for one hundred sixty thousand dollars in 1972 would gross more than twenty million and bring fame to a small south Arkansas town.

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