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.”

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.

Flood control efforts in northeast Arkansas’s Sunken Lands yielded an engineering marvel: The Marked Tree Siphons.

Drainage District Number Seven in Poinsett County was formed in 1917 to help regulate flooding of the Saint Francis River. The Steep Gut Floodway, lock and sluiceway were completed in 1926, but seven years later forty feet of the sluiceway dropped and part of the levee collapsed when the fine sand at its base washed away.

At seven thousand acres, Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge offers a resting place for migratory birds as well as a permanent home for hundreds of species.

The area housing Holla Bend was created in 1954 when an Arkansas River flood control project straightened a section of the river and created an island between the old and new channels. It was turned over to the Department of the Interior three years later to serve as a wildlife refuge.

A pair of colleges in Arkadelphia have maintained a rivalry since 1895 with an annual football game dubbed “The Battle of the Ravine.”

Ouachita Baptist and Henderson State University are located across Highway 67 from each other, making their annual meeting the only game in the country where the visiting team walks across the street for the competition. Some of the scores have been one-sided, with Ouachita winning 66 to zero in 1919 and Henderson taking the 1932 game 62 to nothing.

The wilds of Washington County near Strickler are home to an unusual facility: a decommissioned nuclear reactor.

The Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor, or SEFOR, was completed in 1969 to test whether breeder reactors, which use fast neutrons to create more fuel than they consume, could be used to produce electricity. Though it never achieved that purpose, SEFOR did show that plutonium could be used as reactor fuel instead of uranium.

Mississippi County Community College – now Arkansas Northeastern College – was once in the vanguard of solar energy use.

In 1976, the U.S. Department of Energy chose the fledgling campus to receive the Total Energy Solar Photovoltaic Conversion System, which would generate electricity and hot water. Through the $8.8 million project, 270 solar collectors, each measuring twenty by seven feet, were installed, and the main building was designed with vaulted glass ceilings and wind-breaking devices for energy efficiency.

A 1905 fire devastated downtown Hot Springs and brought a new look to the town’s architecture. Hot Springs was a tourist mecca in the early 1900s, with some coming for the healing waters and others for the rampant illegal activities.

Arkansas artist Adrian Brewer was initially reluctant to accept a commission on what became his most famous painting. Little Rock insurance man Clyde E. Lowry approached Brewer about painting the American flag “when the wind had died down and the gentle folds took their natural place.” Brewer had a thriving practice painting commissioned portraits of prominent Arkansans, but ended up accepting Lowry’s offer.

A Camden furniture merchant was responsible for a phrase we see every time we open our wallets. Matt Rothert, Sr., was born in Indiana in 1904 and moved to Camden twenty years later. He founded the Camden Furniture Company, serving as its president until he retired in 1975. But his true love was coin collecting, a passion he developed when he found his father’s old coins.

Union Civil War veterans formed a fraternal organization after the war that had a surprisingly strong presence in Arkansas. The first Grand Army of the Republic post was founded in Illinois in 1866, and African American veterans formed some of the earliest posts in Arkansas around the same time.

While it was likely a stunt to promote tourism in the area, the short-lived Ozark Golden Wedding Jubilee did recognize long-term marriages as couples renewed their vows. Sponsored by the Rogers Chamber of Commerce, the jubilee celebrated fifty-year marriages while also recognizing a newlywed “honor couple” that would get a week-long honeymoon in Rogers.

Arkansas was one of the first states to recognize a married woman’s right to own property, but it took a half century. Common law held that a married woman’s property would pass to her husband, which concerned fathers who feared their daughters’ bequests could be squandered by worthless husbands. The Territorial Legislature recognized women’s rights to own property in 1835, but the law did not pass into statehood. Governor Archibald Yell vetoed a property law in 1840, fearing that giving women rights would destroy the family.

Arkansas law barred interracial relationships from the territorial period up to the twentieth century, when the U.S. Supreme Court overruled such laws. The Arkansas General Assembly banned miscegenation in 1837, but the law was laxly enforced because of the small number of free blacks in the state. That law was overturned during Reconstruction, and many interracial couples married during the period.

Marion Noble, born at Garner in White County in 1911, was one of three Arkansas men who served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.

Noble’s father was a railroad worker known for treating black and white colleagues equally. After he lost his job, he opened a car repair business where young Marion worked as a mechanic.

Kessler vs. Strecker, a 1939 deportation case, reached the Supreme Court of the United States and continues to be cited in cases involving undocumented immigrants.

Hot Springs restaurant owner Joseph Strecker immigrated to the U.S. in 1912 and applied for citizenship in 1933. He was arrested for having donated sixty cents to a Communist presidential candidate the year before and ordered deported.

Born at Pearson in Cleburne County in 1880, Clay Fulks became a notable figure in the limited history of radical leftism in Arkansas.

Arkansas was once home to one of the largest manufacturers of church furniture in the world. Claude H. Turney opened Turney Wood Products in his Harrison garage in 1946, building furniture for the nearby First Church of the Nazarene.

Using red and white oak harvested in the Ozark Mountains, Turney Wood Products built furniture that was going into one thousand churches annually by the mid-1960s when the firm boasted of being “the largest exclusive church furniture manufacturer in the western hemisphere.”

With her 1977 ordination at Little Rock’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Dr. Peggy Sue Bosmyer became the first female Episcopal priest south of the Mason Dixon Line.

Born in Helena on July 26th, 1948, Bosmyer had served as a deacon in Pine Bluff and an intern curate in Little Rock prior to her ordination. While some said women priests would “tear apart the Church” and one Episcopal leader stated that “we’ve never had a woman priest back to year one,” Arkansas Bishop Christoph Keller Jr. said Bosmyer’s priesthood emphasized “not the maleness but the humanity of Jesus Christ.”

Actor-comedian turned evangelist Joe Jeffers brought turmoil to Jonesboro’s Baptist community, leading to brawls, gunfights and a fatal shooting.

A victim of the Trail of Tears, remembered as “a noble-hearted woman,” is buried in Little Rock’s Mount Holly Cemetery. Elizabeth “Quatie” Ross was born in seventeen ninety-one in the old Cherokee Nation, now part of Georgia.

She married Cherokee chief John Ross in 1813 and after a tribal faction signed the Treaty of New Echota, ceding their rights to their ancestral lands in the southeastern U.S., she and their children accompanied him on the passage to the Indian Territory.

Mary John was born a slave in the late seventeen-eighties in Louisiana but would lead a remarkable life in Arkansas.

She was sold in 1811 to James Scull, an American settler at Arkansas Post. Though she was his slave for nearly thirty years, Mary also was able to work on her own and on September 13th, 1840, she purchased her freedom from Scull for eight hundred dollars. She parlayed her reputation as an excellent cook into a business, opening a renowned hotel and tavern at Arkansas Post.

Freda Hogan Ameringer was born on November 17th, 1892, at Huntington in Sebastian County. The daughter of a founder of the state’s Socialist party, she was a dedicated socialist by her early teens.

With a sound that merged rock stylings with gospel songs, Little Rock’s Gladys McFadden and the Loving Sisters challenged traditional gospel music during the 1960s and ‘70s.

McFadden and the Loving Sisters – Jo Dumas, Ann James and Lorraine Leeks – played before a full band, unlike the stripped-down sounds of most gospel. After a 1964 Chicago performance, a listener wrote a local newspaper: “I was so ashamed of the entire program. I never expected to hear rock and roll at a religious service.”

E. Lynn Harris was born in 1955 in Flint, Michigan, but moved to Little Rock at age three. A frequent library visitor, he fell in love with the writings of James Baldwin and Maya Angelou.

He attended the University of Arkansas, where he was the school’s first black cheerleader and yearbook editor, graduating with honors.

Harris kept his sexual identity secret, which led to depression and a suicide attempt. He found writing therapeutic, and in 1991 self-published his first book, Invisible Life, which led to a three-book deal with Doubleday.

Few Little Rock personalities of the late 1980s attracted more attention than Elton and Betty White.

Betty, born Betty Crandall in Mabelvale in 1927, and Elton, an NBA prospect born in Dumas in 1958, met in 1984 at Little Rock’s Union Rescue Mission and, Betty said, “it was love at first sight.”

A surge in non-traditional students following World War II led to a unique degree program at the Arkansas State Teachers College, now the University of Central Arkansas.

Veterans using the G.I. Bill to pay for college helped swell the student body at the Conway school to fourteen hundred after the war, and many lived with their spouses in mobile homes on the campus. As the couples began having children, college president Nolen Irby devised a program to recognize the youngsters who were growing up on campus – when the parents graduated, so would the children.

The Cardiff Giant, a reputed petrified man found in New York in eighteen sixty nine, spawned a smaller version in Arkansas about ten years later.

While many movies have been made in Arkansas, The White River Kid was not the most memorable. The film’s lead is Arkansas’s Wes Bentley, before his star turn in American Beauty, depicting a serial killer with a butterfly tattoo on his face.

Despite a stellar cast featuring Antonio Banderas, Swoozie Kurtz, Bob Hoskins, Beau Bridges, Randy Travis and Ellen Barkin, as well as presidential brother Roger Clinton, the movie is muddled by a series of disjointed subplots that detract from the Kid’s pursuit of a path to redemption by way of his fiance’s hillbilly relatives.

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