Arkansas History

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

Johnny Cash Daisy Bates
Library of Congress/ National Park Service

A proposal to replace Arkansas’s two statues in the U.S. Capitol with singer Johnny Cash and civil rights leader Daisy Bates has advanced to the state House of Representatives for what could be a final vote. The bill was passed in the Arkansas Senate last month with no one voting against it.

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Rights Of Woman Lecture

Mar 4, 2019

On September 28, 1869, the Arkansas Gazette published a notice from one Miss Louise F. Vickers inviting Little Rock citizens to hear her lecture on “The Rights of Woman.”

While Vickers avoids inflammatory suffrage language in her advertisement, she does say “the subject is justly creating much comment throughout the United States and will continue to exercise the minds of just men and thinking women until woman is admitted to her proper sphere in the orbit of society now unjustly withheld from her.”

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: 1869 Arkansas Gazette Editorial

Mar 4, 2019

Even before Arkansas women began formally organizing women’s suffrage campaigns, the February 25, 1869 edition of the Arkansas Gazette ran an editorial lampooning the very notion.

It begins, “And are they serious in this movement in favor of woman’s rights?” and asks “Don’t [women] wield already the most absolute despotism on earth? .... are not all men slaves to their caprices?”

The only right of women the writer is willing to endorse is the “right to dress, to look as pretty as they please.”

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Letter To Susan B. Anthony

Mar 4, 2019

After attempting and failing to include women’s right to vote in the 1868 Arkansas Constitution, Arkadelphian Miles Ledford Langley wrote a letter to Susan B. Anthony, a leader of the national suffrage movement.

He told her that not only had the convention failed “to guarantee to woman her God-given and well-earned rights of civil and political equality,” his motion, he said, was met with “ridicule, sarcasm, and insult.”

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.

Clinton Presidential Center Library
Wikimedia Commons

The Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock is celebrating Presidents Day with free admission on Monday. The only other day during the year that it offers free admission is in August to celebrate former President Bill Clinton’s birthday.

All temporary and permanent exhibits are open, including the recently unveiled "Mighty Mississippi: A Mosaic of America’s Growth."

Spokeswoman Rebecca Tennille says the exhibit is a great opportunity to see what the presidential library has to offer.

Many may be surprised to learn that the first recorded demand for women’s suffrage in Arkansas was made in 1868.

Suffrage in Sixty Seconds: The Declaration Of Sentiments

Feb 5, 2019

Originally, the U.S. Constitution did not specifically deny women the right to vote; instead it deferred to individual state suffrage laws, allowing each state to determine who could and could not vote. Many states, including Arkansas, defined eligible voters as “male.”

In July 1848 at a convention in Seneca Falls, New York, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony issued the Declaration of Sentiments, calling for equal rights for women. It declared, “That it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.”

Suffrage in Sixty Seconds: Arkansas's 19th Amendment Ratification

Feb 5, 2019

On July 28th, 1919, Arkansas became the twelfth state to ratify the nineteenth amendment, giving American women the right to vote.

Suffrage in Sixty Seconds will celebrate the centennial of Arkansas’s ratification and recount the long journey to women’s suffrage and the state’s role in that journey. We will travel from Seneca Falls, New York to Little Rock, and finally to Washington DC. We will commemorate the lives of the courageous and determined people, both men and women, in Arkansas and beyond, whose tirelessly work gave women a political voice.

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.”

Maxine Brown Russell
County Music Hall of Fame

Maxine Brown Russell, a country music singer and songwriter who performed as part of a trio with her siblings Jim Ed Brown and Bonnie Brown, died Monday in hospice care in Little Rock. She was 87.

The Browns had several hits in the 1950s and ‘60s, including "The Three Bells" which topped Billboard’s country and Hot 100 pop charts for weeks and sold more than a million copies. The group was also nominated for a Grammy. They joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1963 and were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015.

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.

Marion County in northwest Arkansas was created in 1836, and though its population was only around three hundred, political divisions were sharp, with the Everett clan supporting the Democrats and the Tutt family backing the Whigs. Matters came to a head with an 1844 brawl at a campaign debate in Yellville, and the Tutt-Everett War began, fueled by alcohol and gunfire.

With a series of bombings on Labor Day 1959, opponents of segregation in the Little Rock School District made a final, symbolic and futile gesture.


Mississippi County’s Big Lake region was the site of a forty-year conflict between local hunters and wealthy northerners who came to hunt the area’s abundant game.


Big Lake was created by the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811 and 1812 and the deer, fish and fowl in the area provided a steady source of food for local residents for generations. After railroads came to northeast Arkansas in the 1870s, the locals made good money selling the game to northern restaurants. But wealthy hunters followed, buying land and leasing hunting clubs to push the local hunters out.


Terry Wallace
Oaklawn Racing and Gaming

Longtime Oaklawn racetrack announcer Terry Wallace has died after a lengthy illness, officials announced Thursday. He was 74.

From 1975 to 2011 Wallace never missed a race, calling a record 20,191 races at the Hot Springs track. He was eventually inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2009, KUAR’s Ron Breeding interviewed Wallace for a profile as he was nearing 20,000 consecutive races. The audio of that report can be heard above. Breeding also recorded video of Wallace calling one race, which can be watched below.

David Monteith / KUAR News

Three years ago, the World War II tugboat Hoga arrived at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum. Friday, at an event commemorating the attack on Pearl Harbor, the public will be allowed to tour the boat for the first time.

The Delta Queen

After a decade in dock, the historic 1920s-era Delta Queen riverboat will cruise again.

President Donald Trump signed legislation on Tuesday authorizing the 285-foot-long (87-meter-long) riverboat immortalized in poems and songs to cruise again along the Mississippi and several other rivers.

Delta Queen

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Tuesday on legislation that would allow a steamboat built in the 1920s to resume taking passengers up and down the Mississippi River and tributaries like the Arkansas River.

A bill regarding the Delta Queen has already passed in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 94-to-6.

Lee Powell, executive director of the Delta Grassroots Caucus, has been advocating for the legislation. He says the steamboat resuming operations would create 150 jobs and spur tourism. But there would also be broader benefits, he said.

Betty Bumpers
Jason Masters

Betty Bumpers, a former Arkansas first lady who advocated for childhood immunizations nationwide and pushed for limiting nuclear arms proliferation, has died. She was 93.

Bumpers, long married to former Arkansas governor and four-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, died Friday at her home in Little Rock following a recent fall and complications with dementia, according to her daughter, Brooke Bumpers.

Steve Inskeep
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

When he's not on the air as co-host of the country's most-listened-to radio news program, NPR's Steve Inskeep is something of a historian.

His 2015 book Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and A Great American Land Grab focuses on the contentious relationship between Cherokee leader John Ross and the nation's seventh president, all while analyzing the conditions leading up to the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the subsequent Trail of Tears.

Robinson Center
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A new permanent exhibit tells the history of Little Rock’s Robinson Center. The auditorium opened in 1939 and has hosted important events and performances over the decades. Two years ago it reopened after a $70 million renovation and expansion.

On Friday a curtain was dropped along a wall on the second floor unveiling the 50-foot long display, with a crowd responding with applause. At the start of the timeline is a nearly 10-foot tall photo of former Arkansas Governor and U.S. Senator Joe T. Robinson.

Slideshow: The Restoration Of The Arkansas House Of Representatives Chamber

Oct 24, 2018
Makayla Ealy / KUAR News

After a decade of restoration, work has been completed in the  Arkansas State Capitol's House chamber.  Members of the press were invited Wednesday to see the final phase of the restoration. The final phase included the restoration of the floor and installing new desks, which were constructed to match the original 1914 design by F.H. Peckwell, a Little Rock architect. He drew up plans for desks in both the House and Senate chambers, which were never built.