Arkansas History

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.

Hoga
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
www.save-the-delta-queen.org

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
www.deltaqueen.com

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.

The recent Johnny Cash Heritage Festival in Dyess has reneweed interest in the musical legend's childhood. 

In this new video from Arkansas Public Media, we take a look inside the agricultural resettlement home in rural Dyess where Johnny, then known as J.R., lived with his parents and six siblings after the Great Depression. 

Johnny Cash Festival To Honor 50th Anniversary Of Prison Concert

Oct 16, 2018
Johnny Cash Boyhood Home
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Man in Black was on the verge of losing it all. He was recently divorced, and drugs and alcohol continued to ravage Johnny Cash’s body and mind. He needed a comeback, and it was time to gamble.

Cash arrived at Folsom, a prison near Sacramento, Calif., on Jan. 13, 1968. His performance in front of about 1,000 inmates, became one of the most iconic moments in American music and resurrected his career.

Students prepare for a previous presentation of Tales of the Crypt at Little Rock's historic Mount Holly Cemetery.
Parkview High School

Rain is again impacting the annual Tales of the Crypt which is normally held at Little Rock’s historic Mount Holly Cemetery. The event features high school students portraying the many notable people who are buried there.

It was originally scheduled to be held last Tuesday, Oct. 9, but thunderstorms prompted organizers to postpone it until this Tuesday. With rain again in the forecast, the event will not be held at the cemetery, but instead in the auditorium at Parkview Arts & Science Magnet High School.

Students prepare for a previous presentation of Tales of the Crypt at Little Rock's historic Mount Holly Cemetery.
Parkview High School

UPDATE: With rain in the forecast Tuesday evening, Tales of the Crypt has been postponed, now scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 16 beginning at 6 p.m.

ORIGINAL STORY:  

Parkview High School’s drama department will present its 24th annual Tales of the Crypt at Little Rock's Mount Holly Cemetery on Tuesday. Students will portray notable Arkansas residents who are buried at the historic cemetary. 

Elizabeth Eckford
National Park Service/ Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A bench now on display across from Little Rock’s Central High School commemorates one key moment from the school’s desegregation. It is a replica of one Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine sat on in 1957 after being kept from entering the school by national guardsmen.

Tuesday’s unveiling coincided with the 61st anniversary of the event.

Central High School’s Memory Project aims to encourage students to remember past events of the high school and to keep the memory of the Civil Rights Movement alive.

Hotel Pines
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A $35 million project is underway in Pine Bluff to restore the once-grand Hotel Pines. The 105-year-old structure at the corner of 5th Avenue and Main Street was designed by George Mann, the same architect who designed the Arkansas state Capitol and the Marion Hotel in Little Rock.

Relocation, Arkansas: Aftermath of Incarceration
www.relocationarkansas.com

A documentary film probes the impact that a World War II Japanese American internment camp had on a community in southeast Arkansas, and on later generations. "Relocation, Arkansas: Aftermath of Incarceration" is being shown Friday at 3 p.m. at the Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock.

Louis Jordan Highway
Stephen Koch / Arkansongs

A pioneering musician from Brinkley is being posthumously honored by having part of U.S. 49 in eastern Arkansas dedicated as the Louis Jordan Memorial Highway. A ceremony was held Monday with officials from the Arkansas Department of Transportation and other dignitaries who came together to unveil a sign alongside the highway.

KAAY Barry McCorkindale Arkansas Sounds John Miller
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A legendary Little Rock radio station will be celebrated with an event Friday night. In its heyday during the 1960s and '70s, KAAY-AM 1090 played top 40 music during the day and progressive rock at night. With a powerful signal that reached most of Arkansas during the day, at night KAAY's secondary pattern reached much of the U.S., as well as other counties.

Arkansas Celebrates 182 Years Of Statehood

Jun 14, 2018
Arkansas Secretary of State

Admitted in 1836 as the 25th state to enter the country, Arkansas has seen its fair share of historical events in its journey from territory to statehood. The state is commemorating its 182-year history with a birthday celebration Friday.

The Old Statehouse Museum in Little Rock recognized the birthday anniversary with a kickoff event last Saturday. The museum is partnering with several local businesses throughout the week who will be donating a portion of their proceeds to museum funds leading up to Friday.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

James White stands in front of what he says will be the site of a small museum memorializing the state’s largest massacre of blacks in 1919.

It’s a boarded up storefront — a brick corner building on the main drag of downtown Elaine, Arkansas, a town of just over 600 people in the Arkansas Delta.

Elaine Race Massacre
Arkansas State Archives

King cotton’s prices were on the rise, but the black sharecroppers who picked it were not benefiting. It was Sept. 30, 1919, and the harvest was about to get underway.

About 100 sharecroppers met at a church in the town of Elaine, a small town in Phillips County that sits in the vast Mississippi Delta Region. Armed black guards protected the people inside. Suddenly, white men appeared outside.

The Gangster Museum of America

Baseball players will join organized crime figures at the Gangster Museum of America in Hot Springs.

Museum owner Robert Raines says a century ago the city played a significant role in spring training and believes what is now a gallery will soon become something larger.

“We do want to put together a national museum, so this is just a little snippet of what is to come. There’s a lot of baseball history here, so we’ll start reaching out to some major corporations here later this summer and hopefully within a couple of years we’ll have it all put together,” Raines said.

Bill Clinton
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Bill Clinton was known as the rock ‘n’ roll president – the first from a generation that grew up on the music to reach the highest office in the nation. Sunday, he spoke at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock at the opening of a temporary exhibit that looks at the impact rock music has had over the years on politics and social movements.

The city of Walnut Ridge is the only city in Arkansas where the Beatles ever set foot during their touring days as a band, and seven years ago Mayor Charles Snapp and a group of civic leaders wanted to commemorate the event with a festival. This year, it struck gold.

Beatles at the Ridge was chosen by the Arkansas Festivals and Events Association (AFEA) as its Gold winner, or the best festival in the state in 2017. Snapp told Talk Business & Politics he can’t believe this event, without a single paid staffer, has been selected as the best in Arkansas.

Dr. Kenneth Jones and and Dr. Laverne Bell-Tolliver were two of the 25 students who desegregated Little Rock's junior high schools in phase two of the school district's desegregation plan. Bell-Tolliver edited the book The First Twenty-Five, An Oral Histo
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The story of the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School by nine black students is well known. But overshadowed is phase two of the school district’s desegregation plan, which involved 25 students attending five previously all-white junior high schools in 1961 and 1962.

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