Sunday, October 04, 2009

Arkansas Before and After Winthrop Rockefeller

Diane D. Blair and Jay Barth. Arkansas Politics and Government. 2nd Ed. Lincoln, Ne.: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.

The authors note that, through most of Arkansas’s history through the end of the 20th century that Arkansas had many lower than average income residents who were more concerned with earning a living than they were, as compared to voters in other states, with public affairs. They desired general services and were satisfied to receive them. The authors state their central premise is that it has only in recent decades has state government begun to have an active and positive role upon Arkansas residents.

Arkansas territorial government was strongly influence by people with business and banking interests who controlled patronage. They also through corruption and mismanagement led to bank failures that created three million dollars in state debt.

The Federal government provided one third of the state’s land to the state government for public purposes. The school and roads many hopes would be built did not result. Poorly built levees did emerge yet they were constructed so badly they were swept away. In 1927, floods covered 13% of the state.

Arkansas was admitted as a slave union in conjunction with admitting Michigan as a free state. The Democratic Party was the primary party in Arkansas as the opposing Whigs never received over 33% of the vote in Arkansas Presidential elections from 1836 through 1856, whereupon the Whigs collapsed as a party.

Arkansas was slow to adopt public education. Governor John Roane, who served from 1849 through 1852, declared that “I am convinced, after investigation in to the history of the common school, that no possible good can come of it.” Affirmative action policies may have delayed in a state that descended from one led by Governor Jeff Davis, who served 1901 to 1907, who explained that “nigger domination will never prevail in this country…as long as shotguns and rifles lie around loose and we are able to pull the trigger”. Public education came to Arkansas but even Governor Junius Futrell, who served in 1933 to 1937, argued for public school funding to go only through the eighth grade.

Arkansas is also a state that descended from the leadership of Governor Orval Faubus who in 1957 attempted to stop the desegregation of Little Rock public schools by ordering the Arkansas National Guard to seize the schools and prevent the admission of African American students. It took President Eisenhower to command the 101st Airborne Infantry Division to see the schools admitted the students.

The authors, though, note that segregationist attitudes were stronger in other Southern states. There were few fewer race baiting instances in Arkansas than in most other Southern states. Arkansas voters initially were not as supportive towards succeeding from the Union as in other states as Special Convention candidates who favored remaining in the Union received 23,628 votes compared to 17,927 votes cast for candidates who favored succession. An initial vote to join the Confederacy failed by 139 to 25. It took the attack on Fort Sumter to switch the attitude of Arkansas representatives to favor joining the Confederacy, which passed 65 to 5.

After Reconstructionists were replaced by Redeemers, composed of Confederate heros, business leaders, and agriculture leaders, gained political control of Arkansas, it was their general philosophy that state government should be as inactive as possible while business interests were to operate with as little oversight as possible.

African Americans were allowed to vote in elections and even in primaries (often called “white primaries” in Southern states that excluded Blacks from voting in them) far sooner than in most other Southern states. A poll tax was initiated in 1891, though, in an attempt to lower Black voter turnout. “White primaries” ended in Arkansas and all other states with a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1944. Governor Homer Adkins reaction to this court decision was to announce that “if I cannot be nominated by the white voters of Arkansas, I do not want that office.”

In 1940, 3% of African American adults paid the poll taxes. In 1948, 21% of African Americans adults voted. In 1970, 72% of African American adults voted.

The first traditionally all-White Southern state to desegregate was the University of Arkansas Law School in 1948. Charleston, Arkansas was the first former Confederate school district to integrate its schools in 1954. Even Governor Faubus appointed six African Americans to the Arkansas Democratic State Committee.

Attitudes began changing in Arkansas. State Rep. Paul Van Dalsem stated in 1963 “when one of our women starts poking around in something she doesn’t know about, we get her an extra milk cow. If that doesn’t work, we give her a little more garden to tend. And then if that is not enough, we get her pregnant and keep her barefoot.” Van Dalsem was defeated for reelection in an election where many women voted and took off their shoes as they went in to vote. Van Dalsem would later be elected back to the state legislature where he became a cosponsor of a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

Arkansas was predominately a state where Democrats did well from 1900 through 1948, where Republicans at most received 15% of the vote for their candidates for Governor. From 1950 to 1960, Republicans were able to increase their top vote to 22%. In 1966, a Republican, Winthrop Rockefeller, was elected Governor. More recently, Mike Huckabee served as a Republican Governor of Arkansas.

Economically, Arkansas changed from a primarily agricultural state as of 1939, and prior to then, to a state that had more service and white collar occupations by 2000.

2 Comments:

Blogger University said...

We have a few college students online from college of Southern Arkansas University and we love your blog postings, so well add your rss or news feed for them, Thanks and please post us and leave a comment back and well link to you. Thanks Jen , Blog Manager Southern Arkansas University.

10:14 PM  
Blogger Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny said...

Thank you for finding this blog and not cringing at reading it. I will be posting my notes on a number of books I am reading, so I hope every now and then there is information useful to some students. Remember, no plagarizing. Just copy what I write and then list me as your source. (Are blogs accepted for college papers?) Of course, you know: I only write the truth. If you don't believe me, please me my blog the Irrational Injurer.

10:05 AM  

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