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Defining Moments

Historic Decisions by Arkansas Governors from McMath through Huckabee

Robert L. Brown

Publication Year: 2010

Defining Moments explores how all Arkansas governors since Sid McMath (a group that has produced a president, two U.S. senators, and two presidential contenders) acted in times of crisis. These ten exceptional leaders stand out in Arkansas history and politics for having had their personal and political mettle tested by issues concerning education, the environment, social justice, the conduct of politics, race, and more of the nation’s defining debates. The governors and situations covered include Sid McMath’s bout with the Dixiecrats; Francis Cherry’s ploy to label his opponent a Communist; Orval Faubus’s decision to block integration at Little Rock Central High; Winthrop Rockefeller’s tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. on the State Capitol steps; Dale Bumpers’s battle against political corruption; David Pryor’s veto of the U.S. Corps of Engineers’s Bell Folley Dam; Frank White’s endorsement of Creationism; Bill Clinton’s decision to test public school teachers; Jim Guy Tucker’s bold solution for the Medicaid program and his resignation; and Mike Huckabee’s quest to consolidate the state’s high school districts.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

Front Matter

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix

My personal thanks to Martha Patton, who took this project on as a second job and worked nights and weekends on multiple drafts, often catching my mistakes. My thanks, too, to Martha F. Ferson, a student at the University of the South (Sewanee), and Brian Pipkin, who labored mightily at the History Commission ...

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pp. xi-xiii

The journalist Mignon McLaughlin once observed that “courage can’t see around corners, but goes around them anyway.” In many respects, that’s what this wonderful book is all about: the courage and convictions of men in positions of enormous responsibility, when faced with decisions that had the potential ...

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pp. xv-xvi

The idea of examining a defining moment for each of Arkansas’s governors over the past sixty years has always intrigued me. I first thought of it in terms of John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer prize– winning book, Profiles in Courage. The evolution of that concept over the years, having mulled it over and massaged the idea, has ...

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SID McMATH: 1949-1953

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pp. 3-14

On February 2, 1948, President Harry Truman issued his civil rights message to Congress. He wrote: “Not all groups are free to live and work where they please or to improve their conditions of life by their own efforts. Not all groups enjoy the full privileges of citizenship.”1 He called on Congress to enact “modern, comprehensive ...

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pp. 15-20

It was said of Warren G. Harding, the twenty-ninth president of the United States, that he looked like a president. So it was with Francis Cherry. He looked like a governor. Handsome and stately with a flowing mane of white hair and with an erect bearing reminiscent of the chancery judge he had once been, his appearance ...

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ORVAL FAUBUS: 1955-1967

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pp. 21-36

Orval Faubus liked being governor. He liked the power and the trappings, but most of all he liked the fact that people knew who he was. Even the swells who lived in the Heights in west Little Rock knew him now. They may have looked down on him as that hillbilly or country bumpkin from Greasy Creek in the Francis Cherry ...

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pp. 37-48

Winthrop Rockefeller lifted his hulking six-foot four-inch frame from his chair and lumbered across his study at the governor’s mansion. His wife, Jeannette, sat still and watched him evenly. The day before, Thursday, April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel ...

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DALE BUMPERS: 1971-1975

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pp. 49-62

The room slowly filled on the first floor of the state capitol for the seven o’clock meeting held each morning during the 1973 legislative session.1 Staff, legislative floor managers, and department heads attended. When the governor walked in, everyone stood, then sat, and Dale Bumpers began talking about what was ...

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DAVID PRYOR: 1975-1979

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pp. 63-74

Arkansas is called the Natural State for good reason. Its abundant forests and wildlife accented by free-flowing streams and majestic mountain ranges make it a vacationer’s paradise. Dale Bumpers, when he was governor, was wont to say, “Arkansas is a well-kept secret, and we want to keep it that way.” Though economic development ...

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FRANK WHITE: 1981-1983

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pp. 75-88

To Governor Frank White, the issue was an easy one. “Hey, it’s fair,” you could hear him say. “You teach evolution, you teach creation science.” Reduced down to a question of balanced teaching and a structural, managerial approach, White was at ease with his commitment to allow both to be taught in the public ...

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BILL CLINTON: 1979-1981; 1983-1992

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pp. 106-125

Bill Clinton leaned back in his chair and stuck his long legs under his desk. With his left elbow propped against the arm of his chair, he placed his thumb under his chin and extended his forefinger along the side of his face. Thus supported, he watched his wife, Hillary, and his chief of staff, Betsy Wright, debate the politics ...

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JIM GUY TUCKER: 1992-1996

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pp. 109-120

The event that Jim Guy Tucker had lived and prepared for his entire life was minutes away. At 4:45 p.m. on Monday, December 12, 1992, he was to be sworn in as the state’s forty-third governor by Chief Justice Jack Holt Jr. in the chamber of the House of Representatives. President-elect Bill Clinton had just officially ...

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MIKE HUCKABEE: 1996-2007

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pp. 121-138

The tsunami created by the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Lake View decision on November 12, 2002, threatened a sea change in public education as it had been known, structured, and funded for decades.1 The court’s ruling struck down the formula used to fund public education on grounds that it fostered inequality in ...

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pp. 137-138

If there is a constant thread that weaves throughout this book, it is that our governors fill a critical role for our state that oftentimes requires extraordinarily difficult decisions to be made. For the most part, our governors over the past sixty plus years have responded courageously. My intent has been to show how ...


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pp. 139-142


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pp. 143-151

E-ISBN-13: 9781610751230
E-ISBN-10: 161075123X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557289445
Print-ISBN-10: 1557289441

Page Count: 105
Illustrations: 26 photographs
Publication Year: 2010