I think most of the regular readers of Sonya’s Happenings… know that I am from Arkansas. I am going to try to post a little bit every now and then about our little state. I thought that I might talk about some of the famous people that are from Arkansas in this post. I have to admit there are more people here than I thought, and I know I didn’t catch them all.
The most famous Arkansan, known even to people in the remotest corners of the world, is obviously Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States. Clinton, born in Hope, Ark., was governor of the state before he was elected to the presidency. Clinton was the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve two full terms as chief executive. He served as President from 1996 to 2001, the second youngest man to ever hold the Presidential office
Mike Huckabee, another Arkansas governor, coincidentally also a Hope native, was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. His daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Huckabee Sanders is an American campaign manager and political adviser who serves as the White House press secretary under President Donald Trump. Sanders is the third woman to fill the position.
One of the most influential Arkansans of all time was J. William Fulbright, who represented the state in the U.S. Senate for 30 years. Fulbright was the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Dale Bumpers and Joseph T. Robinson are other famous Arkansans who served in the U.S. Senate. Robinson was also the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 1928. Hattie Caraway, who served in the 1930s and early 1940s, was the first woman elected to the Senate, quite a distinction. Carraway lived a large portion of her life in Jonesboro, Arkansas after earning a teaching degree and marrying the love of her life.
Winthrop Rockefeller wasn’t born in Arkansas, but he loved the state so much, he made his home there and eventually became governor. Winthrop was a son of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and a brother of Nelson Rockefeller. Martha Mitchell never held office, but she certainly had the nation’s attention for a while. Martha, who was born in the Pine Bluff, was the outspoken wife of John Mitchell, the attorney general in the Nixon administration.
Arkansas produced three of the greatest entrepreneurs in U.S. history. They all formed major corporations that are based in Arkansas. J.B. Hunt founded the large trucking company that bears his name. Donald J. Tyson was the president and chief executive officer of Tyson Foods. Sam Walton may not be a name everyone is familiar with, but chances are you love what he created… Walton, the founder of the huge retail chain of Walmart stores, was born and raised in Bentonville, Arkansas. Walton left a legacy to his family, and he may well be one of the richest men in America.
One of the most successful contemporary novelists is John Grisham former lawyer and current author, is from Jonesboro, Arkansas. Grisham is the author of the award-winning books “The Client”, “The Pelican Brief”, “A Time To Kill”, and several other titles. Other famous literary figures from Arkansas are the late John Gould Fletcher, acclaimed poet, and C. Vann Woodward, a well-regarded historian of the Cold War era. Eldridge Cleaver, author of Soul on Ice, also came from Arkansas. Another native Arkansan was Helen Gurley Brown, the famous editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. Maya Angelo is another highly recognized name from Arkansas. As one of the world’s most notable black poets, some have hailed Angelo as the best. May was born in 1928 in Missouri and has lived many years of her life in the state.
Arkansans have greatly enriched American culture. In fact, it’s amazing that one state could produce so many big-name entertainers who made their mark on American music. Topping the list, of course, is the legendary Scott Joplin, the influential composer and pianist whose name is virtually synonymous with ragtime. Glen Campbell, always proud to tell the world he was born in Delight, Ark., had many memorable hits, including Wichita Lineman and By the Time I Get to Phoenix. Johnny Cash, who was really in a class all by himself, is another famous Arkansan. His songs, such as I Walk the Line and Ring of Fire, have become American standards. Country music singers Charlie Rich, of Behind Closed Doors fame, and Conway Twitty are from Arkansas, as are singer Al Green and singer/piano accompanist Floyd Cramer.
Movie stars Dick Powell and Alan Ladd came from Arkansas. Billy Bob Thornton, actor and former husband of Angelina Jolie lived his entire life in Hot Spring, Arkansas before he began his acting career. Aside from his marriage to Jolie, Thornton is known for his role on the television series hearts Afire and the hit movie Slingblade. Actress Mary Steenburgen was born in Newport, Arkansas. Steenburgen is most known for her role in the 1990’s hit television series Designing Women.
Paul Bear Bryant, whose celebrated career at the University of Alabama made him one of the most successful college football coaches of all time, was an Arkansas native. So was another outstanding coach, Barry Switzer, who enjoyed great success at the University of Oklahoma and with the Dallas Cowboys. Speaking of the Cowboys, the head honcho, owner and general manager Jerry Jones is another Arkansan.
Former NBA all-star Scottie Pippen hails from Hamburg, Arkansas. Pippen is most known for his days playing basketball alongside greats such as Michael Jordan during his career in the early 1990’s with the Chicago Bulls. Retired since 2004, Pippen played a good game of ball, no doubt, even earning himself a spot on the NBA’s list of “50 Greatest Players of All Time”. So was Mark Martin, NASCAR driver.
Outstanding Major League Baseball players who came from Arkansas were the legendary Dizzy Dean, Hall of Fame pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs; George Kell, a Major League star who later became an announcer for the Detroit Tigers; Brooks Robinson, an outstanding third baseman for many seasons with the Baltimore Orioles; Wally Moon, who was an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers; and Lou Brock, star outfielder for the Cardinals.
I must admit that I loved pulling together this list of famous people. Johnny Cash really is my favorite. I grew up listening to his music in my Dad’s old farm truck. I can still hear my Dad singing along with the radio now. Sweet, sweet times. Man could that man sing, and I’m not talking about Johnny Cash!
Who is someone “famous” from your state?