Arkansas Politics

Arkansas Politics

Arkansas Politics General Information

The politics of the state of Arkansas has its own characteristic features, and it makes an interesting study. We shall trace the history of Arkansan politics to the present day and establish the relevance of the politics of this state with the rest of the U.S. Some famous politicians like William Jefferson, Bill Clinton and Winthrop Rockefeller hail from Arkansas.

Arkansas Politics Early History

Since its very inception in 1819, the people of Arkansas have always been very politically-oriented. Arkansans have always taken their politics very seriously. The early years brought in a rough, yet democratic political process. The politics of Arkansas were of a highly personal matter. On approaching statehood, focus turned to regional issues.

The Effect of the Civil War

The American Civil War created a major upheaval in the state and the only beneficial result was that of the freeing of slaves and giving the African-Americans their rights. But it was not until the 1960s that the African-Americans actually got a fairer deal, to some extent.

We will now delve into some of the aspects of the history of Arkansas politics, tracking it from the early years, then right into the dawn of the 21st century.

  • Arkansas, 1819 to 1833: This is usually considered as the first political period of any significance. The reason of this is that the State of Arkansas was formed in 1819 and the term of the first secretary of Arkansas, Robert Crittenden, who ruled from 1819 to 1833. Robert Crittenden played a major role in the creation of the legislature and judiciary of the Government of Arkansas. He also set a date for the election of the members of the legislature and judiciary. It was only when he lost the election for Governor in 1833 that his reign came to an end.

  • 1860-1877:  In 1861, Arkansas seceded from the union and joined the confederation. It was a period of upheaval which only subsided with the Arkansas again joining the union. All however was not well during this period as it is during this time that Jim Crow passed obnoxious laws which discriminated African-Americans. This period also saw the rise of the “Klu Klux Klan”, an organization dedicated to the promotion of white power.

  • This period is also known as “reconstruction”, which refers to the attempt of Arkansans to restore the pre-civil war conditions which were ultimately thwarted, but not before causing bad blood on both sides of the movement. There were three phases to the Reconstruction.

  • Presidential Reconstruction: (1863-1866): It was monitored by the two presidents – Andrew Johnson and Abraham Lincoln. Their aim was to reunite the country but it gave rise to an opposition group called the Radical Republicans.

  • Radical Reconstruction (1866-1873): This group came into existence after the elections of 1866 and was opposed to the policies of the Presidential Reconstruction.

  • Redemption (1873-1877): The Reconstruction movement was ended by the Redemption which was a movement started by Southerners (Scalawags) and Northerners who allied themselves with the Freedmen (freed slaves) to participate in politics of the land and hold public office.

  • The Gilded Age (1877-1890): By then the political process had come of age. There was typical polarization of ethno-cultural groups, the main two classic groups being the Republicans and the Democrats. The ruling party was the”Grand Old Party” or GOP with republican orientations. The spoils system emerged and of course, the groups that opposed this system.

  • Political groups were now very clearly based on religious demarcations. Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists and Scandinavian Lutherans from the north were aligned with the GOP whereas German Lutherans Episcopalians and Catholics had leanings to the Democratic Party which was pro-prohibition. Prohibition emerged as a major bone of contention between these two groups, especially later, during the prohibition years from 1918 to 1932.

  • Progressive Era (1896-1932): During this period, the republicans came to the fore. This period also brought in the “fourth party system”, characterized by Republican dominance. Two major events during this era were women’s suffrage and prohibition. Arkansas was a supporter of the 19th amendment which revolves around the right to vote and from which the women’s suffrage movement drew its momentum from.

  • 1932 to 1980 and the New Deal: In 1933, Roosevelt took over as the 32nd U.S. president. He ushered in the New Deal which was a response to the Great Depression of 1930. The New Deal brought about consolidation of the Democratic Party. The politics under Roosevelt were indeed very reformist. He was a champion of the agricultural sector, thereby giving a boost to the state of Arkansas.

Government and Politics of Arkansasa Today

Today Little Rock is the capital city in the county of Pulaski. The ruling party is the Democratic Party. This is an exception to the other southern states which are under Republican rule. Arkansas had some exceptional glory in the year 1992 when Arkansan Bill Clinton won the presidential election.

Conclusion

Today the politics of Arkansas is as mature as it gets in terms of stability, refinement and popular participation. Arkansas is indeed today a major force in the meld of the American political process.

List of Governors in Arkansas

S.No. Governor Term Start Term End Party Lt. Governor
1 James Sevier Conway September 13, 1836 November 4, 1840 Democratic None
2 Archibald Yell November 4, 1840 April 29, 1844 Democratic
Samuel Adams April 29, 1844 November 5, 1844 Democratic
3 Thomas Stevenson Drew November 5, 1844 January 10, 1849 Democratic
Richard C. Byrd January 10, 1849 April 19, 1849 Democratic
4 John Selden Roane April 19, 1849 November 15, 1852 Democratic
5 Elias Nelson Conway November 15, 1852 November 16, 1860 Democratic
6 Henry Massey Rector November 16, 1860 November 4, 1862 Democratic
7 Harris Flanagin November 4, 1862 April 18, 1864 Democratic
8 Isaac Murphy April 18, 1864 July 2, 1868 Republican Calvin C. Bliss
James M. Johnson
9 Powell Clayton July 2, 1868 March 17, 1871 Republican James M. Johnson
Ozra Amander Hadley
March 17, 1871 January 6, 1873 Republican vacant
10 Elisha Baxter January 6, 1873 November 12, 1874 Republican Volney V. Smith
11 Augustus Hill Garland November 12, 1874 January 11, 1877 Democratic None
12 William Read Miller January 11, 1877 January 11, 1881 Democratic
13 Thomas James Churchill January 11, 1881 January 13, 1883 Democratic
14 James Henderson Berry January 13, 1883 January 17, 1885 Democratic
15 Simon Pollard Hughes, Jr. January 17, 1885 January 8, 1889 Democratic
16 James Philip Eagle January 8, 1889 January 10, 1893 Democratic
17 William Meade Fishback January 10, 1893 January 8, 1895 Democratic
18 James Paul Clarke January 8, 1895 January 12, 1897 Democratic
19 Daniel Webster Jones January 12, 1897 January 8, 1901 Democratic
20 Jeff Davis January 8, 1901 January 8, 1907 Democratic
21 John Sebastian Little January 8, 1907 February 15, 1907 Democratic
John Isaac Moore February 15, 1907 May 14, 1907 Democratic
Xenophon Overton Pindall May 14, 1907 January 11, 1909 Democratic
Jesse M. Martin January 11, 1909 January 14, 1909 Democratic
22 George Washington Donaghey January 14, 1909 January 16, 1913 Democratic
23 Joseph Taylor Robinson January 16, 1913 March 8, 1913 Democratic
William Kavanaugh Oldham March 8, 1913 March 13, 1913 Democratic
Junius Marion Futrell March 13, 1913 July 23, 1913 Democratic
24 George Washington Hays July 23, 1913 January 10, 1917 Democratic vacant
25 Charles Hillman Brough January 10, 1917 January 11, 1921 Democratic
26 Thomas Chipman McRae January 11, 1921 January 13, 1925 Democratic
27 Tom Jefferson Terral January 13, 1925 January 11, 1927 Democratic
28 John Ellis Martineau January 11, 1927 March 4, 1928 Democratic Harvey Parnell
29 Harvey Parnell March 4, 1928 January 10, 1933 Democratic William Lee Cazort
Lawrence Elery Wilson
30 Junius Marion Futrell January 10, 1933 January 12, 1937 Democratic William Lee Cazort
31 Carl Edward Bailey January 12, 1937 January 14, 1941 Democratic Robert L. Bailey
32 Homer Martin Adkins January 14, 1941 January 9, 1945 Democratic Robert L. Bailey
James L. Shaver
33 Benjamin Travis Laney January 9, 1945 January 11, 1949 Democratic James L. Shaver
Nathan Green Gordon
34 Sid McMath January 11, 1949 January 13, 1953 Democratic Nathan Green Gordon
35 Francis Cherry January 13, 1953 January 11, 1955 Democratic Nathan Green Gordon
36 Orval Faubus January 11, 1955 January 10, 1967 Democratic Nathan Green Gordon
37 Winthrop Rockefeller January 10, 1967 January 12, 1971 Republican Maurice Britt
38 Dale Bumpers January 12, 1971 January 3, 1975 Democratic Bob C. Riley
Bob C. Riley January 3, 1975 January 14, 1975 Democratic acting as governor
39 David Pryor January 14, 1975 January 3, 1979 Democratic Joe Purcell
Joe Purcell January 3, 1979 January 9, 1979 Democratic acting as governor
40 Bill Clinton January 9, 1979 January 19, 1981 Democratic Joe Purcell
41 Frank D. White January 19, 1981 January 11, 1983 Republican Winston Bryant
42 Bill Clinton January 11, 1983 December 12, 1992 Democratic Winston Bryant
Jim Guy Tucker
43 Jim Guy Tucker December 12, 1992 July 15, 1996 Democratic Mike Huckabee
44 Mike Huckabee July 15, 1996 January 9, 2007 Republican Winthrop P. Rockefeller
45 Mike Beebe January 9, 2007 incumbent Democratic Bill Halter

Other High Offices Held

Name Gubernatorial Term U.S. Congress Other Offices Held
House Senate
James Miller 1819–1825
(territorial)
Elected U.S. Representative from New Hampshire
John Pope 1829–1835
(territorial)
U.S. Representative and Senator from Kentucky
William Savin Fulton 1835–1836
(territorial)
S  
Archibald Yell 1840–1844 H  
Powell Clayton 1868–1871 S* U.S. Minister to Mexico
Augustus Hill Garland 1874–1877 S Confederate Representative, Confederate Senator, U.S. Attorney General
James Henderson Berry 1883–1885 S  
William Meade Fishback 1893–1895 Elected to the U.S. Senate but was refused his seat
James Paul Clarke 1895–1897 S President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate
Jefferson Davis 1901–1907 S  
John Sebastian Little 1907 H†  
Joseph Taylor Robinson 1913 H† S* Majority Leader and Minority Leader of the U.S. Senate
Thomas Chipman McRae 1921–1925 H  
Dale Bumpers 1971–1975 S*  
David Pryor 1975–1979 H S*  
Bill Clinton 1979–1981
1983–1992
President of the United States*
Jim Guy Tucker 1992–1996 H  

Living Former Governors

Governor Gubernatorial Term Date of Birth
Dale Bumpers 1971–1975 August 12, 1925 (1925-08-12) (age 84)
David Pryor 1975–1979 August 29, 1934 (1934-08-29) (age 75)
Bill Clinton 1979–1981,
1983–1992
August 19, 1946 (1946-08-19) (age 63)
Jim Guy Tucker 1992–1996 June 12, 1943 (1943-06-12) (age 67)
Mike Huckabee 1996–2007 August 24, 1955 (1955-08-24) (age 54)

List of United States Senators from Arkansas

Class 2

S.No Senator Party Took office Left office Other offices Term Electoral history
1 William S. Fulton Democratic September 18, 1836 August 15, 1844 Governor of Arkansas Territory
(1835–1836)
1 Elected in 1836
2 Re-elected in 1840

Died
Vacant August 15, 1844 November 8, 1844
2 Chester Ashley Democratic November 8, 1844 April 29, 1848   Elected to finish Fulton's term
3 Elected to a full term in 1846

Died
Vacant April 29, 1848 May 12, 1848
3 William K. Sebastian Democratic May 12, 1848 July 11, 1861 President of the Arkansas Senate
(1846–1847)
Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court
(1843–1845)
Appointed to continue Ashley's term
Elected to finish Ashley's term
4 Elected to full term in 1852
5 Re-elected in 1858

Expelled
(Expulsion was reversed by the Senate in 1877)
Vacant July 11, 1861 June 22, 1868   Civil War and Reconstruction
6
4 Alexander McDonald Republican June 22, 1868 March 4, 1871   Elected to finish term

Lost re-election
5 Powell Clayton Republican March 24, 1871 March 4, 1877 Governor of Arkansas
(1868–1871)
7 Elected in 1871
6 Augustus Garland Democratic March 4, 1877 March 6, 1885 U.S. Attorney General
(1885–1889)
Governor of Arkansas
(1874–1877)
Confederate States Senator
(1864–1865)
Member of the Confederate States House of Representatives
(1861–1864)
8 Elected in 1876
9 Re-elected in 1883

Resigned to become U.S. Attorney General
Vacant March 6, 1885 March 20, 1885
7 James H. Berry Democratic March 20, 1885 March 4, 1907 Governor of Arkansas
(1883–1885)
Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives
(1874)
Elected to finish Garland's term
10 Re-elected in 1889
11 Re-elected in 1895
12 Re-elected in 1901

Lost re-election
8 Jeff Davis Democratic March 4, 1907 January 3, 1913 Governor of Arkansas
(1901–1907)
Arkansas Attorney General
(1898–1901)
13 Elected in 1906

Re-elected in 1912, but died before new term began
Vacant January 3, 1913 January 6, 1913
9 John N. Heiskell Democratic January 6, 1913 January 29, 1913   Appointed to continue Davis's term

Successor qualified
10 William M. Kavanaugh Democratic January 29, 1913 March 4, 1913   Elected to finish Davis's term
11 Joseph T. Robinson Democratic March 4, 1913 July 14, 1937 Senate Democratic Leader
(1923–1937)
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
(1903–1913)
Governor of Arkansas
(1913)
14 Elected in 1913
15 Re-elected in 1918
16 Re-elected in 1924
17 Re-elected in 1930
18 Re-elected in 1936

Died
Vacant July 14, 1937 November 15, 1937
12 John E. Miller Democratic November 15, 1937 March 31, 1941 Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
(1931–1937)
U.S. District Judge
(1941–1967)
Elected to finish Robinson's term

Resigned to become U.S. District Judge
Vacant March 31, 1941 April 1, 1941
13 George L. Spencer Democratic April 1, 1941 January 3, 1943   Elected to finish Miller's term

Retired
14 John L. McClellan Democratic January 3, 1943 November 28, 1977 Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
(1935–1939)
19 Elected in 1942
20 Re-elected in 1948
21 Re-elected in 1954
22 Re-elected in 1960
23 Re-elected in 1966
24 Re-elected in 1972

Died
Vacant November 28, 1977 December 10, 1977
15 Kaneaster Hodges, Jr. Democratic December 10, 1977 January 3, 1979   Appointed to finish McClellan's term

Retired
16 David H. Pryor Democratic January 3, 1979 January 3, 1997 Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
(1966–1977)
Governor of Arkansas
(1975–1979)
25 Elected in 1978
26 Re-elected in 1984
27 Re-elected in 1990

Retired
17 Tim Hutchinson Republican January 3, 1997 January 3, 2003 Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
(1993–1997)
28 Elected in 1996

Lost re-election
18 Mark Pryor Democratic January 3, 2003 Incumbent Arkansas Attorney General
(1999–2003)
29 Elected in 2002
30 Re-elected in 2008

Class 3

S.No. Senator Party Took office Left office Other offices Term Electoral history
1 Ambrose H. Sevier Democratic September 18, 1836 March 15, 1848 President pro tempore
(1845)
Minister to Mexico
(1848)
1 Elected in 1836
2 Re-elected in 1837
3 Re-elected in 1843

Resigned
Vacant March 15, 1848 March 30, 1848
2 Solon Borland Democratic March 30, 1848 April 11, 1853 Envoy to Nicaragua
(1853–1854)
Elected to finish Sevier's term
4 Elected to full term in 1848

Resigned
Vacant April 11, 1853 July 6, 1853
3 Robert W. Johnson Democratic July 6, 1853 March 4, 1861 Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
(1847–1853)
Confederate States Senator
(1862–1865)
Appointed to continue Borland's term
Elected to finish Borland's term
6 Re-elected in 1855

Retired
4 Charles B. Mitchel Democratic March 4, 1861 July 11, 1861 Confederate States Senator
(1862–1864)
7 Elected in 1861

Expelled for supporting the Confederacy
Vacant July 11, 1861 June 23, 1868   Civil War and Reconstruction
8
5 Benjamin F. Rice Republican June 23, 1868 March 4, 1873   Elected to finish term
6 Stephen W. Dorsey Republican March 4, 1873 March 4, 1879   9 Elected in 1873

Retired
7 James D. Walker Democratic March 4, 1879 March 4, 1885 Solicitor General of Arkansas 10 Elected in 1879

Retired
8 James K. Jones Democratic March 4, 1885 March 4, 1903 President of the Arkansas Senate
(1877–1879)
10 Elected in 1885
11 Re-elected in 1891
12 Re-elected in 1897

Lost re-election
9 James P. Clarke Democratic March 4, 1903 October 1, 1916 President pro tempore
(1913–1916)
Governor of Arkansas
(1895–1897)
Arkansas Attorney General
(1893–1895)
President of the Arkansas Senate
(1891)
13 Elected in 1903
14 Re-elected in 1909
15 Re-elected in 1915

Died
Vacant October 1, 1916 November 8, 1916
10 William F. Kirby Democratic November 8, 1916 March 4, 1921 Arkansas Attorney General
(1907–1909)
Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court
(1910–1916; 1926–1934)
Elected to finish Clarke's term

Lost renomination
11 Thaddeus H. Caraway Democratic March 4, 1921 November 6, 1931 Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
(1913–1921)
16 Elected in 1920
17 Re-elected in 1926

Died
Vacant November 6, 1931 November 13, 1931
12 Hattie W. Caraway Democratic November 13, 1931 January 3, 1945 First woman elected to the Senate
(1932)
Appointed to finish her husband's term
18 Elected to full term in 1848
19 Re-elected in 1938

Lost renomination
13 J. William Fulbright Democratic January 3, 1945 December 31, 1974 Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
(1943–1945)
20 Elected in 1944
21 Re-elected in 1950
22 Re-elected in 1956
23 Re-elected in 1962
24 Re-elected in 1968

Lost re-nomination, then resigned
Vacant December 31, 1974 January 3, 1975    
14 Dale Bumpers Democratic January 3, 1975 January 3, 1999 Governor of Arkansas
(1971–1975)
Special Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court
(1968)
25 Elected in 1974
26 Re-elected in 1980
27 Re-elected in 1986
28 Re-elected in 1992

Retired
15 Blanche Lincoln Democratic January 3, 1999 Incumbent Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
(1993–1997)
29 Elected in 1998
30 Re-elected in 2004