Page 80

$9.00 RIVERDALE 10 VIP CINEMA 2600 CANTRELL RD

GILLIAN ARMSTRONG’S

MY BRILLIANT CAREER

7 P.M. TUESDAY MAY 21

501.296.9955 | RIVERDALE10.COM ELECTRIC RECLINER SEATS AND RESERVED SEATING

PLAYING UNTIL JUNE 15TH

@ THE JOINT in Argenta

80 MAY 2019

ARKANSAS TIMES

the hands of his old mentor would be especially bitter. McMath had counseled the White House and Justice Department in September 1957 about how to enforce the law without sending federal soldiers, which he thought would be too reminiscent of the Civil War. During the campaign, Faubus would accuse him of complicity in the “forced integration” of Central High and predicted that McMath would use force to integrate other Arkansas schools. But McMath was not the only serious prospect. Congressman Dale Alford — who with the silent help of the governor had defeated Brooks Hays in a write-in campaign in 1958, after Hays had tried to broker a compromise between Faubus and President Eisenhower in 1957 — had to run for something. Arkansas lost a seat in the House of Representatives after the 1960 census, and the legislature’s reapportionment of the state into four districts threw Alford into a district with U.S. Rep. Wilbur D. Mills. Alford knew he couldn’t beat Mills; besides, Mills had persuaded House Democrats to accept Alford, who had opposed a Democratic nominee, and to include him in the seniority ranks. W.R. “Witt” Stephens, the president of Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company and the most powerful man in the state, worried that Alford might take on his man, U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, who Stephens feared was vulnerable to a glib segregationist like Alford. Stephens sent his political agent, an insurance broker named Jack Gardner, to Alford with a message: It was pretty certain that Faubus would not run, and with Stephens’ support Alford could walk into the governor’s office. Alford jumped into the race. Privately, Stephens, like Faubus, had no use for the unctuous eye doctor and figured that Faubus, if he did run again, would take him out easily. “Somebody said Dale Alford is like unto a wasp,” Stephens confided. “He is bigger when he is first hatched than he’ll ever be again.” Jim Johnson tried to persuade Alford that Witt Stephens would never support him, but Alford decided the race was his best political option. Faubus did, indeed, announce that he would not run again, but after a spell he realized how miserable and useless he would feel out of office. His wife, Alta, sensed it and told him to run again. They ginned up a draft-Faubus movement, and he accepted the draft. Marvin Melton, a big (literally) Jonesboro farmer and businessman who was president of the state Chamber of Commerce, got into the race and told McMath that if McMath got into a runoff with Faubus he would endorse McMath and together they would finally end

the Faubus reign. Witt Stephens would take care of that, too. As journalist Roy Reed recounted, Stephens knew that Melton had once helped start an insurance company by buying stock at $1 a share and then had sold the stock for $15 a share. It sounded crooked. Those were the freewheeling days when anyone could start an insurance company in Arkansas with no real capital. Stephens tipped a newspaper reporter, who asked Melton about the stock. Melton decided to get out of the race. Five years later, Melton climbed into his single-engine Beechcraft to fly to Dallas and was never seen again. The field of Faubus foes eventually included Kenneth C. Coffelt, a loudmouthed trial lawyer who fancied himself to be the second coming of Huey P. Long; Vernon H. Whitten, a soft-spoken man who set out to fill the dignified-businessman slot in the field; and David A. Cox, a one-eyed rice farmer from the town of Weiner in Poinsett County, who rarely made the news but when he did inspired headlines like “Weiner Farmer Claims …” Arkansawyers again got to see the most impressive politician in the state’s history, though fleetingly. It had been 10 years since McMath, two years out of the governor’s office, almost upset the state’s senior senator, John L. McClellan, in a farfetched comeback campaign after the “McMath highway scandal” in 1952 had cost him a third term. At an unusually fit 60 years old and soon to be promoted to brigadier general in the Marine Corps, McMath cut a fine figure on the stump with his trademark blue suit, red tie and brimmed white hat. McMath nearly sprinted down sidewalks shaking hands, and he

Profile for Arkansas Times

Arkansas Times | May 2019  

New Look for Pettaway KOKY KEEPS SPEAKING | DRIVING THE TALIMENA BYWAY | BIG IDEAS 2019

Arkansas Times | May 2019  

New Look for Pettaway KOKY KEEPS SPEAKING | DRIVING THE TALIMENA BYWAY | BIG IDEAS 2019