Texarkana is the largest city and county seat of Miller County, Arkansas, United States. It effectively functions as one half of a city which crosses a state line — the other half, the city of Texarkana, Texas, lies on the other side of State Line Avenue. According to 2006 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 30,006, ranking it as the state's 13th largest city, behind Jacksonville. The city, along with its Texas counterpart forms the core of the Texarkana, Texas–Texarkana, Arkansas Metropolitan Statistical Area, encompassing all of Bowie County, Texas and Miller County, Arkansas.
Military parade down East Broad Street in Texarkana (Miller County); circa 1940s.
Courtesy of Bill Sharp
Martin Delray, country music singer,
Martin Delray (born September 29, 1949 in Texarkana, Arkansas) is an American country music artist. He recorded two albums on the Atlantic Records label: 1991's Get Rhythm and 1992's What Kind of Man. In addition, he charted five singles on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts. Delray's highest-charting single was a cover of Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm". Cash lended his vocals on Delray's version and was featured in its music video.
Parnelli Jones, 1963 Indianapolis 500 champion,
Rufus Parnell "Parnelli" Jones (born August 12, 1933 in Texarkana, Arkansas), is a retired American racing driver and racecar owner. He is most remembered for his 1963 Indianapolis 500 win, and almost winning the 1967 Indy 500 in a turbine car. He is also remembered for bringing the stock block engine to USAC Sprint car racing as one of the "Chevy Twins" with Jim Hurtubise.
In his career, Parnelli Jones won races in many types of vehicles: sports cars, IndyCars, sprint cars, midget cars, off-road vehicles, and stock cars. He is associated with the famous Boss 302 Mustang with his wins using the engine in the 1970s. Jones' son P. J. Jones was also a diverse driver, with IndyCar and NASCAR starts. His other son Page Jones was an up-and-coming driver before suffering career ending (and life-threatening) injuries in a sprint car at the 4-Crown Nationals, and has been in rehabilitation, working with his father-in-law.
Jeff Keith, lead singer of the rock band Tesla,
Jeffery Lynn Keith (born October 12, 1958 in Texarkana, Arkansas) is an American musician, best known as the lead singer of the band Tesla. He was also the lead singer for the band Bar 7.
Before he became part of Tesla, according to the band history printed in the Mechanical Resonance CD notes, he was the driver of a giant mountain cement truck.
He honed his gritty, rough, Steven Tyler-like vocals in Sacramento, California. He then signed up for a local radio contest that he won singing Sammy Hagar's "Your Love is Driving Me Crazy." This caught the attention of Tommy Skeoch, Frank Hannon, Brian Wheat, and Troy Luccketta, who joined to form the rock band Tesla.
Rod Smith, American football player with the Denver Broncos in the NFL,
Roderick "Rod" Smith (born May 15, 1970, in Texarkana, Arkansas) is a former American football wide receiver of the National Football League. He was originally signed by the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 1994 and played his entire 14-year career with the team. He played college football at Missouri Southern State.
Smith is the only undrafted free agent to have ever surpassed the 10,000-receiving-yard plateau. He is ranked 15th in NFL history in career receptions and 16th all time in receiving yards. With Smith's retirement and Jason Elam's departure, Tom Nalen is now the only remaining player on the Denver Broncos team that was a part of their Super Bowl XXXIII victory in the 1998 season.
Conlon Nancarrow, innovative composer who specialized in works for the player piano,
Conlon Nancarrow (born October 27, 1912 – August 10, 1997) was a U.S.-born composer who lived and worked in Mexico for most of his life. He became a Mexican citizen in 1955.
Nancarrow is best remembered for the pieces he wrote for the player piano. He was one of the first composers to use musical instruments as mechanical machines, making them play far beyond human performance ability. He lived most of his life in relative isolation, not becoming widely known until the 1980s. Today, he is remembered as one of the most original and unusual composers of the 20th century.
Nancarrow was born in Texarkana, Arkansas. He played trumpet in a jazz band in his youth, before studying music first in Cincinnati, Ohio and later in Boston, Massachusetts with Roger Sessions, Walter Piston and Nicolas Slonimsky. He met Arnold Schoenberg during that composer's brief stay in Boston in 1933.
Ryan Mallett, college quarterback,
Ryan Mallett (born June 5, 1988 in Texarkana, Texas) is an American football quarterback at the University of Arkansas. Mallett formerly played for the University of Michigan, a school he left after referring it to "a Mickey Mouse program".
Don Rogers, American football player with the Cleveland Browns in the NFL
State Line Avenue
State Line Avenue is a north-south arterial road in Texarkana, United States. It follows approximately eleven miles of the Texas-Arkansas state line, and divides the city into two separate municipal units. Geographically, the southbound lanes of State Line Avenue are located in Texarkana, Texas (Bowie County), and the northbound lanes are in Texarkana, Arkansas (Miller County).
State Line Avenue consists of two non-continuous portions, separated by a one-mile gap directly south of the downtown area.
North State Line Avenue begins on the US 59/US 71 concurrency, south of the Red River bridge. This route deviates slightly from the actual state line, but never by more than a few hundred feet. From Highway 296 (Sugar Hill Road) on southward up until 6th Street downtown, its course follows the political boundary almost perfectly.
A concentration of hotels dominates the four quadrants of the State Line Avenue/Interstate 30 cloverleaf interchange, with over a dozen different lodging chains being represented at this exit. At this interchange, U.S. Route 59 splits from US 71, following I-30 westward for 3.5 miles, before traveling southward again.
Because Bowie County, Texas is "dry", a vast number of liquor stores line the Arkansas side of midtown State Line Avenue. Customers as far as 50 miles into Texas regularly cross the state line to purchase alcoholic beverages. Likewise, since Arkansas does not currently sell lottery tickets, its residents cross into Texas to play its games, including Mega Millions. State Line remains a five-lane boulevard of U.S. Route 71, dominated by retail outlets, for about four more miles before crossing US 67/US 82, into downtown Texarkana. From here, US 71 turns sharply eastward, into a short wrong-way concurrency with U.S. Route 67, before again turning southward towards Shreveport, Louisiana.
From here, State Line Avenue continues south. One block south of US 67/US 82, the street splits apart. The traffic island in the middle is occupied by the Texarkana Federal Building/Courthouse/Post Office, the only such building to be located in two U.S. states.
As North State Line Avenue ends at Pine Street, West 3rd and 4th Streets form a detour leading to a so-called "viaduct road", elevated for most of its length, which bridges over a rail yard before curving back eastward to join South State Line Avenue.
From this point southward, State Line Avenue continues as an unnumbered rural roadway. Approximately five miles further south the road veers eastward, becoming Miller County Road 28, en route to Pleasant Hill.
Texarkana is in the southwest corner of Arkansas at the junction of Interstate 30 and U.S. 59, 67, 71, and 82. Its two separate municipalities—Texarkana, Arkansas, and Texarkana, Texas—sometimes function as one city. The name is a composite of Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana (though Louisiana is thirty miles away). Texarkana is the Miller County seat, and is home to the only Federal Building and post office situated in two states. The town motto is “Twice as Nice.”
Ragtime composer Scott Joplin of Texarkana (MIller County), known as the “King of Ragtime”; circa 1908.
Courtesy of the Miller Nichols Library
Before Europeans arrived, the area around Texarkana had a substantial population of non-migratory Native Americans. Six villages stood on the banks of the Red River in the area. Inhabitants traded with hunter-gatherers from adjoining regions and appeared to share some cultural traits with the Mississippian cultures of the Midwest and Southeast. A hunting trail was a main line of travel between Indian villages in the Mississippi River region and those in the Southwest. The trail passed by the Caddo villages that were roughly on the site of today’s Texarkana. This Indian trail was later used in great part as the basis for what came to be known as the National Road, Military Road or Southwest Trail (a primary route from southern Missouri diagonally across Arkansas into Texas). Today, Interstate 30 and U.S. 67 generally parallel the route.
U.S. Courthouse and Post Office in Texarkana (Miller County).
Photo by John Gill
European Exploration and Settlement
The region’s inhabitants, usually called the Grand Caddoes, enjoyed good relations with the Europeans who began arriving in the seventeenth century. They were hospitable to Frenchmen who survived the La Salle expedition in 1687. Spaniards were received with friendship in 1691. By 1719, Jean Benard de la Harpe had established a fort and trading post called Le Poste de la Cadodaquious northwest of Texarkana.
Perspective map of Texarkana, lithograph; circa 1888.
Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Louisiana Purchase through Reconstruction
As more white men arrived, primarily by the Southwest Trail, the Indians began migrating westward (a process that was completed in 1859 when about 300 Caddo who remained were forcibly marched to Oklahoma). By 1840, enough white men had arrived in the area to form a permanent settlement, complete with a post office they called Rondo, about fifteen miles from present-day Texarkana. The location of the future Texarkana did not go unnoticed by nineteenth-century railroad men.
Portrait by Bradford Graves of composer Samuel Conlon Nancarrow from Texarkana (Miller County); 1998.
Print by Bradford Graves (www.bradfordgraves.com), courtesy of Verna Gillis
In the late 1850s, the builders of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad laid tracks in Arkansas, completing the railway to the Texas border in 1873. At the place where they would meet the Texas and Pacific Railroad (running east/west), a town site was established on December 8, 1873, with the sale of town lots. The first lot was sold to J. W. Davis and today is the site of the Hotel McCartney across from Union Station. Another sale of a town lot that day led to the opening of the town’s first business, a grocery and drugstore operated by George M. Clark.
Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” ragtime’s biggest hit. Joplin spent his formative years in Texarkana (Miller County) and married his second wife in Little Rock (Pulaski County). This recording is performed by Robert Strickland.
Copyright Compendia Records
There is evidence that the town’s name existed before the town. Some say that as early as 1860, it was used by the steamboat Texarkana, which traveled the Red River. Others say a supposedly medicinal drink called “Texarkana Bitters” was sold in 1869 by a man named Swindle who ran a general store in Bossier Parish, Louisiana. The most popular version credits a railroad surveyor, Colonel Gus Knobel, who was surveying the right of way from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to southwest Arkansas for the St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern Railroad in the late 1860s. Knobel later became chief engineer for the Texarkana and Northern Railroad. When Knobel came to the state line between Arkansas and Texas, and believing he was also at or near the Louisiana border, he reportedly wrote the words “TEX-ARK-ANA” on a board and nailed it to a tree with the statement, “This is the name of a town which is to be built here.”
Post Reconstruction through the Gilded Age
On December 8, 1873, a group met on the Texas side to organize the town. Texarkana, Texas, was granted a charter on June 12, 1874. In 1880, twenty-one citizens met and petitioned to incorporate Texarkana, Arkansas. Public sentiment was divided, as an opposing group gathered fifteen names of citizens who opposed organizing a town government on the Arkansas side. But Texarkana, Arkansas, was granted a charter on August 10, 1880, by County Judge H. W. Edwards. On November 12, the city government was established, and H. W. Beidler was elected mayor.
Early farm machinery used on the boggy soil of Miller County; circa 1900s.
Courtesy of Bill Sharp
In 1883, Southwestern Telephone and Telegraph Exchange received a franchise for the town to operate a telephone service. Throughout the 1880s, schools and churches were established in Texarkana, including a school for African Americans on the Texas side that was established in 1885, the same year ragtime legend Scott Joplin left Texarkana to pursue a career in music.
In 1890, the town’s Arkansas population (3,528) was greater than the population of the Texas side (2,852). In 1893, the first Miller County courthouse was built. It was demolished in 1939 to make way for the current courthouse. In 1894, land was purchased for the first public school on the Arkansas side.
Official gubernatorial portrait of James Miller, first territorial governor of Arkansas (1819–1825), for whom Miller County is named.
Courtesy of the Arkansas Secretary of State's Office and the Old State House Museum
Texarkana’s post office stood on the Arkansas side until residents of the Texas side requested one of their own. A post office known as “Texarkana, Texas,” operated from 1886 to 1892; after it closed, postmarks then read, “Texarkana, Arkansas.” A compromise was reached with “Texarkana, Arkansas–Texas,” which prevailed until the adoption of “Texarkana, U.S.A.” Both cities grew throughout the 1890s, installing streetcar lines, gas works, an electric light plant, an ice factory, and sewer lines, often in as cooperative a manner as possible considering that the municipalities were in separate states. At the time, four newspapers served Texarkana.
Early Twentieth Century through Modern Era
In the early twentieth century, the population of the Texas side outpaced that of the Arkansas side, though both parts of the town grew and prospered until the Great Depression of the 1930s. The town’s economy rebounded with the coming of World War II in the 1940s, primarily because of the creation of the Red River Army Depot and the Lone Star Ammunition Plant. Along with being an important junction of railroad lines, Texarkana built a strong economy based on timber and minerals including rockwool (an inorganic substance used for insulation and filtering), sand, and gravel, along with agricultural crops such as corn, cotton, pecans, rice, and soybeans.
Miller County Courthouse in Texarkana.
Photo by John Gill
Texarkana attained notoriety with a series of grisly murders in which five people were killed and several injured between February 23 and May 4, 1946. Newspapers dubbed them the “Texarkana Moonlight Murders.” The victims were couples parked on back roads and lovers’ lanes around town. The only description of the killer was that he wore a plain pillowcase over his head, with eyeholes cut out. The case was never solved, and the killing spree ended as suddenly as it began. Three decades after the crime, the murders inspired a movie, The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1977), directed by Charles B. Pierce of Hampton (Calhoun County).
By 1952, the population was 40,490, with the Arkansas side reporting almost 16,000.
By 1960, the Arkansas side had reached almost 20,000 and the total population of the town was just over 50,000.
Map of Miller County.
Map created by Mike Keckhaver
Also in 1977, Texarkana enjoyed another measure of fame in popular culture through the hit movie, Smokey and the Bandit. The film starred Burt Reynolds, who had previous Arkansas connections by filming White Lightning in the state in 1973. He later starred in the television series, Evening Shade, about the eponymous Arkansas town. Smokey and the Bandit centers on truck drivers who transport an illegal shipment of beer from Texarkana to Atlanta, Georgia.
A significant factor in the region’s economic growth was the establishment of a low-security Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) on the Texas side near the Arkansas border. Next to the FCI is a minimum-security federal prison camp. Both facilities house male offenders, with the FCI housing more than 1,400 inmates and the camp 300 to 400.
The area has several prisons, detention centers, and penal centers, including the Miller County Correctional Facility and the Southwest Arkansas Community Punishment Center.
For commercial purposes, Texarkana is generally considered one city. State Line Avenue, the main street, was laid out to lie on the dividing line between the two states. Each side has a mayor, and there are two city councils and city staffs. There is joint operation of sewage disposal, sanitation, recreation, and health inspection, though each half of the city maintains its own police and fire departments. The city has one chamber of commerce. Texas does not assess a state income tax, so residents of Texarkana, Arkansas, are exempt from Arkansas income tax, though they must file a return and claim the exemption. Differences in sales tax between the two states, including an annual Texas sales tax “holiday” in August, are often felt by local residents to be offset by the cost of gasoline in driving from one side to the other.
Agriculture, including poultry and livestock, continues to play a significant role in the town’s economy. There has also been an increase in retail, manufacturing, and industrial development along with the town’s role as a transportation hub. But recreation and tourism have also become major factors in economic growth.
The State Line Post Office and Federal Building at 500 State Line Avenue is the only U.S. post office situated in two states, and Texarkana boasts that it is the most photographed courthouse in the country after the Supreme Court Building in Washington DC. The building, constructed in 1932–1933, features walls of Arkansas limestone and a base of Texas pink granite. It houses separate ZIP codes. A photographer’s island allows people to take pictures of subjects straddling two states.
Museums on the Arkansas side include the Tex-Arkansas Antique Auto Museum, representing more than fifty years of automobiles. Other Texarkana museums include the Museum of Regional History and Wilbur Smith Research Library, the Discovery Place Children’s Museum, and the Ace of Clubs House, a restored historical home built in 1885.
Texarkana has at least ten annual festivals, including the Jump, Jive & JamFest in April; Sparks in the Park on the first Saturday in July; the Quadrangle Festival over Labor Day weekend; the Four States Fair and Rodeo in September; Texarkana RV Music Park festivals on Memorial and Labor Day weekends; the Mistletoe Fair in November; and the Twice as Bright Festival of Lights from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.
Lake Millwood and Lake Wright Patman abound with outdoor activities. Oaklawn Opry showcases country and western music performers.
The Texarkana Arkansas School District enrolls about 5,000 students. There are five elementary magnet schools, three junior high learning academies, and the Freshman Academy at Arkansas High School. Also on the Arkansas side is the Texarkana Airframe and Powerplant School operated by Southern Arkansas University in cooperation with Texarkana College and area high schools.