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See Rock City

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ft. Smith, AR

Fort Smith is the second-largest city in the U.S. state of Arkansas and one of the two county seats of Sebastian County. With a population of 80,268 at the 2000 census, it is the principal city of the Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area, a region of 288,818 residents which encompasses the Arkansas counties of Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian in Arkansas, and the Oklahoma counties Le Flore and Sequoyah.

Garrison Ave.

Motto: "Life's worth living in Fort Smith, Arkansas"

Fort Smith has a sister city relationship with Cisterna, Italy, site of the World War II Battle of Cisterna fought by the United States Army Rangers commanded by Fort Smith native William O. Darby.

UA Fort Smith bell tower and award-winning arboretum campus

Fort Smith lies on the Arkansas-Oklahoma state border, situated at the junction of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers, also known as Belle Point. The city began as a western frontier military post in 1817 and would later become well-known for its role in the settling of the "Wild West" and its law enforcement heritage.

Downtown fountain after a freeze.

In 2007, Fort Smith was selected by the US Department of the Interior to be the location of the new US Marshal Service National Museum.


Fort Smith was founded in 1817 as a military settlement to patrol the neighboring Indian Territory. The fort was abandoned in 1824 but a town founded by John Rogers had formed alongside the fort by that time. In 1838 the fort was re-occupied and expanded. In 1871 the fort was again abandoned. However, the town continued to thrive despite the absence of the fort.

Spirit of the American Doughboy

Two of Fort Smith's most notable historic figures were Judge Isaac Parker and William Henry Harrison Clayton. In 1874, William Henry Harrison Clayton was appointed United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas by President Ulysses S. Grant. Fort Smith was a bustling community full of brothels, saloons and outlaws across the river from Indian Territory. William Clayton realized that a strong judge would be necessary to bring law and order to the region. He knew of a strong judge in Isaac Parker. There was a problem, Judge Parker had been appointed Chief Justice of Utah Territory and confirmed by the US Senate. With the help of President Grant and US Senator Powell Clayton, former governor of Arkansas, William Clayton was able to undo that appointment and redirect Judge Parker to Fort Smith.

Judge Isaac Parker, Hanging Judge


Ft. Smith Arkansas Judge Isaac Parker served as US District Judge from 1875-1896. He was nicknamed the "Hanging Judge" because in his first term after assuming his post he tried eighteen people for murder, convicted fifteen of them, sentenced eight of those to die, and hanged six of them on one day. Over the course of his career in Fort Smith, Parker sentenced 160 people to hang, of those 79 actually were executed on the gallows. Judge Parker represented the only real law the rough and tumble frontier border town had at the time. His courthouse is now a National Historic Site where "More men were put to death by the U.S. Government... than in any other place in American history."

William Clayton was appointed US Attorney by four different presidents and later served as Chief Justice of Indian Territory. He was instrumental in achieving statehood for Oklahoma and together with Territorial Governor Frank Frantz, carried the Oklahoma Constitution to President Teddy Roosevelt. Governor Frantz and Judge Clayton both lost their territorial positions when Oklahoma was admitted to the Union.

Economic base

Fort Smith has long been a regional manufacturing center, with major plants located in the city operated by:

Whirlpool Corporation,

Whirlpool Corporation (NYSE: WHR) is a Fortune 500 company and a global manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances,with annual sales of approximately $18 billion, more than 73,000 employees, and more than 70 manufacturing and technology research centers around the world. The company markets Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana, Inglis, Estate, Brastemp, Bauknecht and other major brand names to consumers in nearly every country around the world.

After acquiring the Maytag Corporation on March 31, 2006, Whirlpool Corporation became the largest home appliance maker in the world.

Whirlpool Corporation's global and North American headquarters are in Benton Harbor, Michigan. In the U.S., Whirlpool has manufacturing facilities in Fort Smith, Arkansas; Evansville, Indiana; Iowa (Newton and Amana); Benton Harbor, Michigan; Oxford, Mississippi; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Ohio (Clyde, Findlay, Greenville and Marion); and Tennessee (Cleveland, Jackson, and La Vergne).

Rheem Classic

The Fort Smith Classic presented by Stephens, Inc. is a golf tournament on the Nationwide Tour. It is held each year at Hardscrabble Golf Club in Fort Smith, Arkansas. It is the only annual PGA Tour event in the U.S. state of Arkansas.

The 2008 purse was a record $550,000, with $99,000 going to the winner.

The tournament was founded in 1998 as the Fort Smith Classic. Mark Hensby won the inaugural tournament at 20-under par, which is still the record low score. In 2005, Chris Couch tied the course record with a final round 60.

Trane Logo

Trane Inc. is a subsidiary of Ingersoll Rand and is the successor company to the American Standard Companies. It is a global provider of heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and building management systems and controls under the Trane and American Standard brand names. Its offerings include service and parts support and financial solutions.

Trane has offices, service operations, joint ventures and manufacturing facilities around the world. Trane has its international headquarters in Piscataway, New Jersey.


Georgia-Pacific LLC. is an American pulp and paper company based in Atlanta, Georgia, and is one of the world's leading manufacturers and distributors of tissue, pulp, paper, packaging, building products and related chemicals. It has over 55,000 employees at 300 facilities in the United States, Canada and many other countries.

Gerber Logo

The Gerber baby, who appears on the packaging of all Gerber products, is a portrait of five-month-old Ann Turner Cook.

Gerber Products Company is a purveyor of baby food and baby products. The company was founded in 1927 in Fremont, Michigan by Daniel Frank Gerber, owner of the Fremont Canning Company producing canned fruits and vegetables. At the suggestion of a pediatrician, Gerber's wife (Dorothy Gerber) began making hand-strained food for their seven-month-old daughter, Sally. Seeing a business opportunity, Gerber began devoting resources at the cannery to baby food production. By 1928, Gerber had developed five products for the market: strained peas, prunes, carrots and spinach, and beef vegetable soup. Six months later, Gerber's baby foods were distributed nationwide.

Planter's Logo - Mr. Peanut

Planters is an American snack food company under Kraft Foods manufacturing, best known for its nuts and the Mr. Peanut icon that symbolizes them.

Started by Italian immigrants Amedeo Obici and Mario Peruzzi in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1906, it was incorporated in 1908 as the Planter Nut & Chocolate Co. Its main products these days are processed nuts of various kinds. It is a division of Kraft Foods.

In 2006, Planters celebrated its 100th anniversary.

In recent years, following national trends, the city has seen a decline in manufacturing jobs as production lines are shifted overseas.

Fort Smith is home to several corporations including:

Baldor Electric Company,

Baldor Electric Company markets, designs, and manufactures industrial electric motors, power transmission products, drives, and generators.

Baldor Electric was founded in 1920 by Edwin Ballman and Emil Doerr. The name of the company was derived using part of each of their names. In 1967 the Company's headquarters were moved from St. Louis, Missouri to Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Arkansas Best Corporation,

Arkansas Best, a diversified holding company acquired a large percentage of the stock of the National Bank of Commerce in Dallas, Texas. When the real estate market in Dallas faltered, Arkansas Best sold a large portion of its stake in the Bank at a loss. Arkansas Best claimed a deduction for an ordinary loss of nearly $10 million from the sale. The Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service disallowed the deduction, finding that it was a capital, not ordinary loss.

Golden Living (Formerly Beverly Enterprises, Inc.) (one of the largest nursing home health care providers in the nation).

OK Foods.


Fort Smith is a major transportation hub for the surrounding region. It sits at the crossroads of two major interstate highways, is surrounded on three sides by the Arkansas River and is the home of a regional airport.


I-40 Logo

The city sits just southwest of the intersection of Interstate 40 and future Interstate 49 (currently Interstate 540). US 71 and US 64 also run through the community.


Fort Smith Ticket

Fort Smith is served by the Fort Smith Regional Airport (FSM), which is used for military aviation for Fort Chaffee and home of the 188th Fighter Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard, but is also served by three commercial airlines with flights to Dallas, Memphis and Atlanta.


Jefferson Lines Logo

Jefferson Lines bus service also links Fort Smith to other communities such as Little Rock, Kansas City, and Oklahoma City, as well as intermediate points, with numerous connections to other cities and towns.


Inland waterway system with McClellan-Kerr Navigation System shown in red.

The city is located on the Arkansas River, part of the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System and is served by the Port of Fort Smith.

The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System is part of the inland waterway system originating at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and running southeast through Oklahoma and Arkansas to the Mississippi River.

Though it primarily follows the Arkansas River, it also follows portions of the Verdigris River in Oklahoma and the White River in Arkansas. It also includes the Arkansas Post Canal, a short canal named for nearby Arkansas Post National Memorial, connecting the Arkansas and White Rivers.

Through Oklahoma and Arkansas, dams artificially deepen and widen this modest sized river to build it into a commercially navigable body of water. Along the section of the Arkansas River that carries the McClellan-Kerr channel, the river sustains commercial barge traffic and offers passenger and recreational use, and is considered by some, a series of reservoirs.

Public transport

Inside the city, a public bus service named Fort Smith Transit operates several routes.

A trolley bus operates in the downtown area, providing transportation between the Belle Grove Historic District and the Fort Smith National Historic Site.

Taxicab service is readily available with Razorback Cab.


Fort Smith has a thriving arts community, with a number of venues to support performances. The Fort Smith Convention Center, constructed in 2001, brings national tours of many popular bands to downtown, and the Arkansas Best Corporation Performing Arts Center provides an excellent venue for orchestras and plays.

Visual art

The Vaughn-Schapp House was built in 1857 by Ethelbert Bright. Today it houses galleries of fine paintings, sculptures, and permanent and changing exhibits.


Fort Smith has an active music scene, with frequent live performances in the downtown area by local and national Jazz, Blues, Country, and Rock bands. Local bands regularly frequent the riverfront area highlighting the river valley's finest, including blues, bluegrass, country, rock, and heavy metal. Regular local artists include: Oreo Blue, Mr. Cabbage Head and the Screaming Radishes, Truck Stop Poets, The Crumbs, Barefoot Brigade, Copesetic, The Bannister Brothers, S.I.C., Three Foot Pete, Bluntforce, Razorfate, Gravel Blaster, Afterlife, Ollie's Trash Can and acts from all around the region.

Riverfront Blues Fest

Blues Fest

Fort Smith Riverfront Blues Fest, since it began in 1991, the Riverfront Blues Festival has become one of the biggest, hottest and jazziest annual June events in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, attracting jazz aficionados from a wide area of the blues-rich south, and "name" blues artists and performers from all over. The two-day event makes for a delightful music-filled weekend in Fort Smith, hearing blues, blues, blues on the banks of the Arkansas River.

Fort Smith Symphony, the oldest orchestra in the state. The symphony is a per-service professional orchestra composed of musicians from Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Springfield, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Norman, Dallas, Little Rock, New York, Florida and other communities. The Fort Smith Symphony, conducted by John Jeter, regularly performs at the Arkansas Best Performing Arts Center.

Fort Smith Chorale, founded in 1981 by Bill Cromer for the purpose of providing singers with the opportunity to learn and present Chorale music otherwise not available to them locally

Dance and theatre

Western Arkansas Ballet
Western Arkansas Ballet, a regional dance company which regularly presents programs at area schools and the Performing Arts Center. Their major annual event is the presentation of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet.

Other theatres in the area include The New Theater and the Fort Smith Little Theater, as well as Theatre @ UA Fort Smith

Event venues

Downtown fountain after a freeze.Riverfront Amphitheater, Located next to the Arkansas River, the Riverfront Amphitheater represents one-third of the River Park Complex.

Fort Smith Convention Center, is one of the largest convention centers in the region. It has more than 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) of exhibition space. Many trade shows, conventions, and other events are held here each year. The performing arts theatre is home to the Fort Smith Symphony and has seating for 1,331 people.

Kay Rodgers Park

Kay Rodgers Park, home to the Expo Center, with 24,000 square feet (2,200 m2) of meeting and exhibition space, and the Harper Arena. The Harper Arena is a covered open-air stadium that can seat 7,000 to 14,000 attendees for a variety of events.


Mall Logo

Fort Smith is the main shopping destination of Western Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma. For more specialized shopping, Fort Smith has Central Mall, which is the state's largest indoor shopping center in terms of square footage. Many national chain big-box retailers including Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Best Buy, and Home Depot have stores in Fort Smith.


Spirit of the American DoughboyFort Smith National Historic Site, the most prominent landmark, which includes the remains of the original 1817 fort on the Arkansas River. Inside is the restored courtroom of the famed "Hangin' Judge" Isaac C. Parker, and the dingy frontier jail aptly named "Hell on the Border."

Commissary Building in 1940

Museum Logo

Fort Smith Museum of History, almost adjacent to the National Historic Site the museum contains numerous exhibits, displays and artifacts that tell the story of Fort Smith's colorful history - from the first fort in 1817, through the westward expansion, and on to the Civil War, the Gay Nineties, Fort Chaffee, and the emergence of a modern city.

Fort Smith National Historic Site is a United States National Historic Site located in Fort Smith, Arkansas and Oklahoma along the Arkansas River. The site was established in 1961 in order to protect the remains of two nineteenth-century U.S. military forts and the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas. Fort Smith was also notable as a major stop along the "Trail of Tears." It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

The park visitor center is now located in the old Barracks/Courthouse/Jail building. Exhibits in the visitor center focus on Fort Smith’s military history from 1817 – 1871, western expansion, Judge Isaac Parker and the federal court's impact on Indian Territory, U.S. Deputy Marshals and outlaws, Federal Indian policy, and Indian Removal including the Trail of Tears.

Located on the grounds are the foundation remains of the first Fort Smith (1817-1824), the commissary building (c. 1838) and a reconstruction of the gallows used by the federal court. A walking trail along the Arkansas River includes wayside exhibits on the Trail of Tears.

Belle Grove Historic District, a 22-block area in downtown Fort Smith comprised nearly 25 restored homes that span 130 years of varying architectural styles.

Miss Laura's Social Club

Miss Laura’s Social Club, a former brothel and the only remaining building from the Row, is home to the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau and the only former house of prostitution on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fort Chaffee, primarily used as a training facility by regional National Guard and Reserve Corps units as well as active military units from other installations. In 1958, the entertainer Elvis Presley stopped off at Fort Chaffee en route to his basic training in Texas. It was here that the public information officer John J. Mawn told a news conference that Presley would receive the standard "G.I. haircut" and would resemble a "peeled onion".

Chateau Big Burgers

The Big Burger

Ed Walker's Restaurant, home of what is believed to be the biggest hamburger sold in the state of Arkansas.

Annual attractions

Old Fort Days Rodeo, Fort Smith's annual Old Fort Days Rodeo and Barrel-Racing Futurity offers nearly ten days of Wild West activities. It has been held every May since the mid-1930s and is now rated as one of the top all around rodeos in the country.

Fort Smith Riverfront Blues Fest, since it began in 1991, the Riverfront Blues Festival has become one of the biggest, hottest and jazziest annual June events in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, attracting jazz aficionados from a wide area of the blues-rich south, and "name" blues artists and performers from all over. The two-day event makes for a delightful music-filled weekend in Fort Smith, hearing blues, blues, blues on the banks of the Arkansas River.

Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair, One of the largest bi-state fairs in the nation, Fort Smith's Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair attracts thousands of fair-goers during its ten-day run in late September. They come to see exhibitor competition in everything from arts and crafts to livestock, and enjoy carnival rides, the midway excitement, nightly big-name grandstand entertainment, and plenty of good food.

Fort Smith Airshow, Sponsored by the 188th Fighter Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard, the spectacular Fort Smith Airshow occurs bi-annually every other spring or fall.

Notable residents

Notable figures who were born in, lived in, or are otherwise associated with Fort Smith.


Ron Brewer, Former National Basketball Association player.

Ronald (Ron) Charles Brewer (born September 16, 1955, in Fort Smith, Arkansas) is an American former professional basketball player. A 6'4" guard from the University of Arkansas, he was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the 1978 NBA Draft.

Bryant Reeves, Former National Basketball Association player.

Bryant Reeves (born June 8, 1973, in Fort Smith, Arkansas) is a former professional basketball player for the NBA's Vancouver Grizzlies. He was nicknamed Big Country for his size and the fact that he grew up in the very small Oklahoma town of Gans.

Standing 7 feet tall and weighing 275 pounds (2.13 m, 125 kg), Reeves was an imposing physical presence on the court and was primed to become a dominant center in the NBA. After a strong collegiate career with Oklahoma State University, where he averaged 21.5 points per game as a senior and led OSU to the 1995 Final Four, Reeves became the Grizzlies' first-ever draft choice, selected sixth overall in the 1995 NBA Draft.

Reeves played six seasons with the Grizzlies. After averaging 13.3 points per game in a solid rookie season, he averaged 16.2 points per game in 1997 and was subsequently awarded with a six-year, $61.8 million contract extension. The next season, 1997-1998, was his best, when he averaged 16.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.08blocked shots per game. During that season, he scored a career-high 41 points against the Boston Celtics.

After 1998, weight-control problems and injuries began to take a toll on Reeves, and his numbers fell off dramatically. He was still starting at center for the Grizzlies, but his minutes per game dropped, and his field goal percentage dropped significantly. His contract was blamed for tying up valuable salary cap room, making it difficult for the Grizzlies to sign free agents. It also made him practically impossible to trade, as few teams had the salary cap room to fit his contract in. He became the object of scorn by Vancouver fans and media. His nickname "Big Country" was used derisively to describe both his high salary and his enormous girth, as he once showed up for training camp 40 pounds overweight.

Eventually, after the Grizzlies moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 2001, Reeves started the season on the injured list due to chronic back pain and was never able to play another game (the only games he played with the team in Memphis were two preseason games). He retired from the league midway through the 2001-2002 season.

Matt Jones, National Football League player.

Matthew Jones (born April 22, 1983 in Fort Smith, Arkansas) is an American football wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League. He was drafted by the Jaguars 21st overall in the 2005 NFL Draft. He played college football at Arkansas.

Priest Holmes, Former National Football League player.

Priest Anthony Holmes(born October 7, 1973 in Fort Smith, Arkansas) is a former American football running back of the National Football League. He was originally signed by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 1997. He played college football at Texas.

Holmes earned a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV. After rushing for just over 2,000 yards in four seasons in Baltimore, Holmes experienced breakout success after signing with the Kansas City Chiefs as a free agent in 2001. During his seven-year stint with the Chiefs, Holmes was a three-time All-Pro, three-time Pro Bowl selection and was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2002. Holmes sat out the 2006 season with a neck injury, and after a brief comeback attempt in 2007 retired from the NFL.

Brett Goode, National Football League player.

Brett Goode (born November 2, 1984 in Fort Smith, Arkansas) is an American football long snapper for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. He was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2007. He played college football at Arkansas.

Jim Files, Former National Football League player.

Ryan Franklin, Pitcher for St. Louis Cardinals.

Ryan Ray Franklin (born March 5, 1973 in Fort Smith, Arkansas) is a Major League Baseball player. Franklin is a right-handed pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.

On August 2, 2005, Franklin became the eighth Major League player, and second Mariner, to test positive for steroid use. He received a ten day suspension. On December 13, 2007, he was named in the Mitchell Report to the Commissioner of Baseball of an Independent Investigation Into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances by Players in Major League Baseball

Franklin was a member of the gold medal winning US baseball team at the 2000 Olympics, where he had a 3-0 pitching record in 4 appearances.

Franklin grew up in Spiro, Oklahoma. He is married to Angie Franklin and has three children: Logan, Teagen, and Kaylin.

He was temporarily promoted to 'Closer' for the Cardinals on May 17, 2008.

Andrew Hartley, Professional boxer.

Jack Fleck, Professional Golfer. 1955 US Open winner.

Actors, musicians, and writers

Rudy Ray Moore, singer, and screen actor.

Rudy Ray Moore (born March 17, 1937 in Fort Smith, Arkansas) is an American comedian, singer, film actor, and film producer. He is perhaps best known as Dolemite, the uniquely articulate pimp (“… rappin’ & tappin’ is my game!”) from the 1975 film Dolemite, and its sequel, The Human Tornado. The persona was developed during his earlier stand-up comedy records.

Rudy Ray Moore is known as the "king of the party records" and released many comedy records throughout the 1960s and 1970s, developing a style even more rude and explicit than contemporaries like Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor. This kept him off of television and major films, but cultivated an enduring fan base. He also guested on Big Daddy Kane's CD Taste of Chocolate, released in 1990.

The 2 Live Crew used Rudy Ray Moore's records as scratch samples on their early work; most notably on "Throw The Dick."

Moore starred in Big Money Hustlas, a movie created by and starring the Insane Clown Posse, in which he played Dolemite for the first time in over 20 years.

In 2008 Rudy Ray Moore reprised the character Petey Wheatstraw for the song "I live for the Funk" Featuring Blowfly and Daniel Jordan. This marked the first time Blowfly and Rudy have collaborated on the same record together, and the 30 year anniversary since the movie was filmed.

Moore began his entertainment career as an R&B singer and continued singing through his comedy career. He developed an interest in comedy in the Army after expanding on a singing performance for other servicemen.

Laurence Luckinbill, stage, screen and television actor.

Laurence George Luckinbill (born November 24, 1934 in Fort Smith, Arkansas) is an American film and television actor. He was graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1956 and The Catholic University of America in 1958.

He is best known for playing Spock's half-brother Sybok in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989). He has also appeared in such feature films as The Boys in the Band, Cocktail and The Promise, and in numerous television shows, such as Law & Order, Barnaby Jones and Murder, She Wrote. He is married to Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, with whom he has three children.

His acting career has also included writing and directing. He has written and performed in several one-man shows including, "Hemingway", "Teddy," "An Evening with Clarence Darrow," as well as, "LBJ", which he didn't write, but has performed numerous times, including a schedule at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, where Lady Bird Johnson was one of those in attendance.

He also has two sons from his previous marriage to actress Robin Strasser.

Katharine Alexander (1898-1981), Stage actress.

Jerry Keller, singer.

Stouffer brothers, creators of the famous "Wild America" TV series.

Thyra Samter Winslow, writer

Brad Neely, modern web artist.

Brad Neely is a comic book artist from Fort Smith, Arkansas who now resides in Austin, Texas. Neely attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. His work includes the comic series "Creased Comics" and the unauthorized spoof of Harry Potter entitled Wizard People, Dear Readers. The latter consists of an alternate soundtrack of narration in the style of a book on tape, which viewers can play over the muted movie. Neely is highlighted in the documentary, "We Are Wizards."

Neely is the creator of the internet cartoon, "Cox & Combes' Washington," though he unwittingly sold the rights to the Cox & Combes characters and the song for $250 due to some fine print at the film festival for which it was produced. Currently Neely is creating animated shorts exclusively for Super Deluxe. Aside from occasional one-off videos, he also has three currently-running series: "I Am Baby Cakes", "The Professor Brothers" and "China, Illinois". "Baby Cakes" shorts are typically in the style of diary entries narrated in the first person by Mark "Baby" Cakes, a socially inept, yet wise about life, 30-year-old playboy man-baby. "The Professor Brothers" follows the professional and personal misadventures of Frank and Steve Smith, two colleagues at a local college. "China, Illinois" interweaves the two other stories, as Baby Cakes falls in love with Frank's recently dead girlfriend after finding her diary, and the two men attempt to come to terms with their emotional pain upon learning of her death.

One of his upcoming projects is a comedy novel about the American Civil War.

Brad Neely was a consultant on the Comedy Central animated series South Park for the 2nd half of season eleven.


Cumilla McSpadden Barber (1928-2008), Conservative political activist who worked in the unsuccessful effort to impeach Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren and who served as an Arkansas elector in 1968 for American Independent Party presidential nominee George C. Wallace, Jr., of Alabama. A native of Groom, Texas, Barber was also active in the 1966 gubernatorial campaign on behalf of Arkansas Democrat James D. Johnson.

Benjamin Bonneville (1796-1878), explorer of the American West.

John Boozman (born 1950), Northside High School graduate and American football player for the Arkansas Razorbacks, United States Representative from Arkansas's 3rd congressional district.

John Boozman (born December 10, 1950) is an American politician who has been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives since 2001, representing the 3rd District of Arkansas (map). He is currently the sole Republican member of Congress (in either House) from Arkansas.

Boozman was born in Arkansas and was an optometrist and rancher before entering the House. He is married to the former Cathy Marley. The couple has three daughters.

Boozman serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure, Veterans Affairs, International Relations, and Policy committees in the House. In the 109th Congress, he served as Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Economic Opportunity Subcommittee, which focuses on ensuring veterans have a smooth transition to civilian life.

Boozman was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas to Marie Nichols and Fay Winford Boozman, Jr.[1] After graduating Northside High School in Fort Smith, Boozman played football at the University of Arkansas while completing his pre-optometry requirements. He graduated from the Southern College of Optometry in 1977 and entered private practice that same year as co-founder of Boozman-Hof Regional Eye Clinic in Rogers, which has become a major provider of eye care to Northwest Arkansas.

Clifton R. Breckinridge (1846-1932), a Democratic alderman, congressman, diplomat, businessman and veteran of the Confederate States of America Army and Navy.

William O. Darby (1911-1945), World War II general and hero.

William Orlando Darby (8 February 1911 - 30 April 1945) was an officer in the United States Army during World War II. Darby led the famous Darby's Rangers which evolved into the US Army Rangers and was also made famous as a major motion picture starring the American actor James Garner in the role of Darby.

William Orlando Darby was born at Fort Smith, Arkansas on February 8, 1911. He graduated from the United States Military Academy with a Bachelor of Science Degree and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Field Artillery on June 13, 1933.

John Joseph Mawn, Sr. (January 10, 1915 - November 4, 2007), was a retired United States Army major who was the technical advisor for the Elvis Presley film G.I. Blues.

Larry Reed McCord (1940-2007), Fort Smith attorney and former vice mayor

Carolyn Pollan (born 1937), former member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, the longest serving Republican and the longest serving woman member of the chamber.

Isaac C. Parker (1838-1896), the "Hanging Judge".

Bass Reeves (1838 - 1910), thought by most to be one of the first Black Americans to receive a commission as a U.S. Deputy Marshal west of the Mississippi River.

Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), 12th President of the United States.

Fort Smith is the second-largest city in Arkansas after Little Rock (Pulaski County) and shares status with Greenwood as the county seat of Sebastian County. Early in the history of Arkansas and the city, Fort Smith was an important point of contact to the American West. It is now home to large manufacturing plants; St. Edward Mercy Medical Center and Sparks Regional Medical Center, which provide healthcare to residents beyond the confines of the city; and the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.

St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), home to a community of Catholic Benedictine sisters, founded in 1879.
Courtesy of St. Scholastica Monastery

Pre-European Exploration

No indigenous peoples appear to have had permanent settlements at the time of European contact in what became Fort Smith. In southern Fort Smith, a platform mound commonly called the Cavanaugh Mound exists in isolation and may have provided a vantage point from which the Spiro Mounds in present-day Oklahoma could have been seen in an earlier century.

Drawing of a view looking across the Arkansas River to Fort Smith (Sebastian County); circa 1853.
Drawing by H. B. Mollhausen, courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System

European Exploration and Settlement

Hernando de Soto’s expedition into Arkansas in 1541 may have reached as far west as Fort Smith. Place names in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas—Poteau, Belle Point, and Massard Prairie—give some evidence of the presence of French trappers and others who perhaps used the Arkansas River and its tributary, the Poteau River. The Arkansas River Valley provided fertile bottom land to earlier farmer settlers. Belle Point, a river bluff, along the Arkansas River just north of its juncture with the Poteau, afforded an excellent vantage point looking west and a defensible position for the first Fort Smith military post.

Opening of the “Million Dollar” Free Bridge across the Arkansas River at Fort Smith (Sebastian County) to traffic in May 1922. The bridge was the fourth to span the Arkansas River at Fort Smith.
Courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System

Louisiana Purchase and Early Statehood

In November 1817, the first American troops arrived at Belle Point and began building the first structures. The principal purpose of the fort was to keep the peace between the Osage and Cherokee tribes that had entered the area. Around the fort, a small settlement began forming, taking its name from the fort that, in turn, was named for General Thomas A. Smith, the military district’s commander. In 1822, John Rogers first arrived in the town and established himself as a supplier to the fort and trader with trappers, Native Americans, and other settlers. The army abandoned the fort and moved west to establish Fort Gibson in the Indian Territory (later Oklahoma). By 1836, the army returned and began building the second Fort Smith military post. Rogers lobbied successfully for the military’s return. Because of his strong association with both forts and his early efforts to promote the town, many consider him to be the founder of the city of Fort Smith.

John Henry Rogers of Fort Smith (Sebastian County), the U.S. District Court judge for the Western District of Arkansas; circa 1905.
Courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System

Fort Smith was an important center for outfitting forty-niners during the gold rush in late 1848 and early 1849, as well as soldiers in the Mexican War from 1846 to 1848. Although more forty-niners probably disembarked from Missouri for California seeking to stake claims to sources of gold, one of the first wagon trains of those journeying by land left from Fort Smith. This was primarily because the more southern route west from Fort Smith had fresh grass earlier in the spring than the more northerly route.

Katharine Susan Anthony of Fort Smith (Sebastian County), author of feminist and psychological biographies of famous women; circa 1940s.
Courtesy of the Arkansas History Commission

The fort served as an important place for outfitting and supplying military companies. Fort Smith also became increasingly central to communications on the frontier and beyond as stage, steamboat, and mail transportation networks matured.

Notorious outlaw Belle Starr, the “Bandit Queen,” who as a resident of Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), numbered among her friends the likes of Cole Younger and the James brothers. She ended up being sentenced to a year in prison by Judge Isaac C. Parker at Fort Smith (Sebastian County) for stealing horses.
Public domain

Civil War through Reconstruction

With the secession crisis following the election of Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860, the Department of War prepared to abandon Fort Smith. Federal troops remained until just before Arkansas seceded, and the commander viewed his military position as untenable. Arkansas volunteers and Confederates took control of the fort shortly after its abandonment. Union forces returned permanently to occupy the garrison in September 1863. Although they continued to hold the fort, Union forces’ hold on the surrounding countryside became increasingly tenuous in 1864 as bushwhackers and Confederate regular and irregular forces marauded and conducted raids on Union forces and their supporters.

Frisco locomotive at Fort Smith (Sebastian County); circa 1920.
Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville

After the war, Federal forces out of Fort Smith worked to restore order to the countryside and rural areas of western Arkansas. The city also was the site of the Fort Smith Council, a gathering of federal and tribal representatives for the purpose of negotiating the terms under which the former Confederate Indian nations could resume their relationship with the United States.

Federal Courthouse in Fort Smith (Sebastian County).
Photo by John Gill, courtesy of the photographer

Post Reconstruction through the Gilded Age

After fires destroyed officers’ quarters at the fort in 1870, the federal government officials initially resolved to sell it but later decided to move the Western Arkansas Federal District Court from Van Buren (Crawford County) to the land at Belle Point. Judge William Story presided over the court but was replaced in May 1875 by Judge Isaac C. Parker, a former congressman from Missouri. Parker’s judgeship lasted until just before his death in 1896 and marks one of the most celebrated periods in Fort Smith history. U.S. marshals and deputy marshals headquartered in Fort Smith not only enforced the law in western Arkansas but also in the frequently lawless neighboring Indian Territory.

Old U.S. Courthouse in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), now the Fort Smith National Historic Site—also known as Judge Isaac Parker’s court.
Photo by John Gill

In the city of Fort Smith, the late nineteenth century marked a period of booming growth in the 1880s in which the population nearly tripled, commercial trading expanded, and Garrison Avenue became the wholesale and retail center of the region. Railroad transportation arrived in the 1870s, giving the city an important alternative to the Arkansas River.

Sebastian County Courthouse in Fort Smith.
Photo by John Gill

Early Twentieth Century

Much of the city’s history until the onset of the Great Depression is a story of the growth (albeit in fits and starts) of its economy and culture. An electric streetcar network within the city grew as the city did. Between 1907 and 1924, the city became one of the few in U.S. history to not only legalize but also regulate prostitution in a restricted district (known as “the Row).

Visitor center at the Fort Smith National Historic Site in Sebastian County.
Courtesy of the National Park Service

Fort Smith never had the sizeable African-American communities that Little Rock and other cities in the state had, but Jim Crow came to it nevertheless. Streetcar lines, public bathrooms, water fountains, and other public facilities separated black and white citizens of the city. Howard Elementary School and Lincoln High School provided public education to the city’s black children.

Old U.S. courthouse and jail in Fort Smith (Sebastian County); circa late 1800s.
Courtesy of the National Park Service

Natural gas was discovered in the area in 1887 and became an important feature that later attracted some manufacturers to the city, namely a notable glass-manufacturing industry. Furniture manufacturing also became increasingly central to the metropolitan economy. On May 11, 1922, a bridge to accommodate automobile traffic was constructed to span the Arkansas River at the west end of Garrison, connecting downtown Fort Smith to Oklahoma.

Grounds at Fort Smith National Cemetery in Fort Smith (Sebastian County); 2008.
Photo by Mike Keckhaver

During the Great Depression, infamous criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow hid in Fort Smith to elude capture while Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd robbed and did the same in nearby Oklahoma. The New Deal brought public works projects to the area, and federal workers built a dam in Crawford County to create a water source for the city called Lake Fort Smith.

Entrance to the Fort Smith National Cemetery in Fort Smith (Sebastian County); 2008.
Photo by Mike Keckhaver

World War II through the Faubus Era

Camp Chaffee, later renamed Fort Chaffee, was activated as an army base on March 27, 1942. During World War II, Chaffee was used for training armored divisions of the U.S. Army. The army built three prison compounds covering about fifty-three acres of the camp to house 3,400 German prisoners of war. Although Chaffee was well outside Fort Smith’s city limits, it was nearby in Sebastian County, and economic ties between it and the city were strong. After the war, it was deactivated and activated many times. In the 1950s and 1960s, the city struggled and succeeded in diversifying its economy, or at least making it less reliant on Fort Chaffee.

Interior of St. Boniface Catholic Church in Fort Smith (Sebastian County); circa 1920s.
Courtesy of Loretta Petry

On February 1, 1962, the Norge Company opened a factory for the manufacture of refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners. It was purchased by the Whirlpool Corp. in 1968 and expanded. As recently as 2004, it employed 4,600 people. Hometown companies like Baldor Electric Co.—a maker of motors, drives, and generators—and ABF Freight System Inc.—a less-than-truckload carrier and subsidiary of Arkansas Best Corp.—also are major employers in the city and drivers of the local economy. Many of them can trace their origins back to the period of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

Belle Point Hospital; 1903. As of 2008, Sparks Ambulatory Surgery Center occupies this site.
Courtesy of Sparks Health System

Social change came with economic growth. Fort Smith sought to avoid the divisive integration struggle that Little Rock underwent and, for the most part, did so.

Sparks Regional Medical Center in Ft. Smith (Sebastian County) as it looked at its 100-year anniversary in the mid-1980s.
Courtesy of Sparks Health System

Modern Era

Fort Smith’s population grew during the 1960s and 1970s, and its manufacturing base deepened. St. Edward Mercy Medical Center opened in a new hospital facility on what was then the eastern edge of town in 1975. Central Mall, one of the largest indoor shopping malls in Arkansas, opened about twenty blocks to the west along Rogers Avenue.

Miss Laura’s Social Club, located in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), is the only former bordello listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Courtesy of the Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau

Layoffs at Whirlpool have highlighted threats to the city’s investment in its manufacturing base. These challenges, also faced by manufacturers nationwide, have been offset somewhat by the good news of expansions by other resident manufacturers and businesses.

Front gates at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (Sebastian County).
Courtesy of the Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau

Demographically, the city of Fort Smith has become more diverse. In 1975, Fort Chaffee was used as the center for federal resettlement of Vietnamese refugees who fled their country following the fall of Saigon. Many of the Vietnamese stayed in the community. Hispanic immigrants became residents of the city and region in recent years as they have in other parts of the state. Finally, a sizeable Laotian community settled in Fort Smith beginning in the 1980s. Wat Buddha Samakitham, a Laotian Buddhist temple; two Vietnamese Buddhist temples; and Vietnamese Christian churches serve the local Asian population.

The hanging of Cherokee Bill at Fort Smith (Sebastian County); March 1896.
Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville


Fort Smith public schools provide education from kindergarten through the twelfth grade, as do some private Protestant schools. Catholic parochial schools offer education through the ninth grade. The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith administers numerous four-year bachelor’s degree programs. Webster College and Siloam Springs–based John Brown University (JBU) also operate four-year programs through satellite facilities in Fort Smith.


Manufacturing, trucking, and food-processing sectors employ thousands of people in the Fort Smith economy. The city is home to Baldor Electric’s motor and drive factory and Hiram Walker’s blending and bottling facility. Fort Smith remains an important hub for shopping and consumers in the city and region. Fort Smith’s hospitals and university also are major employers.


What remains of the buildings at the second Fort Smith military post today house the exhibits of the Fort Smith National Historic Site. Miss Laura’s Bordello, a former brothel and the only remaining building from the Row, is home to the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau and the only former house of prostitution on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of the homes in original Fort Smith today also are on the register and form the city’s Belle Grove Historic District. In 2006, on land formerly a part of Fort Chaffee, the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center was opened to educate visitors to the natural environment of the state and the western Arkansas region in particular.

Famous Residents

Fort Smith has many residents of note. They include American explorer Benjamin Bonneville, federal judge Isaac C. Parker, World War II general and hero William O. Darby, writer Thyra Samter Winslow, and blaxploitation star Rudy Ray Moore.