See Rock City

See Rock City

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hope, AR

"A Slice of the Good Life"

Hope is a small city in Hempstead County, Arkansas, United States. According to 2005 United States Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city was 10,467. The city is the county seat of Hempstead County and the principal city of the Hope Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Hempstead and Nevada counties.

Bill Clinton boyhood home in Hope

Hope is most known as the birthplace of the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton (see Bill Clinton Birthplace). At the 1992 Democratic National Convention in New York City, Clinton ended his acceptance speech by saying, "I still believe in a place called Hope." The city tagged this statement as their unofficial motto. The city converted its railroad depot to a museum on Clinton's life.

Bill Clinton Birthplace

The Bill Clinton Birthplace is located at 117 South Hervey Street (U.S. Route 278) in Hope, Arkansas. Built in 1917 by Dr. H. S. Garrett, in this house the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton spent the first four years of his life, having been born at Julia Chester Hospital in Hope on August 19, 1946. The house was owned by his grandparents, Edith Grisham and James Eldridge Cassidy, and they cared for him when his mother, Virginia, was away working as an anesthetist in New Orleans. (Maraniss 1995)

Painting Of Bill Clinton's Birth Place.

On May 19, 1994, the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Senate Bill 245 (introduced by Mark Pryor on January 10, 2007) proposes to designate the property as "William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site." If the bill becomes law, the Secretary of Interior would be authorized to accept the property if donated by the Clinton Birthplace Foundation, which currently offers tours of the property. The site would then become a unit of the National Park System.

Preview of the Home Tour

The Clinton Birthplace is a great stop on your vacation in Arkansas and a great destination for tour groups. Here's a small sampling of what you will see and learn on the Home Tour.

Clinton Birthplace Home

The Clinton Birthplace, at 117 S. Hervey St. in Hope, Arkansas, is a 2 ½ story American four-square home. It was built in 1917 by Dr. H.S. Garrett and patterned from a design in France. The home has 2100 square feet.

The Cassidy’s, President Clinton’s biological grandparents, lived here for 18 years (1938 to 1956). Bill lived here from birth until 1950 when his mother married Roger Clinton and they moved to 321 E. 13th St., Hope, Arkansas.

Restoration of the birthplace began in 1995 and opened June 1, 1997

Oval Office Rug

Designed by Kaki Hockersmith of Little Rock, Arkansas and woven by the Scott Group. President Clinton wanted the Oval Office to reflect our nation’s strength and diversity.


Typical town kitchen of the 1940’s and 1950’s. The cook stove and hot water heater used natural gas. President Clinton’s grandmother, Edith Cassidy, used playing cards on the window curtains to teach him numbers and basic math as he sat in his high chair.

Inauguration Day Front Page

“From Hope to glory” headlines after the November 3, 1992 victory for the United States Presidency. He thanked the Nation and his family for helping him in the victory, saying he believed his wife “will be one of the greatest first ladies in the history of the republic” bringing chants of “Hillary” from the crowd.


These were not President Clinton’s toys but toys a boy might have in the 1950’s. He was given a Lionel train set by Roger Clinton, Sr. when he was 4 or 5 years old and the two enjoyed it together.

Virginia Kelley Clinton Memorial Garden and Surrounding Neighborhood

There are 10 rose bushes behind the fountain, one a JFK rose with white blossoms, and a Barbara Streisand rose. Barbara and Virginia became close friends in 1992 until Virginia’s death in 1994. There are Camellias, Crepe Myrtles and a variety of other flowers to be found in the garden.

Global Visitors Tree Lighting

President Bill Clinton

by Clinton Bithplace on Fri 16 Feb 2007 08:57 AM CST | Permanent Link | Cosmos
Over forty-thousand people have visited Hope, Arkansas since the Clinton Birthplace Museum was restored and opened in 1997 by the Clinton Birthplace Foundation. Of the world’s 193 countries, citizens from 157 countries have come to visit President Bill Clinton’s first home, the home he shared with his widowed mother and maternal grandparents Edith and Eldridge Cassidy. The museum’s World Atlas Map is filled with red visitor pins from Antarctica to Greenland, all around the equator and almost everywhere in between. Visitors make the pilgrimage because President Clinton’s ideas and policies have had an important impact in their lives and their countries. They want to know about his life.

The Clinton Birthplace Global Visitors Tree was a combination of native pines, cedars and magnolia branches. The tree was presented in an ecumenical spirit, in the tradition of many countries, cultures and faiths. The tree represented the putting aside of differences and gathering together around light during the dark days of winter. Names of the 157 countries represented on the museum’s visitor map were written on the ornament ribbons.

Atop the tree was a small dove with a large olive branch, to remind us all that even small acts of kindness can be of major importance to others. The Global Visitors Tree was accented with clouds of blue netting with green and blue lights representing the waters of Earth, the clusters of grapes alongside suggests the abundance of the Earth. The purple and gold chains of beads represented the importance of communication among all countries. The river of sparkling blue lights and net ended in a basket filled with fruit. Beside it was an empty basket as a reminder of places on this Earth where there is no abundance.

There was a bowl of Stone Soup at the base of the tree, to recall the folktale of a stranger who came to a town where people were angry with each other, they had little, and didn’t even talk together. The stranger saw they were cold and hungry. No one invited him in. So the stranger gathered some firewood and filled his small cooking pot with water from the river. He sat down in the village square and built a fire to heat his pot of water. The stranger knew the village people were watching him from behind their curtains. When the water began to steam took a potato-sized rock out of his satchel and put it in the water. He stirred the water and sat. The people became curious.

One villager ventured out to ask the stranger why he was cooking a rock. Was the fellow crazy? “Oh, it’s Stone Soup I’m making. Will you share it with me? It will be very good, but it would be better if it had an onion.” So the villager went back to his home and brought out an onion. Another and another person grew curious enough to come out of their homes, out of their anger. To each one the stranger welcomed them to share his Stone Soup, but remarked how much better it would be if it had a carrot or a bit of garlic and so forth. Before long the whole village had gathered around the stranger’s warm fire and his increasingly aromatic Stone Soup, each having brought some bit of something to contribute to the Stone Soup. Soon they had a delicious soup, and all grew warm from the fire. The stranger told them good stories and the villagers began laughing and soon began talking to each other again. The bowl of Stone Soup at the base of our Global Visitors Tree was meant to remind us of what we can do when we share what we have.

Our Global Visitors Tree was dedicated to the over forty-thousand people who have traveled from near and far to visit President Clinton’s first home. The lighting design of the tree is inspired by Clinton’s Global Initiative. It is a visual arts response to President Clinton’s Foundation to strengthen and foster global interdependence.

Click Here to Visit Clinton's Birth Place

Governor Mike Huckabee

Hope is also the birthplace of the former Governor Mike Huckabee, an unsuccessful candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

Huckabee was born in Hope, Arkansas, to Mae Elder (1925-1999) and Dorsey Wiles Huckabee (1923-1996), both natives of Hope. His surname is of English origin. His father worked as a fireman and mechanic, and his mother worked as a clerk at a gas company. His father was a strict disciplinarian, and left a lasting impression. Speaking to Charles Gibson of ABC News, he explained with a grin: "My father was the ultimate patriot. You know, he'd lay on the stripes, and I'd see stars."

Huckabee's first job, at 14, was working at a radio station where he read the news and weather. He was elected Governor of Arkansas Boys State in 1972 and is a Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Alumnus. He was student council president at Hope High School in 1973. He has one sister, Pat (Harris) who is a middle school teacher.

Huckabee married Janet McCain on May 25, 1974. He graduated magna cum laude from Ouachita Baptist University, completing his bachelor's degree in Religion in 2½ years before attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He dropped out of seminary after one year in order to take a job in Christian broadcasting. He has two honorary doctoral degrees: a Doctor of Humane Letters, received from John Brown University in 1991, and a Doctor of Laws from Ouachita Baptist University in 1992.

Mack McLarty

Others from Hope include former White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty; attorney,

McLarty was born in Hope, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1969. He is a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity. He was elected to the State Legislature at the age of 23 and served as chairman of the state Democratic Party from 1974-1976."

In 1976, he became the youngest member ever elected to the Board of Directors of the Arkla Gas/Arkla, Inc., a Fortune 500 natural gas company. In 1983 he became Arkla's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. During his tenure, the company was recognized by Forbes, The Wall Street Transcript, and The Financial Times for management excellence, in addition to his automotive endeavors.

He has a distinguished record of business leadership and public service, including various roles advising three Presidents: Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. McLarty worked with President Carter as a member of the Democratic National Committee and was appointed to the National Petroleum Council and the Council on Environmental Quality.

Vincent Walker Foster, Jr. (1945-1993);

Foster was born in Hope, Arkansas, where he was a childhood neighbor and friend of Bill Clinton for the first eight years of his life, until Clinton moved away. He graduated from Hope High School in 1963 as president of his class. He attended Davidson College, graduating in 1967. After starting at Vanderbilt University Law School, he transferred to the University of Arkansas School of Law, where he was managing editor of the law review and graduated first in his class in 1971. Additionally he scored the highest in his class on the Arkansas bar exam.

Foster married Elizabeth (Lisa) Braden in 1968.[citation needed] They had three children, Vince III, Laura, and Brugh.

U.S. Representative Mike Ross;

Ross was born in Texarkana, Arkansas, the son of two teachers, and he attended high school in Hope, Arkansas. He was educated at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, working as an announcer at the campus radio station while in school. Together with his wife, Ross owned a pharmacy in Prescott, Arkansas, which they sold in May 2007. The Ross family has two children and attend the First United Methodist Church of Prescott.

Before entering the House, Ross was elected to the Arkansas State Senate. He served in this body for 10 years, becoming the legislature's youngest member when he first entered it in 1990.

Former Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor David L. Armstrong;

David L. Armstrong (born August 6, 1941) was mayor of Louisville, Kentucky from 1999 to 2003.

Armstrong was born in Hope, Arkansas. Prior to becoming mayor, he had served as Jefferson County Judge/Executive since 1989. He was raised in Madison, Indiana. He attended Hanover College, where he became a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity, before graduating from Murray State University in 1966. He earned a J.D. from the University of Louisville school of law in 1969. Armstrong then worked in the public and private sector, including a term as a family court judge and election as Jefferson County's Commonwealth's Attorney, the local felony prosecutor. In 1983 Armstrong was elected Attorney General of Kentucky. He ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor in 1987, losing in the Democratic primary to Brereton C. Jones.

Former Arkansas Secretary of State Kelly Bryant (1908-1975),

Kelly Bryant (August 28, 1908 - October 1975) served as the Democratic secretary of state of the U.S. state of Arkansas from 1963 until his death nearly thirteen years later. He was one of three statewide politicians born in Hope, the seat of Hempstead County, in southern Arkansas.

Bryant was married to the former Elizabeth Sutton (February 19, 1912 - July 7, 1997), a native of Marianna, the seat of Lee County along the Mississippi River in eastern Arkansas. She was the daughter of O.C. Sutton and the former Florence Dorsett. Mrs. Bryant, like her husband, had resided for many years in Hope and Little Rock, where she worked in various capacities in the state capital, including the offices of the secretary of state, state treasurer, and Arkansas General Assembly. Mrs. Bryant graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1934 and was a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Business and Professional Women's Club, Arkansas Democratic Women, Junior Auxiliary, the Cosmopolitan Club, and the Arkansas Historical Society.

Mrs. Bryant died in a nursing home in Murray, Kentucky, the residence of their daughter, Betty Bryant Brockway. The Bryants, who were Methodist, are interred in Memory Gardens Cemetery south of Hope.

PGA golfer Ken Duke,

Kenneth Wootson Duke (born January 29, 1969) is an American professional golfer.

Duke was born in Hope, Arkansas. After turning professional in 1994, Duke first qualified for the PGA Tour in 2004, but failed to keep his card and returned to the Nationwide Tour. In 2006 he finished at the top of the Nationwide Tour money list and won the BMW Charity Pro-Am at The Cliffs, which regained his playing rights on the PGA Tour for 2007.

After a slow start to the 2007 season, Duke hit a run of good form in the spring, with four consecutive top 10 finishes, elevating Duke into the top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings.

And actress Melinda Dillon, In Movie Magnolia as Rose Gator

Melinda Rose Dillon (born October 13, 1939 in Hope, Arkansas) is an American actress.

Though best known for her supporting performances in films, Dillon got her start as an improvisational comedian and stage actress. Her first major role was as Honey in the original 1962 Broadway production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress (Dramatic) Tony Award.

She followed her early Broadway success with her first film, The April Fools, in 1969. Playing "Memphis Sue" opposite David Carradine, she was nominated for the Best Female Acting Debut Golden Globe for the 1976 Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory. She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the role of a mother whose young child is abducted by aliens in Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977. Four years later she was once again nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as a suicidal teacher in 1981's Absence of Malice, opposite Paul Newman, with whom she had also appeared in Slap Shot.

As a comedienne, Dillon is perhaps best known for her role as the compassionate mother of Ralphie in Bob Clark's 1983 film A Christmas Story. The film was based on a series of short stories and novels written by Jean Shepherd, and follows young Ralphie Parker (played by Peter Billingsley) on his quest for a BB gun from Santa Claus.

Five years later she appeared opposite John Lithgow in the Bigfoot comedy Harry and the Hendersons. She continued to be active in stage and film throughout the 1990s, taking minor roles in the Barbra Streisand drama The Prince of Tides, the low-budget Lou Diamond Phillips thriller Sioux City, and the drama How to Make an American Quilt.

She has remained a private person, and information about her personal life is largely unknown. She was married briefly to character actor Richard Libertini, with whom she had one child. In recent years her career has waned, but she has taken notable roles in the 1999 ensemble drama Magnolia and the TV adaptation of John Grisham's A Painted House in 2003.

Country Music Hall of Fame singer Patsy Montana attended school in Hope,

Patsy Montana

Mini Bio

(1908-1996) - Cowgirl singer Patsy Montana (real name: Ruby Blevins) rose to prominence during the 1930s as a cast member of Chicago's WLS National Barn Dance. She worked there and on records with a famous stringband, the Prairie Ramblers. With the Ramblers she recorded "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart," a 1935 hit believed to be the first million-seller by a female country artist. Her role as star of stage and radio -- she made extensive tours and played many radio engagements during the 1940s and beyond ... was doubly important because of her status as a female star. As with later cowgirl singers, one of her trademarks was her intricate yodel, which inspired many other female singers through the years. Montana was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996, the year she died.


Rubye Rebecca Blevins, born near Hot Springs, Arkansas on October 30, 1908, was one of the first role models for female country singers. Raised in Hope, Arkansas, she taught herself guitar and took violin lessons before studying at the University of the West (now UCLA). There she joined two other women to form the Montana Cowgirls. After the trio broke up, she visited Arkansas and a booking on Shreveport's KWKH led to her first recordings in 1932, playing fiddle for Jimmie Davis, then with the Prairie Ramblers at WLS Chicago and as a solo star. Patsy's yodeling, western songs and image of being an independent female became trademarks. A national radio show on the ABC network in 1946 and her appearances on the Louisiana Hayride, carried nationally on CBS radio, continued to popularize "The Girl With The Million-Dollar Personality." Moving to California in 1952, she resumed touring and recording in the 1960s, continuing into the 1990s. The singing cowgirl died at home in San Jacinto, California on May 3, 1996, and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame later that same year.

She Was Every Cowboy's Sweetheart.

100 Havenhurst
Pineville, MO 64856

Expanded Bio

Patsy Montana came into this life as the only girl in the Blevins family near Hot Springs, Arkansas. She was named Ruby and little did her parents and brothers know how fitting this name would become as she truly has become a "jewel" over the years.

As she was growing up she learned to play the guitar on her own and took some violin lessons. Her musical ability was shown to the extent that she got her first musical employment when she was only fourteen. After two years of honing her musical talents Ruby added an "e" to the end of her first name and headed for the bright lights of Hollywood. She had a great appreciation for cowboy and western music and got a job on KMTR Hollywood as "Rubye Blevins, the Yodeling Cowgirl from San Antone."

While there she became involved with a group of entertainers that Stuart Hamblen put together for a regular radio show on KMIC Inglewood. Two other girls were members of the group and one of them was named Ruthy. Hamblen thought radio listeners might have trouble distinguishing between Rubye and Ruthy so Rubye changed her name to Patsy and later added Montana. The three girls were billed as the Montana Cowgirls. In 1933 Patsy went home to Arkansas for a visit and found that two of her brothers were planning to enter what they hoped was "the world's biggest watermelon" in the Chicago World's Fair. Patsy went to Chicago with them and while there heard that the Kentucky Ramblers of the WLS National Barn Dance were looking for a female singer. She made the necessary contacts and was hired.

Inasmuch as she had developed a western image and because of the popularity of cowboy songs the group was renamed the Prairie Ramblers. The first song that Patsy sang on WLS was Montana Plains which Patsy had adapted from Stuart Hamblen's Texas Plains by changing the title and a few words. Stuart was not happy with this change and Patsy decided to write her own theme song in a similar structure and rhythm. During the week between National Barn Dance broadcasts Patsy was a part of a road show called the "Roundup of WLS Radio Stars."

While with the touring group she met, fell in love with and married Paul Rose who managed another act in the group. In 1934 during performances in Illinois, Rose was away visiting his sick mother in Knoxville, Tennessee. In her loneliness, during hisabsence, one evening in her hotel room she wrote the song that was to become her "trademark." She gave it the title "Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart" that had been suggested earlier by music promoter, J. L. Frank. She introduced it on the National Barn Dance and the rest is history. Although it was written in 1934 it was not published until 1935 and it has been recorded by many artists over the years. None, however, have measured up to Patsy's recording which was the first million selling record by a female artist.

A leading figure in the restoration of nearby Historic Washington State Park in Washington, Arkansas, was James H. Pilkinton (1914-1994) of Hope, who served as president of the Pioneer Washington Restoration Foundation, Inc., from 1959-1960 and again from 1973-1990. In 1966, Pilkinton was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, having narrowly been defeated by the Republican Maurice L. Britt, the running-mate of Winthrop Rockefeller, who won the first of his two two-year terms as governor that year. Pilkinton is interred in Rose Hill Cemetery.

A former Republican U.S. Representative from Michigan, Robert James Huber, is buried in Hope, but he did not live there. It was the hometown of his wife, the former Mary Pauline "Polly" Tolleson, a graduate of Hope High School. Also, Hope is home to a few African-American figures such as Henry C. Yerger, who established a school for blacks in 1895.

Huber was elected from Michigan's 18th congressional district to the 93rd United States Congress, having served from January 3, 1973, to January 3, 1975. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1974, the year of Watergate, having been defeated by the future Democratic Governor of Michigan, James J. Blanchard. He ran unsuccessfully for nomination to the United States Senate from Michigan in 1970, 1976, 1982, and 1988. He was chairman of the board of Michigan Chrome and Chemical Company.

Huber died in Troy.

Mrs. Huber, the former Mary Pauline "Polly" Tolleson (July 10, 1923 - January 25, 2005), was a native of Oklahoma who grew up in Hope, Arkansas. She graduated from Hope High School in 1941 and Texas Woman's University (then Texas State College for Women) in Denton in 1945. She worked for American Airlines before her marriage in 1952. After his death, Mrs. Huber returned to Hope. Over the years, she was active in the Republican Party and the Catholic Church. She was survived by a brother, William E. Tolleson, Sr., of Hope and a sister-in-law, Jane Huber of Royal Oak, Michigan.

The Hubers are buried in Memory Gardens Cemetery south of Hope. They had no children.

Paul Klipsch

Paul Klipsch founded Klipsch and Associates in Hope in 1946. Klipsch invented the world famous Klipschorn speaker, a folded horn loaded speaker that revolutionized the industry. The Klipschorn and a number of other speaker lines are still manufactured in Hope by Klipsch Audio Technologies.

Paul Wilbur Klipsch (March 9, 1904 – May 5, 2002) was an American high fidelity audio pioneer, known for developing the high-efficiency folded horn loudspeaker, who revolutionized the way the world listens to recorded music. Unsatisfied with the sound quality of phonographs and early speaker systems, Klipsch used scientific principles to develop a corner horn speaker that sounded more lifelike than its predecessors.


The Klipschorn®, which today is still manufactured and sold worldwide, proved that it was possible to reproduce the sound of a live orchestra inside a home. The resulting acoustics career of Klipsch spanned from 1946, when he founded one of the first U.S. loudspeaker companies, to 2000 when the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society published one of his papers. He died on May 5, 2002 at the age of 98.

Fred Klipsch, current Klipsch owner and chairman and cousin to founder Paul Wilbur Klipsch, said, “Paul was a verifiable genius who could have chosen any number of vocations, but the world sounds a lot better because he chose audio. He was a great man who always tried to do the right thing in the right way.”

The Hope Municipal Airport was the Southwestern Proving Ground during World War II and had the claim of the third longest runway in the United States. Paul Klipsch used to joke that his desk was not in the same spot as the one he had during his United States Army service at the Proving Ground; it was on the other side of the room.


Hope is also known for growing watermelons and continues to produce records for the largest specimens in the world. The last record was set by Lloyd Bright in 2005 with a 268.8 pound watermelon. The Watermelon Festival is celebrated annually from Thursday-Saturday during the second week of August. The watermelon is used in the municipal logo and the Hope slogan: A Slice of the Good Life.


Until the 1940s, however, it was hard to find watermelons in good condition at grocery stores. Melon lovers had to grow their own, which tended not to keep for long, purchase them from local grocers supplied by truck farmers, or purchase them from roadside produce stands. Now they can be found in most local grocery stores, and if preferred in slices or whole, with seeds or without.

Welcome to the City of Hope, Arkansas official Web site. First settled in 1852, Hope is a thriving community located in the southwest corner of the State. Hope was named in honor of the daughter of James Loughborough, the Cairo and Fulton (railroad) Land Commissioner, who drew up the original plat of the city. Hope was incorporated in 1875.

We are 25 miles northeast of Texarkana USA and 120 miles southwest of the capital city of Little Rock.

We invite you to explore our web site to discover what Hope offers as "A Slice of the Good Life."

Since 1986, the Hempstead County Economic Development Corporation has worked with development allies to create over 2,100 net new manufacturing jobs in the Hope area. The Corporation has been recognized by Site Selection magazine as one of the top rural economic development organizations in the United States.

Medical Park Hospital (MPH) is a 91-bed acute-care facility owned and operated by Triad Hospitals, Inc. MPH is located at 2001 South Main Street in Hope, Arkansas, a city of about 10,000. Medical Park offers comprehensive emergency, diagnostic and treatment services for medical and surgical patients.

The City of Hope is served by one school district--Hope School District 1A.

The University of Arkansas Community College at Hope is an accredited, open access, two-year institution of higher education committed to providing quality academic, occupational, personal growth, and cultural programs to support individual student and community needs in the Southwest Arkansas area.

HW&L provides water and electric service to Hope residents and areas surrounding the city.

The Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce promotes business and industry in Hope and Hempstead County. The chamber also sponsors the Annual Watermelon Festival held in August of each year.

Hope's hometown newspaper.

Hope's television station.

Clinton Birthplace Foundation

Birthplace of the 42nd President of the United States of America.

Official first-term (1979–1981) gubernatorial portrait of William Jefferson Clinton, fortieth and forty-second governor of Arkansas.
Courtesy of the Arkansas Secretary of State's Office

Hope is on Prairie De Roan in southwest Arkansas. It is divided by Union-Pacific Railway tracks traveling from northeast to southwest and is the birthplace of William Jefferson Clinton, the fortieth and forty-second governor of Arkansas and the forty-second president of the United States. Hope received national attention when Clinton closed his nomination acceptance speech at the 1992 Democratic National Convention with the words, “I still believe in a place called Hope.”

Reconstruction through the Early Twentieth Century

The town developed as the Cairo and Fulton Railway (predecessor to the Union Pacific) tracks were being laid from Argenta (now North Little Rock in Pulaski County) to Fulton (Hempstead County). The first passenger train pulled into “Hope Station” on February 1, 1872. By the time the railway offered lots for sale, the wood-frame depot was almost complete. James Loughborough, the railroad company’s land commissioner, had named the workmen’s camp in honor of his daughter, Hope. The railway company drew the plat of the town and sold the first lots on August 28, 1873. The state had given the land to the company to defray building expenses. Walter Shiver built the first house near the depot in 1873. The town was incorporated on April 8, 1875, and the first officials were elected May 14. Three more railways arrived in Hope by 1902. Passenger service continued until 1971.

The last picture taken of novelist Claude Garner, age eighty-three; 1978. He is at his home in Hope (Hempstead County).
Courtesy of the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives

By 1900, the town had begun to produce its own electricity, an idea promoted by retired steamboat Captain Judson T. West, who had moved to Hope in 1875. An artesian well supplied water for the city. According to an 1888 article in the Arkansas State Gazetteer, Hope’s industries, businesses, and attractions included lumber mills, a wagon factory, a cotton compress, two banks, a hotel, several stores, a newspaper, a public school, and an opera house.

Watermelon Festival parade at Hope (Hempstead County); circa 1927.
Courtesy of the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives

Until construction of a highway bridge at Fulton in 1930, traffic crossed the Red River on a ferry. The routing of U.S. 67 (Broadway of America) through Hope in 1936 brought tourism.

Orval Eugene Faubus with a giant watermelon from the “Home of the World’s Largest Watermelons,” Hope (Hempstead County); circa 1965.
Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville

The Arkansas Supreme Court declared Hope the county seat on May 11, 1939, after five bitterly fought elections to move the courthouse from Washington to Hope. An act of Congress in May 1824 had named Washington the county seat, but Hope citizens believed their town had become the commercial center of the county and its location more accessible. The Public Works Administration built Hope’s courthouse in 1939.

World War II through the Modern Era

On July 1, 1941, the government announced a land condemnation order, and work began on the Southwestern Proving Ground (SPG). The government built the army ordnance plant on 50,000 acres of farmland just north of Hope. Four dozen army officers directed the activities and were assisted by an army air corps detachment of about 150 men. Civilian employees—more than 750 daily—were transported by bus from Hope and surrounding counties. The plant was completed, and the first ammunition was tested January 1, 1942. Work continued until the end of the war in 1945. Some of the employees, both civilian and army, remained in Hope.

Paul Wilbur Klipsch, founder of Klipsch Audio Technologies of Hope (Hempstead County), a world leader in premium-quality audio products; circa 1940.
Courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System

The Southwestern Proving Ground Airport was deeded to the city and dedicated as the Hope Municipal Airport on April 27, 1947, with an air show. In June, the government deeded 750 acres near the airport to be leased in support of the airport.

Chamber Depot

The War Assets Administration turned over to the city the deeds for 2,500 acres of the Southwestern Proving Ground land for an industrial area. When industry seeks to locate, the Federal Aviation Administration must approve the company’s lease or purchase of the land. The money is deposited in the Hope Municipal Airport Fund for its upkeep. Manufacturers in the industrial park include Temple Island, Borden Resins, Klipsch and Associates, and Tyson Foods. The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars helped the city buy the officers quarters (now Oakhaven, an incorporated city) to assure veterans an opportunity to buy one of the houses. The federal government sold much of the original 50,000 acres of proving ground land to former owners.

Hempstead County Courthouse in Hope.
Photo by John Gill

By the mid-1950s, Hope could not meet the demand for electricity and water. Its board of directors passed an ordinance requesting a Water and Light Commission, which was established in 1957 by legislative Act 115. Water is pumped from Millwood Dam through the Graves-Foster Water Treatment Plant at Fulton.

Map of Hempstead County.
Map created by Mike Keckhaver

The Interstate 30 bridge over the Red River was completed in 1966. On November 10, 1972, the final section of I-30 officially opened, greatly improving travel from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Dallas, Texas. The shift of businesses from downtown Hope to interstate exits had already begun. The Clinton Bypass, opened in sections since 1990, takes Arkansas 29S and U.S. 278E around the east side of Hope, providing an alternate traffic flow for heavy trucks.


As was true across the South, Hope had a dual educational system until desegregation was accomplished in 1969, following government guidelines. Hope’s first public school for white children began in a small former Presbyterian church in 1880. The first teacher, Charles Bridewell, had had a private school the previous four years. The school board’s first building venture was a two-story red frame building in 1888. Its ad for a design was answered by fifteen-year-old Willis Jefferson Polk, an Illinois architect’s apprentice. The building was used for twenty years for the entire school, but, when increased enrollment demanded, a “dream school” was built in 1908 on today’s courthouse site. It was named Garland Grammar School and became Garland High School in 1922 but was condemned in 1930 because of poor construction. With the sale of its property to the county and revenue from consolidation of several rural schools, a modern three-story brick building was constructed at the south end of Main Street in 1931. It has been used as a high school since then.

The first school for black children was in a one-room building on South Hazel Street that opened October 1, 1886, with Henry Clay Yerger, an African American, the only teacher. A few years later, Yerger built Shover Street School. Later, Yerger was instrumental in securing funding for his educational projects from the General Education Board, the Rosenwald Foundation, and Smith-Hughes and Slater Funds; in 1918, he built a dormitory to accommodate girls who wanted to attend high school. A teacher-training summer school that Yerger established in 1895 continued until 1935. It was one of three summer schools for black teachers in Arkansas; the others were in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and Little Rock. On October 18, 1935, Yerger was honored for his fifty years of teaching with a two-day event, during which the high school was named Henry Clay Yerger High School.

Hope public schools include William Jefferson Clinton Primary (kindergarten through fourth grades), Beryl Henry Elementary (fifth and sixth), Yerger Middle School (seventh and eighth), and Hope High School.

Red River Vocational Technical School, on sixty acres in south Hope, opened in 1966. On July 1, 1996, it became part of the University of Arkansas system and was renamed the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope.


Hope’s economy has always depended on farming. Cotton was the chief crop until the 1920s. More than 30,000 bales a year were produced in the mid-1930s. So many buyers had offices on 2nd Street that it was known as Cotton Row. The United Cotton Seed Oil Mill was a successful industry as long as cotton was grown. More diversified farming began to be encouraged when the University of Arkansas Experiment Station was established near Hope in 1930.

The poultry industry in Hope began when Freda R. Greenan moved her business to Hope from Illinois in 1951, helping to revive the economy by encouraging farmers to raise chickens. Though she sold Corn Belt Hatcheries of Arkansas in 1964, the industry remains. A hospital and three banks also provide jobs.

Hempstead County’s rich hardwood forests provided good timber for lumber companies and manufacturers. The Ivory Handle Factory, incorporated in 1901, produced hardwood handles that were shipped worldwide, in addition to other wood products. It became Bruner Ivory Handle Factory in 1933, was sold to a Tennessee company in 1980, and closed in 2004.

The clay soil of the land south of Hope had been used to make pottery and bricks for many years when Norris P. O’Neal came to town on May 13, 1901, to establish Hope Brick Works. The last bricks were made there in November 2000, and the company was sold in January 2001.


John S. Gibson, a druggist who also sold seeds, started a watermelon-growing competition to promote the economy in the 1920s. It has continued to draw interest, especially after the Ivan and Lloyd Bright 1979 and 1985 melons were listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. The Hope Chamber of Commerce sponsored the first Watermelon Festival in 1926; in August 2004, more than 20,000 attended the four-day event.

The 1912 Iron Mountain depot was rededicated in 1996 as a visitor center and museum. Exhibits include the history of Hope, the story of Hope’s world champion watermelons, Missouri-Pacific Railroad memorabilia, and the life of Clinton from Hope to the White House.

The Coliseum is the center of activities, including the Third District Fair and Livestock Show, the Watermelon Festival, and other community events. On December 28, 2005, two small lakes adjoining the park were dedicated as the Mike and Janet Huckabee Lakes. They were built by the Game and Fish Commission, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, and the Rotary Club to be used at no charge.

The Cairo and Fulton depot, Hope’s oldest building, was restored to its original condition after serving as a freight depot for fifty-three years since 1912 and the general office of Stephens Grocer Company for thirty-four years. In 1999, the Harold Stephens family donated the building to the city. It was dedicated March 12, 2004, and is now the Chamber of Commerce headquarters and the Paul W. Klipsch Conference Room and Memorial Garden.

Big Arkie

Big Arkie at the Herpetology Collection of the Museum of Zoology at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County).
Photo by Dr. Stanley E. Trauth, courtesy of the photographer

Big Arkie was a thirteen-foot-long alligator caught in 1952 near Hope (Hempstead County). He was the Little Rock Zoo’s main attraction for eighteen years. Weighing 500 pounds, Big Arkie was considered to be the largest alligator in captivity in the western hemisphere.

Big Arkie was spied by a young boy in a flooded pasture by Yellow Creek, which is west of Hope. Ed Jackson, caretaker of a local hunting club, was alerted and, with some companions, wrapped Big Arkie in a fifty-foot-long cable attached to a tractor. The alligator spent one night in Hope’s public children’s pool, encased in chicken wire. On the following day, he was delivered to the Little Rock Zoo, doubled up in a crate. When the truck containing Big Arkie arrived at the zoo’s alligator pit, it took seven men forty-five minutes to unload him. Raymond Gray, then director of the zoo, measured Big Arkie at nearly thirteen feet long.

No one could be sure how old Big Arkie was, as he was fully grown when captured. Big Arkie was an American alligator, Alligator mississippiensis. Alligators are found in only two places in the world: the southern United States and the lower Yangtze River valley in China.

On the first day of Big Arkie’s showing at the zoo, about 3,000 people came to see him. Big Arkie was the main zoo attraction for eighteen years; the zoo-keepers occasionally fed him by hand. When Big Arkie was at the height of fame, several people wanted to buy him. Upon hearing this, Gray said, “He’s not for sale at any price!” In the beginning of 1962, Big Arkie had a serious bout with a fungal infection around his jaws, caused by a vitamin D deficiency. The alligator was cured with the help of sun lamps, cod liver oil, and medicinal aerosol. Before he died, Big Arkie was not eating very well, so he was force-fed in the last years of his life.

At his death on July 30, 1970, Big Arkie weighed 346 pounds. The Big Arkie Memorial Fund paid $815 for him to be stuffed, mounted, and put back on display at the zoo. There, he was exhibited in the reptile house for several years. Because preservation conditions there were less than ideal, Big Arkie was moved to the lobby of the new Arkansas Game and Fish Commission building. Big Arkie later became part of the Herpetology Collection of the Museum of Zoology at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County). The alligator is currently owned by Dr. Stanley E. Trauth, a professor of zoology at ASU.

Hope Watermelon Festival

Hope (Hempstead County) annually celebrates its claim as the home of the world’s largest watermelons with a yearly watermelon festival. The event first originated in 1926 and has been ongoing, though not continuous, since 1977. There is no admission fee for the four-day event scheduled for the second week in August at Hope Fair Park. It is sponsored by the Hope–Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce. Activities include watermelon-eating and seed-spitting contests, fiddling, arm wrestling contests, as many as 200 vendors displaying their wares, and much more.

Jerrome Underwood of Hope pauses to check out a watermelon the Chamber sent to the Clinton library in Little Rock on July 3rd. The library gave away Hope watermelons to the first 100 people who came in on July 4th. Also pictured is Joyce Willis and Lizeth Sanchez of the library.

The competition for growing big melons was a creation of John S. Gibson, who, in 1916, began to offer modest prizes for the largest vegetables and watermelons. Hugh and Edgar Laseter, local farmers, developed a seed line to try to win the contest. Hugh grew Arkansas’s first giant watermelon in 1925. The 136-pound melon created the excitement that led to the first watermelon festival on August 12, 1925.

Llody Bright displays his Guinness Book of World Records Certificate which declares his 268.8 pound watermelon grown last year in Hope as the world's largest. Stop by and see the certificate at Hope's Western Sizzlin'

Posing With 268 Pound Watermelon

The first five festivals drew large crowds; for example, the crowd numbered 30,000 in 1928. Many visitors traveled on the Missouri-Pacific, Frisco, and Louisiana and Arkansas special trains from Little Rock (Pulaski County), Oklahoma, and Shreveport, Louisiana. Fox, Pathe, Paramount, and Metro-Goldwyn Mayer News filmed some of the events to show in theaters across the country, and loud speakers were borrowed from Arkansas Powel and Light (AP&L) in Little Rock to broadcast the program to the large gathering of people.

Each year, the day’s program included a parade with decorated cars, floats, and bands. At Fair Park, a coronation ceremony including a pageant by local youth, introduction of the maids, and the crowning of a queen was followed by a speech by a visiting dignitary. Visitors then were served free iced watermelon. The day ended with dances in the Elks Hall, a skating rink, or in the streets. In 1928, two trains were stopped at noon so that passengers could be served ice-cold watermelons. The first queen was Laurine Lewis of Hope, who was chosen from the festival maids who were selected by vote from each political township.

Ivan Bright

Special speakers also attracted visitors to the festival. Tilman B. Parks, congressman of the Seventh Congressional District, crowned the first and second queens. The Democratic vice presidential candidate, Senator Joe T. Robinson, was guest speaker at the third festival in 1928, and he returned to speak and to crown the queen in 1930. Oklahoma governor William J. Holloway spoke in 1929, and Arkansas governor Harvey Parnell crowned the queen.

Carrying a Huge Watermelon

This ended the first series of festivals. In addition to the Depression, the handling of a “monster” crowd was too much for this small town. However, Oscar D. Middlebrooks briefly revived watermelon fever in Hope in September 1935, when the city learned of a giant melon in his field near Patmos (Hempstead County). His 195-pound watermelon was weighed on certified scales and photographed for the record. It was then shipped to movie star Dick Powell, an Arkansas native. President Calvin Cooledge and others have been recipients of the big melons.

Lloyd Bright

In 1976, C. E. “Pod” Rogers Jr. convinced the Chamber of Commerce to sponsor the Watermelon Festival once more. Through the years, he had promoted Hope melons, taking samples to fairs and appearing on television programs. The 1977 festival and those since are different from the first five festivals because there is no pageantry—no parades, queens, or speeches, though the competitions, craft booths, and other forms of entertainment remain.

The World's Largest Watermelon at 268.8 pounds.

The latest champion melon, weighing 268.8 pounds, was cut from the vine on September 3, 2005, by Lloyd Bright. He grew it on his father Ivan’s farm east of Hope on the sandy ridge where many of the big melons have been grown. The family had raised notable melons from 1973, when a cousin was winner, to 1986, when Lloyd Bright’s son Jason had a 260-pound melon listed in the Guinness Book of Records. In his 1978 book, Producing Giant Watermelons—An Arkansas Tradition, Lloyd Bright writes that anyone can grow the big melons with the proper knowledge and good seeds.

< 268 Pounds on the Scales

The Bright family has grown 2 world record breaking watermelons this summer. Saturday, September 3rd, a melon was weighed at 268.8 pounds at the Hope Farm Store. This melon is registered in Lloyd Bright's name. On Monday, August 29th, a watermelon grown in the same field, registered in the names of Pat Bright Rhodes and Barbara Bright Jones, captured the world's title for heaviest melon weighing 262.6 pounds. That melon broke the record of a 262 pound watermelon grown by a Tennessee man. The Bright family set world records in melon size in 1979 with a 200 pound melon and in 1985 with one that weighed 260 pounds. Lloyd Bright says the dry summer has made conditions ideal for growing the huge watermelons. Visit the Bright Family website for the history of big melon growing in Hope.


Here is a list of all the Hope world record watermelons after the city took over the watermelon growing contest and started promoting it nationwide.

1925 - 136 pounds

Hugh Laseter

1926 - 143 1/4 pounds

Edgar Laseter

1927 - 144 pounds

Arthur Powell

1928 - 144 3/4 pounds

Henry S. Dudley

1929 - 152 1/2 pounds

Edgar Laseter

1930 - 160 3/4 pounds

A.B. Turner

1930 - 164 3/4 pounds

O.D. Middlebrooks

1935 - 195 pounds

Arnold, Melvin and O.D. Middlebrooks

1979 - 200 pounds

Ivan and Lloyd Bright

1985 - 260 pounds

Jason L. Bright

2005 - 268.8 pounds

Lloyd Bright

In most places after a large watermelon is grown, it is the grower that is challenged by other growers. In Hope, most consider the town to be challenged when a record watermelon is grown from outside. That first happened in 1930 when Mr. Turner's record watermelon was defeated by an out-of-town watermelon. Growers in other areas haven't received the support like the contest growers in Hope. For watermelon contests, Hope is unique.

Fair Park - Hope, Arkansas

August 9 - 12, 2007

~ Featuring ~
Southwest Arkansas' Largest Arts & Crafts Show
Music • 5K Run-Walk
Games & Children's Activities
Great Food • Antique Car Show
Antique Engine Show
Baseball Card Show
Softball Tournament
Ice Cold Hope Watermelon By The Slice

Sponsored by the Hope Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce

Call (870) 777-3640 or email us at
P.O. Box 250 - Hope, Arkansas 71802


Watermelons have long been a calling card for the City of Hope. The Festival itself dates back to the mid-1920's when the city's Chamber of Commerce staged a one-day Festival each year. The early Watermelon Festivals bear little resemblance to the recent ones. During the 1920's-era festivals, citizens served ice-cold watermelon to passengers on the many trains which stopped in Hope. The festival also featured a "Watermelon Queen" pageant and a large parade. These early festivals brought upwards of 20,000 people in a day to Hope. The end to the first festivals came about 1931 when the city, suffering from the effects of the depression, could no longer accommodate the crowds.

Hope celebrated its centennial in 1975. The event was a rousing success and local residents started thinking about another celebration. Local promoter and newspaper man C.M. "Pod" Rogers organized a new Watermelon Festival in 1977. The success of this first reorganized festival led to the event gaining annual status. Since the 1970's, the festival has continued to grow, attracting approximately 50,000 visitors to Hope over a four-day period.

The modern day Hope Watermelon festival features numerous activities including Arts & Crafts, food, entertainment and other family-oriented activities. Nearly 300 Arts and Crafts booths will be set up at the festival grounds.

The Arts and Crafts must be hand-made and come from a 6 state area. The festival also features dozens of food booths, serving everything from burgers and corn dogs to pork rinds and "chicken-on-a-stick".


Local civic clubs also hold dinners featuring such down-home fare as locally grown smoked chicken and golden fried catfish. The Watermelon Festival features a variety of musical talent each year. What else can you do at the festival? You can participate in a 5K race, take in a dog show, and play in a softball tournament

The Watermelon Olympics will also be held, pitting local teams against each other in such events as the melon-toss. There's also an antique car show, an antique engine show featuring old steam engines, and a volleyball tournament. The festival also features a number of melon-oriented events such as the seed-spitting contest and the Watermelon eating contest And what of the famous Hope melons? Those attending will be able to see some of the bigger specimens of the year, some tipping the scales at lose to 200 pounds. Ice-cold watermelon will be sold by the slice for $1.25 each day and numerous melon growers will have whole melons on sale at the festival for visitors to take home.

World Champion Melon Grower
Ivan Bright

Just because the Watermelon Festival ended didn't mean an end to the actual growing of the melons in Hempstead County, Arkansas. A local farmer named O.D. Middlebrooks of the Patmos Community near Hope produced a 195 pound melon in 1935. The record stood for 44 years until Ivan and Lloyd Bright produced a 200 pound melon in 1979. The Bright family grew a second world's record watermelon in 1985. The melon weighed in at 260 pounds and held the world's record (according to Guinness) for several years until a 262 pound melon grown in Tennessee took top honors.

Melon Fest

2005 brought a severe drought which caused southwest Arkansas farmers much grief. One notable exception was the watermelon farmers. The drought meant sweeter melons for the producers of table melons. The drought also allowed Lloyd Bright to better control the moisture he delivered to his melons. This allowed for a larger than usual crop of giant melons. Word got out in late summer Bright might have another record. Immediately following the Watermelon Festival of 2005, Bright alerted to the Chamber of Commerce of the possibility of an exceptional melon in his patch. On Labor Day week-end, a group of family, friends, and media met in the Bright patch to pick that melon. It was taken to the Farm Store in Hope and weighed on certified scales. The entire process was documented and the melon was certified at 268.8 pounds. In spring 2006, the Guinness Book of World Records certified Lloyd Bright's 268.8 pound melon as the world's largest.

The Watermelon Festival had several short revivals in the 1940's and 50's. Newspaper reports exist detailing Festivals during World War II and some small festivals in the 1950's. For a year in the mid-50's, the Festival moved to the small Hempstead County community of Patmos; however, by 1957, it appeared the Watermelon Festival was over.

View several pictures from the Hope Watermelon Festival in the 1920's at

The Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce sponsors Free Bluegrass Festivals at various times throughout the year including our big spring festival in May. Last May our show included The Hempstead County Melody Boys of Hope, Arkansas, High Mountain Grass of Magnolia, Arkansas, The Anderson Family of Mount Enterprise, Texas, Grass Fire of Foreman, Arkansas, Grand Prairie from Lonoke, Arkansas, The Hartley Family from Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Old School Bluegrass Band from Little Rock, Arkansas, Out of the Hills from Searcy, Arkansas and The Nichols from Fordyce, Arkansas.

There is never a charge to attend any of the shows. Those attending should bring their lawn chairs for the May festival. The Chamber provides a basic concession stand featuring charcoal grilled hamburgers (the Chamber buys their meat at Barry's Grocery in downtown Hope), chips, popcorn, moon-pies, coffee, and R.C. Cola products.

Those attending are urged to visit Hope's many fine restaurants. An on-site RV park is available for campers to the Festival. The RV spots with full hook-ups rent for $15 per night.

Hope Visitor Center & Museum

Clinton Center & Birthplace, Hope

Dining out in Hope

Clinton Center and Birthplace, Hope

Hope Visitor Center & Museum