Somewhere in the tidal wave of bad bills that have made their way into Arkansas law this session, there was a win for Arkansas's rich musical heritage, albeit a strictly symbolic one: HB 2179,
a bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Richey (D). The bill, transmitted to the Governor's office Tuesday morning, designates "portions of various state highways" to honor one of the state's chief assets and cultural exports - its music; namely, that of Johnny Cash, Levon Helm, Louis Jordan and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. It's embarrassingly tardy - and probably cold comfort in the context of legislation like Rep. Charlie Collins' campus carry bill
and Sen. Trent Garner's SB 550,
but I guess we'll take it.
HB 2179 calls for signs to be posted by the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department to announce the designations, though it does not provide any funding to do so. Is it too Pollyanna to hope Arkansas will eventually follow in the steps of its neighbors like Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and expand - with actual
dollars - its support for academic and music tourism organizations who would shed light on all the ways Arkansas artists have shaped the history of American music? Probably.
Here's the bill in full,
The route along Highway 17 from Dyess, Arkansas, to Wilson, Arkansas, where the boyhood home of Johnny Cash is located, is designated the "Johnny Cash Memorial Highway".
The route along U.S. Highway 49 from Marvell, Arkansas, to Helena, Arkansas, where the boyhood home of Levon Helm is located, is designated the "Levon Helm Memorial Highway".
The route along U.S. Highway 49 from Brinkley, Arkansas, the birthplace of Louis Jordan, to Marvell, Arkansas, is designated the "Louis Jordan Memorial Highway".
The route along Highway 17 from Cotton Plant, Arkansas the birthplace of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, to Brinkley, Arkansas, is designated the "Sister Rosetta Tharpe Memorial Highway".
The route along U.S. Highway 61 from West Memphis, Arkansas, to Blytheville, Arkansas, a region recognized for its role in the development of Americana music, is designated the "Americana Music Highway".