Little Rock native and 6-foot-10-inch basketball standout Kalin Bennett was heralded as a trailblazer in December after it was revealed he will reportedly be the first
Best breath of fresh air
Entergy Arkansas announced in November that after reaching a settlement with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, it will close the state's two largest coal-fired power plants by 2030.
Best draining the swamp
In September, former Sen. Jon Woods (R-Springdale) was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $1.6 million in restitution after being convicted in May on 15 counts related to a bribery scheme in which Woods and several co-conspirators directed taxpayer funds to two nonprofits in exchange for kickbacks. The sentence could keep Woods behind bars until he's just shy of 60 years old.
Best activist judge
During Woods' sentencing, U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks told Woods he hoped a stiff sentence would act as a "general deterrent" for other officials who might seek to steal from the public, saying Woods saw elected office as a way to put money in his own pocket. "I find that grotesque," Brooks said. That makes several of us, Your Honor.
Best Art of the Deal
In November, Woods was one of 79 federal prison inmates who wrote to President Trump, proposing to help build Trump's promised big,
Worst failure to read the employee handbook
Federal agents arrested a special events coordinator for Pulaski County Youth Services in November, alleging he visited online child-porn chatrooms, distributed child pornography and smoked meth during work hours while sitting in his office at the county administration building.
Second worst failure to read the employee handbook
Police said that in August, a North Little Rock McDonald's restaurant employee threw hot grease on a customer waiting at the drive-through window during an argument that started when the employee told the indecisive customer that he needed to make up his mind and quit wasting her time. The customer, who investigators say later came back to the restaurant with family members and broke a window, was treated at a local hospital for burns to his face. The employee was fired.
Best true love
In August, investigators arrested Maxine Feldstein, 30, of Fayetteville, saying she helped her boyfriend, Nicholas Lowe, 23, escape from the Washington County Jail by allegedly forging documents from Ventura County in California ordering Lowe's immediate release. Deputies said they took a phone call by Feldstein and the paperwork she later emailed as
Best history repeating itself
At the time of his release from the Washington County Jail, Lowe was being held on charges of false impersonation.
Worst history repeating itself
In June, it was revealed that one of the sites the Trump administration was considering for a concentration camp for immigrant children was in Kelso (Desha County), less than a five-minute drive from the site of the notorious internment camp at Rohwer, where over 8,000 Japanese-Americans were confined behind barbed wire by the U.S. government during World War II. The site was not selected.
- Jennifer Perren
Best flaming hole
Authorities were baffled when an 8-foot geyser of flame erupted from a basketball-sized hole in the ground in the tiny Baxter County town of Midway in September and burned for 45 minutes, with locals suggesting everything from a meteorite to the Devil himself was to blame. The real reason turned out to be much more mundane: Testing revealed in December that the hole had likely been filled with paint thinner and set ablaze as a prank.
Authorities in Ouachita County called it a miracle in August after a 1-year old and a 3-year-old were found with minor injuries near the wreckage of a Chevrolet Impala lodged in a ravine near Camden, in which the children had survived undiscovered for days after a car crash that killed their mother. Eventually, the older child escaped from the wreck and was able to make his way 300 yards to the road, where he was spotted by a motorist. Though covered in cuts and scratches, the two children were expected to fully recover.
Best The Kids Are Alright
Thousands of students across the state participated in the one-day National School Walkout over gun violence a month after a shooting that killed 15 students and two adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Best teaching the teachers
After three students at Greenbrier High School in Faulkner County received corporal punishment for participating in the walkout, Jerusalem J. Greer, the mother of one of the students, noted on social media that, when given the option between
The raffle of an AR-15 rifle to benefit a graduation party for the Batesville High School Class of 2018 was scrapped in February after critics noted the rifle was the same model that had been used to massacre 17 people at the Florida high school the week before.
Benjamin Craig Matthews, 39, of Mountain Home was arrested on election day after investigators said they traced to Matthews' personal cell phone over 40 threatening phone calls to CNN headquarters in Atlanta, including death threats to CNN anchor Don Lemon, a frequent target of President Trump's Twitter ire.
Best There She Was
Donna Axum Whitworth, an El Dorado native and former Miss Arkansas, who at age 22 went on to become the first Arkansas contestant to win the 1964 Miss America crown, passed away on Nov. 4. She was 76.
Best defensive use of meat
A security guard at a Little Rock grocery store foiled a theft and likely saved himself
In October, Democratic candidate for Secretary of State Susan Inman said she was in "sheer disbelief" after learning the day before early voting for the Nov. 6 general election that her name had been left off the ballot in Garland County. The election rolled on, however, with Inman being defeated in the race.
One spot of good news on Election Day was that National Rifle Association darling Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville), who pushed through the state's odious "Guns on Campus" law over the objections of officials at pretty much every college and university in the state, got beat like a drum by Moms Demand Action-sponsored "gun sense" Democrat Denise Garner, who bested Collins by over 11 percentage points.
Worst reason for trying to steal a twin-engine commercial jet
Police said Scott told investigators the reason he tried to steal the jet was
Democrats and Republicans alike condemned an October radio ad fielded by out-of-state PAC Black Americans for the President's Agenda that featured two women saying that if Republican 2nd District U.S. Rep. French Hill wasn't re-elected, "white Democrats will be lynching black folk again" and Democrats will "take us back to bad old days of race verdicts, life sentences and lynchings when a white girl screams rape."
After an October incident in which intruders broke into the Humane Society of the Delta in Helena-West Helena, leading to the injury of several dogs, a spokesperson for the shelter said there was no surveillance footage of the incident because their security cameras had been stolen long before.
In July, the Fort Smith Board of Directors unanimously voted to repeal a decades-old ban on dancing on Sundays, with the board reportedly playing a clip of Kenny Loggins' song "Footloose" before the vote.
Worst attempt at a protest
In October, online activists pointed out that the Union County Sheriff's Office had been forcing all arrested suspects to wear a Nike T-shirt in their mugshots, an apparent comment on Nike's decision to feature former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick — who has angered conservatives and President Trump by taking a knee during the National Anthem to protest police shootings of African Americans — in advertisements. Within an hour of the post going viral, the sheriff's office removed all mugshots from its website.
Best shooting yourself in the foot
In November, Arkansas native Cody Wilson — a libertarian who led the team that successfully created the world's first 3D printable firearm and who has repeatedly sparred with the government over his plans to post blueprints for printable guns and gun parts on the internet — was arrested in Taiwan after investigators said he allegedly had sex with an underage girl in Texas.
During August's annual "Salt Bowl" football showdown between Benton and Bryant high schools at War Memorial Stadium, both teams and over 38,000 fans suddenly hauled ass for the exits after someone mistook a loud noise in the stands for gunfire. Luckily, there were only minor injuries.
A Dermott man was arrested in May after leading police on a high-speed chase while at the wheel of a Ford Mustang with the number 3 painted on the door, an apparent homage to the late NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt.
In June, Stephen Koch, 25, of Scranton in Logan County was found guilty of several charges and sentenced to 50 years in prison after he admitted to a judge that he had sought out and had sex with HIV-infected people with the goal of contracting the virus so he could intentionally infect others without their knowledge.
Worst communication skills
White Hall resident Patricia Hill, 69, allegedly admitted to police that she shot and killed her husband in July because he purchased porn through the couple's satellite TV system.
Three teenage girls were arrested in Conway in July after police say they posted
Worst waste of good whiskey
A June crash between two semi trucks on Interstate 40 near Galloway in Pulaski County left thousands of airline-sized bottles of Fireball whiskey
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in June that a Benton County dog was found to be carrying the state's first-known example of the
- Jennifer Perren
In January, members of Ozark Indivisible, an anti-Trump group based in Northwest Arkansas, reported that the office of U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton had started issuing "cease and desist" letters to constituents who visited, wrote to or called his office to express their displeasure over his votes to attack the Affordable Care Act, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and his other anti-progressive actions, with the letters warning that if the constituents kept expressing their First Amendment rights and stuff, they would be reported to police.
Ornithologists confirmed in May that a
Plentiful outrage erupted in May after video surfaced online of a teacher encouraging preschoolers at Forrest City's Teach N Tend Day Care Center to pelt a 4-year-old classmate with rocks, allegedly to "teach him a lesson" about throwing pebbles.
Less than one day after being appointed to the board of the Country Music Association Foundation, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee resigned under pressure from fans and leading music industry figures, who noted his homophobic and divisive rhetoric in the past.
Jacob Scott Goodwin, 23, of Ward was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Virginia jury in May for participating in the gang beating of a black man during the August 2017 "Unite the Right" neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville.
Against all odds, online activists dedicated to unmasking those who participated in violent actions in Charlottesville tracked down and identified Goodwin through videos that showed only a few of his tattoos and general build.
A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in April found that Arkansans are the hardest-slamming binge drinkers in the nation, with our hardcore boozers consuming a liver-quivering 8.3 drinks per binge and a record 841 binge drinks every year. Mississippi was No. 2, with 831.8 binge drinks per year.
Best reason to take the stairs
A woman was awarded $3 million by a Pulaski County Jury in December over a 2013 incident in which her right big toe was ripped off by a malfunctioning escalator at Little Rock's Park Plaza Mall.
Worst shithole senator
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton continued his slouch toward the shithole of history in January by contradicting Senate colleagues from both parties who said President Trump referred to immigrants from Africa and Haiti as residents of "shithole countries" during an Oval Office meeting, saying on TV's "Face the Nation" program that Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who was in the room at the time and called Trump's comments vile and hateful, "has a history of misrepresenting what happens in White House meetings." Cotton later said that he heard Trump
Worst shithole representative
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack attempted to out-asshole U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton after the news about Trump's "shithole countries" remark, saying the countries Trump called shitholes are behind the times and "depraved" before adding that what America really should be doing is attempting to appeal to immigrants from European countries (read: white people) who can "actually fit into [American] society as we know it."
Worst fucking disgrace
On Nov. 30, Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) shared a link on Facebook listing the record number of successful Muslim candidates in the recent election, commenting, "Do you want them ruling everything in America?" In response, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for Rapert's censure by the state legislature, and former Arkansas U.S. House candidate Chintan Desai called Rapert "a fucking disgrace" on Twitter.
Best blocking the blocker
Rapert, who is the subject of a lawsuit filed in October over his practice of blocking pretty much any critic who disagrees with his bloviations on social media, took to Facebook in early December to complain that he, himself, had been temporarily blocked from Twitter after the company found that one of his posts about Muslims violated their rules.
Searcy firefighter Lt. Cody Larque gave 1-year-old Evan Don Scott a heck of a first birthday present after the boy's mother rushed the child — who had turned 1 that day — to a local fire station because he was choking on a
Worst authority figure
On Dec. 29, 2017, after last year's "Best and Worst" issue hit the stands, Arkansas State Police troopers arrested Lamar High School coach Kevin Kyzer, 51, and charged him with driving while intoxicated while at the wheel of a school bus carrying nine high school basketball players to a tournament.
In April, the State Board of Education — following a law passed by the state legislature — approved new rules for the state's 19,500 home-schooled students that rescinded a requirement that parents must inform the state of their proposed home-school teaching curriculum and teaching schedule. Coupled with a 2015 law that ended state testing to prove home-schooled students have reached proficiency in subject areas, the rules change effectively allows home-schooling parents to teach their children nothing at all if they so choose.
Best meeting of two fanciful, wholly imaginary characters
In January, Republican gubernatorial primary challenger Jan Morgan, famous for declaring her Hot Springs gun range a "Muslim Free Zone," appeared in the tiny town of Fouke, where she accepted a hug from a person dressed as the Fouke Monster and said the FBI has informed her she's on ISIS' "hit list." Morgan went on to lose the Republican gubernatorial primary to incumbent Governor Hutchinson by a wide margin.
A 17-year-old who police say
Best historian smackdown
Tom Dillard, the retired head of special collections at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, turned his weekly history column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to more recent concerns in February, writing that Department of Arkansas Heritage Director Stacy Hurst, a political patronage hire who Dillard noted "has absolutely no expertise or background in history," has fostered a "toxic culture" at Heritage, as seen in a series of high-profile resignations at the agency.
Worst Breaking Dumb
The FBI and soldiers from the Arkansas National Guard's Weapons of Mass Destruction 61st Civil Support team descended on a Little Rock home in
A thief actually managed to get away less than
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee got roasted on Twitter in April after he shared a "joke" in which Huckabee said that during a recent colonoscopy he was put to sleep with the same drug that killed Michael Jackson, with Huck ending with the punchline, "When I woke up, I MOON-walked right out of the hospital." Like a lot of Huckabee's jokes, there's so much tone-deaf anti-comedy to unpack there that it's hard to know where to start, but Twitter users let him have it nonetheless.
In April, after years of bad national press related to a "phantom pilot" throwing terrified tame turkeys from a Cessna, killing some of them, during the annual Yellville Turkey Trot Festival, the Yellville Chamber of Commerce said it would no longer sponsor the festival, which some feared would be the end of the 72-year-old event.
Later the same month, the Mid-Marion County Rotary Club said it would become the new sponsor of the Yellville Turkey Trot Festival, but only if no more turkeys were flung from
A Van Buren officer shot at close range by a suspect in August was spared serious injury after investigators said the bullet was deflected by
In May, a pedestrian narrowly missed serious injury when a huge chunk of the concrete facade of a building at 319 W. Second St. in Little Rock came loose and tumbled to the sidewalk seven stories below.
- Best 'Looks Exactly Like You'd Expect': Craig Whittington
Craig Whittington, 44, of Hot Springs was arrested at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in May after, police say, a nurse smelled marijuana coming from a patient's room and responding officers allegedly found 10 pounds of weed on Whittington's person.
In February, disgraced former Cross County District Judge Joseph Boeckmann Jr., 72, of Wynne, who was convicted in federal court in 2017 on wire fraud and witness tampering charges relating to what investigators say was a practice of taking suggestive photographs of young men he sentenced to community service and using his position on the bench to procure defendants in his court as sexual and sadomasochistic partners, was sentenced by federal Judge Kristine Baker to five years in federal prison and fined $50,000, the maximum sentence on all counts.
Best power to the people
In May, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to either approve a citizen-led ballot initiative on raising the state's minimum wage or present a more acceptable version. Rutledge, who had previously refused 70 out of 70 ballot initiatives she'd considered since 2016, always claiming they were too unclear to put before voters, but not offering suggestions on how to improve the language, approved not only the initiative to raise the minimum wage but three other ballot initiatives within days. The proposal to raise the minimum wage went on to prevail in November.
Best Saline County
In June, the Saline County Sheriff's Office arrested a man near the loading dock of a hardware store in the tiny town of Avilla who was wearing pants with the crotch ripped out and a "leather belt with chains and other adornments that were wrapped around his genitalia" while slathered head to toe in personal lubricant. Police said the man, who also reportedly had a backpack full of pornography, told responding officers he'd come to the store, which was closed at the time, "because I'm dumb."
Shamon West, 21, was arrested in June after police say he attempted to pay his waitress at a Pine Bluff restaurant with the waitress' own credit card, which had been stolen two days before during a car break-in. After arresting West, police recovered a driver's license, more credit cards and a Social Security card belonging to the waitress when they searched him.
In February, Little Rock's Bennett's Military Supply announced it was closing after being in business in the city since 1870 — over 148 years.
When asked by a reporter in August why posters donated by the American Atheists society shouldn't be hung in classrooms alongside "In God We Trust" placards allowed by a recent law approved by the state legislature, Rep. Jim Dotson (R-Bentonville) said that hanging the atheist posters would be a violation of the First Amendment's separation of church and state.
- Jennifer Perren
In April, an underground group of LGBTQ students at the notoriously homophobic Harding University in Searcy published and distributed a 16-page chapbook called "HU Queer Press 2.0," which features poetry, prose and testimonials by gay students living on the campus where being LGBTQ is considered immoral.
Worst report card
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released in June, reported that Arkansas teens in grades 9-12 scored first in the nation in several troubling categories, including: percentage who had been physically forced to have intercourse, percentage who had been forced to participate in sexual activity in the past year (including kissing, fondling and intercourse), percentage who had been bullied at school, percentage who had suffered a concussion while playing sports in the past year, percentage who had seriously considered committing suicide in the past year, percentage who had driven while drinking in the past month and percentage who are considered obese.
Best telling it like it is In a Q&A session published by the website Quora in June, Little Rock Nine member Melba Pattillo Beals said the attitudes that tormented her and other members of the Nine in the 1950s persist in Little Rock, telling the interviewer: "That
Rep. Michael "Mickey" Gates (R-Hot Springs) was arrested in June on charges he'd failed to pay state income tax for at least six
Worst 'teaching moment'
In June, police said that Little Rock resident Shay Stevens, 46, retrieved a handgun and shot her 18-year-old son in the abdomen during a heated argument that started when he told her he wanted to buy a handgun.
In July, it was announced that perma-tanned KATV, Ch. 11, weatherman Ned Perme would retire after over 30 years as the station's chief meteorologist.
A new version of the Ten Commandments Monument
In August, over 100 members of the Satanic Temple showed up for a "Rally for the First Amendment" at the Arkansas State Capitol, an event that included an appearance by the 7-and-a-half-foot bronze statue of the goat-headed demi-god Baphomet, which the Satanic Temple hopes to install permanently on the Capitol grounds if its federal lawsuit challenging the state's Ten Commandments monument prevails.
Worst algae that clearly has nothing to do with building a massive hog farm in the watershed of the Buffalo National River
In July, the National Park Service sent out a warning that the Buffalo National River was experiencing a record bloom of slimy, blue-green algae, saying that visitors should avoid the algae because it produces cyanotoxins that can make people and pets sick.
Worst living up to stereotypes
Three carnival workers were arrested in August after police say they murdered a Kansas couple, drove the bodies to Arkansas and buried them in a shallow grave in the Ozark National Forest.
Police in Little Rock arrested Dalvin Pettus, 25, in August on charges that he'd shot five bullets into his
Best reason to hit somebody with a wrench
Charles Eedo Green of Sherwood was arrested at the Little Rock Air Force Base on a sweltering day in late August after police say he whacked an airman in the head with a wrench because the man stood in front of the room's only air conditioning vent and refused to move.
Jessie Lorene Goline, a 26-year-old art teacher at Marked Tree High School, was sentenced to only five years probation after being convicted in March of having sex with three of her students, including one who was under the age of 18, leading critics online to speculate whether the sentence would have been the same if Goline had been a man.
In September, police say
Best hiding the loot
As police officers closed in on Hall in the Walmart parking lot after the bank robbery, investigators say Hall tried unsuccessfully to swallow the cash he had stolen.
In April, police arrested a 27-year-old Little Rock man after an incident in which investigators say the
Officials with the Arkansas Department of Transportation hustled to the tiny North Arkansas town of Beaver in October to inspect the historic and unique one-lane suspension bridge
There was a flurry of outrage online in November after someone posted photos from a Halloween costume contest at Fort Smith's The Lil' Dude Tavern. The winner: a patron in a full Ku Klux Klan robe and hood.
Investigators said that after his arrest in November, 72-year-old Louie James Rogers of Stone County admitted to police that he might have "accidentally" raped a developmentally disabled woman at his Mountain View home.
Residents of Perryville in Perry County were shocked in early November when a fireball caused by a large meteorite entering the atmosphere briefly turned night into day over the town, as captured on several surveillance videos.
Best out of touch
In a move that will surely come as a shock to the nation's formerly homeless millionaire truck driver demographic, Rep. Stephen Meeks (R-Greenbrier) apologized a day after a Nov. 19 Twitter post in which he said "being poor in America is a personal choice" before adding: "A homeless man can go to school, get a job driving a truck making $70k per year and in 20 years become a millionaire."
After the tractor Eldon Cooper was driving slipped off a muddy levee and into a water-filled drainage ditch near Mountain Home in March, the Baxter County farmer survived for hours until help arrived by breathing from a small pocket of air trapped in the corner of the tractor's cab, authorities said. Other than being wet and cold, Cooper reportedly escaped the harrowing event without serious injury.
Johnny Byron Hall, 32, of Malvern was arrested in April on charges of indecent exposure after police say he was openly masturbating in the emergency room of a hospital in Sherwood that is part of CHI St. Vincent Infirmary.
Central Arkansas's close-knit community of
Best second act
After a huge public outcry and flurry of more than $500,000 in donations — matched by the Windgate Charitable Foundation of Siloam Springs — The Rep's board of directors announced the show will go on, reopening in January 2019 with a slate of new shows.
Dasia Jackson, 22, of North Little
Bob Dorough, a member of the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame who taught millions of American kids history, mathematics, language skills, civics and more through his lyrics, music and narration for the popular "Schoolhouse Rock" series of cartoon shorts that aired on ABC from 1973-1985, died April 25 at the age of 94.
The franchise owner of a Garland County IHOP restaurant publicly apologized to Hot Springs mother Alexis Bancroft in May after Bancroft wrote on Facebook about an incident in which the restaurant's manager would not allow Bancroft's 3-year-old son William, who was born without arms, to sit on the table and eat with his feet while dining there with his family.
Hot Springs police arrested Steven Brian Cole, 40, in June after investigators said he had repeatedly abused his elderly mother and stepfather, including telling his mother he would "eat her face off" and threatening the couple that he would kill them and "make one of us eat the other."
The mugshot of Steven Bryan Cole.
Worst what could have been
Glen Schwarz was eliminated as a candidate for Little Rock mayor in November after running on a platform that included building a roller coaster-based mass transit system and installing dozens of wire Faraday cages to act as emergency shelters during lightning storms.
Though Schwarz's Cinderella story ended on election day, Frank Scott Jr., 35, went on to win a December run-off election, besting opponent Baker Kurrus to become Little Rock's first popularly elected African-American mayor.
In December, once all the votes were in for a hotly contested alderman's race in Hoxie (Lawrence County) between challenger Cliff Farmer and incumbent Becky Linebaugh, it was discovered that the results were a tie, 223 to 223. Farmer revealed he'd neglected to vote for himself because he didn't return from an Election Day business trip before the polls closed. The race was settled by a roll of the dice, and Farmer lost.