News » Cover Stories

Other lights

Honorable mentions for 2016 Arkansan of the Year, with plenty of solid contenders for the crown.

comment
cover3-1-f8da496ca0f1d7f5.jpg

Rep. Nate Bell (R-Mena)

He may be a right-winger who seldom agrees with us socially or politically, but credit where credit is due: He called Trump early as a racist, misogynistic, vulgar fool and kept saying so right through the election, long after most other anti-Trump conservatives lost their spines and bent with the prevailing wind. At last, a cause we can fight for together: proving Trump to be an emperor sans clothing.

U.S. District Judge Brian Miller

From his federal bench in Little Rock, Miller threw the book at crooked former Faulkner County Circuit Judge Mike Maggio back in March, giving the admitted bribe-taker the maximum 10-year stint after telling him: "A dirty judge is far more harmful to society than a dope dealer." No objection, Your Honor.

The Broadway Bridge

Props to the 93-year-old span over the Arkansas River in Little Rock, which missed its cue to spectacularly plunge into the drink following a series of controlled explosions back in October. Four hours and much head-scratching later, the defiant bridge finally came down after workers hooked on with two towboats and gave her a mighty yank. #broadwaybridgestrong

Savvy Shields

Yeah, no matter how much the organizers want to convince you that the Miss America competition is about scholarships, it's really a beauty pageant. Still, when an Arkansas native goes from Miss Arkansas to "There She Is ..." for the first time since 1982, it must be noted. You did us all proud, Ms. Shields.

John Schenck and Robert Loyd

The binary stars of Conway's famous Pink House, the married couple died almost exactly one year apart — Robert on Dec. 30, 2015, John on Dec. 29, 2016 — after devoting decades of their lives to the crusade for LGBT rights in Arkansas, including taking in several LGBT kids abandoned by their families. Two lions, now at rest.

Monica Walters

Despite being very pregnant, Walters rushed through flames to save several of her neighbors during a June blaze, sparked by fireworks, at the Silver City Courts housing project in North Little Rock. Walters was later honored by the North Little Rock City Council for her heroism, and rightly so.

Sen. Dale Bumpers

Will this state ever see another politician who casts a longer shadow than former governor and U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, who died on Jan. 1, 2016, after a lifetime of service to the state? Unlikely, though his career shows that anything is possible in Arkansas.

Kevin Delaney

Director of visitor experience for Little Rock's Museum of Discovery, Delaney has done much to dispel the idea that Arkansas is the land education forgot, repeatedly appearing on NBC's "The Tonight Show" to demonstrate gee-whiz experiments that get viewers excited about science. Now he's got his own show, "Street Science," on the Science Channel. Careful you don't burn your beard off, dude.

Governor Hutchinson

The guv has defied expectations, particularly in his support for continuing Obamacare, even if he had selfish reasons to do so. Big props as well for publicly saying Arkansas has better things to worry about than which public restroom transgender people use to go pee-pee, and that the joint holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee should be severed.

Baker Kurrus

Coming in as superintendent after the state takeover of the Little Rock School District, Kurrus won over critics and was on his way to rebuilding confidence in the LRSD before getting fired in April for speaking up bravely against the damage charter schools have wrought on public schools.

Rep. John Walker

His cancer in remission at age 79, Walker continued as a lion for equal rights in the legislature and his law practice, fighting the Little Rock business establishment on behalf of the public good. Back in September, he proved his dedication to civil rights is more than bold talk when he and an associate were hauled off in cuffs for sticking up for their right to film Little Rock cops during a traffic stop. Surely a troublemaking role model for us all in coming years.

Nate Powell

In November, Powell became the first cartoonist to win a National Book Award, for the "March" trilogy, a series of graphic novels about U.S. Rep. John Lewis' work to free the South from segregation. Trump's recent petty swipe at Lewis on Twitter sent "March" sales through the roof, and Powell has vowed to donate his spike in royalties to progressive causes.

Kathy Webb

Her legislative career over, she worked to fight hunger, build a coalition to speak up for all sectors of the community in the age of Trump, and also promised to be a needed progressive voice on the Little Rock City Board, where she's now vice mayor.

David Pryor

The former senator ultimately failed in his noble effort to fight a huge stadium expansion at the University of Arkansas's Reynolds Razorback Stadium, but the message was sent: If we're spending millions on skyboxes instead of classrooms, then Arkansas's higher education priorities are severely out of whack.

Karen Hopper

The former Republican representative from Mountain Home inspired a groundbreaking state audit that uncovered vast corruption in the General Improvement Fund pork barrel spending by state legislators. That investigation has produced one criminal guilty plea with more charges expected.

Mike Wilson

The former Jacksonville legislator continued his one-man fight against the General Improvement Fund slop trough in court, filing an illegal exaction lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court last February.

Chief Justice Dan Kemp

He won a heated race against Courtney Goodson to become chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court and opened the year by declaring he was going to retake administrative control of the court, which had been usurped by a clique of justices in previous years. Will it work? Answer unclear; ask again later.

Racial politics

Republicans expanded their domination of political offices in Arkansas, including pushing Democratic representation in the state legislature back to a bare and trembling toehold. There are apparently no limits to what you can achieve in Arkansas by being not the party of Barack Obama.

Jeff Henderson

The 27-year-old long-jumper, a graduate of Sylvan Hills High School, struck gold at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 13 with a leap of 8.38 meters (27.49 feet).


Add a comment

Clicky