OPINION | Curtis Varnell: Presidents who have stopped in Arkansas mostly come to garner votes, political favor and funding | Arkansas Democrat Gazette

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Sirens blared and lights flashed as a cavalcade of supercars raced past the intersection where we were standing. The crowd was waving, kissing and clapping as the President of the United States flew at top speed.

It was May 6, 2000, and President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary rushed to St. Benedict’s Church in Subiaco for their best friend’s wedding. Reminding my inquisitive children of those events, they wanted to know if other presidents had visited the state. The answer was yes, many had and some had more than once.

The first president to visit the state was Martin Van Buren, who made a memorable stop in Chicot County when he briefly stepped off a steamboat for a few minutes. More significant visits were made as railroads were developed and various presidents conducted “whistle-blowing” campaigns around the depots where they stopped.

One of the first to campaign in this way was Benjamin Harrison in 1891, followed by Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

FDR in 1936 He made several stops in Arkansas during the state’s century, and in 1938 he stopped in Bonneville and, along with Hattie Carraway and Joe T. Robinson, pledged their support to the growth of Mount Magazine.

Teddy Roosevelt He spoke at the opening of the 5th Arkansas State Fair in 1910, which was then held at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs. Humanity delivered one of the most captivating speeches on the track, joined by hundreds of people dressed in colorful costumes to form an American flag.

Roosevelt seemed to enjoy Arkansas and made several trips to the state, passing through Ozark, Clarksville, Russellville, Carlisle, Conway, Hot Springs, and other small towns not visited by presidents.

John F. Kennedy visited Arkansas several times.

On October 29, 1961, when Kennedy dedicated Old Fort National Historic Site, a crowd of 15,000 gathered with Governor Fabus, JW Fulbright, and John McClellan to emphasize Fort Chaffee’s importance to our nation’s defense. In the year Shortly before his assassination in 1963, he returned to the state and spoke at the inauguration of the Greer Ferry Dam and at the Arkansas State Fair.

In the year In 1835, Jefferson Davis, a less celebrated president and representative of the Confederate States, spent a lot of time as a lieutenant in the US Army in Arkansas building the old military road from Fort Gibson to Little Rock. Part of that road is still called the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway.

President Richard Nixon’s visit to the “Game of the Century” between undefeated Arkansas and Texas on December 6, 1969 was one of the most memorable presidential visits. Heartbreaking for Razorback fans. Afterward, Nixon presented Texas with a plaque naming it the 100th No. 1 team in college football with no authority other than presidential decree.

Ronald Reagan held political rallies in the state during each of his campaigns.

George W. Bush, George W., Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. On November 18, 2014, they were on stage at the inauguration of the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock. It was Jimmy Carter’s second visit – in 1983 he visited Newport and Weiner to go duck hunting.

Presidents have come and gone, most of them stopping for a few minutes to get votes, political favors and financial support.

After the elections, we’ll be back in the flying state with trips to New York, Washington, and California, or when one of the Air Force Ones blows. With next year’s election looming, expect a flood of candidates from both parties who pass for similar reasons.

Teddy Roosevelt He spoke at the opening of the 5th Arkansas State Fair in 1910, which was then held at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs. Humanity delivered one of the most captivating speeches on the track, joined by hundreds of people dressed in colorful costumes to form an American flag. (Photo courtesy of Logan County Historical Society)
Photo Roosevelt seemed to enjoy Arkansas and made several trips to the state, passing through Ozark, Clarksville, Russellville, Carlisle, Conway, Hot Springs, and other small towns not visited by presidents. Above is the tour of Fort Smith. (Photo courtesy of Logan County Historical Society)
Photo President Richard Nixon’s visit to the “Game of the Century” between undefeated Arkansas and Texas on December 6, 1969 was one of the most memorable presidential visits, a heartbreaking game for Razorback fans. (Photo courtesy of Logan County Historical Society)



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