The essays in United States District Courts and Judges of Arkansas, 1836–1960—one each for a judge and his decisions—come together to form a chronological history of the Arkansas judicial system as it grew from its beginnings in a frontier state to a modern institution.
The book begins with statehood and continues with Congress’s decision to expand jurisdiction of the original 1836 District Court of Arkansas to include the vast Indian Territory to the west. The territory’s formidable size and rampant lawlessness brought in an overwhelming number of cases. The situation was only somewhat mitigated in 1851, when Congress split the state into eastern and western districts, which were still served by just one judge who travelled between the two courts.
A new judgeship for the Western District was created in 1871, and new seats for that court were established, but it wasn’t until 1896 that Congress finally ended all jurisdiction of Arkansas’s Western District Court over the Indian Territory.
Contributors to this collection include judges, practicing attorneys, academics, and thoughtful and informed family members who reveal how the judges made decisions on issues involving election laws, taxes, civil rights, railroads, liquor and prohibition, quack medicine, gangsters, bankruptcy, personal injury, the draft and Selective Service, school desegregation, prisons, and more. United States District Courts and Judges of Arkansas, 1836–1960 will be of value to anyone interested in Arkansas history—particularly Arkansas legal and judicial history as it relates to the local and national issues that came before these judges.
This project was supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Frances Mitchell Ross is retired after a decades-long career teaching history at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She has published several articles on Arkansas legal history.