Like its companion book, this second volume of Arkansas Backstories will amaze even the most serious students of the state with more surprising insights. How many people are aware that a world-class yodeler from Zinc ran against John F. Kennedy in 1960 for the top spot on the national Democratic ticket, or that an African American born in Little Rock campaigned for the presidency of the United States nearly 70 years before Shirley Chisholm became, in 1968, the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress? Or how many know that bands of blood-thirsty pirates once lurked in the bayous and backwaters of eastern Arkansas, preying on unsuspecting Mississippi River travelers?
Likewise, how many readers will recognize the fact that an English botanist who spent months investigating Arkansas’s flora in the early nineteenth century has been described as the worst explorer in history? Or that Fort Smith hosted the world’s first international UFO conference? Or that the Nielsen rating system has a direct connection to the state, as does Tony Bennett’s signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”? Such tidbits are among the unexpected elements that make the Natural State so tantalizing.
Written in an informal, conversational style and nicely illustrated, Arkansas Backstories, Volume Two, covering topics starting with the letters M–Z, will be a wonderful addition to the libraries of Arkansans, expats, and anyone else interested in one of America’s most fascinating states.