Man of Vision


Arkansas Education and the Legacy of Arch Ford
Cindy Burnett Beckman
230 pages, 29 images
6″ x 9″
978-1-935106-19-7 (paper)
August 2016


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As commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education from 1953 to 1978, Arch Ford served under five governors. His vision was to expand educational opportunities because he believed education was the foundation for improving people’s lives. Throughout his career, he campaigned for increased educational funding, better-qualified teachers, and higher teachers’ salaries. Ford helped lead the state in peacefully integrating its schools and established twenty-three vocational-technical schools across the state. During Ford’s tenure, the Arkansas Children’s Colony was established to provide educational services to the developmentally disabled, and the Arkansas Educational Television Network was set up to provide instructional programming across the state.

In the early 1960s, Arkansas developed one of the best economics education programs in the country. The Arkansas Council on Economic Education (now Economics Arkansas) was formed in 1962 and was soon recognized as one of the top programs in the nation. The organization would provide training in economics education to thousands of elementary and secondary teachers in the state. Arkansas’s teachers swept national awards for teaching excellence in the area of economics, and other states modeled their programs after the one in Arkansas.

The state also expanded educational opportunities to include kindergarten, special education, community colleges, and adult education. His leadership left Arkansas with a strong educational system that continued to advance. This was his legacy.

Cindy Burnett Beckman was a classroom teacher in Conway for thirty years and holds a master of arts in history from the University of Central Arkansas. In 2001, Beckman was named the national Junior Achievement Economics Teacher of the Year. She writes a local history column called “A Look Back” for the Log Cabin Democrat newspaper and is a member of the Faulkner County Historical Society. She is the author of A Taste of Arkansas: Restaurants of Conway, Faulkner, Perry, Pope and Yell Counties and By the Forks of the Cadron: Living in a Place Called Pleasant Valley.

“Arch Ford was my friend and, over the years, he was the friend of thousands of students and teachers and school administrators—people who may not have known him personally but who benefited from his long years of service and dedication. I don’t know anyone who has left a personal stamp on the state as long-lasting as Arch Ford’s legacy in public education.”
David Pryor, who served as governor of Arkansas, U.S. congressman, and U.S. senator

The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, a department of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), was created in 1997 through an endowment by the late Richard C. Butler Sr. for the purpose of promoting a greater understanding and appreciation of Arkansas history, literature, art, and culture.

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