Mayor Clark Hall of Marvell, a town of 1,200 in Phillips County, said today that “you shouldn’t have to have a non-discrimination ordinance … it should be the way Arkansas and businesses” behave anyway. But the city of Marvell decided it was best to state its position in writing, and last night passed an ordinance saying the city would not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, sex or sexual orientation, and strongly urged its vendors to adopt the same policy. The ordinance passed unanimously. 

“I don’t like a lot of laws,” Hall said, “but I want everybody to have a fair opportunity to have a decent quality life. [They] should not be penalized for their race or their creed or their sex [or sexual orientation] or the church they go to. It shouldn’t be an issue, but it is.”

Hall noted the diversity of Marvell, which is 70 percent African American. A majority of residents of voting age are also African American; Hall is white. He also has a long history of public service: He’s been mayor since January, and served in the state House of Representatives from 2005-2012. Prior that that, he was Marvell mayor for 12 years, and prior to that served 12 years on the Phillips County Quorum Court.

Marvell has more to be proud of than its progressive views on civil rights of all people, Hall said: Its elementary school has been ranked the best in Phillips County. The city council also voted last night to help pay for billboards to publicize the good performance of the public schools in Marvell. 

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Marvell has also acquired a home that musician Levon Helm lived in during high school, and is planning an October festival to celebrate “Levon’s home place,” Hall said.

Though his town is small, Hall said, he hoped it would set an example. “We want to make our part of Arkansas the best we can be,” he said, which in  turn would make “Arkansas a better place to live and America a better place to live.”