Stored carefully in acid-free housings, neatly organized and documented among more than 2,000 boxes of the Winthrop Rockefeller Collection, is the 1967 address, program booklets and photographs related to the inauguration of Arkansas’s first republican governor since Reconstruction. Winthrop Rockefeller was an enormous force for change in the state, and the materials he created before, during and after his 1966 inauguration are preserved and available for use at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s (UALR) Center for Arkansas History and Culture (CAHC).
His archival collection includes papers, photographs, audio and video recordings, and memorabilia from each period in his life from 1912 until his death in 1973. The collection chronicles his activities before he arrived in Arkansas in 1953, and then as a public figure and governor from 1953 to 1970. Also included are files from his arts promoter and social activist wife, Jeannette Edris Rockefeller, whom he married in 1956.
The materials detail Governor Rockefeller’s successes, ranging from educational improvements and prison reform to the passage of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act and increased visibility for civil rights issues in the state.
Materials have proven useful to historians, students and many others since they were donated to the university in 1980. For instance, the BBC World Service produced a program on Governor Rockefeller’s partnership with the famed Arkansas singer Johnny Cash that brought attention to Arkansas’s prison conditions and the need for reform. Another visible example is scholar John Ward’s biography, “The Arkansas Rockefeller,” which is best summarized by one reviewer as “a portrait of a man who lived his life openly, whose every success and every failure was a matter of public record for the two million citizens of his adopted state.”
The Center itself has created a virtual exhibit to highlight the collection and Governor Rockefeller’s legacy. The exhibit aims to feature Rockefeller’s major contributions to the state and encourage further use of the collection.
Visit CAHC’s website to access the virtual exhibit or to search the catalog to find materials in the collection itself. The research room is open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 401 President Clinton Avenue. For additional directions or to contact the Center for more information about the Rockefeller Collection, visit ualr.edu/cahc.