Jim Dunn on Why Marshals Museum a True Fit for Fort Smith

Jim Dunn on Why Marshals Museum a True Fit for Fort Smith
Jim Dunn

Before joining the U.S. Marshals Museum, Jim Dunn practiced law and was a partner in the firm of Warner Smith & Harris for over 35 years. He is a past president of the Fort Smith Rotary Club, Sebastian County Bar Association, United Way of Fort Smith Area Inc., Arkansas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates and W.B. Putman American Inn of Court. Dunn is a Paul Harris Fellow.

Dunn received his Bachelor of Arts at Hendrix College in 1970 and his Juris Doctor from what is now the Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1974.

Patrick Weeks will replace Dunn as head of the Marshals Museum on July 1, when Dunn will become president of the Museum Foundation and turn his full attention to fundraising for the $50 million-plus project.

Who do you expect to visit the U.S. Marshals Museum?

The U.S. Marshals Service is 227 years old. It has served all presidents, the federal courts and Congress. More than 250 marshals have been killed in the line of duty. Its Hall of Honor, three galleries and National Learning Center will attract history and law enforcement buffs, cultural heritage travelers, motor coach tourists, educational programming participants and audiences such as children and high school and college students. Its 16-acre riverside campus will be a destination for tourists and a community gathering place.

Do you see the Marshals Museum cooperating with other similar institutions in the area, like Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Museum of Native American History?

Absolutely. We have relationships with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Clinton Presidential Center and others.

The Museum of Native American History in Bentonville is incredible, and we would love to partner with it. The Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma have wonderful cultural, historic and recreational facilities. They will erect a monument to tribal law enforcement on our campus.

We have reached out to the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, the Oklahoma Historical Society and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. There is a great opportunity for all of us to cross-market our cultural resources and attract visitors worldwide.

The museum focuses on the history of the U.S. Marshals Service, but will it also include any exhibits or displays about Fort Smith’s colorful history?

Stacia Hylton, former director of the U.S. Marshals Service, said, “For us [the U.S. Marshals Service], Fort Smith is sacred ground.” More marshals have been killed in the line of duty from the Western District of Arkansas than anywhere else in the country, most of them in the Judge Isaac Parker era and in the Indian Territory.

The museum will not duplicate the great job the National Historic Site does in interpreting the marshals’ history in the Parker era. We’ll cover some events in more detail such as the 1872 Goingsnake Massacre, in which eight deputies were killed in the Cherokee Nation across from southwest Washington County.

What’s the one most important thing for our readers to know about the museum?

Civic literacy, history and knowledge of the institutions that bind this country together are endangered. This subject matter is not a priority in public schools. The U.S. Marshals Museum with its component parts — the Samuel M. Sicard Hall of Honor that memorializes the 250-plus marshals who died enforcing the rule of law, the galleries and the National Learning Center — will inspire children and adults nationwide, with knowledge and appreciation of our democracy and how to improve it. There is no better vehicle to do so than through the experiences and stories of the U.S. Marshals Service, America’s oldest federal law enforcement agency, established by President George Washington in 1789.