Those interested in Arkansas history are in for a treat: John Kirk is writing the first full-length biography of Arkansas Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller. Kirk is the George W. Donaghey Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and director of the Anderson Institute on Race & Ethnicity.
Kirk says his book will be the first to examine the entirety of Rockefeller’s life and not just the Arkansas years and will also be the first to make extensive use of the Rockefeller papers at the UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History & Culture and in New York. He’s on leave from the university while he works on the biography, whose publisher and publication date are to be determined.
Rockefeller was the only Southern governor to hold a memorial service for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. after his assassination April 4, 1968, Kirk noted. The service took place on the steps of the state Capitol on April 7, with more than 3,000 people in attendance.
Kirk, an expert on the civil rights movement, particularly in Arkansas, is the author of a number of books, including “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement,” “Beyond Little Rock: The Origins and Legacies of the Central High Crisis” and “Redefining the Color Line: Black Activism in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1940-1970.”
Kirk wrote the brief biography and nomination papers for Rockefeller’s induction into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame in 2016. The UA Little Rock Anderson Institute on Race & Ethnicity is commemorating Rockefeller this year as part of its annual Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail events.
At 10 a.m. April 4, the Anderson Institute will introduce the new honorees on the Trail in partnership with a number of other organizations at a ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination and Rockefeller’s civil rights legacy. The ceremony will be held on the steps of the state Capitol.