Ben Johnson Receives SAU Endowed Professorship in Arkansas Studies

Ben Johnson Receives SAU Endowed Professorship in Arkansas Studies
Dr. Ben Johnson of Southern Arkansas University.

Southern Arkansas University said Monday that Ben Johnson, a history professor, has been selected to receive the first endowed professorship in Arkansas studies. 

The professorship is named for John G. Ragsdale Jr. and Dora J. Ragsdale, an Arkansas couple who have supported the study of Arkansas history.

"John and Dora Ragsdale have for many years graciously and tirelessly supported those who study and write Arkansas history," Johnson said. "It is more than fitting that they would make possible the state's first endowed professorship in Arkansas studies.

"SAU benefits greatly from their generosity, and I am extremely honored to be selected as the Ragsdale Professor." 

Johnson said money from the professorship will allow him to continue to update and revise his book, first published in 2000, called "Arkansas in Modern America: 1930-1999." Johnson said his research includes traveling throughout the state and region visiting various archives.

A west Texas native, Johnson called the study of Arkansas history an "open frontier," and his written three books on the subject.

Johnson earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Arkansas and has taught in higher education for more than 33 years. He was dean of the College of Liberal and Performing Arts at SAU from 2007 to 2011 and was promoted to professor of history in 2010. 

Johnson is currently the vice-chair of the State Review Board of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and has served as vice president of the Arkansas Historical Association. He is also on the board of editors of the "Arkansas Historic Quarterly." 

John G. Ragsdale spent more than 45 years in the oil business, primarily in southwest Arkansas. He has been involved with the Arkansas Historical Association Board of Trustees, the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the Arkansas Historical Association, the Arkansas Nature Conservancy and the Arkansas Archeological Society.

In 2010, he and his wife Dora received the Arkansas Historical Association Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also authored many works relating to Arkansas history, Dutch oven cooking and petroleum, among other topics.