Ben Johnson has been selected to receive the first endowed professorship in Arkansas studies. It was donated by John and Dora Ragsdale, who are known for their support of Arkansas history and chose Johnson on the basis of his research and commitment. Funds from the endowment will be used toward further research to produce an updated, revised version of Johnson’s book “Arkansas in Modern America: 1930-1999.”
A Texas native, Johnson moved to Arkansas as a young adult and earned a doctorate in history from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He says he wanted to pursue history after realizing the state did not have many resources. “It was an open frontier,” Johnson said in a news release. “A historian could run far and wide, following any lead, and he or she would not risk running into work done by anyone before.”
Johnson has been involved with higher education for more than 33 years and served as the dean of the College of Liberal & Performing Arts at Southern Arkansas University from 2007 to 2011. He was promoted to professor of history in 2010 and also serves as the vice chair of the State Review Board of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. He is on the board of editors of Arkansas Historic Quarterly and has written three books on Arkansas history.