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Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame Announces Inaugural Inductees

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The Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame on Monday announced its inaugural 11 inductees, including four historic figures and one organization.

The nonprofit organization, born out of a partnership between the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and Arkansas Business Publishing Group of Little Rock, will honor the group during a ceremony Aug. 27 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.

The first class of contemporary inductees are:

  • Mary Ann Ritter Arnold, the first woman mayor of Marked Tree and the former president of agribusiness and communications firm E. Ritter & Co.
  • Betty Bumpers, former Arkansas first lady who led a statewide immunization program for childhood vaccinations.
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Arkansas first lady, first lady of the U.S., U.S. senator from New York, and U.S. Secretary of State.
  • Dr. Mary Good, founding dean of the College of Engineering and Information Technology at the University of Arkansas Little Rock, and former under secretary for technology for the Technology Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce.
  • Johnelle Hunt, co-founder of publicly traded J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell, one of the largest transportation and logistics providers.
  • Dr. Edith Irby Jones, medical doctor, educator, philanthropist who was the first African American to attend and graduate from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
  • Alice Walton, founder and board chairman of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

Historic inductees are:

  • Daisy Bates, civil rights activist, writer and publisher who played a leading role in the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock.
  • Hattie Caraway, the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
  • Hester Davis, a leader in the development of cultural resources management legislation and programs who blazed a trail for women in archeology.
  • Roberta Fulbright, a prominent Fayetteville business leader and former publisher of the Northwest Arkansas Times who championed the University of Arkansas, fought corruption and advocated for women’s equality.

The AWHOF also chose to honor one organization, the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC), a Civil Rights-era committee formed in Little Rock in response to Gov. Orval Faubus’ efforts to close the city’s four public high schools.

A selection committee chose the women from 73 nominees based on their contributions to the state and their respective fields. Nan Snow, president of the AWHOF board, announced the class during a news conference on the steps of the state Capitol.

“We are pleased with the inaugural class and we believe their accomplishments merit this recognition,” Snow said. “These inductees represent a wide range of endeavors in which women have provided leadership in the state, the nation and the world.”

Organizers plan to induct new honorees each year. Nominees are not limited to a certain field or accomplishment and can include pioneers, philanthropists, educators, entrepreneurs, athletes, artists, business leaders and political figures.

“This is an extraordinary moment,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday. “[Women] feel very comfortable leading from the front or from behind; they will lead either way. It’s important to make sure we do not forget the incredible contributions that women in Arkansas have made.”

Hutchinson’s wife Susan is an ex-officio member of the hall’s board of directors. He said recognition of Arkansas’ women leaders is “certainly long overdue.”

Terry Hartwick, president and CEO of the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, said a women’s hall of fame has long been a personal dream of his. He cited the hard work of his own mother to raise her children. He said the hall would help inspire young women leaders.  

“I want it to be a lasting tribute to the impact women who have worked for the betterment of our state,” Hartwick said.

Mitch Bettis, president of Arkansas Business Publishing Group, said organizers envision more than an annual induction ceremony. He said the nonprofit would like to create a traveling exhibit telling the stores of hall’s honorees, aiming to inspire young people throughout Arkansas.

“These are extraordinary women who have altered the course of our state,” he said.

More information about the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame, including ticket information to the Aug. 27 ceremony, is available at ARWomensHallOfFame.com.

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