Maya Angelou was an internationally renowned bestselling author, poet, actor, and performer, as well as a pioneering activist for the rights of African Americans and of women. Her first published book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), was an autobiographical account of her childhood, including the ten years she lived in Stamps (Lafayette County) with her grandmother. The popular and critical success of the book was the foundation of her career as an author and public figure, as well as the basis of her identification as an Arkansas author. She was in the first group of inductees into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1993. She held over fifty honorary university degrees, along with many other awards recognizing her accomplishments in the arts and her service to human rights.
Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, to Bailey Johnson, who was a naval dietitian, and Vivian Baxter Johnson, who was a nurse. Angelou had one sibling, her older brother Bailey Jr.; he called her "Maya," his version of "my sister."
After the divorce of their parents in 1931, Marguerite and Bailey Jr. were sent to Arkansas to live with their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, and their uncle, Willie, in Stamps. Henderson owned the only grocery store in the small town and reared the children according to the strict Christian values common in the rural South at that time. The family encountered the racial prejudice of the white customers in the store and of the community leaders generally. In her autobiography, Angelou recounted chafing at the attitudes she encountered of people who seemed to condone the limited opportunities available for black high school graduates of the time. Later, Angelou suggested that her faith and Christian beliefs—as well as her strong sense of fair play and realization of her own and others' inner beauty—stemmed from these early experiences.
In 1935, the children were returned to the care of their mother in St. Louis but were sent back to Stamps after it was discovered that Marguerite had been sexually molested by her mother’s boyfriend. The man was tried and convicted but then released; he was found dead soon after. The eight-year-old girl felt guilty and believed that her voice had caused the death of the rapist, so she became mute and remained so for several years.
The two children once again moved to be with their mother—this time to San Francisco, California. After dropping out of high school, Marguerite was briefly employed as a cable car conductor, the first black person ever to hold that position. She returned to Mission High School and earned a scholarship to study dance, drama, and music at San Francisco’s Labor School, where she also learned about the progressive ideologies that may have served as a foundation for her later social and political activism. In 1944, three weeks after graduation, she gave birth to her son, Claude (who later changed his name to Guy). She had no further formal education.
At the age of twenty-one, she married a Greek sailor, Tosh Angelos. Before they divorced in 1952, when she was singing at the Purple Onion nightclub in San Francisco, she created her professional name by combining a variation of his surname with her brother’s nickname for her, Maya. Eventually, she legally changed her name to Maya Angelou.
In 1954–55, she toured Europe and Africa in a State Department–sponsored production of the opera Porgy and Bess. In 1955, she moved with her son to New York City, where she studied modern dance with Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey. She appeared in television shows and released an album called Miss Calypso in 1957, also appearing in the film Calypso Heat Wave the same year. A composer of poems and song lyrics since her teen years, she continued to develop her writing skills.
She met prominent members of the African-American creative community and performed in Jean Genet’s The Blacks. With Godfrey Cambridge she produced Cabaret for Freedom, a fundraiser for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Martin Luther King Jr., a leader in SCLC, recruited Angelou as its northern coordinator in 1960.
In the early 1960s, she met South African freedom fighter and civil rights advocate Vusumzi Make, a leader of the Pan Africanist Congress who was then living in New York City. They moved to Cairo, Egypt, where she became editor of the weekly newspaper the Arab Observer. In 1963, she and her son left Egypt for Ghana, where she met Malcolm X. She became an assistant administrator at the University of Ghana’s School of Music and Drama and later a feature editor for the African Review, as well as a feature writer for the Ghanaian Times and the Ghanaian Broadcasting Company, where she also recorded public service announcements.
Upon returning to the United States, Angelou rejoined the civil rights movement, working with Malcolm X in the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965, and King was assassinated in 1968—on April 4, Angelou's birthday.
In reaction to these events, Angelou—encouraged by novelist James Baldwin—began writing the first installment of her life story, including an account of her years in Arkansas. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was first published in 1970 and has since been translated into more than ten languages. Her experiences in the civil rights movement were a focus of a later autobiography, The Heart of a Woman (1981). Enjoying her burgeoning career as a writer, lecturer, and public personality following the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she wrote the screenplay for Georgia, Georgia, a Swedish-American film; it was the first screenplay by an African American to be filmed. A collection of her poems, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972.
Winning much critical acclaim and becoming a national figure who was always in demand for public appearances, she continued to maintain her political activism. The running themes in all of her works, both about herself and about the world, deal with the individual’s wish and right to survive in a non-hostile world. Believing that hatred and racism destroy that which is good and basic in humankind, she struggled to provide simple, down-to-earth solutions to the problems that threaten the world.
In 1975, President Gerald Ford appointed her to the Bicentennial Commission. In 1981, she received a lifetime appointment to the Reynolds Chair of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In 1993, she read her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. She read her poem "A Brave and Startling Truth" at the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations and "From a Black Woman to a Black Man" at the Million Man March in 1995.
Angelou had a distinctive and compelling speaking voice, and, at six feet tall, a powerful physical presence enhanced by her training in dance and stage performance. Angelou was nominated for a 1977 Emmy Award for her portrayal of Kunta Kinte’s grandmother in Alex Haley’s television miniseries Roots. Angelou appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, and the Tavis Smiley Show. She also started a Hallmark greeting cards line called Life Mosaic. The movie Poetic Justice (1993) featured poetry written by Angelou and performed by Janet Jackson. In 1998, she made her film directing debut with Down in the Delta (1998). In 2006, she had a starring role in Tyler Perry's Medea's Family Reunion. In 2002, she won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for A Song Flung Up to Heaven.
Angelou was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000. On February 15, 2011, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. In 2013, she received the Literarian Award from the National Book Foundation and the Mailer Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Norman Mailer Center.
Her body of published works includes autobiographies, numerous poetry collections, a book of essays, several plays, a screenplay, and a cookbook. Among her many works are Gather Together in My Name (1974), Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976), The Heart of a Woman (1981), All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986), A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002), Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes (2004), and Mom & Me & Mom (2013).
After a period of ill health, Angelou was found dead by her caretaker on May 28, 2014, in North Carolina. In June 2014, the town of Stamps renamed its only park in her honor. On April 7, 2015, the U.S. Postal Service released a stamp in honor of Angelou. In March 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure to rename a post office in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, after Angelou.
(Courtesy of: Encyclopedia of Arkansas, CALS)
(Images courtesy of: Persistence of the Spirit collection, PS14_08: Maya Angelou on January 23, 1983. PS24_06: a negative of Maya Angelou, Arkansas State Archives)
Bernice Jones was born October 31, 1905 in Springdale, AR. She attended the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville from 1924-1928, and taught school at Harmon and Oak Grove Schools from 1926-1931. In 1938 she married Harvey Jones, at which time they set out to continue to build the Jones Truck Line, which eventually became the nation’s largest privately-owned carrier by the time it was sold in 1980. In the early years (1952), Harvey and Bernice and others, founded Northwest Medical Center and Hospital in Springdale, which over the years grew into a multi-million dollar facility. Both Bernice and Harvey’s continued service on the Board spanned 51 years, from 1952-2003. In 1968, they established Har-Ber Village Museum, a large antique village on the Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees in Grove, OK that consisted of over 100 independent buildings. Free of charge, they welcomed over 600,000 visitors/yr from all 48 states and many overseas countries. After Harvey passed in 1980, Bernice dedicated her philanthropic energy to help advance private giving throughout Arkansas. Examples include the establishment of the Harvey and Bernice Jones Center for Families in Springdale, dedicated to strengthening the family. This center of over 245,000 sq ft on 38 acres, contains multiple classrooms, conference centers, several indoor and outdoor recreation facilities to include two swimming pools, ice skating rink and a full size gymnasium. Also on this campus, the old truck line maintenance shop was renovated for offices for 34 community charitable agencies.
Her major awards include the first Arkansan to receive the Presidential Citizens Medal for exemplary deeds of service to her fellow citizens, presented by President Bill Clinton.
Bernice Jones was not only a major philanthropic leader in Arkansas, but through her example, established a legacy that has yet to be surpassed.
Elsijane Trimble Roy was Arkansas’s first woman circuit judge, the first woman on the Arkansas Supreme Court, the first woman appointed to an Arkansas federal judgeship, the first woman federal judge in the Eighth Circuit, and the first Arkansas woman to follow her father as a federal judge.
Born on April 2, 1916, in Lonoke (Lonoke County), Elsijane Trimble was one of five children of Judge Thomas Clark Trimble III and Elsie Walls. Her father and grandfather were both attorneys in a law practice with Senator Joseph T. Robinson, and her father later became a federal judge. Trimble grew up in Lonoke attending local schools and was a star basketball player her four years at Lonoke High School, graduating in 1934 as valedictorian. After high school, she entered the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where she was the women’s singles and mixed doubles tennis champion for two years. She completed undergraduate studies and law school in five years and was the only woman to graduate from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1939. At the time, she was only the third woman to graduate from UA with a law degree.
She was admitted to the bar the same year as graduation and joined the law firm of W. W. McCrary Jr. in Lonoke. Between 1940 and 1942, Trimble was a state attorney for the Revenue Department, and from 1942 to 1944, she worked in the Office of Price Administration, where she was the chief price attorney.
Trimble married a law school classmate, James Morrison Roy, on November 23, 1944, and moved to Houston, Texas, where he worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In December 1946, they had a son. The following year, the Roys returned to Arkansas, moving to Blytheville (Mississippi County). She and her husband returned to practice law for the firm of Reid and Evrard. By 1954, she and her husband established Blytheville’s first husband-and-wife law firm, Roy and Roy, which lasted until 1963. The firm was closed for personal reasons after both her husband and father were hospitalized in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Between 1963 and 1966, Roy was the law clerk for Justice Frank Holt of the Arkansas Supreme Court. She and her husband divorced on June 30, 1967.
In 1966, Roy became the first woman judge in Arkansas when Governor Orval Faubus appointed her as a justice for the Sixth District Court; she served from April to December. She served as an assistant attorney general for the State of Arkansas between February and May 1967. From May 1967 until 1975, with the exception of a few months in 1969–70, she served as a law clerk for Federal District Court Judges Gordon E. Young (1967–1969) and Paul X. Williams (1970–1975).
Governor David Pryor appointed her as the first woman judge on the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1975, where she served until 1977, when Pryor recommended her for a federal judgeship in the Eastern Judicial District of Arkansas upon the retirement of Judge Oren Harris. On October 21, 1977, President Jimmy Carter nominated Roy to be the first woman federal district court judge in the Eighth Circuit, as recommended by Senators Dale Bumpers and John L. McClellan, and the U.S. Senate confirmed her on November 1, 1977. Roy occupied the position for twenty-one years, taking senior status in 1989 and retiring in 1999.
During Roy’s legal career, she garnered many honors, awards, and recognitions. In 1969 and 1976, respectively, she was named Woman of the Year, first by the Business and Professional Women’s Club and then by the Arkansas Democrat. She was awarded two honorary degrees: a Juris Doctor in 1969 from UA and a Doctor of Laws in 1978 from what is now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. She was a prominent member of Chi Omega.
Roy kept her favorite Bible verse, Micah 6:8, on her bench: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before your God.” Her Arkansas Democrat Woman of the Year plaque inscription reads that “she has become a symbol of pride and inspiration to all women.” In its memorial resolution to her, the Eighty-sixth Arkansas General Assembly reflected upon her “commitment, hard work, dedication and service.”
Roy died on January 23, 2007, at the age of ninety, and is buried in Lonoke Cemetery.
(Courtesy of: Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Central Arkansas Library System)
June Biber Freeman, born and reared in New Jersey, came to Pine Bluff from the University of Chicago, where she had met and married her husband, Edmond Freeman, a Pine Bluff native. Both were graduate students at the time. When a call from his family interrupted his studies, she moved with him to Pine Bluff where he joined the family-owned newspaper, the Pine Bluff Commercial.
Long interested in the arts, she was instrumental in establishing the Little Firehouse Community Arts Center. Serving as its unpaid director until, with her continued vision and help, it morphed into the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (ASC). In 1973, she conceived and organized the Women and the Arts: A Conference on Creativity, the first of its kind in the region. It was one of several events she organized for the ASC. Governor Dale Bumpers appointed her to the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women. In 1975, Freeman was hired by Townsend Wolfe as the Arkansas Arts Center’s Director of State Services, a job she held for the next five years. Her eleven year old son’s repeatedly asking when she was going to stop working brought her commute and her job to an end, an agreeable one.
In 1982, she was instrumental in establishing Pine Bluff Sister Cities. With the help of Century Tube, a Japanese firm headquartered in Pine Bluff, Iwai City, Japan, and Pine Bluff became Sister Cities in 1984. Pine Bluff city officials and employees, students, teachers and interested citizens visited Iwai and people from Iwai visited Pine Bluff, one of the state’s international port cities. She has served on the boards of the Arkansas Arts Center, the Mid-American Arts Alliance and the Arkansas Arts Council. (In view of her background in psychology, she has served as a longstanding member of the UAMS Advisory Board of the Psychiatric Research Institute.)
Freeman is the founding director of the non-profit Architecture and Design Network (ADN) which got underway in 2003. Securing the support of the Arkansas Arts Center, the UA Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design (FJSAD) and the central section of the Arkansas chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Freeman launched a series of free public lectures by distinguished architects. Retiring as director at the end of 2016, she continues to serve as a board member. She was named a honorary member of the FJSAD Dean’s Circle and, in 2013, was given an Award of Merit by the state Chapter of the AIA at its annual meeting. In 2016 the ADN board named the lecture series for her.
Freeman and her husband, who retired as publisher of the Pine Bluff Commercial, moved to Little Rock in 1995. The couple has four children and six grandchildren.
Ruth Hawkins of Jonesboro is best known around the state for her strong advocacy for historic preservation and heritage tourism. As she is quick to point out, it is not that she is enamored of old buildings; rather, it is the heritage they represent and how they can be utilized to tell the stories of Arkansas to the rest of the world.
Hawkins has been at Arkansas State University since 1978, with most of her early years there as Vice President for Institutional Advancement. While traveling throughout the region to raise funds and friends for the university, this St. Louis native fell in love with the Arkansas Delta and its rich heritage. Looking for ways to merge needs of the region with programs and opportunities offered by the university, her first heritage project was raising funds to acquire and restore property in Piggott, Arkansas, that once belonged to Paul and Mary Pfeiffer. The Pfeiffers’ son-in-law, legendary author Ernest Hemingway, was a frequent visitor and wrote portions of A Farewell to Arms in their barn. The project opened in 1999 as the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center and led to Hawkins’s decision to devote full-time to preserving the heritage of the Arkansas Delta. The project also led to the publication of her book, Unbelievable Happiness and Final Sorrow: The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Marriage, which is the only biographical work that focuses on Hemingway’s relationship with the Pfeiffer family.
Under her leadership, the Arkansas State University Heritage Sites program now has grown to include the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum in Tyronza, the Lakeport Plantation near Lake Village, and the Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home. In addition to serving as economic catalysts in the rural communities where they are located, these sites provide research and field experiences for students in A-State Heritage Studies Ph.D. program, which Hawkins helped launch. She also serves as Executive Director of Arkansas Delta Byways, Inc., a tourism promotion association serving 15 counties in Eastern Arkansas. She led the efforts to develop two National Scenic Byways, the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway and the Arkansas segment of The Great River Road, and serves as a technical advisor to the Mississippi River Parkway Commission. She has the unique distinction of serving as chairman for both the 75th Anniversary Celebration and the Centennial Celebration for Arkansas State University.
Her work has been recognized through numerous state and national preservation awards, including the Parker Westbrook Award for Lifetime Achievement in preservation, a Preservation Honors Award through the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Lifetime Achievement Award through the Arkansas Historical Association, the Peg Newton Smith Lifetime Achievement Award through the Arkansas Museums Association, and induction into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame. Hawkins has served on numerous boards and commissions and is a member of the International Women’s Forum of Arkansas, the Board of Trustees for The Delta School in Wilson, and the Jonesboro Rotary Club.
Brinda was born in McGehee, Arkansas, a small rural town in Southeast Arkansas, and raised in an even smaller rural town, Montrose, Arkansas, population 399 (at that time). Her parents, William and Bernice Jackson, farmers in rural Arkansas, instilled unquestionable values, the importance of education, and a strong work ethic in her and her seven siblings. Because of their teachings and guidance, Brinda was destined to shape a global footprint beyond that small town. Brinda is very humble, and is unaware of the broad impact she has had on others throughout her trail-blazing career. She continues to plant the seeds of greatness in the paths of women, inspiring them to achieve their dreams.
While in grade school, she was inspired to become an Architect from watching “The Brady Bunch” television show. She became focused on that career and that focus remained with her until her dream was realized. In 1979, Brinda graduated Valedictorian from Lakeside High School in Lake Village, Arkansas, as the first African American to do so in the history of the high school. She attended the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and graduated with a degree in Architecture, only the second African American woman to do so. From 1985 to 1989, she worked as an Architect in a small architectural firm in Little Rock. After realizing her initial dream of becoming an Architect, she decided to shift her focus to other opportunities. In January 1990, she started a career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Little Rock District, as an Architect in the Design Branch.
One of the most noteworthy items of her career as an Architect came about when she passed her Architectural Registration Exam in 1991, becoming the first African American woman in Arkansas registered to practice Architecture. Since that time, she has maintained her status as a Registered Architect. She is also a registered Project Management Professional.
She has attained additional outstanding accomplishments throughout her career. During her tenure as an Architect and Design Team Leader in the Design Branch, she worked on various projects for military installations across the country, including Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma; Fort Bliss, Texas; Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina; and Little Rock Air Force Base. In 1999, Brinda made the transition from Architect to Project Manager. In 2003, she deployed as a civilian Project Manager with the Forward Engineering Support Team, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While in Iraq, she was presented the 555 Combat Engineer Group Commander's Award for being the “Battlefield Hero” of the day and received two Command Sergeant Major's Coins of Excellence, in addition to receiving the Superior Civilian Service Award and the Chief of Engineer's coin. During her career, she has received numerous awards, achievement medals and recognition's, to include: 2013 Civilian of the Year for Little Rock District; 1999 graduate of the Army Management Staff College, where she received the Department of the Army Certificate of Achievement for "Best in Seminar"; 1998 recipient of the Women of Color Technology Award for Government Leadership (non-Government award); and the 1995 Little Rock District Architect of the Year.
Though an architect by profession, she is currently the Chief, Civil Works Programs Branch, Little Rock District, with the responsibility of developing, defending and executing an annual civil works program in excess of $200M. Her reputation for “getting the job done” has led to increased opportunities for various developmental assignments: Operations Project Manager for Table Rock Lake, Branson, Missouri; Regional Integration Team - Programmer, Headquarters USACE, Washington, DC; Acting Chief, Project Management Branch, Galveston District, Galveston, Texas; and most recently, the Acting Chief, Civil Works Integration Division, Southwestern Division, Dallas, Texas, where she was responsible for an annual civil works program portfolio that exceeded $1B.
Brinda has been an inspiration to all that know her, particularly women, because of her phenomenal career. She is a mentor to many, both formal and informal. Understanding the struggles of growing up poor in a small rural Arkansas town, she and three of her siblings (who also graduated from Lakeside High School) established the Jackson Family Scholarship in 2000, which is awarded annually to a graduating Senior of Lakeside High School. Brinda is a member of St Mark Baptist Church in Little Rock. She and her husband, David Switzer, reside in central Arkansas.
Pat Lile’s mantra challenge to people in our state for decades has been “Who will build Arkansas if her own people do not?” She was powerfully influenced by this question which was the message on a billboard on the north side of the bridge between Little Rock and North Little Rock in 1957. When the National Guard was sent by President Eisenhower to the capital city to protect students integrating Little Rock Central High and to keep the peace in September 1957 during the crisis under Governor Faubus, a photograph of that billboard took on a powerful new meaning. After their years at Hendrix College, she and her husband John moved to Durham, North Carolina, for him to attend Duke University Law School. That question loomed large in their thinking, they realized in retrospect, as they made the decision to Arkansas in June of 1962. They have not regretted that return home.
Since then, Lile has enjoyed two volunteer and professional careers of almost 30 years each, the first 28 years in Pine Bluff and since 1990, in Little Rock. She became known for her community building efforts both locally and statewide, focusing on the importance of leadership development and on philanthropy, the giving of individual and corporate financial resources. Don Munro challenged her by saying that he wanted to see the time come in Arkansas that philanthropy would be as frequent a topic of conversation as Razorback sports! She set out, through the Arkansas Community Foundation to which Munro contributed significantly, to help make that a reality. Dr. Tom Bruce, also a major contributor, was her ally in that effort which continues even today under the able Heather Larkin who succeeded Lile as president and CEO in 2008.
Pat Lile culminated her professional career by serving as President and CEO of the Arkansas Community Foundation, Inc. from mid 1996 through the end of 2007 when she retired. Her previous positions in Little Rock included serving as Executive Director of the Commission for Arkansas’ Future, a state planning effort from 1990-1995, and as Interim Executive Director of the Family Service Agency.
Prior to moving with her family to Little Rock, she and her family lived in Pine Bluff for 28 years, where she was very active in the community as a volunteer. Among her charitable involvements was the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary which she served as president. She also served on the Board of the United Way of Southeast Arkansas for which she was the first woman to serve as drive co-chairman, and the first woman to serve as Chair of the Board of Directors, a position she held for two years. She was an active member of the League of Women Voters in those years. She ran two major tax initiative campaigns for the city, and led two millage campaigns for the public schools, all successful. A Brownie Scout leader, she was also an active volunteer in the public schools from which their 4 children all graduated. She was awarded a lifetime membership in the PTA and was given the Lester Silbernagel Award by the Pine Bluff School District. As a member of the Junior League of Pine Bluff, she chaired several committees and was a delegate to the League’s national child advocacy conference in the mid 1970’s. She also led a community task force which established the first SCAN child abuse chapter outside of Little Rock. A supporter of the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, she chaired its first benefit dinner and charitable auction. As an active member of First Presbyterian Church in Pine Bluff, she was the first woman to serve as annual stewardship campaign chair, and was honored to be one of the first women elected as an Elder to serve on the Session.
She and her husband John founded Leadership Pine Bluff in 1981, the first program of its type in the state, and she was its executive director for 9 years. She organized NALO for other leadership programs in the state and led its annual conference for several years. Concurrently, she led the nonprofit community-planning and improvement program entitled Pine Bluff 2000 and was Vice President for Community Development of the Greater Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce. She completed the Community Development Institute at UCA in the late 80’s. She was a founding board member and officer of the Pine Bluff Affiliate of the Arkansas Community Foundation in 1987, the second local Affiliate formed in the state. In a newspaper poll naming the Top Ten Most Influential Residents of the city, she was the only woman chosen. In 1982 she was honored with the Community Service Award from Channel 4 and the Governor’s Office on Volunteerism for her efforts to build Pine Bluff. She co-founded Synergy Forum, a 50-member women’s philanthropic grantmaking organization in Pine Bluff. In 1977 she was one of the co-founders of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and served on its Board for 10 years, including service as Board Chair.
As a resident of Little Rock since 1990, Lile has served on the Boards of Baptist Health Foundation, the Metropolitan YMCA, JCA (Just Communities of Arkansas, formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews), City Year Little Rock/North Little Rock, and Lifequest. Lile was the first Arkansas woman to be chosen to participate in Leadership America, and served on the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce steering committee which created Leadership Arkansas. She also has served on the Garvan Woodland Gardens advisory council and is a member of the advisory board of WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions). She was a co-founder of the Arkansas Nonprofit Alliance (formerly named ACE) and served on its board for many years. She is a sustaining member of the Junior League of Little Rock, and formerly a member of the Rotary Club of Little Rock, where she was named a Paul Harris Fellow. After retirement, she served for two years as a consultant on the nonprofit sector for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and is a volunteer speaker on various topics such as leadership, community development, stewardship, volunteerism, board governance and philanthropy.
Currently she is serving her eleventh year and second term as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Philander Smith College. She also serves on the Boards of the U. S. Marshals Museum and the Joseph Pfeifer Kiwanis Camp.
Lile has received a number of other honors including the Arkansas Community Foundation’s Lugean Chilcote award in the late 80’s and its “Roots and Wings” Arkansas Benefactor award on her retirement. She received the Award of Excellence from the Arkansas Community Development program. She was named by the Governor as a member of the Arkansas Sesquicentennial Commission for the 1986 celebration year. In 1989 Lile was named as co-honoree (with Dr. Joycelyn Elders) as "Citizen of the Year" by the Arkansas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. She is a 1995 graduate of Leadership America, a nationwide leadership program for outstanding women, and was the first Arkansas native chosen to participate. Entergy, Inc. awarded her its “Distinguished Leadership Award” in 1997. Appointed by then President Bill Clinton, she was the only Arkansan to attend the 1999 White House Conference on Philanthropy. Lile was honored four times as one of the "Top 100 Women of Arkansas" by Arkansas Business. In 2004 the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Arkansas Commission named her the recipient of a “Salute to Greatness” Community Service Award.
She is a founding member of AWLF (the Arkansas Women's Leadership Forum) and was a co-founder with Olivia Farrell of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, twice honored her, the first time at its “Power of the Purse” luncheon in 2002, and again by naming her “Arkansas Woman of the Year in Philanthropy” in 2007. She was honored in 2008 with the “Lifetime of Service” Award by City Year Little Rock/North Little Rock and with the Billie Ann Myers “Paragon” award by the Division of Volunteerism. In March of 2009 Lile was named by Arkansas Business, the state’s premier weekly business publication, as one of the top 25 Arkansas women leaders over the past 25 years, one of only two from the philanthropic sector. In March of 2010 Lile was presented the Father Joseph Biltz award from Just Communities of Arkansas (JCA), and was named recipient of the James E. Harris Nonprofit Leadership award in 2016 by the Arkansas Nonprofit Alliance.
Under Lile’s leadership for almost 12 years, the Arkansas Community Foundation assets grew from just under $15 million to almost $130 million, and its statewide Affiliate system grew to include 26 local community foundations offices, with a staff of 11 full-time and 26 part-time. ARCF is one of the five largest grantmaking foundations in the state. Lile retired as President and CEO effective 31 December 2007.
Lile is a native of Hope, Arkansas. After attending Hendrix College, in 1959 she married John Gardner Lile III, who is now a retired attorney. They have four grown children, seven grandchildren, and one great grandchild. They are active members of First United Methodist Church where she serves on several boards and committees and is the volunteer Director of Planned Giving.
Dr. Joanna Seibert developed the department of pediatric radiology at Arkansas Children’s Hospital coming to Arkansas with her husband in 1976 as Arkansas Children’s Hospital became the center for children in Arkansas. She was the first trained pediatric radiologist in the state. She previously was at the University of Iowa and was the first woman on their faculty. She has represented Arkansas across the country and abroad, developing a pediatric radiology department of distinction. One of her major developments was helping to find a method of detecting whether children with Sickle Cell Disease are at risk to develop a stroke as well as studying whether premature babies could be less at risk by several methods of treatment to the mother. She is the author of over 100 peer review papers on Pediatric Radiology and several Textbooks, the most recent in 2017 is Casebook of Pediatric Radiology 2 Edition a primary text for radiology residents to learn about pediatric radiology. Biennially Arkansas Children’s Hospital gives an away to the physician who embodies teamwork in his or her practice. The award is named the Joanna and Robert Seibert award. Dr. Seibert was named among the top 100 Women in Arkansas 1996-1998, the Worthen Arkansas Professional Woman of Distinction in 1992, and has been named among the Best Doctors in Arkansas 1997 until partial retirement in 2013.
She became an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church in 2001 and has served four congregations, St. Margaret’s, Trinity Cathedral, St. Luke’s North Little Rock, and presently is at St. Mark’s Little Rock developing health ministries, grief recovery groups across the state, teaching lay people how to become visitors to the sick as a facilitator of the Community of Hope, working with people in recovery, preaching and helping to develop adult education for parishes. She also leads retreat in the state and throughout the country especially for women who are seeking a deeper spiritual life in a busy world as well as leading retreats for men and women in recovery for addiction. She is the author of six books on spirituality in today’s world. Dr. Seibert and her husband Robert have lived in Little Rock for almost 40 years and have three grown children and six grandchildren.
There are few Arkansans - women or men - who have spoken more eloquently on the cause of civil rights and social justice than Dorothy D. Stuck. In the turbulent era of the late 1950s through the 1960s, she was a leading and sometimes lone, voice in calling for equality for all in Arkansas.
During this time she and her husband Howard were publishers of three east Arkansas newspapers - the Marked Tree Tribune, the Lepanto News Record, and the Truman Democrat. She received the Press woman of the Year award in 1964 and 1969. She was a charter member of the Arkansas Press Women and later served as its president.
In 1968, she was elected to represent Poinsett County in the Arkansas Constitutional Convention and was elected to chair the Suffrage and Election Committee, the only woman to chair a major committee.
She was able to put her words into action when she was named in 1970 as Regional Director, U.S. Office for Civil Rights, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Dallas Region, including Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. In this position, she was responsible for adherence to desegregation of public schools, institutions of higher learning and state health organizations. She served a temporary assignment as acting national Deputy Director of the office for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., and was among those responsible for the implementation of Title IX, providing equal opportunities for women in education. She received HEW's Distinguished Service Award, which is the Department's highest civilian award, for her leadership in civil rights.
Also while in Dallas, she was the first woman to chair the Dallas-Fort Worth Federal Executive Board and was named one of Dallas' Top Ten Women News-Shapers.
After nine years, she returned home to Arkansas and became a partner in Stuck and Snow Consultants, a Little Rock-based management and publications consulting firm. She also became a charter board-member of Southern Bancorp, a non-profit rural development bank serving the Delta area. As a board member, she coined the term "changing lives, building communities" to characterize the bank's work. She served on the board executive committee; chaired its Community Partners division and its grant committee.
After 30 years, she retired from the board, at which time Southern Bancorp established the Dorothy Stuck Empowerment Award that will be given annually to the employee whose work best exemplifies her goals.
A graduate of the University of Arkansas, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008. While a student at the university, she was a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority and later served for nine years as editor of "The Arrow," the sorority's national magazine.
Upon her retirement, she co-authored a biography, "ROBERTA: A Most Remarkable Fulbright" which reached the best-seller list in Arkansas and received an award of merit from the American Association of state and Local History.
Currently, she is a member of the Winthrop Rockefeller Lecture Board. She is one of those featured in the Rockefeller Museum on Petit Jean. She has also been a part of the Arkansas women's exhibit at the Old Statehouse Museum. She is listed in the book, "100 Women of Achievement in Arkansas" and included in the University of Arkansas' Pryor Center for Oral and Visual History which features life histories of outstanding Arkansans. She has been honored by the Archives of the Women of the Southwest at Southern Methodist University in its "Remember the Ladies" recognition program.
Dorothy's husband Howard died in 1981, and their son, Howard III, in 1990. She now resides in Little Rock. Often introduced as an "Arkansas Legend", it can be easily said that her courage in a time of democratic upheaval has earned her well-deserved admiration and respect.
The mission of the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters is the same today as when they first came to Arkansas in 1887: serving God and all those in need. To their original ministries of education and health care have been added Hispanic ministry, prison ministry, and other apostolates that would have been unimaginable to those first four Sisters who founded the congregation.
In 1900, just thirteen years after the foundation of their community, the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters established St. Bernards Hospital and Regional Medical Center. Today, the Sisters remain active in the governing and pastoral care of St. Bernards, the leading health care provider in Northeast Arkansas.
God continues to bless this community with new vocations as women of faith seek to follow their Master who came "not to be served, but to serve."