Senator Dale Bumpers Papers Opened to Researchers

Senator Dale Bumpers, 1989.  (Dale Bumpers Senatorial Papers (MC 1490), Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.)
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Senator Dale Bumpers, 1989. (Dale Bumpers Senatorial Papers (MC 1490), Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The papers of former U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers will be opened to researchers in a ceremony at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19, in the Helen Robson Walton Reading Room in Mullins Library at the University of Arkansas.

Guest speakers will be Carolyn Allen, dean of University of Arkansas Libraries; G. David Gearhart, chancellor of the University of Arkansas; Sen. David H. Pryor; a Bumpers family representative; and Timothy G. Nutt, head of special collections.

The Bumpers papers (Manuscript Collection 1490) were donated to the University of Arkansas special collections department by the senator in 2000. The collection includes biographical materials, correspondence, legislative and committee materials, personal and office records, speeches, photographs, audio-visual materials and ephemera, all of which document his roots in Arkansas, as well as his senatorial and post-senatorial career in Washington, D.C. The event will feature an exhibit of photographs and documents from the collection.

“At more than 1,000 boxes, the Dale Bumpers Senatorial Papers is the second-largest manuscript collection held by the University of Arkansas Libraries and contains materials supporting research from agriculture to political science to business,” said Nutt. “Senator Bumpers’ name has a storied reputation not only with the University of Arkansas, but within the state and the nation as a whole, and we are thankful he preserved his papers and made them available to the public so Arkansans can study his legacy for years to come.”

Bumpers was born Aug. 12, 1925, in Charleston, Ark. He completed one semester at the University of Arkansas before joining the U.S. Marines. After his discharge in 1946, Bumpers returned to the university and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in political science in 1948. Bumpers married Betty Lou Flanagan in 1949, and they had three children: Brent, William and Margaret. Bumpers earned his law degree from Northwestern University in 1951 and returned to Charleston to manage his family’s hardware and furniture store and to open a private law practice. Bumpers was elected Charleston city attorney in 1952 and served until 1970.

Following the Supreme Court decision on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, Bumpers advised the Charleston School Board to abide by the ruling, and consequently, Charleston School District became the first public school district in the South to integrate.

In 1970 Bumpers ran for governor of Arkansas, defeating Orval Faubus in the Democratic primary and incumbent Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller with 61.7 percent of the vote. Bumpers ran for the Senate in 1974 and defeated Sen. J. William Fulbright with 65 percent of the vote. Bumpers served in the Senate until his retirement in 1999.

During his 24 years in the Senate, Bumpers served on the Appropriations Committee, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and as chair of the Small Business Committee. He developed a reputation as a fiscal conservative, seeking drastic cutbacks to defense spending and striving toward reducing the national debt. He introduced a bill in 1983 to designate 91,000 acres in Arkansas as wilderness, earning him the Legislator of the Year award from the National Wildlife Federation. In 1998 he was awarded the Ansel Adams award from the Wilderness Society.

The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees named the College of Agriculture, Food and Life Sciences in his honor in 1995.

In 2003 he published his memoirs, The Best Lawyer in a One-Lawyer Town. He and Betty live in Little Rock.


Timothy G. Nutt, head of special collections
University of Arkansas Libraries

Jennifer Rae Hartman, public relations coordinator
University Libraries


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