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UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture
Dale Bumpers Gubernatorial Papers, 1970-1974
195.0 Linear feet390 Document Boxes
The collection is arranged in nine series:I. General Correspondence and Subject FilesII. State Agency CorrespondenceIII. Governor's OfficeIV. Legislation and LegislatureV. SpeechesVI. Governor's ConferencesVII. Campaign MaterialsVIII. Federal Agency Correspondence and MaterialsIX. Newsclippings, Tapes, and Interviews
Scope and Content
This collection contains the gubernatorial papers of Dale Bumpers, 38th governor of Arkansas. It includes correspondence and subject files, state agency correspondence, governor's office files, legislative and legislation files, speeches, 1970 and 1972 campaign, federal agency correspondence, newsclippings, and audio materials.
Dale Leon Bumpers, 38th governor of Arkansas, was born 12 August 1925 in Charleston, Franklin County, Arkansas. He was one of four children born to William Rufus, a one-time member of the House of Representatives, and Lettie (Jones) Bumpers. Bumpers graduated from Charleston High School in 1943, briefly attended the University of Arkansas, and then joined the Marines. After being discharged from the service in 1946 he returned to the University of Arkansas, graduating in 1948. In 1949 he married Betty Lou Flanagan a longtime girlfriend and former classmate from Charleston. With a law degree from Northwestern University, awarded in 1951, Bumpers and his wife returned to Charleston where they raised three children. He practiced law, losing only three jury trials between 1952 and 1970. He operated his father’s store and later a cattle farm. He was also very active in the community, serving as city attorney, Sunday school teacher in the local Methodist church, and president of the school board and chamber of commerce. In 1962 he ran for the House seat originally held by his father but lost the election.
Despite this loss he was a shrewd analyst of the political scene in Arkansas during the 1960’s and he seriously considered a run against Winthrop Rockefeller in 1968 but instead spent those years making contacts around the state. When he ran for governor in 1970 he was still a virtual unknown with little face or name recognition, one of eight candidates in the Democratic race. In the first primary he narrowly won second place and faced Orval Faubus in the primary run-off but won handily. He went on to face Republican Winthrop Rockefeller in the general election, capturing the governorship through votes from Democrats who returned to the party fold after supporting Rockefeller for two terms.
Bumpers accomplished many reforms and changes that his predecessor, Winthrop Rockefeller, had attempted but had been thwarted by a Democrat controlled House and Senate. In a 1974 oral interview Bumpers stated that he considered his most important accomplishments as governor to be the reorganization of government and tax legislation:
Government Reorganization: At the time Bumpers took office there were no less than 60 agencies in the executive branch all reporting directly to the governor. In the view of many observers it was impossible for any governor to operate effectively. Along with boards and commissions, agencies had a high degree of independence and could flout policies or otherwise create their own fiefdoms. The plan realigned the 60 state agencies into 13 departments, creating a cabinet that reported to the governor. This created more efficiency and ensured that policies were implemented.
Tax Reform Legislation: Bumpers established a tax system that accurately reflected the revenue of the state. He blocked attempts by state and municipal agencies to earmark a percentage of revenues so as to maintain flexibility in allocations and he retained many of the budget and fiscal management systems initiated by his predecessor. Bumpers, while opposing sales tax increases, proposed and enacted a higher tax rate on the wealthiest and lower rates on the poorest.
Historians and commentators consider the 1971-1973 regular and special legislative sessions among the most important in the state’s history. Both Bumpers’ governorship and his legislative program occurred at a pivotal time in Arkansas and set a new tone for the state when the rest of the South was also undergoing many changes.
In 1974 he ran against and beat J. William Fulbright for the U.S. Senate and served from 1975-1999. His U.S. Senate papers are located at U of A/Fayetteville Special Collections.
Donovan, Timothy P., Willard B. Gatewood, Jr., and Jeannie M. Whayne, eds.
Dale Leon Bumpers.
The Governors of Arkansas: Essays in Political Biography. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. 1995. p. 246-253.
This collection is available for viewing at the Arkansas Studies Institute.
Conditions Governing Use
The copyright law of the United States (Title 17-U.S. Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. The person using this material is liable for any infringement.
Copyright for correspondence in the collections belongs to those correspondents or their beneficiaries. Persons wanting to re-use those materials are advised to obtain permission from copyright holders.
Dale Bumpers Gubernatorial Papers, 1970-1974, UALR.MS.0002. UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture, Arkansas Studies Institute, Little Rock, AR.
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