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C. Robert Sarver Papers, 1928-1989 [bulk 1966-1989]

C. Robert Sarver Papers, 1928-1989 [bulk 1966-1989]

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C. Robert Sarver Papers, 1928-1989 [bulk 1966-1989] UALR.MS.0185

UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture
401 President Clinton Avenue
Little Rock, AR, 72201

Profile Description

Creation: This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2013-09-16T11:42-0500

Repository: UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture
creatorSarver, C. Robert (Charles Robert), 1931-1989
Title: C. Robert Sarver Papers, 1928-1989 [bulk 1966-1989]
Dates: Bulk, 1966-1989
Dates: 1928-1989
Quantity: 11.5 Linear feet; 23 document boxes
Identification: UALR.MS.0185


This collection is arranged in two series:Series I: Prison and Related MaterialsSeries II: Children's Services and Day Care Reform

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains legal documents, correspondence, and other papers concerning Robert Sarver's work with jail and prison conditions, chiefly in the southern United States. Most of the files address issues in states other than Arkansas, though there are materials related to his work with Arkansas prisons during Winthrop Rockefeller's governorship, including the Holt v. Sarver case. Also included are materials concerning Parchman prison farm in Mississippi, "Sing Sing" in New York, and a prison riot at Huttonsville prison in West Virginia. Also included also are documents concerning his work with child care licensing and reform. Some correspondence in the collection also makes occasional reference to Sarver's health problems.

Charles Robert Sarver

Charles Robert Sarver was born in Fairmont, West Virginia, 1931 January 3. He enlisted in the United States Army after graduating from high school and served in the Korean War as an Intelligence and Reconnaissance Scout-Observer in the 32nd Infantry. He won several medals, including the Korean Service Medal with three bronze stars, the United States Service Medal, and the Purple Heart. Sarver later attended West Virginia University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Juris Doctorate.

After graduating from law school, Sarver briefly worked at a legal firm before becoming an assistant prosecuting attorney. In 1966, he was appointed Director of Corrections for West Virginia, but in 1968 he was hired by Governor Winthrop Rockefeller to overhaul the troubled prison system after the firing of controversial reformer Tom Murton.

When the Arkansas General Assembly proved unwilling to provide funds for reform, Sarver assisted inmates in filing a lawsuit. The result was a group of cases known as Holt v. Sarver. In 1970, federal judge J. Smith Henley ruled that the Arkansas prison system was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. Holt v. Sarver led to penal reform in Arkansas, but Sarver's controversial measures cost him the position of Director of Corrections. In March 1971, he was replaced with Terrell Don Hutto.

After leaving the Arkansas Department of Corrections, Sarver worked as an expert witness in prison cases. He also worked as a consultant, helping to improve conditions at prisons around the country. He eventually was hired by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock where he worked in the Graduate School of Social Work and later as an administrator. Sarver also focused on childcare and adult daycare reform, advocating for federal and state regulations and better licensing practices. In the late 1970s, Sarver was diagnosed with lung cancer. During periods of remission, he continued his public service activities. While physicians often restricted him from working due to his illness, he remained committed to the social causes he had championed all of his life. On 1989 January 17, at the age of 58, Sarver died from cancer. He is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock.

Child care services--United States--History-- 20th century
Prisons--Arkansas--History--20th century
Prisons--Florida--History--20th century
Prisons--Louisiana--History--20th century
Prisons--Mississippi--History--20th century
Prisons--Missouri--History--20th century
Prisons--Nebraska--History--20th century
Prisons--New York--History--20th century
Prisons--Officials and employees
Prisons--Oklahoma--History--20th century
Prisons--Tennessee--History--20th century
Prisons--Texas--History--20th century
Prisons--Utah--History--20th century
Prisons--West Virginia--History--20th century
Sarver, C. Robert (Charles Robert), 1931-1989


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for viewing at the Arkansas Studies Institute.

Conditions Governing Use note

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.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation note

Bibliographic citation:

C. Robert Sarver Papers, UALR.MS.0185. UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture, Arkansas Studies Institute, Little Rock.

Footnote or Endnote info:

Description of item, box number and file number, C. Robert Sarver Papers, UALR.MS.0185, UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture, Arkansas Studies Institute, Little Rock.

Processed by

Amber R. Aulick-Ramsby, Graduate Assistant, UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture, Spring 2012. Completed by Colin Woodward, Ph.D., September 2013.

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