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Eliza Jane Ashley papers

Eliza Jane Ashley papers

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Open Finding Aid

Finding aid for the Eliza Jane Ashley papers


Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
100 Rock Street
Little Rock, Arkansas, 72201
(501) 320-5700

May 2, 2016

Repository: Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
Creator:Ashley, Eliza Jane, 1917-
Title: Eliza Jane Ashley papers
Dates: Bulk, 1950-1990
Dates: 1924-2009
Quantity: 15.0 Linear feet
Abstract:This collection relates to Eliza Jane Ashely who worked as cook at the Arkansas Governor's Mansion for thirty-five years.
Identification: BC.MSS.05.40
Language: English


This collection is arranged topically and divided into two series: Series I, Ashley Files; and Series II, Photographs.

Scope and Contents

The collection contains personal papers, newspaper clippings, correspondence, special invitations, photographs, campaign material, scrapbooks, recipes, and hats.

Biographical Information

Eliza Jane Burnett Dodson Ashley was born on the Oldham Plantation in Lonoke County, Arkansas on October 11, 1917. She was the daughter of William and Eliza Johnson Burnett. In 1933, Eliza married Calvin Dodson in Lonoke County and the couple had one son, Louis Calvin Dodson. In 1960, she married Fred Ashley in Little Rock.

Eliza went to work at the Arkansas Governor's Mansion as a maid for Governor Francis Cherry in the fall of 1954 and remained an employee when the family left in December. When Governor Orval Faubus and his wife Alta took residence of the mansion in 1955, Henry Scribner was the head cook with Eliza filling in on his days off. However, Mrs. Faubus insisted on a female cook and Eliza assumed the duties. During the Rockefeller administration (1967-1971), Governor Winthrop Rockefeller came to the mansion with his own personal chef with Eliza again cooking on off days.

She spent thirty-six years at the mansion and thirty-five as the cook which was later titled food production manager under David Pryor's administration. Over the years she served formal dinners, banquets, receptions and holiday affairs. She fed governors and their families, dignitaries, movie stars, senators, and first and second ladies of the United States. In 1985, Ashley released a book co-written by Carolyn Huber, mansion administrator during Governor Bill Clinton's time in office. The book titled Thirty Years at the Mansion was published by August House Publishers of Little Rock. Ashley traveled to book signings, made guest appearances on cooking shows and was interviewed nationally by CNN and Good morning America.

Beginning with the Faubus administration, Eliza's October birthdays, especially significant milestones, were celebrated at the mansion by the governors, their families, and staff with great fanfare. And she maintained close personal ties with the first families of Arkansas over the years.

Because of her dedicated service to the state, "Eliza Jane Ashley Day" was proclaimed on December 20, 1974, by then Governor Dale Bumpers, "Liza Ashley Day" in North Little Rock on August 25, 1994, by Mayor Patrick Hays, and "Countess of Pulaski" on October 12, 1997, by County Judge Floyd G. "Buddy" Villines.

Eliza retired from the Arkansas Governor's Mansion in 1990. She was an active member of Canaan Missionary Baptist Church in Little Rock. She moved to California sometime after her ninetieth birthday.

Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.

African American churches
African Americans -- Arkansas
Arkansas -- Politics and government
Ashley, Eliza Jane, 1917-
Ashley, Fred, 1927-2001
Baptists -- Arkansas
Dodson, Louis Calvin, 1951-
Governors -- Arkansas -- Election
Huber, Carolyn
Little Rock (Ark.)
Lonoke County (Ark.)
Washington (D.C.)


Restrictions on Access

Unrestricted access.

Restrictions on Use

Non-circulating, in-house use only.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Eliza Jane Ashley papers, MSS.05.40, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Arkansas Studies Institute

Acquisition Information

Donated by Eliza Jane Ashley, 2005

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