Winthrop Rockefeller and the Desegregation of State Boards

Oct 7, 2016

Fifty years ago this November [2016], Winthrop Rockefeller was elected Arkansas’s first Republican governor in almost a century. As governor, Rockefeller helped to improve race relations in a number of ways. A significant development was the appointment of some African Americans to state boards for the first time. The most controversial episode proved to be Rockefeller’s attempt to appoint an African American to the State Board of Education. The Arkansas Senate refused to confirm Rockefeller’s first choice, civil rights attorney John Walker. The Senate then refused to confirm Rockefeller’s second choice, civil rights leader Dr. William H. Townsend. Finally, the Senate accepted the nomination of Rev. Emery Washington of Forrest City. Walker and Townsend were both later elected to the Arkansas General Assembly, serving in the Arkansas House of Representatives.