Trailblazers

Arkansas Trailblazers and Inventors

  • Pine Bluff native Freeman Owens changed the movie making business forever when he perfected the process of putting sound on film. He later advanced cinematography technology when he designed and developed cameras and lenses used by Eastman-Kodak Company.
  • Hattie Caraway of Jonesboro became the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate, serving until 1945. She was the first woman to preside over the Senate, first woman Senate Committee chairman, first woman senior Senator, and first woman to conduct a Senate Committee hearing.
  • Paul Klipsch of Hope invented Klipsch speakers, considered to be the best in the field by audio buffs. A Hope museum showcases his inventions.
  • Ben Pearson, a Saline County native and longtime Pine Bluff resident, is credited with revolutionizing the manufacture of archery tackle and providing quality, functional pieces that are affordable to the average person.
  • Louise McPhetridge Thaden of Bentonville, defeated Amelia Earhart and others to win the first Women's Air Derby in 1929. She set many altitude and endurance records during her career.
  • The "wonder horse" -- a spring-supported riding toy enjoyed by millions of children -- was invented by William Baltz of Pocahontas.
  • On March 3, 1937, Arkansas became the first state in the nation to authorize the formation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
  • Mifflin W. Gibbs of Philadelphia moved to Arkansas in 1871 and became a successful lawyer and businessman. In 1873, he was elected Little Rock Police Judge, the first African-American to hold a city judgeship in American history.
  • Augustus H. Garland, 11th Governor of Arkansas and a U.S. Senator (1877-1885) was the first Arkansan to hold a cabinet position. He was Attorney General during President Grover Cleveland's first administration, 1885-1889.
  • The first fried dill pickles ever sold anywhere were at the Duchess Drive-In in Atkins, summer of 1963, at fifteen cents for an order of 15 hamburger slices. They were created by Bernell "Fatman" Austin, owner of the drive-in, who worked to improve them. By late summer, he had perfected the pickle to what it is today: a large pickle sliced lengthwise and breaded in the family's secret recipe, then deep-fried until it's golden. Atkins offers these Southern delicacies during the annual Picklefest every May.