Famous Arkansan: John Huddleston

Several well-known people
have roots in Arkansas. The list runs the gamut from Johnny Cash to Jermain
Taylor. Check here every Monday (a day late today due to Memorial Day!) as we
highlight a new Famous Arkansan each week. Today,

Meet: John Huddleston

Zoie Clift


John Wesley Huddleston
(1862-1941) is best known as the farmer who found two diamonds on the surface
of his field near Murfreesboro in 1906. Soon after the discovery, he was
recognized as the first person outside South Africa to find diamonds at an
original volcanic source. The stones were sent to Charles S. Stifft, a Little
Rock jeweler and confirmed to be genuine diamonds. Stifft described them as
blue-white diamonds, one weighing 2-5/8 carats and the other 1-3/8 carats. To
verify his opinion, Stifft sent them to New York and states that “…after
subjecting them to every test they were pronounced diamonds of fine

Early in 1906, Huddleston
had purchased the 160-acre McBrayer farm to make a home for his family, a
decision that would etch him into history. Huddleston recounted the first
diamond finds to Tom Shiras of the Arkansas Gazette: “I was crawling on my
hands and knees …when my eyes fell on another glittering pebble…I knew it was
different from any I had ever seen before. It had a fiery eye that blazed up at
me every way I turned it. I hurried to the house with the pebble, saddled my
mule and started for Murfreesboro…riding through the lane, my eye caught
another glitter, and I dismounted and picked it up out of the dust.”

Huddleston sold his
diamond-bearing land for $36,000 to a commercial diamond company. Many years
later, in 1972, the land became part of Crater of Diamonds State Park.  Huddleston was  known as the “Diamond King,”
though later met with some misfortunes and died a pauper, but was said to have
had no regrets. He is buried in Japany Cemetery, about three miles east of the
diamond mine. The approximate location of Huddleston’s first diamond find is
designated on the diamond field by a historical marker on the south central
mine boundary. Since 1984 the park has put on John Huddleston Day to celebrate
the man and his unique discovery. This year the event takes place on June
.  A Gem and Mineral Show is also
scheduled at the park for June 5 from 8-4. 

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