On January 2, 2011 Arkansas Republicans were in control of the Arkansas Legislature for the first time in 138 years.

On January 2, 2011 Arkansas Republicans were in control of the Arkansas Legislature for the first time in 138 years.


When Republicans were last in control of the Arkansas Legislature from 1868 to 1874 and held all political offices at the State and Federal level the struggle for control of the Republican Party led to an armed conflict known in history as the Brooks-Baxter War.

Elisha Baxter leader of the Minstriels or Carpetbagger faction was elected Governor by a narrow margin. Joseph Brooks the Brindle Tail or Scalawag losing candidate took control of the government by force.  Brooks and Baxter both raised armies which totaled more then 3,000 men who engaged in several bloody battles with casualties estimated from 40 to about 200. The war ended when President Grant intervened on behalf of Baxter.


From 1868 to 1874 Republicans enacted laws which prohibited Confederates from voting or holding office thereby disenfranchising most people in Arkansas.


After the adoption of Arkansas’ current constitution in 1874, restoring Confederates the right to vote and hold office, Democrats held most of the political offices in Arkansas at both the state and federal level until January 2, 2011.


From 1874 to 1961  Republicans were not a factor in Arkansas politics and were dominated by the Remmel, Townsend and Cobb families and a handful of their friends. H.L Remmel was Republican Party Chairman from 1900 -1925 , Ellen Remmel served as Republican National Committeewoman from 1928-1957, Wallace Townsend  was Republican national committeeman  1928-1961 and the Lily White Republican candidate for Governor in 1916 and 1920, Osro Cobb was Republican Party Chairman from 1932-1955. Republican candidates for a few offices were usually selected during dinner at the Little Rock Country Club.


In 1951 the voters in Little Rock elected Republican Pratt Remmel mayor and he was re-elected to a second term in 1953.


In 1961 Winthrop Rockefeller a liberal New York Yankee became Republican Party Chairman.  Osro Cobb who had been the Republican Party spokesman for over 30 years and party chairman for over 20 years described the Rockefeller takeover in this language:

“Rockefeller used ruthless tactics to convert the fine Republican state organization into a one-man Rockefeller machine, loyal not to the party but to Rockefeller personally.  Such one man dictatorship is clearly the deadly enemy of any semblance of two-party government. Faithful Republican leaders who have worked tirelessly over the years have been pushed aside or replaced.”


In the 1964 general election Cobb supported Orval Faubus, Democrat in his successful race for governor again Rockefeller.




In 1966 for the first time since 1870 the voters of Arkansas elected RepublicanWinthrop Rockefeller governor, Republican Mauriece Britt Lt. Governor and John Hammerschmidt Congressman from the Third Congressional District.


Every two years since 1966 voters in the Third Congressional have elected a Republican to that office


In 1968 Rockefeller and Britt we re-elected and Arkansas was considered to be a two party State.


In 1978-1980-1982 voters in the Second Congressional District elected Republican Ed. Bethune as their Congressman.


In 1981 the voters of Arkansas elected Republican Frank White Governor who proclaimed his election was a “victory for the Lord.”


In 1996 for the first time since 1874 Arkansas voters elected Republican Tim Hutchinson to the U.S. Senate.


In a special election in 1993 the voters of Arkansas elected Republican Mike Huckabee Lt. Governor and he was re-elected in 1994. When Governor Tucker resigned January 15, 1996 Huckabee became Governor and was re-elected in 1998 and 2002.


At the 2010 general election Arkansas voters elected a Republican: U.S. Senator, 3 of the 4 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 51 members of the Arkansas House, 21 members of the Arkansas Senate, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and Commissioner of State Lands. Since January 2011 when these Republicans assumed their offices the Republican Party has been in control of the political agenda in Arkansas.


How these Republicans have performed in office will be examined in a future column.


(Paul Rawlings of Heber Springs contributes his “progressive” viewpoint each week to the The Sun-Times.  He writes a blog at www.pauls-musings.blogspot.com)