New books ‘fall’ into sea­son as La­bor Day passes

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - OPINION - May­lon Rice

As I am wont to do a cou­ple of times a year, I have laid down the col­umn writ­ing on pol­i­tics this week, tak­ing up an ex­am­i­na­tion of some ex­cit­ing lo­cal his­tory works and books on the state out just in time for ad­vance hol­i­day shop­ping.

Most of these books are avail­able at your lo­cal in­de­pen­dent book­seller, so no mat­ter what city in North­west Arkansas or in Arkansas you live, you can or­der these books.

And yes, some are even avail­able at the lo­cal branches of the big-box book­stores, where the large repos­i­to­ries of books, gifts, mu­sic and such are avail­able. So let us get started.


First up is a won­der­ful his­tory on the Centennial Cel­e­bra­tion of Arkansas Tech Uni­ver­sity in Rus­sel­lville.

“A Cen­tury For­ward: The Centennial His­tory of Arkansas Tech Uni­ver­sity,” by Dr. Thomas DeBlack, PhD., by Walsworth Pub­lish­ing Com­pany, Marce­line, Mo. is an easy-to-read 336 pages, well worth its $40 tag price.

The book’s 9” x 12” for­mat has 26 pages of color pho­tographs, and all kinds of foot­notes and ref­er­ences, avail­able from the Arkansas Tech Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion.

DeBlack, a noted his­to­rian, has been a pro­fes­sor of his­tory at Arkansas Tech for the last 30 years. He has a com­fort­able time re­view­ing the his­tory of this, one of four Agri­cul­tural High Schools, es­tab­lished back in 1909.

In the pref­ace, DeBlack quotes Wil­liam Faulkner, and boldly pro­claims that the in­sti­tu­tion has not merely sur­vived for the past cen­tury but “it (has) pre­vailed.” Arkansas Tech, from “A Cen­tury For­ward,” and DeBlack’s ex­am­i­na­tion, has far more than pre­vailed, but flour­ished, as wit­nessed from this noted his­to­rian’s writ­ing. He holds a mas­ter­ful com­mand of the facts and an al­ways even­keeled pres­ence as an ob­server in the sto­ry­telling of Arkansas Tech’s early days.

Founded as one of Arkansas’ four re­gional agri­cul­tural high schools, the in­sti­tu­tion now has evolved into a four-year col­lege with an en­roll­ment hover­ing at 12,000 stu­dents each se­mes­ter.

••• An­other fresh book out, “African-Amer­i­can Ath­letes in Arkansas,” by Evin Demirel, by ED Pro­duc­tions LLC, $24.99, is a 188-page pa­per­back filled with var­i­ous reprinted es­says from as­sorted web­sites, news­let­ters and blogs. The book is filled with vin­tage photos from all over Arkansas worth see­ing.

The es­says in the book do have a his­tor­i­cal bent to them, with the un­der­ly­ing theme of some of the best Arkansas schoolboy and schoolgirl ath­letes of yes­ter­year who are all but for­got­ten — and need to be rec­og­nized and re­mem­bered.

There are big holes in the book, such as no men­tion of the Jones fam­ily of bas­ket­ball greats from the tiny ham­let of Kelso/ Ro­hwer in south­east Arkansas. That fam­ily (at least four mem­bers) played in the NBA and set some col­lege marks that still stand to­day.

But the book is worth read­ing and it’s worth pon­der­ing the es­says on this long-over­looked part of the state’s his­tory.


A very spe­cial book for Fayetteville and all of North­west Arkansas is the gi­gan­tic vol­ume, “The Square Book: An Il­lus­trated His­tory of the Fayetteville Square,” 1828-2016, by Jerry Ho­gan and An­thony J. Wap­pel, a 248-page book self-pub­lished by the au­thors.

The his­tory of the busi­ness district re­flects the growth and ever-chang­ing cli­mate of com­merce, law and his­tory in north­west Arkansas.

It is a real de­light to those who have lived, worked and shopped in Fayetteville over the years.


As usual, I will pro­mote the Arkansas His­tor­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion and its $20 an­nual mem­ber­ship and the Wash­ing­ton County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety for it $25 mem­ber­ship ($15 for se­nior cit­i­zens). Both groups have won­der­ful quar­terly pub­li­ca­tions filled with his­tory for those who love to read his­tor­i­cal items of yes­ter­year.

Next week, it is back to pol­i­tics. — May­lon Rice is a former jour­nal­ist who worked for sev­eral north­west Arkansas pub­li­ca­tions. He can be reached via email at maylontrice@ya­ The opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

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