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Men and Women of Distinction: Sid McMath

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Born Sidney Sanders McMath on June 14, 1912 in Columbia County, Ark., McMath was a graduate of the University of Arkansas Law School. He served with the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, earning the Silver Star and Legion of Merit. He returned to Hot Springs after the war, where he became politically active to fight corruption in local government. He was elected prosecutor for Garland and Montgomery counties in 1946, and governor in 1948 and 1950. He was an advocate of internal improvements and anti-lynching statutes.

TRANSCRIPT

Narrator: SIDNEY SANDERS McMATH WAS THE 34th GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS, SERVING FROM 1949 TO 1953. HIS YEARS IN THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE WERE TIMES OF REMARKABLE CHANGE FOR THE STATE. HE BUILT A MODERN HIGHWAY SYSTEM, BROUGHT ELECTRICITY TO RURAL ARKANSAS, FOUGHT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS AND EDUCATION FOR ALL ARKANSANS. IN REALITY, SID McMATH HAD THREE CAREERS: POLITICIAN, DISTINGUISHED LAWYER, AND MEMBER OF THE UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS. JOIN US NOW AS WE LOOK BACK AT THE CAREER OF GOVERNOR SIDNEY McMATH.

Sid: I WAS BORN JUNE THE 14TH. OF COURSE, THAT'S THE DAY WHEN UNCLE SAM UNFURLED THE FLAG YOU KNOW AND RAN THE OLD GLORY UP TO THE TOP OF THE FLAGPOLE. SO IT'S A GOOD DAY TO REMEMBER, AND I'VE ALWAYS BEEN HAPPY ABOUT THE ASSOCIATION OF MY BIRTHDAY WITH THE FLAG. BUT I WAS BORN IN COLUMBIA COUNTY IN BIG CREEK BOTTOM ON THE OLD McMATH HOME PLACE, AND MY SISTER AND I WERE BORN THERE. SHE'S TWO YEARS OLDER THAN I AM, AND WE WERE BORN ON THE SAME DAY BUT TWO YEARS DIFFERENCE. BUT I HAVE SOME FOND MEMORIES OF THAT PERIOD IN MY LIFE. I PICKED COTTON ON THE FARM UP TO ABOUT… LET'S SEE, I WAS SEVEN, EIGHT OR NINE YEARS OF AGE, I GUESS, WHEN I WAS PICKING COTTON, AND I WAS A GOOD COTTON PICKER. I COULD PICK 100 POUNDS A DAY, YOU KNOW. AND I GOT $1 A POUND. SO, I'D GET A… I MEAN, A CENT A POUND, NOT A DOLLAR A POUND. I'D MAKE $1 A DAY. I DECIDED I'D GO DOWN TO A COUNTRY STORE ABOUT TWO MILES FROM WHERE WE LIVED, AND I TOOK SOME OF MY MONEY WITH ME AND I WAS GOING TO MAKE SOME PURCHASES. SO, I WENT DOWN AND, OF COURSE, YOU COULD… YOU'VE BEEN IN THESE COUNTRY STORES, YOU KNOW, GENERAL STORES, AND THEY HAVE EVERYTHING.

David: RIGHT.

Sid: SO I WENT IN AND I LOOKED OVER EVERYTHING REAL GOOD, AND I REMEMBER PRETTY WELL WHAT I PURCHASED. THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WAS A DOG COLLAR FOR MY DOG. I HAD A DOG AND HIS NAME WAS BULGIA, AND WE WERE REAL GOOD COMPANIONS. SO I BOUGHT HIM A DOG COLLAR. I GOT A BIG FLORIDA ORANGE AND I GOT A GREAT BIG RED APPLE, AND I GOT A FLORIDA ORANGE FOR MY SISTER AND A BIG APPLE FOR MY SISTER. AND I BOUGHT SOME CHOCOLATE DROPS FOR MY MOTHER. SHE LOVED CHOCOLATE DROPS. SO I WENT HOME WITH THOSE PRIZED POSSESSIONS.

David: WOW! THAT'S AMAZING. THE FIRST TIME TO DO ANY PURCHASING ON YOUR OWN.

Sid: ON MY COTTON MONEY, MY COTTON-PICKING MONEY, YEAH. WELL, OF COURSE, I HAD A CHANCE TO GET TO SEE HOW PEOPLE LIVED AT THAT TIME, DAVID.

David: THAT'S RIGHT

Sid: YOU KNOW, WE WERE REALLY… THEY TALK ABOUT A DEPRESSION, 1928-1929 ALONG IN THERE, IN THE '30s. WE HAD A DEPRESSION ALL THE TIME IN THAT PART OF SOUTH ARKANSAS AND GENERALLY IN THE SOUTH, PARTICULARLY IN THE RURAL AREAS BECAUSE WE STILL HADN'T RECOVERED FROM THE CIVIL WAR.

David: SO IF I'M NOT MISTAKEN, YOUR FATHER WAS- AND YOUR FAMILY-- YOU WERE MOVING AROUND SO HE COULD MAKE A BETTER LIVING. YOU MOVED TO SMACKOVER AND OVER IN UNION COUNTY AND A COUPLE OF OTHER COMMUNITIES AND MAYBE EVEN BACK DOWN TO COLUMBIA COUNTY AND THEN ON TO HOT SPRINGS.

Sid: THAT'S RIGHT. THAT'S RIGHT. HE WAS… MY DAD REALLY DIDN'T LIKE FARMING, BUT HE LIKED HORSES AND HE LIKED TO DEAL IN CATTLE. SO HE WOULD TRADE AND TRAFFIC IN HORSES AND COWS.

Narrator: WHEN SID WAS 11, HAL McMATH MOVED THE FAMILY TO HOT SPRINGS, A RESORT TOWN KNOWN FOR MEDICINAL BATHS AND OPEN GAMBLING. SID SOLD NEWSPAPERS IN THE DOWNTOWN STREETS AND IN THE MIDST OF THE CASINOS. BUT IN SCHOOL AND THE BOY SCOUTS, HE MET ROLE MODELS THAT HELPED SHAPE HIS FUTURE. YOUNG SID HAD THREE AMBITIONS: TO BE A LAWYER, TO BE A MARINE, AND TO BE A POLITICIAN.

Sid: ONE OF THE GREATEST THINGS THAT HAPPENED TO ME IN MY LIFE WAS OUR MOVE TO HOT SPRINGS. THEY HAD AN EXCELLENT SCHOOL, AND HOT SPRINGS WAS A COSMOPOLITAN PLACE. YOU MET PEOPLE OF ALL DIFFERENT RACES AND BACKGROUNDS AND SO FORTH, AND PEOPLE CAME THERE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. AND I WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL THERE. I THOUGHT ABOUT RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL. AND I WAS PRESIDENT OF MY FRESHMAN, SOPHOMORE, JUNIOR, AND SENIOR CLASSES. THERE WAS A CHIEF OF POLICE, NATIONAL PARK POLICE IN HOT SPRINGS, NAME OF RICHARD L. GAFFNEY. HE HAD A SCOUT TROOP THAT I WAS A MEMBER OF, THE THIRD BOY SCOUT TROOP IN HOT SPRINGS. HE HAD A BOYS' CLUB, AND HE WAS AN UNOFFICIAL RECRUITER FOR THE MARINES CORPS. THE MARINE CORPS WAS INVOLVED IN NICARAGUA AT THAT TIME. HE HAD ALL THESE RECRUITING POSTERS ABOUT THE MARINE CORPS, SEE, AND SO FORTH. SO I GOT THE IDEA THAT I WANTED TO BE A MARINE, AND HE GAVE ME THESE POSTERS AND I PAINTED MY ROOM WITH THEM. WELL, HE THOUGHT IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA IF I WENT TO THE NAVAL ACADEMY, WHICH I SAID WOULD BE FINE. SO CONGRESSMAN D.D. GLOVER, A GREAT MAN, A WONDERFUL MAN.

David: FROM MALVERN, I BELIEVE.

Sid: FROM MALVERN, A WONDERFUL FAMILY, GAVE ME AN APPOINTMENT TO THE NAVAL ACADEMY. SO I WENT DOWN TO HENDERSON TO KIND OF PREP OUT ON IT, AND THERE WAS A WONDERFUL LADY DOWN THERE THAT TRIED TO HELP ME WITH MY MATH. YOU SEE, WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL, WHEN I GOT INVOLVED IN DRAMATICS, I NEGLECTED MY SCIENCE AND MY MATH, SEE? SO IT CAUGHT UP WITH ME.

David: RIGHT.

Sid: SO WHEN I TOOK MY EXAMINATION FOR THE NAVAL ACADEMY, I FLUNKED IT. I FLUNKED IT.

David: BECAUSE OF THE MATH. THE LACK OF MATH, I GUESS.

Sid: THE LACK OF MATH, YES. SO I SADDLED UP AND WENT TO THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS, AND I SIGNED UP WITH THE RESERVE OFFICERS TRAINING CORPS, YOU KNOW, FOR THE FOUR-YEAR TOUR AND AND THEN I TOOK MY PRE-LAW. SO I WAS INVOLVED IN DRAMATICS AND THE MILITARY AND GETTING READY TO GO TO LAW SCHOOL AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS.

Narrator: SID ARRIVED IN FAYETTEVILLE WITH ONLY A FEW DOLLARS TO HIS NAME. HE WORKED ODD JOBS TO SUPPORT HIMSELF AND TOOK UP BOXING. AS A SENIOR HE WAS ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE STUDENT SENATE. HE BECAME CAPTAIN OF HIS R.O.T.C. SQUAD. HE WENT ON TO FINISH HIS LAW DEGREE IN FAYETTEVILLE AND COMPLETE HIS MILITARY TRAINING IN FORT LEAVENWORTH, KANSAS, AT THE SAME TIME HITCHHIKING BACK AND FORTH HE RECEIVED A COMMISSION WITH THE MARINE CORPS AND SPENT A YEAR AS A RECRUITER IN PENNSYLVANIA BEFORE RETURNING TO HOT SPRINGS TO OPEN A LAW PRACTICE AND MARRY HIS HIGH SCHOOL SWEETHEART.

Sid: I CAME HOME TO MARRY ELAINE BROUGHTON. AND AT THAT TIME IN THE MARINE CORPS, THE POLICY WAS THAT IF YOU WERE A SECOND LIEUTENANT, YOU COULDN'T GET MARRIED. YOU HAD TO BE IN THE MARINE CORPS FOR TWO YEARS BEFORE YOU COULD GET MARRIED. AND THE POLICY WAS IF THE MARINE CORPS WANTED YOU TO HAVE A BRIDE, THEY WOULD ISSUE YOU ONE, SEE? SO I WENT HOME TO MARRY ELAINE AND TO PRACTICE LAW; BUT THAT WAS IN '37, AND MY PAINT ON MY SHINGLE HADN'T GOTTEN DRY UNTIL, OF COURSE, THE WAR CLOUDS GATHERED AND I FELT AN OBLIGATION TO GO BACK IN.

David: YOU ACTUALLY WENT BACK IN THE MARINES RIGHT BEFORE… A YEAR BEFORE PEARL HARBOR IN 1940 AS I RECALL.

Sid: YEAH, THAT'S RIGHT, I WENT BACK IN AUGUST OF 1940. AND WHEN I WAS GETTING OUT OF THE CORPS IN 1937, COLONEL… CAPTAIN LOUIS "CHESTY" PULLER, ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS MARINES EVER, HIGHLY DECORATED, CAME BY MY QUARTERS TO SEE ME. AND HE SAYS, "SANDY"-- HE CALLED SCOTCH MEN "SANDY"-- HE SAYS, "I CAN UNDERSTAND YOU GOING HOME TO MARRY YOUR SWEETHEART AND TO PRACTICE LAW; BUT LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING," HE SAYS, "YOU NEED TO TAKE A RESERVE COMMISSION BECAUSE WE'RE GOING TO WAR." NOW THAT WAS IN 1937.

David: FOUR YEARS.

Sid: HE FORESAW THE WAR AGAINST JAPAN.

David: HE EVEN THOUGHT IT TO BE AND PREDICTED IT TO BE JAPAN; IS THAT RIGHT?

Sid: THAT'S RIGHT. THAT'S RIGHT. HE THOUGHT IT WAS JAPAN AND THE MARINE CORPS WAS GETTING PSYCHOLOGICALLY PREPARED FOR A WAR AGAINST JAPAN, SEE, AT THAT TIME. OF COURSE, THE MARINE CORPS WAS A SMALL ORGANIZATION, ONLY HAD ABOUT 17,000 MARINES. AT THE END OF THE WAR THEY HAD FIVE DIVISIONS, YOU KNOW. I WENT BACK IN IN AUGUST OF 1940 BEFORE… A YEAR BEFORE PEARL HARBOR.

David: IN THE WAR, IN WORLD WAR II-- I'VE HEARD YOU SPEAK OF THIS OFTEN AND I KNOW THAT YOU FEEL VERY STRONGLY ABOUT IT. TELL US ABOUT BAUXITE, ARKANSAS AND SALINE COUNTY, VERY BRIEFLY AND ITS CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD WAR II WAR EFFORT IF YOU WOULD. VERY FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT IT.

Sid: DAVID, I APPRECIATE YOU ASKING ME THAT QUESTION. WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT HISTORY, THIS IS A DRAMATIC CHAPTER IN THE HISTORY OF ARKANSAS AND THE HISTORY OF THE COUNTRY THAT NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING ABOUT. THE AVERAGE PERSON DOESN'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT. YOU KNOW, WHEN THE JAPANESE ATTACKED PEARL HARBOR, PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT ANNOUNCED TO THE WORLD THAT WE'RE GOING TO BUILD 100,000 AIRPLANES. WELL, YOU HAVE TO HAVE ALUMINUM TO BUILD AIRPLANES, AND THE EXPERTS DIDN'T THINK THAT HE COULD DO IT, THAT WE COULD DO IT. HITLER DIDN'T THINK WE COULD DO IT BECAUSE AT THAT TIME THE BAUXITE THAT WE WERE USING WAS COMING FROM SOUTH AMERICA, AND THE NAZI NAVAL BLOCKADE HAD SUNK THESE SHIPS BRINGING UP BAUXITE. THEY HAD BOYCOTTED… I MEAN, BLOCKADED THE SOUTH ATLANTIC AND THE GULF OF MEXICO AND SO WE WEREN'T GETTING THAT SOURCE OF BAUXITE. AND ALCOA HAD HAD A VERY CONSERVATIVE POLICY OF CONSERVING THEIR RESOURCES FOR THE FUTURE, SEE? SO THEY WERE USING THE SOUTH AMERICAN BAUXITE. WELL, ROOSEVELT KNEW SOMETHING THAT THE EXPERTS DIDN'T KNOW AND THAT HITLER DIDN'T KNOW. HE KNEW ABOUT BAUXITE, ARKANSAS. 95% OF THE BAUXITE IN NORTH AMERICA WAS IN BAUXITE, ARKANSAS, AND HE KNEW ABOUT THE PEOPLE THAT WOULD BE CALLED ON TO GO IN AND DIG IT OUT. THE PEOPLE IN BAUXITE AND CENTRAL ARKANSAS WENT IN AND WORKED AROUND THE CLOCK TO DIG OUT THAT BAUXITE, AND ALUMINUM WAS PRODUCED AND PLANES WERE BUILT AND BATTLES WERE FOUGHT AND VICTORIES WON.

Narrator: McMATH WENT BACK INTO THE MARINE CORPS IN 1940, TRAINING OFFICERS AT THE MARINE TRAINING SCHOOL IN QUANTICO, VIRGINIA. ELAINE JOINED HIM AND IN 1942 THEIR SON SANDY WAS BORN. BUT ELAINE NEVER RECOVERED FROM COMPLICATIONS FROM THE BIRTH. SHE DIED AT QUANTICO A FEW MONTHS AFTER SANDY WAS BORN. SANDY WAS SENT BACK TO HOT SPRINGS TO STAY WITH ELAINE'S PARENTS, AND McMATH REQUESTED OVERSEAS DUTY. McMATH WAS ASSIGNED TO THE THIRD MARINE REGIMENT AND JOINED OTHER DIVISIONS IN THE PACIFIC IN THE WAR AGAINST JAPAN.

Sid: THE MARINES LANDED IN THE SOLOMONS IN AUGUST OF 1942, THE FIRST MARINE DIVISION AND WE WERE TO JOIN THE FIRST MARINE DIVISION; BUT EN ROUTE WE WERE DIVERTED TO AMERICAN SAMOA-- YOU KNOW, THAT WAS A BASE OF REALLY OPERATIONS IN THAT PART OF THE WORLD-- AND TO PROTECT IT AGAINST THE JAPANESE WHO WERE MOVING SOUTH TOWARDS NEW ZEALAND AND AUSTRALIA. SO AS SOON AS I GOT ASHORE, I SAID, "WELL, I'M SURE GOING TO GET A COMPANY OR A BATTALION OR SOMETHING." I WAS A MAJOR AT THE TIME. AND THEY GAVE ME WORD THAT I WAS GOING TO BE A TRAINING OFFICER IN THE JUNGLE WARFARE SCHOOLS.

David: WELL, THAT WAS IMPORTANT. THAT WAS VERY CRITICAL.

Sid: SO WE SET UP A JUNGLE WARFARE SCHOOL AND PUT THE NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS AND THE JUNIOR OFFICERS OF THE THIRD MARINE REGIMENT THROUGH A JUNGLE WARFARE SCHOOL, SEE? AND THEN, OF COURSE, AFTER THAT, I WAS MADE OPERATIONS OFFICER FOR THE THIRD MARINE REGIMENT, AND THAT'S WHERE WE WERE. I WAS IN GUADALCANAL, BUT I WAS NOT IN GUADALCANAL IN THE FIRST PHASES OF IT. GUADALCANAL WAS PRETTY WELL SECURE BY THE TIME WE GOT THERE. WE USED GUADALCANAL AS A BASE TO GO UP TO NEW GEORGIA AND VELLA LAVELLA, KOLOMBANGARA, AND BOUGAINVILLE.

Narrator: McMATH CONTRACTED MALARIA AND RETURNED TO MARINE HEADQUARTERS IN WASHINGTON FOR THE REMAINED EFFORT OF THE WAR. A FRIEND INTRODUCED HIM TO ANNE PHILLIPS, A SECRETARY FOR THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. THEY DATED THROUGHOUT MOST OF 1944 AND WERE MARRIED THAT OCTOBER. ONCE THE WAR WAS OVER, SID TOOK ANNE BACK HOME TO HOT SPRINGS WHERE THEIR SON PHILLIP WAS BORN. SID WENT BACK TO PRACTICING LAW AND FOUND GARLAND COUNTY IN THE CONTROLS OF A POLITICAL MACHINE RUN BY HOT SPRINGS MAYOR LEO McLAUGHLIN.

Sid: HE HAD TWO HORSES NAMED SCOTCH AND SODA. HE'D HITCH 'EM UP TO A BUGGY AND RIDE DOWN THROUGH CENTRAL AVENUE TO BE ADMIRED BY HIS VASSALS AND SO FORTH, SEE? HE WAS AN EXCELLENT SPEAKER. HE COULD REALLY ROUSE A MOB, YOU KNOW 17? THE SITUATION IN HOT SPRINGS FROM A POLITICAL STANDPOINT WAS SAD, WAS TRAGIC. WE HAD ILLEGAL GAMBLING IN HOT SPRINGS, AND IT WASN'T JUST THE GAMBLING PER SE THAT WAS SO BAD, REALLY EVIL; BUT IN ORDER TO OPERATE ILLEGALLY, THE MACHINE HAD TO CONTROL THE ELECTION MACHINERY, APPOINT THE JUDGES AND CLERKS, THE ELECTION COMMISSION, AND SO FORTH, SO THAT THEY COULD CONTROL ALL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS: THE MAYOR, THE PROSECUTING ATTORNEY, THE CIRCUIT JUDGE, THE SHERIFFS.

David: UP AND DOWN THE LINE.

Sid: UP AND DOWN THE LINE, SEE? AND THEY SELECTED THE GRAND JURIES AND THEY SELECTED THE PETTY JURIES; AND IF YOU HAD A LAWSUIT OVER IN THE MUNICIPAL COURT, SEE, YOU HAD TO BE ON THE RIGHT SIDE IF YOU WERE GOING TO GET ANYTHING LIKE JUSTICE BECAUSE THEY SELECTED THE JURORS AND JURORS CAME FROM PEOPLE DOWNTOWN: THE CASINOS, THE BOOKIES, THE HOUSES OF ILL FAME AND SO FORTH. SO THERE WERE OTHER G.I.s WHO HAD COME BACK AND WE WEREN'T INTIMIDATED, SO TO SPEAK, AND WE FELT THAT WE'D BEEN FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM AROUND THE WORLD AND WE SHOULD USE A LITTLE OF IT AT HOME.

Narrator: McMATH AND OTHER LOCAL VETERANS FORMED THE GOVERNMENT IMPROVEMENT LEAGUE KNOWN AS THE G.I.s. 1946 WAS AN ELECTION YEAR, AND THE G.I.s SET OUT TO CLEAN UP GARLAND COUNTY. McMATH RAN FOR PROSECUTING ATTORNEY. (Political Announcement:)

HAVING FOUGHT THE WAR FOR THE PRESERVATION OF DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES, SHOULD WE NOT DEMAND THAT OUR OWN LOCAL GOVERNMENT BE PURGED OF POLITICAL DICTATORSHIP? IF I HAVE NOT HERETOFORE MADE IT CLEAR, I WISH TO ANNOUNCE TO YOU THAT I STAND OPPOSED TO THE MAYOR OF HOT SPRINGS AND TO ALL OF HIS POLITICAL METHODS.

Sid: THERE WAS A GOOD CITIZEN BY THE NAME OF EARL RICKS AND ANOTHER CITIZEN BY THE NAME OF RAYMOND CLINTON, THE UNCLE OF THE PRESIDENT. THEY HAD A CLINTON/RICKS BUICK AGENCY. AND THEY HAD A HUGE GARAGE, AND SO WE HELD OUR MEETINGS IN THE RICKS/CLINTON GARAGE. WE HAD A CANDIDATE FOR EVERY SPOT, FROM CONSTABLE ON UP TO CIRCUIT JUDGE AS A G.I. CANDIDATE; AND WE RAN IN THE PRIMARY. WE WERE… I WAS THE ONLY ONE ELECTED IN THE PRIMARY. WE ORGANIZED AN INDEPENDENT PARTY AND ALL THE CANDIDATES, THE G.I. CANDIDATES WHO HAD BEEN DEFEATED, RAN AS INDEPENDENTS FOR THE OFFICES THAT THEY HAD RUN FOR IN THE PRIMARY.

David: THEY DIDN'T REALLY HAVE A REPUBLICAN PARTY AT THAT TIME.

Sid: NO, THEY HAD NO REPUBLICAN PARTY.

Narrator: THE G.I.s CHALLENGED McLAUGHLIN IN THE COURTROOM. THE ELECTION LAWS OF THE TIME REQUIRED PEOPLE TO PAY A POLL TAX IN ORDER TO VOTE. McLAUGHLIN'S FORCES WERE USING ILLEGAL POLL TAX RECEIPTS TO CAST VOTES FOR THEIR OWN CANDIDATES.

Sid: OF COURSE, WE AVOIDED THOSE ILLEGAL POLL TAXES. WE BROUGHT SUIT IN THE UNITED STATES FEDERAL COURT, AND WE WERE ABLE TO GET THE ISSUE TO FEDERAL COURT BECAUSE I HAD A FRIEND IN PINE BLUFF NAMED PAT MULLIS WHO VOLUNTEERED TO RUN AS AN INDEPENDENT, FILE AS AN INDEPENDENT, SEE? AND IT GAVE THE FEDERAL COURT JURISDICTION OVER THE ISSUE BECAUSE A FEDERAL OFFICER A CONGRESSMAN WAS GOING TO BE VOTED ON. SO WE THREW OUT MAYBE 3,000-4,000 OF THE ILLEGAL POLL TAXES, AND OF COURSE, WE SWEPT THE FIELD IN THE GENERAL ELECTION, ELECTED EVERYBODY, SEE?

Narrator: THE OVERTHROW OF THE McLAUGHLIN MACHINE BECAME KNOWN AS THE G.I. REVOLT. AS PROSECUTING ATTORNEY, McMATH BEGAN CLOSING DOWN HOT SPRINGS ILLEGAL GAMBLING OPERATIONS. IN 1948 INCUMBENT GOVERNOR BEN LANEY ANNOUNCED HE WOULD NOT SEEK A THIRD TERM, AND McMATH ENTERED THE RACE RUNNING ON HIS WAR RECORD, THE G.I. REVOLUTION AND A PROMISE TO MODERNIZE AN UNDERDEVELOPED STATE. (Political announcement:)

Sid: I CAN'T RECALL A CAMPAIGN WHEN IT WASN'T TALKED ABOUT. BUT I CAN RECALL THAT WE HAVEN'T DONE ANYTHING ABOUT IT, AND THAT'S OUR ROADS AND HIGHWAY SYSTEM IN ARKANSAS. AND I HOPE WHEN YOU GO TO THE POLLS, YOU'LL VOTE FOR SID McMATH FOR GOVERNOR. WORKING TOGETHER, WE WILL HAVE A BETTER ARKANSAS.

Narrator: HIS CAMPAIGN WAS MANAGED BY HIS OLD FRIEND HENRY WOODS.

Sid: HENRY AND I HAVE BEEN FRIENDS SEEMINGLY FOREVER. HIS MOTHER AND MY MOTHER WERE FRIENDS, AND WE BOTH GRADUATED FROM HOT SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL. OF COURSE, I WAS AHEAD OF HENRY PROBABLY ABOUT FOUR YEARS. AND HENRY AT THAT TIME WAS PRACTICING LAW IN TEXARKANA, AND HE WAS PRESIDENT OF THE YOUNG DEMOCRATS. AND HE CAME OVER TO SEE ME ABOUT ANY WAY HE COULD HELP ME IN THE CAMPAIGN. I SAID, "WELL, I'D LIKE FOR YOU TO BE MY CAMPAIGN MANAGER." OF COURSE, BEING THE PRESIDENT OF THE YOUNG DEMOCRATS, IT WAS A NATURAL TO HAVE THESE ORGANIZATIONS… AND THEY WERE A LIVE-WIRE ORGANIZATION BACK THEN, WELL ORGANIZED AND ACTIVE, PROBABLY MORE SO THAN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. SO I SAID, "WOULD YOU BE MY CAMPAIGN MANAGER?" HE SAYS, "WELL," HE SAYS, "HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU HAVE?" I SAID, "WELL, I HAVE I'VE GOT $1500 CASH AND I'VE GOT $1500 PROMISED." HE SAID, "WE CAN WIN. I'LL TAKE THE JOB."

David: THAT'S THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING.

Sid: CAN YOU IMAGINE STARTING OFF A MAJOR CAMPAIGN WITH $1500 CASH AND $1500 PROMISED?

David: OH, MY GOODNESS. THAT WOULDN'T PAY YOUR FILING FEE TODAY. THAT WOULDN'T PAY FOR ONE 30-SECOND TV AD.

Sid: BUT HENRY STAYED WITH ME IN EVERY CAMPAIGN I'VE EVER BEEN IN AND HE WAS MY RIGHT-HAND MAN WHEN I WAS GOVERNOR.

Narrator: McMATH FACED FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL JACK HOLT AND RADIO EVANGELIST JAMES "MAC" MACKRELL IN THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY. THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY DOMINATED THE SOUTH AT THAT TIME, AND McMATH'S WIN GUARANTEED VICTORY IN THE FALL GENERAL ELECTIONS. RACE BECAME AN ISSUE IN THE NATIONAL ELECTIONS OF 1948. DEMOCRAT HARRY TRUMAN WAS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT WITH CIVIL RIGHTS AS PART OF HIS PLATFORM. OUTGOING ARKANSAS GOVERNOR BEN LANEY AND OTHER SOUTHERN DEMOCRATS REBELED AGAINST THE PARTY, AND THEY SPLIT TO FORM THEIR OWN FACTION: THE DIXIECRATS. IT WAS AN EFFORT TO KILL TRUMAN'S CHANCES AND TO SEND A MESSAGE THAT THE SOUTH WOULD NOT SUPPORT A PRESIDENT WHO BELIEVED IN CIVIL RIGHTS.

Sid: TRUMAN AT THAT TIME WAS UNPOPULAR PRINCIPALLY BECAUSE OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS PROGRAM. AND THE DIXIECRATS, THEY WERE UNHAPPY ABOUT THE PLATFORM SO THEY WITHDREW FROM THE CONVENTION AND I THINK WENT TO EITHER MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA, OR JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI-- I DON'T REMEMBER EXACTLY WHICH ONE IT WAS-- AND NOMINATED STROM THURMOND AS PRESIDENT AND FIELDING WRIGHT AS VICE PRESIDENT AND GOVERNOR LANEY CHAIRED THAT DIXIECRAT MEETING.

David: ARKANSAS WAS ONE OF THE VERY FEW SOUTHERN STATES THAT REMAINED LOYAL TO THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC TICKET. NOW, WHY WAS THAT?

Sid: AS SOON AS I WAS NOMINATED IN '48, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I DID IMMEDIATELY-- THERE WERE TWO OR THREE THINGS THAT I TOOK ON-- BUT I FEEL THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I DID WAS START CAMPAIGNING FOR PRESIDENT TRUMAN. ALL THE POLLS INDICATED THAT TRUMAN WOULD BE DEFEATED. AND NO ONE THOUGHT HE WOULD WIN EXCEPT HARRY TRUMAN, AND WE WERE ABLE TO CARRY ARKANSAS BY A REAL GOOD VOTE, A MAJORITY VOTE.

Narrator: ALTHOUGH THE DIXIECRATS DID WIN FOUR STATES, TRUMAN WENT ON TO DEFEAT REPUBLICAN THOMAS DEWEY FOR PRESIDENT. ARKANSAS HAD BEEN A KEY SOUTHERN STATE IN TRUMAN'S VICTORY, AND HE WAS GRATEFUL TO SID McMATH FOR HIS SUPPORT.

Sid: ARKANSAS STAYED IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, AND PRESIDENT TRUMAN APPRECIATED THAT AND WE GOT TO… HE CAME TO ARKANSAS SEVERAL TIMES.

David: THERE'S A FABULOUS PICTURE OF YOU AND PRESIDENT TRUMAN WALKING DOWN MAIN STREET.

Sid: YOU KNOW, THAT WAS THE 35th DIVISION REUNION, HIS OLD ARMY OUTFIT. TRUMAN WAS A CAPTAIN IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR, YOU KNOW. IT WAS A NATIONAL GUARD OUTFIT. SO HE ALWAYS WENT TO THEIR CONVENTIONS, AND HE ALWAYS MARCHED WITH THE TROOPS, YOU KNOW. SO ON THIS OCCASION HE CAME TO ARKANSAS, AND WE MARCHED DOWN MAIN STREET, AS YOU INDICATED, IN FRONT OF THE TROOPS; AND WE GOT DOWN TO MARKHAM, WE TURNED WEST OR LEFT ON MARKHAM AND WENT UP TO THE OLD MARION HOTEL.

David: I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT THAT. THEY SAY THAT YOU HAD A PRIVATE AUDIENCE WITH PRESIDENT TRUMAN. CAN YOU TELL ON THE TELEVISION ABOUT WHAT YOU AND PRESIDENT TRUMAN DID OR TALKED ABOUT.

Sid: YEAH, I THINK SO. I THINK WE CAN TELL ABOUT IT.

David: YOU WERE IN THE MARION HOTEL.

Sid: MARION HOTEL.

David: IN HIS SUITE.

Sid: IN THE PRESIDENTIAL SUITE, THE PRESIDENTIAL SUITE, AND YOU DIDN'T HAVE ALL THE ENTOURAGE AROUND THE PRESIDENT THAT YOU HAVE NOW. SO WE HAD A QUIET VISIT. IT WAS IN JULY OR IT WAS IN THE SUMMER. I THINK IT WAS JULY. WE WENT INTO HIS SUITE AND HE SAID, "GOVERNOR, HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE A DRINK?" I WASN'T ABOUT TO TURN HIM DOWN.

David: WOW! THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

Sid: I SAID, "THAT'S FINE, MR. PRESIDENT." HE SAID, "WELL, HOW ABOUT BURBON AND BRANCH WATER?" "GREAT." HE SAID, "WELL, YOU'RE GOING TO BE WAITED ON BY THE HIGHEST PAID BARTENDER IN THE WORLD." SO I LOOKED AROUND AND THERE WASN'T ANYBODY BUT THE TWO OF US.

David: SO HARRY TRUMAN POURED YOU A DRINK.

Sid: SO HE GOT BEHIND THE BAR AND HE TOOK ONE OF THOSE LOW-BALL GLASSES AND HE POURED IT HALF OF BURBON AND HALF OF WATER. AND WE SAT DOWN AND VISIT FOR 45 MINUTES OR AN HOUR AND TALKED. HE TALKED; I LISTENED.

Narrator: McMATH TOOK OFFICE IN JANUARY OF 1949. AND HE IMMEDIATELY LAUNCHED HIS MODERNIZATION PLANS AND MADE GOOD ON HIS PROMISE TO GET ARKANSAS OUT OF THE MUD. EIGHT ARKANSAS COUNTIES DIDN'T HAVE A SINGLE MILE OF PAVED ROADS AT THE TIME.

Sid: I NEVER SAW A PAVED ROAD UNTIL I WENT TO HOT SPRINGS, IF YOU CAN BELIEVE THAT, WHEN I WAS TEN YEARS OF AGE.

David: THE FIRST TIME YOU SAW A PAVED STREET?

Sid: THAT WAS THE FIRST TIME I'D SEEN A PAVED STREET. I'D SEEN SIDEWALKS, AND MY SISTER AND I WERE TAKING THE STREETCAR FROM OUT TO SOUTH WHITTINGTON WHERE WE LIVED… WEST WHITTINGTON WHERE WE LIVED AND WE HAD TO CHANGE STREETCARS AT THE JUNCTION, THE PARK AVENUE AND WHITTINGTON JUNCTION. WHILE WE WERE WAITING-- MY SISTER USED TO TELL THIS ON ME AND JUST GET THE BIGGEST KICK OF OUT IT-- SHE SAID I WENT OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET AND I TAPPED ON THE PAVEMENT AND I SAID, "LOOK-A-HERE, SISTER, HERE'S A PAVEMENT OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET."

David: A PAVEMENT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET.

Sid: SO WE DIDN'T HAVE ANY HARD-SURFACE ROADS, AND OF COURSE, ARKANSAS… AT THAT TIME WE'D JUST BEEN THROUGH THE WAR AND MOST THINGS HAD BEEN NEGLECTED, PARTICULARLY THE ROADS, AND WE DIDN'T HAVE THE ROADS… THE FARMERS DIDN'T HAVE ROADS TO GET THEIR PRODUCE TO MARKET AND GET THE CHILDREN TO SCHOOL, AND WE WERE LOSING POPULATION IN THE RURAL AREAS. SO WE CAME UP WITH A BOND ISSUE, AND WE WERE ABLE TO SELL THE BONDS AND GET A ROAD PROGRAM GOING. WE DIVIDED THE MONEY EQUALLY BETWEEN THE RURAL-TO-MARKET ROADS AND THE PRIMARY HIGHWAYS.

David: WELL, GOVERNOR, IF I'M NOT MISTAKEN, YOU BUILT PROBABLY MORE MILES OF PAVED ROADS THAN ANY OTHER GOVERNOR IN HISTORY, AND YOU DID THIS IN A FOUR-YEAR PERIOD AND YOU DID IT WITH A BOND ISSUE.

Sid: RIGHT.

David: AND IT'S REALLY AMAZING.

Sid: AND THOSE BONDS WERE PAID OFF…

David: THEY WERE PAID OFF.

Sid: …WITH I THINK A TWO-CENT TAX ON GASOLINE.

Narrator: SID McMATH WAS A DYNAMIC YOUNG GOVERNOR, AND THE NATION TOOK NOTICE. HE PASSED A BILL TO DOUBLE SCHOOL FUNDING AND CONSOLIDATED THE STATE'S SCHOOLS FROM OVER 1,500 DISTRICTS TO 424. HE SET OUT TO CONSTRUCT A MODERN MEDICAL SCHOOL FOR ARKANSAS.

Sid: LOUIS WEBSTER JONES WAS THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS, AND HE AND SEVERAL OTHER PEOPLE CAME TO ME AND TALKED TO ME ABOUT THE MEDICAL CENTER AND THE NEED FOR A MEDICAL SCHOOL, AMONG OTHER THINGS, TO TRAIN DOCTORS, TO ENCOURAGE THEM TO GO INTO THE RURAL AREAS AND SO FORTH. SO WE PUT OUR HEADS TOGETHER AND CAME UP WITH A TAX OF TWO CENTS ON EACH PACKAGE OF CIGARETTES. THAT WAS IN 1949, AND YOU CAN SEE WHAT'S HAPPENED SINCE THEN. WHAT AN EXCELLENT SOURCE OF REVENUE FOR A TAX. HALF OF THE PATIENTS AT THE HOSPITAL AT THE TIME WERE BEING TREATED FOR A TOBACCO-RELATED DISEASE, EMPHYSEMA OR LUNG CANCER OR WHATNOT; AND SO THAT PASSED AND WE WERE ABLE TO BUILD THE MEDICAL CENTER.

Narrator: IN 1949 ANNE GAVE BIRTH TO THEIR THIRD SON, BRUCE. DURING THE FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE, SID, ANNE AND THE BOYS LIVED IN A HOUSE ON RIDGEWAY STREET IN LITTLE ROCK; BUT IN EARLY 1950 THEY BECAME THE FIRST ARKANSAS FAMILY TO LIVE IN THE NEW GOVERNOR'S MANSION. IT WAS THE FIRST TIME AN ARKANSAS GOVERNOR AND HIS FAMILY HAD AN OFFICIAL RESIDENCE, AND IT WAS A SHOWPLACE. SOON AFTER, ONE NEW MANSION RESIDENT CAUSED A STIR.

Sid: THEY WERE HAVING A ROAD OPENING DEDICATION, AND THEY INVITED ME UP TO CUT THE RIBBON. SO I CUT THE RIBBON AND THOSE OLD COON HUNTERS UP THERE KNEW THAT I WAS A COON HUNTER, SEE? MY BOYS AND I HUNTED COONS OUT ON THE FARM AND SO FORTH. SO, THEY MADE A GREAT CEREMONY OUT OF GIVING ME OLD RED, AND SO I TOOK OLD RED HOME WITH ME AND I WAS… HE WAS THERE AT THE MANSION AND WE WERE FEEDING HIM OUT OF THE GOVERNOR'S FUND, EXPENSE FUND AND SO FORTH. THERE WAS A NEWSPAPER REPORTER IN NORTH LITTLE ROCK, TOOK UP THE ISSUE AND ACCUSED ME OF MISUSING THE GOVERNOR'S FUNDS, THE OPERATING FUNDS TO FEED MY DOG, FEEDING HIM SO FORTH AND SO FORTH. WELL, MY RESPONSE WAS THAT OLD RED HAD REPLACED ONE STATE TROOPER AS A GUARD AT THE MANSION; AND SINCE HE WAS WORKING FOR THE STATE, I THOUGHT IT WAS ONLY FAIR THAT HE BE FED BY THE STATE.

David: THAT HE BE FED BY THE STATE; WHAT A FAIR COMPROMISE.

Sid: YES, SIR.

Narrator: WHILE THE GOVERNOR AND HIS FAMILY ENJOYED A BEAUTIFUL NEW HOME FULL OF MODERN CONVENIENCES, MOST CITIZENS OF ARKANSAS WEREN'T SO LUCKY. HALF OF THE POPULATION OF ARKANSAS HAD NO ELECTRICITY. SID McMATH KNEW THIS WAS THE KEY TO IMPROVING FARM LIFE AND DRAWING INDUSTRY TO THE STATE. IN 1935 PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT HAD SET UP THE RURAL ELECTRIFICATION ADMINISTRATION, BETTER KNOWN AS THE R.E.A., TO HELP RURAL ELECTRIC CO-OPS BRING POWER TO THE COUNTRYSIDE. BY SUPPORTING THE PUBLICLY OWNED CO-OPS, McMATH MADE A POLITICAL ENEMY OF THE PRIVATELY OWNED ARKANSAS POWER AND LIGHT COMPANY.

Sid: THAT WAS A PASSION WITH ME: TO GET ELECTRICITY TO THE FARMS. WHERE I LIVED ON THE FARM IN SOUTH ARKANSAS, WE HAD NO ELECTRICITY. YOU KNOW, A WASHING MACHINE WAS A BLACK POT IN THE BACKYARD; AND A DRYER WAS A CLOTHESLINE, YOU KNOW, AND WE HAD A TUB WITH A SCRUB BOARD, YOU KNOW. WE HAD NO INDOOR PLUMBING, YOU KNOW, AND SO I RECOGNIZED THE QUALITY OF LIFE THAT COULD BE EXPERIENCED BY THE PEOPLE IN RURAL AREAS IF THEY JUST HAD ELECTRICITY, SEE? IT CERTAINLY WOULD LIFT THE BURDEN OF WOMEN ON THE FARM. WHEN I WAS RUNNING IN 1948, TWO PEOPLE CAME TO SEE ME IN HOT SPRINGS. IT WAS TOM FITZHUGH WHO WAS THE ATTORNEY FOR THE RURAL ELECTRIC CO-OPS AND HARRY OSWALD, BLESS HIS HEART, THAT PIONEER, THAT CHAMPION.

David: WHAT A MAN.

Sid: HE DID A TREMENDOUS JOB. THEY CAME TO ME AND TALKED TO ME ABOUT THAT PROGRAM AND WHAT THEY WANTED TO DO. THEY WANTED TO EXTEND IT OUT TO THE RURAL AREAS, AND THEY COULDN'T GET THE POWER INTERESTS TO DO IT. THE ARKANSAS POWER AND LIGHT COMPANY WAS TOTALLY OWNED BY THE MIDSOUTH UTILITIES; AND ALTHOUGH THEY TOLD US THAT WAS JUST A LITTLE OLD ARKANSAS COUNTY… OR COMPANY, IT WAS OWNED BY MIDDLE SOUTH UTILITIES; THEY OWNED ALL THE COMMON STOCK. THEY WERE OPPOSED TO THE POWER COMPANY EXTENDING LINES OUT INTO THE RURAL AREAS BECAUSE IT WAS NOT PROFITABLE AT THAT TIME. BUT THEY FORESAW THAT SOME DAY IT WOULD BE HIGHLY PROFITABLE, WHICH HAS HAPPENED, YOU KNOW. SO THEY WERE OPPOSED TO THE CO-OPS EXTENDING OUT INTO THIS RURAL AREA BEYOND THE AREA THAT THEY ALREADY HAD. AND I HAD THIS… AND THEY WANTED TO BUILD THEIR OWN STEAM-GENERATING PLANT, BUILD THEIR OWN STEAM-GENERATING PLANT AND THEIR OWN GENERATING LINES TO GET POWER UP INTO THE NORTHERN PART OF ARKANSAS, SEE? THEY HAD TO GET A LOAN UNDER THE R.E.A. PROGRAM FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

Narrator: McMATH INTERVENED ON BEHALF OF THE CO-OPS AND MADE A CALL TO PRESIDENT TRUMAN. THE R.E.A. PROGRAM LOANED THE CO-OPS $10 MILLION TO BUILD THE PLANT AT OZARK, AND THE ARKANSAS POWER AND LIGHT COMPANY FOUGHT THE CO-OPS ALL THE WAY TO THE ARKANSAS SUPREME COURT.

Sid: THEN THE POWER COMPANY WENT TO A JUDGE AND GOT A RESTRAINING ORDER WHICH WAS AFFIRMED BY THE SUPREME COURT OF ARKANSAS SAYING THAT THE R.E.A., IN ITS ORIGINAL ACT, BACK IN ABOUT '36, WAY BACK THERE, DID NOT AUTHORIZE THE COOPERATIVES TO BUILD THEIR OWN GENERATING SYSTEM. OF COURSE, OUR ARGUMENT WAS THAT IF THEY AUTHORIZED THEM TO BUILD TRANSMISSION LINES AND IF THEY WERE AUTHORIZED TO BUILD TRANSMISSION LINES, BY IMPLICATION, THEY COULD BUILD A STEAM-GENERATING PLANT TO FURNISH THE POWER TO GO OVER THE TRANSMISSION LINES TO THEIR CUSTOMERS; BUT THE SUPREME COURT DIDN'T SEE IT THAT WAY AND THEY RULED AGAINST IT.

Narrator: DESPITE THE COURT RULING, McMATH CONTINUED HIS SUPPORT OF THE ARKANSAS ELECTRIC CO-OPS AND BECAME THE FIRST ARKANSAS GOVERNOR TO ATTEND A RURAL ELECTRIFICATION STATE MEETING.

Sid: YOU KNOW, THE PEOPLE WERE PRETTY WELL CONVINCED THAT NOW THIS CO-OP BUSINESS GOING IN BORROWING MONEY FROM THE GOVERNMENT TO COME IN AND COMPETE WITH PRIVATE POWER COMPANIES IS… IT'S SOCIALISM.

David: IT'S SOCIALISM. YEAH, THAT'S WHAT THEY CALLED IT.

Sid: SO I WAS INVITED TO GO TO BERRYVILLE TO TALK TO A CO-OP MEETING, AND I FLEW UP THERE IN A ONE-ENGINE AIRPLANE AND WE HAD TO LAND AT A TURKEY PASTURE. SO WE HAD TO MAKE TWO PASSES TO SHOO THE TURKEYS OUT OF THE WAY.

David: TO SHOO THE TURKEYS OUT OF THE WAY.

Sid: YEAH, AND SO I HAD MY STATEMENT FOR THE PRESS AND THE COMMITTEE ALL READY. YOU KNOW, I'D THOUGHT ABOUT IT, AND I WAS JUST SURE THERE WAS GOING TO BE A BIG CROWD OUT THERE, YOU KNOW, TO MEET ME AT THE AIRFIELD. I GOT OUT OF THE AIRPLANE, WALKED TO THE GATE, WASN'T ANYBODY THERE. NOBODY. IT WAS A HOT JULY DAY.

David: WELL, HOW DID YOU GET TO TOWN? HOW DID YOU GET INTO TOWN?

Sid: WELL, I TOOK MY COAT OFF AND I STARTED WALKING DOWN A DUSTY ROAD-- ANOTHER ROAD THAT I PAVED-- AND A FARMER CAME ALONG IN A TRUCK. HE STOPPED AND HE SAYS, "WHERE ARE YOU GOING?" I SAID, "I'M GOING TO THE CO-OP MEETING."

David: AND HERE YOU WERE, THE GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS.

Sid: YEAH, I WAS THE GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS. HE SAID, "GET IN. THAT'S WHERE I'M GOING." WELL, WE VISITED AND SO FORTH. BUT I DIDN'T TELL HIM I WAS THE GOVERNOR. I ASSUMED HE KNEW IT. MY NAME HAD BEEN IN THE PAPER AND PICTURE AND SO FORTH. SO WE WENT TO THE CO-OP MEETING IN A GREAT BIG TENT. YOU KNOW, THEY USED TO HAVE A GREAT BIG TENT. AND THE TIME CAME FOR ME TO TALK. I WAS THE SPEAKER, AND RUSS GATES WAS THE MANAGER OF THE CO-OP. HE INTRODUCED ME, GAVE ME A FLOWERY INTRODUCTION. HE SAID, "I GIVE YOU SID McMATH, THE GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS." WELL, THIS OLD FARMER THAT HAD BROUGHT ME TO TOWN WAS SITTING ON THE FRONT ROW THERE AND HE LEANED TO HIS NEIGHBOR AND HE SAID IN A LOUD VOICE, HE SAID, "THAT AIN'T NO GOVERNOR. HE'S A HITCHHIKER. I KNOW BECAUSE I BRUNG HIM TO TOWN."

David: HE THOUGHT YOU WERE AN IMPOSTER, DIDN'T HE?

Sid: YEAH.

Narrator: McMATH'S PROGRESSIVE MOMENTUM CARRIED HIM THROUGH THE 1950 ELECTION. HE BEAT FORMER GOVERNOR BEN LANEY BY ALMOST 2-TO-1. AT THE STATE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION, McMATH CHALLENGED PARTY RULES THAT SAID ONLY WHITES COULD VOTE IN THE PRIMARY ELECTION. HE WAS SET TO RUN FOR A THIRD TERM, BUT A 1951 HIGHWAY AUDIT LED TO ACCUSATIONS THAT HIS ADMINISTRATION WAS ACCEPTING MONEY IN RETURN FOR CONSTRUCTION AND EQUIPMENT CONTRACTS.

Sid: WHEN I RAN FOR THE THIRD TERM, I SHOULDN'T HAVE RUN. I SHOULD NOT HAVE MADE THAT RACE, SEE? THE POWER ALIGNED AGAINST ME WAS JUST OVERWHELMING, SEE? THEY HAD THE…

David: YOU HAD TAKEN ON A LOT OF GROUPS.

Sid: OH, MAN, YEAH.

David: POWERFUL GROUPS.

Sid: OF COURSE, THEY HAD HAD THE HIGHWAY AUDIT THING, SEE? AND THAT WAS SPECTACULAR, USED, AND THEY HELD IT UNTIL THE BEGINNING OF THE RACE IN 1952, IN THE SPRING, BY RELEASING ALL OF THESE CHARGES ABOUT MY ADMINISTRATION AND THE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT.

David: AND LET ME SAY THIS. ULTIMATELY NO WRONGDOINGS WERE FOUND.

Sid: AND THREE GRAND JURIES WENT THROUGH THIS BUSINESS, AND THE CHAIRMAN OF THE HIGHWAY AUDIT COMMISSION WAS A MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE ARKANSAS POWER AND LIGHT COMPANY. ON EACH OF THE GRAND JURIES, THERE WERE EITHER MEMBERS OF THE ARKANSAS POWER AND LIGHT COMPANY BOARD OF DIRECTORS OR REPRESENTATIVES. SEE SO THEY WERE… AND IN THE SECOND GRAND JURY THEY HAD PRIVATE FUNDS TO HIRE A PRIVATE PROSECUTOR TO SEE THAT, YOU KNOW, EVERYTHING WAS COVERED AND THERE WERE NO OPPORTUNITIES TO GET AN INDICTMENT WERE PASSED OVER. WELL, AFTER THREE GRAND JURIES IN SUCCESSION, THEY CAME UP WITH TWO INDICTMENTS OF HIGHWAY EMPLOYEES. AND THE FIRST INDICTMENT WAS THROWN OUT BY THE TRIAL JUDGE FOR LACK OF EVIDENCE, AND THE SECOND TRIAL WENT TO THE JURY AND THE JURY WAS OUT FOUR MINUTES AND RETURNED A VERDICT OF NOT GUILTY FOR THAT PARTICULAR DEFENDANT. AND ALL THAT… THAT WAS THE RESULT OF ALL THE HIGHWAY AUDITS.

David: BUT YOUR ATTENTION AND YOUR FOCUS AND YOUR RESOURCES OF ENERGY WERE FOCUSED ON THIS EPISODE. I MEAN, YOU WERE CONSUMED WITH THIS.

Sid: OH, ABSOLUTELY. AND OF COURSE, YOU KNOW, IT'S HARD TO DEFEAT AN ALLEGATION.

Narrator: McMATH FACED FOUR OPPONENTS IN THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY OF 1952, INCLUDING JUDGE FRANCIS CHERRY OF JONESBORO. JUDGE CHERRY TOOK HIS CAMPAIGN TO THE AIR WAVES, USING A GIMMICK KNOWN AS THE "TALK-A-THON": PAID POLITICAL BROADCASTS THAT WENT ON FOR HOURS. THE TALK-A-THON AND THE HIGHWAY AUDIT WERE TOO MUCH FOR SIDNEY McMATH.

Sid: THE PRESIDENT OF THE ARKANSAS POWER AND LIGHT COMPANY WHO WAS AGAINST ME AT THAT TIME, NATURALLY HE CAME UP WITH THIS TALK-A-THON BECAUSE A CANDIDATE IN FLORIDA HAD USED IT AND HAD WON AND IT WAS A NATURAL FOR FRANCIS. SO HE PREVAILED ON FRANCIS TO USE IT. I LED THE TICKET IN THE JULY PRIMARY AND SO FRANCIS AND I WENT IN THE RUN-OFF. OUR SENIOR SENATOR AND THE PRESIDENT OF ARKANSAS POWER AND LIGHT COMPANY GATHERED IN JONESBORO AND ENDORSED FRANCIS. SO I WAS DEFEATED AND, AS I SAY, I SHOULDN'T HAVE MADE THE RACE.

Narrator: WHEN HIS TERM WAS UP IN JANUARY OF 1953, THE McMATHS MOVED OUT OF LITTLE ROCK TO A HOME IN GRANT COUNTY AND GAVE BIRTH TO TWINS MELISSA AND PATRICIA LATER THAT YEAR. McMATH WENT BACK INTO LAW PRACTICE WITH HENRY WOODS AND LELAND LEATHERMAN. THROUGH THE FIRM, McMATH CONTINUED HIS WORK WITH THE ELECTRIC CO-OPS.

Sid: IN 1953, I GUESS OR '54, WE INTRODUCED A BILL IN THE LEGISLATURE TO PERMIT THE CO-OPS TO BUILD A STEAM-GENERATING PLANT, AND THE POWER COMPANY HAD A LOT OF INFLUENCE IN THE LEGISLATURE AND DEFEATED IT. THEN THE NEXT YEAR, I THINK IT WAS '54, WE GOT ANOTHER BILL IN AND GOT IT PASSED. SO THE CO-OPS GOT THE LOAN TO BUILD THE STEAM-GENERATING PLANT AT OZARK, ARKANSAS, AND THEN THEY WERE OFF TO SUPPLY ELECTRICITY TO THE RURAL AREAS THAT HADN'T BEEN GETTING THE ELECTRICITY.

David: WELL, YOU DIDN'T STAY OUT OF POLITICS VERY LONG. YOU STILL HAD THAT… YOU WERE STILL THAT FIRE HORSE AND YOU STILL HAD THAT PASSION IN YOU. YOU WANTED TO DO SOMETHING. SO THE NEXT THING YOU DID IS TWO YEARS LATER, YOU RAN NOT FOR GOVERNOR AGAIN BUT YOU CHALLENGED JOHN L. McCLELLAN, SENATOR JOHN L. McCLELLAN IN 1954. THIS WAS KIND OF AT THE PEAK OF THE JOE McCARTHY ERA, AND YOU TOOK ON JOHN L. McCLELLAN. TALK ABOUT THAT RACE A LITTLE BIT.

Sid: WELL, IN THE FIRST PLACE, JOHN McCLELLAN AND I WERE… HAD BEEN GOOD FRIENDS. I CAMPAIGNED FOR HIM WHEN HE WAS FIRST ELECTED FOR CONGRESS, SEE? BUT WE GOT CROSS-WISE BECAUSE OF THE POWER ISSUE, YOU KNOW, AND HE WAS AGAINST PRESIDENT TRUMAN'S PROGRAM, SEE? SO I RAN AGAINST HIM IN 1954 AND WAS DEFEATED.

David: YOU ALMOST DEFEATED JOHN McCLELLAN IN 1954. THAT WAS A RAZOR-EDGE, RAZOR-CLOSE I SHOULD SAY, RACE. A LOT OF PEOPLE SAY THAT IN CERTAIN COUNTIES YOU WERE COUNTED OUT, AND I DON'T KNOW THAT TO BE THE CASE. I DON'T KNOW WHETHER THAT'S TRUE OR FALSE, BUT YOU SURELY ALMOST WON THAT RACE.

Sid: WELL, YOU KNOW, IT WOULD LOOK LIKE SOUR GRAPES OR A POOR LOSER IF YOU SAY, "WELL, I WAS COUNTED OUT BECAUSE THEY CHEATED" AND SO FORTH; BUT THERE WERE TWO OR THREE COUNTIES IN EASTERN ARKANSAS WHERE PEOPLE THAT I HAD RELIED ON IN THE PAST HAD BEEN FOR ME, THEY WENT THE OTHER WAY AT THE LAST MINUTE AND IT MADE A DIFFERENCE IN THE RACE.

Narrator: WHILE McMATH WAS CHALLENGING SENATOR JOHN McCLELLAN FOR HIS SENATE SEAT, A FORMER MEMBER OF HIS ADMINISTRATION WAS RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR, AND HIS NAME WAS ORVAL EUGENE FAUBUS.

Sid: ORVAL AND I MET IN FAYETTEVILLE. I WAS RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 1948, AND WE RODE FROM FAYETTEVILLE OVER TO HUNTSVILLE, HIS HOMETOWN, IN A CAR AND VISITED AND HE WAS INTERESTED IN FEELING ME OUT AND FINDING OUT WHAT MY PLATFORM WAS.

David: NOW AT THAT TIME HE WAS NOT THE POSTMASTER YET? OR WHAT WAS HE AT THAT TIME?

Sid: I DON'T KNOW WHETHER HE WAS THE POSTMASTER OR HAD BEEN OR WHETHER HE WAS A COUNTY CLERK OR SOMETHING; BUT ANYWAY HE WAS TRYING TO MAKE UP HIS MIND ON WHO HE WAS GOING TO SUPPORT IN THAT ELECTION. BY THE TIME WE GOT TO HUNTSVILLE, HE DECIDED HE'D SUPPORT ME. SO HE SUPPORTED ME AND DID A GOOD JOB FOR ME. OF COURSE, HE HAD A CLOSE CONTACT WITH THE RURAL PEOPLE IN NORTHERN ARKANSAS PARTICULARLY.

David: HE COULD SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE.

Sid: SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE; HE UNDERSTOOD THEIR NEEDS. HE WAS ONE OF THEM. SO WHEN I WAS ELECTED GOVERNOR, ORVAL SAID, HE SAYS, "SID, I'D LIKE TO HAVE A PAYING JOB." SO HE CAME DOWN AND HE WENT TO WORK FOR ME AS A SECRETARY, AND HIS JOB WAS TO MEET WITH THESE COUNTY COMMITTEES COMING DOWN TO TRY TO GET THEIR ROAD PAVED, SEE? HE KNEW THEIR NEEDS AND UNDERSTOOD THEM AND SO FORTH. HE WAS VERY GOOD AND HE WAS VERY HELPFUL IN THAT AREA.

Narrator: McMATH LOST THE 1954 SENATE RACE, BUT FAUBUS WAS ELECTED GOVERNOR. McMATH CONTINUED TO CHAMPION CIVIL RIGHTS, FIGHTING FOR THE ABOLITION OF THE POLL TAX IN 1956. HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH ORVAL FAUBUS CHANGED DRAMATICALLY IN 1957.

Sid: WE WERE OKAY UNTIL 1957 AND WE HAD THE LITTLE ROCK HIGH SCHOOL CRISIS. I CALL IT A CRISIS BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT IT WAS. I DID NOT FEEL THAT WE MADE THE RIGHT DECISION ON CALLING OUT THE GUARD TO KEEP THOSE CHILDREN FROM ENTERING THE HIGH SCHOOL. I FELT THAT LEADERSHIP AT THAT TIME MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION COULD RESOLVE THE MATTER BEFORE IT GOT OUT OF HAND. WE HAD BEEN MAKING A LOT OF PROGRESS IN THE RACIAL RELATIONSHIP IN GETTING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR BLACKS.

David: HE IS IN THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE AND CALLS THE GUARD OUT, AND YOU STRONGLY DISAGREE WITH HIM IN PUBLIC. EVIDENTLY YOU GO ON TELEVISION AND YOU CHARACTERIZE THIS AS A VERY WRONG DIRECTION FOR US TO BE TAKING AT THIS TIME. HE FIRES BACK AT YOU. YOU ARE HIS OWN MENTOR. YOU'RE HIS FORMER BOSS. HE WORKED FOR YOU. AS YOU SAID, YOU PAVED THAT HIGHWAY 23 THAT WE AFFECTIONATELY CALL THE PIG TRAIL AND LET FAUBUS OUT OF THE HILLS, ONE OF YOUR GREAT MISTAKES. BUT PERSONALLY YOU AND THE GOVERNOR… YOU AND GOVERNOR FAUBUS, I GUESS, AT THAT TIME HAD A SPLIT AND IT NEVER REALLY HEALED TO ANY EXTENT I GUESS.

Sid: WELL, I SAY IT WAS A MISTAKE IN THE LIGHT OF THE PROGRESS WE WERE MAKING AND SO FORTH TO CALL OUT THE TROOPS, TO BAR, TO BLOCK THE COURT ORDER, TO KEEP THESE CHILDREN OUT OF THE SCHOOL. I ALSO THOUGHT IT WAS ILL ADVISED FOR PRESIDENT EISENHOWER TO SEND OUT THE 101st AIRBORNE, SEE? BECAUSE IT JUST GAVE THE WRONG IMPRESSION AND SO FORTH, AND IT'S AN INVASION OF THE YANKEES AGAIN AND SO FORTH. I TALKED TO VICE PRESIDENT NIXON AND ASKED HIM IF HE WOULD… IF HE COULD DISSUADE THE PRESIDENT FROM USING THE 101st AIRBORNE. BUT WHEN THEY USED THE 101st AIRBORNE, WELL, THE PEOPLE WHO WERE REALLY NOT FOR FAUBUS RALLIED, "WELL, WE'VE BEEN INVADED." SEE? SO THAT GAVE HIM THE POLITICAL POWER THAT HE NEEDED TO BE IN OFFICE.

Narrator: McMATH DECIDED TO CHALLENGE FAUBUS IN 1962. (Political announcement:)

HIS NAME IS SID McMATH. A LAWYER BY TRADE, A HUNTER WHEN HE CAN BE. THIS SUMMER, HE'S A CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR ON THE DEMOCRATIC TICKET. HE'S A MAN WITH ONE THING ON HIS MIND: THE FUTURE OF ARKANSAS.

WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO TURN AROUND NOW AND FACE THE FUTURE.

Sid: I GAVE THAT A LOT OF CONSIDERATION. OF COURSE, IN THE MAIN I'D BE RUNNING AGAINST PEOPLE WHO HAD BEEN MY SUPPORTERS, SEE, AGAINST AN ORGANIZE THAT I HELPED BUILD; AND I UNDERSTOOD THE DIFFICULTIES. AGAIN, THAT MAY HAVE BEEN A MISTAKE TO MAKE THAT RACE BECAUSE OF THE FORMIDABLE OPPOSITION AND THE ISSUE THAT WAS SO PARAMOUNT IN PEOPLE'S MINDS; BUT I WANTED TO MAKE A STATEMENT, AND I MADE THAT RACE IN ORDER TO MAKE A STATEMENT: THAT I THOUGHT OUR LEADERSHIP WAS GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION AT THE WRONG TIME, AND I MADE THAT STATEMENT AND I WAS DEFEATED; AND THAT WAS THE REASON I MADE IT AND I DID THE BEST I COULD. I RAN AS HARD A RACE AS I COULD, BUT I DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH VOTES IN THE BALLOT BOX.

David: WELL, YOU SURE WERE UP AGAINST A MASSIVE AMOUNT OF FIRE POWER WITH ORVAL FAUBUS AT THAT TIME BECAUSE HE WAS PROBABLY AT THE PEAK OF HIS POWER. BY 1962 HE HAD GOTTEN THROUGH THE INTEGRATION CRISIS AND ALL OF THAT BUSINESS, BUT HE HAD BUILT AN ENORMOUS POWER BASE, PROBABLY UNLIKE ANY OTHER GOVERNOR WE'VE EVER HAD.

Sid: RIGHT. IF IT'S ANY CONSOLATION, I HAVE A FEELING AT LEAST I'VE BEEN VINDICATED BY HISTORY.

Narrator: THE 1962 RACE FOR GOVERNOR WAS THE LAST HE MADE FOR POLITICAL OFFICE. HE THEN REFOCUSED HIS ENERGY ON THE MILITARY AND THE LAW AND BECAME ONE OF ARKANSAS' MOST DISTINGUISHED TRIAL LAWYERS. HIS PARTNERSHIP WITH LELAND LEATHERMAN AND HENRY WOODS LASTED FOR 25 YEARS UNTIL WOODS WENT TO THE BENCH AS A UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE. SIDNEY McMATH SPENT A TOTAL OF 36 YEARS WITH THE MARINES AND ATTAINED THE RANK OF MAJOR GENERAL OF THE MARINE CORPS RESERVE. IN 1994, ANNE HIS WIFE OF 50 YEARS DIED OF LEUKEMIA. McMATH MARRIED A THIRD TIME IN 1996 TO ARTIST BETTY DORTCH RUSSELL. TODAY SID McMATH CONTINUES TO BE AN ACTIVE SPEAKER AND COUNSEL TO YOUNG PEOPLE WANTING TO ENTER LAW, THE MILITARY, OR POLITICS.

Sid: YOU KNOW, I THINK YOU WOULD AGREE WITH ME IN SAYING THAT FIRST THEY HAVE TO HAVE A MOTIVE, THE RIGHT MOTIVATION, A PASSION TO ACCOMPLISH SOMETHING THAT THEY'RE WILLING TO GO IN AND PAY THE PRICE OF BEING A POLITICIAN…

David: AND THERE IS A PRICE TO PAY.

Sid: …THE COST OF IT IN ORDER TO ACCOMPLISH THAT ONE THING.

David: THERE'S A PRICE TO PAY.

Sid: AND YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO FIGHT FOR THAT WHETHER OR NOT AT THE TIME IT MIGHT BE THE POLITICALLY CORRECT THING TO DO. THERE'S A QUOTATION SOMEWHERE IN MY MIND THAT GOES ABOUT MOTIVATION, IF I CAN REMEMBER IT. "THE RIGHT MOTIVE GIVES OPINIONS TO THOUGHT AND FREEDOM AND STRENGTH TO SPEECH AND ACTION." THEY HAVE THE RIGHT MOTIVE, OTHERWISE DON'T GET IN.

David: GOVERNOR McMATH, LET ME SAY THAT THIS STATE IS BETTER OFF TODAY BECAUSE OF YOU, SIR, AND WHAT AN HONOR IT HAS BEEN FOR ME TO HAVE VISITED WITH YOU DURING THIS PROGRAM ON AETN. WE ARE JUST VERY, VERY PROUD. THIS IS THE FIRST IN A SERIES, AND WE COULDN'T HAVE GONE… WE COULDN'T HAVE GONE ANY HIGHER TO BEGIN AND TO INAUGURATE THIS SERIES.

Sid: THANK YOU, DAVID. I APPRECIATE IT VERY MUCH.

David: THANK YOU, SIR. THANK YOU.

AETN.org > Programs > Men and Women of Disntinction > Men and Women of Distinction: Sid McMath