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Eva Ware Barnett was the wife of my childhood dentist, Dr. Barnett, who had his office in the Boyle Building in downtown Little Rock in the 1940s (and very possibly long before). As a boy, I used to love to go up the elevator in the Boyle Building to visit Dr. Barnett for dental check-ups.
Mrs. Barnett was Dr. Barnett’s nurse as well as his wife, and I have very fond memories of her. She was always very warm and friendly and especially nice to children. I always looked forward to the lemon drops that she gave me at the end of each visit.
In those days, everyone knew that she had authored what was then our only official state song, “Arkansas.” On one visit, she mentioned to my mother and me how she had come to write it. During the era of World War I and for considerably longer thereafter, travel between America and Europe was still exclusively by steamship. When Mrs. Barnett (and I presume also Dr. Barnett) was aboard one of the trans-Atlantic ocean liners of the day, the social director asked the various passengers to sing their state songs, and Mrs. Barnett was embarrassed by the fact that Arkansas had no such song. She retired to her stateroom and composed the song that is now our official state anthem. Some of the song’s lyrics, particularly the words “from thy borders no more I’ll roam,” allude to the circumstances surrounding the song’s creation.