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Presidential Visits

Until the second half of the twentieth century, the visit of a president of the United States (or even of a former president) was a historic event in Arkansas. The ease and affordability of travel—and the election of an Arkansas native as president in 1992 and 1996—have made presidential visits less noteworthy. The following chart lists the visits of presidents and former presidents to the state of Arkansas from statehood in 1836 through the year 1990. The occasions when future presidents were in Arkansas, such as Colonel Zachary Taylor’s time in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) from 1841 to 1845, are not listed. President Bill Clinton’s numerous return visits to Arkansas are not included, nor are visits by Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, because of their frequency both during and after their terms of office. One significant event that should be noted, however, was the dedication of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park. The ceremonies, held on November 18, 2004, involved President George W. Bush and former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and, of course, Bill Clinton. Also, on May 7, 2014, President Barack Obama conducted his first presidential visit to Arkansas in order to survey tornado damage in the Vilonia (Faulkner County) area.

DATE

PRESIDENT

YEARS IN OFFICE

LOCATIONS VISITED

EVENT

April 22, 1842

Martin Van Buren

1837–1841

Columbia (Chicot County)

Passenger on steamboat Nashville, which stopped briefly

April 14 & 15, 1880

Ulysses S. Grant

1869–1877

Little Rock (Pulaski County)

Parade and banquet as part of world tour

April 17, 1891

Benjamin Harrison

1889–1893

Little Rock

Train tour on way to Pacific Coast

October 25, 1905

Theodore Roosevelt

1901–1909

Little Rock

Parade and public meeting

October 24, 1909

William H. Taft

1909–1913

Texarkana (Miller County), Arkadelphia (Clark County), Little Rock

Brief remarks at train stations

October 27, 1909

William H. Taft

1909–1913

Helena (Phillips County)

Speech on waterways

October 10, 1910

Theodore Roosevelt

1901–1909

Hot Springs (Garland County)

Arkansas State Fair

April 20, 1912

Theodore Roosevelt

1901–1909

Fort Smith, Ozark (Franklin County), Clarksville (Johnson County), Russellville (Pope County), Conway (Faulkner County), Argenta (Pulaski County), Carlisle (Lonoke County)

Campaign tour

September 25, 1912

Theodore Roosevelt

1901–1909

Little Rock

Speech on waterways

February 8–9, 1918

William H. Taft

1909–1913

North Little Rock (Pulaski County)

Lectures at Camp Pike

June 10, 1936

Franklin Roosevelt

1933–1945

Hot Springs, Rockport (Hot Spring County), Little Rock

Arkansas State Centennial Celebration

July 9, 1938

Franklin Roosevelt

1933–1945

Booneville (Logan County)

Campaign tour

April 18, 1943

Franklin Roosevelt

1933–1945

North Little Rock

Visit to Camp Robinson

October 6, 1945

Harry S. Truman

1945–1953

Blytheville (Mississippi County)

Visit/stopover on way to Missouri

June 10–11, 1949

Harry S. Truman

1945–1953

Little Rock

Army Division reunion and dedication of War Memorial Park

July1 & 2, 1952

Harry S. Truman

1945–1953

Little Rock, Norfork (Baxter County), Mountain Home (Baxter County), Flippin (Marion County), Cotter (Baxter County), Batesville (Independence County), Newport (Jackson County)

Dedication of Bull Shoals Dam and Norfork Dam

October 29, 1961

John F. Kennedy

1961–1963

Fort Smith

Ceremony at Old Fort Smith

October 3, 1963

John F. Kennedy

1961–1963

Heber Springs (Cleburne County), Little Rock

Dedication of Greers Ferry Dam, Speech at the State Fair

September 25, 1964

Lyndon B. Johnson

1963–1969

Texarkana

Dedication of memorial at post office

December 6, 1969

Richard M. Nixon

1969–1974

Fayetteville (Washington County)

Arkansas-Texas football game

August 10, 1975

Gerald R. Ford

1974–1977

Fort Smith

Dedication of St. Edward’s Mercy Medical Center

October 22, 1980

Jimmy Carter

1977–1981

Texarkana

Campaign appearance

1983 and following years

Jimmy Carter

1977–1981

Newport, Weiner (Poinsett County)

Duck hunting

March 29, 1984

Gerald R. Ford

1974–1977

Conway

Speech at the University of Central Arkansas

May 12, 1984

Gerald R. Ford

1974–1977

Searcy (White County)

Campaign rally

November 2 & 3, 1984

Ronald Reagan

1981–1989

Little Rock

Political rally

October 27, 1988

Ronald Reagan

1981–1989

Little Rock

Political rally

 

For additional information:
Gatewood, Willard B., Jr. “Theodore Roosevelt and Arkansas, 1901–1912.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 32 (Spring 1973): 3–24.

Ledbetter, Calvin R., Jr. “Presidential Politics in Arkansas from 1909–1912: The Visits of Taft, Roosevelt, and Wilson.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 53 (Summer 1994): 191–210.

Presidential Pathways in Arkansas. Little Rock: Destination Arkansas, 2004.

Steven Teske
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Last Updated 5/7/2014

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