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Office of Secretary of State

The secretary of state is a member of Arkansas’s executive branch and holds one of the state’s seven constitutional offices. Originally the state’s primary record keeper, the position has grown since its inception to include the oversight of elections, production of educational materials on Arkansas history, maintenance of the Arkansas State Capitol and its grounds, and several business-related responsibilities.

The position of secretary of state was established with the constitution of 1836 as a carryover of the territorial secretary position (filled by presidential appointees), with the secretary of state being elected by a joint vote of both houses of the Arkansas General Assembly to a four-year term (other constitutional officers, save that of governor, were given two-year terms). The constitution of 1874 directed the secretary of state to keep “a full and accurate record of all the official acts and proceedings of the Governor; and, when required, lay the same with all papers, minutes and vouchers relating thereto, before either branch of the General Assembly.” Beginning in 1880, the secretary of state’s office began publishing a biennial report on the accomplishments of the secretary of state, as well as state government in general; in 1895, the publication of these reports was mandated by the Arkansas General Assembly. These compilations of statistical and historical information continued until 1926, when economic hardship curtailed their publication. In 1958, Claris G. “Crip” Hall renewed the publication, now called the Historical Report of the Secretary of State, though it is now published every ten years.

The office of the secretary of state encompasses four major divisions. The Buildings and Grounds Division maintains the Arkansas State Capitol, the offices in it, and the capitol grounds. The Business and Commercial Services Division provides services to individuals or companies who conduct business with the state government, as well as overseeing trademarks and notary public certifications. The Communications and Education Division performs civic and history-related outreach through such programs as voter registration drives and the distribution of educational materials related to Arkansas’s history and culture. The Elections Division oversees state and federal elections; this includes maintaining election records, training poll workers, and ensuring compliance with federal election laws. The State Capitol Police fall under the jurisdiction of the secretary of state. The secretary of state also publishes the Arkansas Register, an official publication containing the rules and regulations adopted by state agencies, boards, and commissions, as well as attorney general opinions, legislative audit notices, and insurance department orders.

Robert Crittenden served as Arkansas’s first territorial secretary and was able to exert considerable political power due to the frequent absence of the territorial governors. William Savin Fulton served as the second territorial secretary and was later appointed as territorial governor. However, with the exception of Tom J. Terral, no secretary of state has gone on to be elected to the office of governor. The first woman to serve as secretary of state was Nancy J. Hall, who was appointed to the position in 1961 following the death in office of her husband, the long-serving Claris G. Hall; Sharon Priest was the first woman elected to the position.

 Name

Party

began

ended

 Robert A. Watkins

 

 1836

 1840

 D. B. Greer

 

 1840

 1842

 John Winfrey

 

 May 1842  

 August 1842  

 D. B. Greer

 

 1842

 1859

 Alexander Boileau

 

 1859

 1860

 S. W. Weaver

 

 Jan 1860

 March 1860

 John I Stirman

 

 1860

 1862

 O. H. Oates

 

 1862

 1864

 Robert J. T. White

 Rep 

 1864

 1871

 James M. Johnson

 Rep 

 1871

 1874

 Benton B. Beavers

 Dem  

 1874

 1879

 Jacob Frolich

 Dem

 1879

 1885

 Elias B. Moore

 Dem

 1885

 1889

 B. B. Chism

 Dem

 1889

 1893

 H. B. Armistead

 Dem

 1893

 1897

 Alexander C. Hull

 Dem

 1897

 1901

 J. W. Crockett

 Dem

 1901

 1905

 O. C. Ludwig

 Dem

 1905

 1911

 Earle W. Hodges

 Dem

 1911

 1917

 Tom J. Terral

 Dem

 1917

 1921

 Ira C. Hopper

 Dem

 1921

 1925

 Jim B. Higgins

 Dem

 1925

 1931

 Ed F. McDonald

 Dem

 1931

 1937

 C. G. “Crip” Hall

 Dem

 1937

 1961

 Nancy J. Hall

 

 1961

 1963

 Kelly Bryant

 Dem

 1963

 1975

 George O. Jernigan Jr. 

 

 1975

 1977

 Winston Bryant

 Dem

 1977

 1979

 Paul Riviere

 Dem

 1979

 1985

 W. J. “Bill” McCuen

 Dem

 1985

 1995

 Sharon Priest

 Dem

 1995

 2003

 Charlie Daniels

 Dem

 2003

 

Before 1864, Secretaries of State were appointed by the state legislature. No party is listed for those appointed (including also Nancy J. Hall, appointed in 1961, and George Jernigan, appointed in 1975).

For additional information:
Arkansas Secretary of State. http://www.sos.arkansas.gov/Pages/default.aspx (accessed September 16, 2014).

Historical Report of the Secretary of State. Little Rock: Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office, 2008.

Staff of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Last Updated 8/28/2015

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