Category: News

Road Trip through the Arkansas Delta

The May edition of Arkansas Life is chock full of stories about the Arkansas Delta, including many of the projects that Arkansas State University Heritage Sites is proud to have worked with.  Among these are the Sultana Disaster Museum in Marion and the Japanese American Relocation Center Cemetery in Rohwer.  Be sure to check out all the stories in this great edition, which you can access here.  Arkansas Life is a monthly publication of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Cash Home Wins Heritage Award

From left, Paula Miles, Dr. Ruth Hawkins, Miss Arkansas 2015, and Arkansas Parks and Tourism Director Richard Davies

From left, Paula Miles, Dr. Ruth Hawkins, Miss Arkansas 2015 Ashton Campbell, and Arkansas Parks and Tourism Director Richard Davies

The Historic Dyess Colony:  Johnny Cash Boyhood Home received the Arkansas Heritage Award during the Governor’s Conference on Tourism held March 8-10 in Texarkana.  The Heritage Award  is presented annually to an individual, organization, or community that has made a significant contribution toward the preservation of some aspect of Arkansas’s natural, cultural or aesthetic legacy.

Arkansas Living Focuses on Heritage Sites

The March issue of Arkansas Living, a publication of the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, features a look at Arkansas State University’s Heritage Sites program and its director, Dr. Ruth Hawkins. The article includes a look at how the program got started, as well as some of its successes over the years. Click here to view the full article, which begins on page 10.

Arkansas Delta Byways Awards

Marcel Hanzlik, tourism association president, with representatives of Historic Dyess Colony, which received the Cultural Heritage Award (from left): Paula Miles, Kirkley Thomas, Larry Sims,  Dr. Ruth A. Hawkins and Dr. Elista Istre

Marcel Hanzlik, tourism association president, with representatives of Historic Dyess Colony, which received the Cultural Heritage Award (from left):
Paula Miles, Kirkley Thomas, Larry Sims, Dr. Ruth A. Hawkins and Dr. Elista Istre

STUTTGART – The 15th annual Delta Awards recognizing tourism achievement in Eastern Arkansas were presented during festivities Friday, Feb. 6, at the Grand Prairie Center in Stuttgart.

The event was sponsored by Arkansas Delta Byways, the nonprofit association recognized by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism as the official tourism promotion association for 15 counties in Eastern Arkansas.

The counties are Arkansas, Chicot, Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Desha, Drew, Greene, Lee, Mississippi, Monroe, Phillips, Poinsett and St. Francis.

Kirkley Thomas, vice president for governmental affairs at the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas and an A-State alumnus, received the “Tourism Person of the Year” award. The organization saluted Thomas’ long-time support of the development of Arkansas State’s Heritage Site at Historic Dyess Colony: Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash.

A-State’s Dyess project also was winner in the “Cultural Heritage” award category. In April 2014 the site was dedicated with members of the Cash family present, then it later opened to the public. The response has been outstanding.

The “Boot Strap Award” was presented to the staff of ASU Museum for Rockabilly Boogiefest 2014, a benefit concert held to celebrate the rich music heritage of the region and help fund a permanent Rockabilly exhibit.

The “Media Support Award” went to Dr. Bill Smith, executive director of marketing and communications for Arkansas State.

The winners of the other awards were as follows:
“Hospitality Award”: Kelley Drug and Selections, McGehee
“Entrepreneur Award”: Vandiver’s Newcastle Farms, Forrest City
“Tourism Support/Promotional Award”: Delta Heritage State Park, Helena
“Festival/Event of the Year Award”: German Heritage Fest, Stuttgart
“Outstanding Member Award”: Gina Jarrett, Paragould

The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center at Piggott was a finalist for the Tourism Support/Promotional Award.

Arkansas Delta Byways is located on the Arkansas State University campus in Jonesboro and receives administrative support through A-State’s Arkansas Heritage Sites office.

Renaissance in Wilson

We couldn’t be prouder to be a small part of all the exciting things that are going on in Wilson.  This video provides an overview of some of the things that are currently underway, as well as the visionary plans on the  horizon. A-State Heritage Sites assisted with the initial heritage tourism feasibility study.

Arkansas Historic Preservation Awards Recognize A-State Project Leaders

  • Ruth HawkinsArkansas Heritage Sites Director Ruth Hawkins and A-State professor emeritus Scott Darwin were among those recognized on January 9, 2015 at the annual Arkansas Preservation Awards sponsored by the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas. The event recognizes the important work being done throughout Arkansas to preserve and protect places of historical or cultural importance.

Dr. Hawkins received the Parker Westbrook Award for Lifetime Achievement for her work in preservation, tourism and education. She has been integral to preservation of many of the region’s and the state’s most significant landmarks, including the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum in Piggott, the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum in Tyronza, Lakeport Plantation in Lake Village, the Dyess Colony Administration Building, and Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess. Hawkins’ work has not only helped to protect these important pieces of Arkansas history, but has proven that the sites are essential part of Arkansas’s economy.

Dr. Darwin, emeritus professor of German at A-State, received the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Preservation Advocacy for championing preservation of the 1936 V.C. Kays House, home of ASU founding father Victor C. Kays. Darwin gained media attention and built support for saving the house, which will be preserved for use by the Heritage Studies PhD program and will house furnishings from Governor Mike Beebe’s former office.

Read details about these and other awards recognizing Arkansans’ work to preserve distinctive historic places in this Events Program.

Scott Darwin

The Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas is the only statewide non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Arkansas’s architectural and cultural heritage. For more information about the Alliance, or photos of the projects contact Vanessa at 501-372-4757,, or visit

ASU Heritage Sites Receives “Friends” award at Annual Arkansas Community Development Society Conference

2Paula Miles, Ruth Hawkins, Monieca West

Paula Miles, Dr. Ruth Hawkins, Monieca West

JONESBORO — Arkansas State University has been recognized for its efforts in the field of community and economic development by the Arkansas Community Development Society (ACDS) during the organization’s annual conference and awards presentation. A-State received the “Friend of ACDS” award for the Arkansas Heritage Sites.

Dr. Ruth Hawkins, executive director of Arkansas Heritage Sites, was singled out for her leadership of the program. She and assistant director Paula Miles were on hand in Conway to receive the accolade.

ACDS is an educational nonprofit organization whose purpose is to advance community development and its profession by providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and the development of common interest among its members. One key method of accomplishing and promoting its goals is in recognizing and sharing “best practices” and those providing exceptional service and talent to the field and truly celebrating those positives.

The “Friend of ACDS” award is given in recognition of extraordinary service or support for the ACDS organization or for the practice of community development. Recipients are recognized for a body of work that has strengthened Arkansas communities over a period of time.

“The word ‘Delta’ evokes multiple impressions from Arkansans, including cotton and rice fields, Elvis and Johnny Cash, mosquitos and catfish, wealth and poverty, civil rights as well as civil wrongs,” said ACDS historian Monieca West, who also serves on the awards committee. “But, we all recognize the area as a place with history as rich as its soil.

“Life there can be challenging and people look to Arkansas State University to make a difference in improving income and educational levels in the Arkansas Delta. The nomination describes how Arkansas State is meeting this challenge while protecting and promoting its history and culture.”

In the 1990s the Arkansas Heritage Sites Office at A-State worked with mayors, county judges, other community leaders, and citizens throughout an eight-county Delta region to establish and develop a route along Crowley’s Ridge as a National Scenic Byway. This recognition was received in 1998 and subsequent efforts to promote the natural and cultural heritage in the region have had significant economic impact in Delta communities.

But having the designation meant that there needed to be destinations along the route worthy of attracting tourists in order to maximize the economic potential. Under the leadership of Dr. Hawkins as director of the initiative over the past two decades, sites have come to life along the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway and Great River Road routes that traverse the 15-county Arkansas Delta Byways region.

“When we began working on these projects, one of our primary goals was to serve as an economic catalyst in some of these rural Arkansas Delta communities,” Hawkins said. “This award means a lot to us because it is validation of our efforts and evidence that focusing on the heritage of the region is having an impact.”