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Ekstrom Library

Government Resources: States: Arkansas


Arkansas: Equality, Civil Rights and Human Rights

Arkansas: General Information and Statistics

Arkansas: Housing, Homelessness and Construction

Judge Isaac C. Parker

I have ever had the single aim of justice in view... 'Do equal and exact justice,' is my motto, and I have often said to the grand jury, 'Permit no innocent man to be punished, but let no guilty man escape.'"  -Judge Isaac C. Parker, 1896

For twenty-one years, Judge Isaac C. Parker held the bench of the U.S. Court for the Western District of Arkansas. His tenure was unique in the history of the federal judiciary; while most U.S. district judges toiled away on civil cases, Parker heard thousands of criminal complaints involving disputes and violence between Indians and non-Indians. He sentenced 160 people to death, and for fourteen years he did so while the condemned had no right of appeal.

Sensational cases and mass executions overshadowed Parker's contributions in rehabilitating offenders, reforming the criminal justice system, and advocating the rights of the Indian nations. In Fort Smith he tried to create, in his own words, "the moral force of a strong federal court."

Remembered in Western novels and films as a "Hanging Judge," Isaac Parker's real career and accomplishments in Fort Smith are far more fascinating and complicated. Source: Fort Smith National Historical Site

How did Arkansas Get its Name?

Many names of places in our state came from the languages of the explorers who discovered and lived in Arkansas. The Native Americans, Spanish, French and Americans all helped name places in our state. The word "Arkansas" came from the Quapaw Indians, by way of early French explorers. The explorers met a group of Native Americans, known as the Ugakhpah, which means "people who live downstream". These Native Americans later were called the Quapaw, who were also called the Arkansaw. This name came to be used for the land where these Native Americans lived. Source: Arkansas Secretary of State

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