Listen to Learn:
Robert Laidlaw Brown was born in Houston, Texas, on June 30, 1941. He moved to Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, when he was fourteen.
Justice Brown received a B.A. in English literature from Sewanee, the University of the South, and an M.A. from Columbia University. He earned his J.D. at the University of Virginia in 1968.
Justice Brown worked in the administrations of several Arkansas luminaries including Jim Guy Tucker and Dale Bumpers. He founded two law firms and taught at the University of Arkansas. Justice Brown was elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1990 where he served until 2012. He was the first recipient of the Robert L. Brown Community Support Award.
He authored numerous articles and wrote Defining Moments: Historic Decisions By Governors from McMath to Huckabee and The Second Crisis in Little Rock: A Report on Desegregation Within the Little Rock Public Schools.
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
[00:00:08] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners an insider’s view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk-taking. Connect with Kerry through her candid, funny, informative and always encouraging weekly blog.
And now it’s time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[00:00:32] KM: Thank you, son, Gray. My guest today is the Honorable Judge, Robert L. Brown. You may not readily know his name, but you are living by some of the rules and laws he studied, argued and enacted while serving as associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court from 1991 until his retirement in 2012. This man of law and literature is well-educated, thoughtful and a prolific writer. Currently he is of council to Little Rock, Arkansas law firm Friday, Eldredge & Clark. He has been a contributing editor for the Arkansas Times and Arkansas Business Magazine and has written numerous legal opinions and articles on a variety of subjects.
In 2020, Councilor Brown published his own book titled Defining Moments: Historic Decisions by Arkansas Governors from McMath through Huckabee. In this book he writes about the 10 consecutive governors of Arkansas that during that tenure made difficult choices in education, environment, social justice, creationism, political corruption and more.
Today, we will hear a firsthand account of some Arkansas folklore from my guest, Mr. Robert L. Brown, who personally knew and worked with 9 of the governors he writes about in his book. His perspective is more than just historical data. It comes from his personal experience and knowledge of these Arkansas leaders from once came a US president, two US senators and two presidential contenders. It is a pleasure to welcome to the table the Honorable Robert L. Brown.
Everybody calls you Bob though, don’t they?
[00:02:21] RB: They do. Thank you, Kerry. Delighted to be here.
[00:02:24] KM: Thank you for joining us. In reading about you, I learned your father was an episcopal priest. You moved a lot. Love higher education, reading and learning. You were both in Houston, Texas. Began elementary school in Wako. Moved to an all-boys school in Richmond, Virginia before moving in 9th grade to Forest Park in Little Rock, Arkansas.
[00:02:49] RB: Exactly.
[00:02:49] KM: Tell us about all that moving and about your father.
[00:02:53] RB: Well, my dad was a very important figure in the church. And that was recognized early on. He went to Seminary of Virginia, and the bishop that he went to enter the ministry under decided he needed to have a – Learn a bit of humility. So he sent him down to Harlingen, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley where – And this is the Depression where people were starving. And my father married a Virginia lady, literally a lady. So he was a little bit like giant.
[00:03:27] KM: The movie giant?
[00:03:29] RB: Yeah, the movie. Yeah, sure. And my dad was kind of rough-hewed and here he had this Virginia lady. They moved down to Harlingen and they almost starved to death. I mean, it was just really rough in existence. And that’s where my older sister was born. But my dad moved a lot. He moved to Wako during the war and then to Richmond. And Richmond was like – I mean, he met somebody in Richmond when he first got there, an older women in her 90s who had ridden on the knee of Robert E. Lee. And you figure when you hear that story, you figure that, “Yeah. Well, the Civil War was over about 80 years earlier.” So that easily computes.
But Richmond, which was a very old south community even in 1947, which is when we moved there. But we were there, and dad did work with displaced persons in Europe and edited the southern churchman and wrote two books himself, and then was elected Bishop of Arkansas. And we moved here in 1955 just in time for the Little Rock crisis, which I lived through and he lived through and wrote a book about.
[00:04:39] KM: The Central High Little Rock crisis?
[00:04:40] RB: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Central high. I had gone my second year at the Hall High School. But I was in Central my sophomore year, Hall my junior year, and then they closed all schools, high schools my senior year, ’58, ’59.
[00:04:55] KM: So what did you do?
[00:04:56] RB: I finished up in Austin, Texas. My dad’s best friend was the bishop of Texas and he said, “Send Bob down here, and we’ll educate him.” So I went down to Austin, Texas to a coeducational boarding school in 1958. Now that was a rarity, a coeducational boarding school in 1958. And that’s where I spent my senior year.
[00:05:21] KM: So how did all of these experiences affect your later decisions when you began to work on the bench? Do you think all these different places you lived and the crisis of 1959 in Little Rock helped formulate –
[00:05:35] RB: Absolutely. Probably the most formulating event or experience in my life was living in New York in the early 60s, ’63 to ’65.
[00:05:45] KM: So that was after you went to college.
[00:05:48] RB: That was after I went to Sewanee. I went four years to Sewanee, which was the all-male liberal arts college.
[00:05:55] KM: And you are English and honors?
[00:05:57] RB: Yes.
[00:05:58] KM: And then you went to Columbia New York again on English and honors.
[00:06:00] RB: That’s right.
[00:06:03] KM: And that’s where you said you formulated a lot of your opinions about decision you made on the bench. But you weren’t even going to be a lawyer, it doesn’t look like, from your resume. It looks like you decided to get your JD, Juris Doctorate from the University of Virginia. When did you decide I’m going from English to literature? I mean, I’m going to English literature to –
[00:06:24] RB: It was a Saturday night in New York and I decided –
[00:06:27] KM: What? Few beers down.
[00:06:33] RB: No. I was sitting in my apartment and I’ve been in literature, English literature for about 7 years, and my scholarship ran out. I had a Woodrow Wilson scholarship, and that was supposed to be for somebody who is going to go and become a professor in college. And my scholarship ran out. I went to work for a life insurance company and I decided I kind of like that work, drafting contracts. I was using the other side of my brain. I had this light bulb go on and I said, “I’m going to law school.”
[00:07:10] KM: Wow!
[00:07:11] RB: And so I applied to two law schools and the rest –
[00:07:14] KM: And yeah. But then you ended up getting up coming back and taking the Arkansas bar and getting admitted to Arkansas. How did you end up back in Arkansas?
[00:07:27] RB: Well, that was home. And I had a good opportunity here.
[00:07:32] KM: How could you say that was home after you lived in so many different places?
[00:07:34] RB: Well, I mean, I had lived in Arkansas for three years for high school. I think where you go to high school is really – Or junior high and high school, that really becomes kind of your home. That’s where your roots are. And going to Virginia, I mean, that was a unique experience. But New York was just something that was just everything was happening in the early 60s, as you know. But I had a good opportunity with the law firm and decide to take that opportunity. And I worked with them for about three years and then I got restless and decided I needed to go with the prosecutor’s office. And the prosecuting attorney was a young man who is 27-years-old, which is way too young to be a prosecuting attorney named Jim Guy Tucker.
And he wanted me to sign on with him and be a deputy prosecutor. And there was a lot of money available in 1968 and in the early 70s because of John McLaughlin and a bill he had passed in congress that made grants available to prosecutors and the courts. And so he had this extra money and he said, “Come on, join my staff and we’ll just have some fun.” And boy we did. It was a wild time, because we were kind of hippies and the police didn’t like us. And we were – Anyway, it was an interesting time.
[00:08:55] KM: He was on the radio and I called him a swashbuckler.
[00:08:59] RB: Jim Guy takes risks.
[00:09:00] KM: He does. All right. This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with retired associate judge of the Arkansas Supreme Court, Mr. Robert L. Brown. Still to come, Arkansas politics and Judge Brown’s personal experience with 9 of the 10 governors he writes about in his book, Defining Moments: Historic Decisions about Arkansas Governors from Sid McMath through Mike Huckabee. We’ll also ask which cases he’s most proud of and maybe some he’s not. And since it’s Halloween month of October, if we have time, we will have Councilor Brown expound on his deep and fascinating knowledge of the Salem witch trials in the 1600s. We’ll be back after a break.
[00:09:45] GM: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Over 40 years ago with only $400, Kerry Founded Arkansas Flag & Banner. During the last 4 decades, the business has grown and changed along with Kerry’s experience and leadership knowledge. In 1995, she embraced the internet and rebranded her company as simply flagandbanner.com. In 2004, she became an early blogger. Since then, she has founded the nonprofit Friends of Dreamland Ballroom. Began publishing her magazine, Brave. And in 2016, branched out into this very radio show, YouTube channel and podcast. And today, in 2020, Kerry McCoy Enterprises acquired ourcornermarket.com, an online company specializing in American-made plaques, signage and memorials for over 20 years.
If you’d like to sponsor this show or get involved with any of Kerry McCoy’s enterprises, send an email to me, Gray. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Telling American-made stories, selling American-made flags, the flagandbanner.com. Back to you, Kerry.
[00:10:57] KM: Thank you, Gray. You’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with retired associate judge of the Arkansas Supreme Court, Robert L. Brown. We’ll call him Bob Brown. That just rolls off your tongue. Before the break we talked about your dad was the bishop of Arkansas. We talked about you were actually in high school during the 1959 Central high crisis. You’ve come back to Arkansas, which is your home. You’ve decided to become a lawyer. And now you’re dabbling in politics with Jim Guy Tucker. You began campaigning for Jim Guy. And then you ended up somehow going to Washington with Dale Bumpers.
[00:11:45] RB: Yeah.
[00:11:47] KM: So yeah, tell me how all of that transpired before you came. Because you did end up coming back home and going into a private –
[00:11:54] RB: Yeah. I came back home. And really I was coming back home and I was going to work with Bobby Kennedy. I voted against him in New York because I thought he was a carpet biker, but I thought he was a good candidate. So I was going to work for him. And he got assassinated on my trip back to Arkansas.
[00:12:12] KM: Oh my gosh!
[00:12:12] RB: I woke up one morning and saw Frank Makowitz standing on the hood of his car talking about Bobby Kennedy being shot and like maybe dying. But anyway, I came back and I was –
[00:12:24] KM: But you went to Washington with Jim Guy or you went to Washington with –
[00:12:27] RB: I went to Washington with Dale Bumpers. And you asked about what was the transition from Jim Guy to Dale Bumpers. I helped manage Jim Guy’s campaign for attorney general after I left the prosecutor’s office. I didn’t want to go to the attorney general’s office, and Dale Bumpers was about the most exciting figure in Arkansas politics. I mean, he was just dazzling.
Tom McRae who is his executive assistant contacted me and said, “Do you want to come work?” And I said yeah. So I wrote speeches. I did a legislative work, drafted bills. I did prison work. I was responsible for the prisons. And then we got involved in the Fullbright Campaign. That was 1974. He decided to run not for a third term as governor, but to run against Fullbright. And he won decisively.
[00:13:20] KM: Dale Bumpers.
[00:13:21] RB: Dale Bumpers won decisively. And frankly I wanted to go the public service commission, but I didn’t get that appointment. And he said, “No, Bob. I want you in Washington.” So I went to Richard Arnold, Archie Shaffer, and I went to Washington with Dale Bumpers.
[00:13:38] KM: And then stayed there till –
[00:13:42] RB: I stayed there with Dale for two years, and then Jim Guy came up and I switched over and was his executive assistant.
[00:13:53] KM: And he was a congressman.
[00:13:53] RB: And he was as congressman.
[00:13:55] KM: So bumpers was a senator.
[00:13:56] RB: Bumpers was a senator.
[00:13:57] KM: And then Jim Guy graduated from the attorney general to become a congressman of Washington.
[00:14:02] RB: He became a congressman. Yeah. He took Wilbur Mills’ seat.
[00:14:06] KM: Oh, that’s right.
[00:14:07] RB: Yeah. So I helped him setup his office. Again, it was an exciting time.
[00:14:12] KM: And then he lost.
[00:14:14] RB: Yes. And I worked in that campaign. I managed that campaign.
[00:14:16] KM: Is that why you came home?
[00:14:18] RB: No. I was coming home anyway. If I had stayed in Washington, my opportunities would have been as a domestic relations attorney or criminal defense attorney or a lobbyist. And I just didn’t want to spend the time developing a reputation where all the doors would have opened.
Coming back to Arkansas was just a piece of cake, because I had my reputation. And even though it was a hard campaign and Tucker had lost, I had a lot of friends here.
[00:14:47] KM: So you started Harrison and Brown Law Firm.
[00:14:50] RB: It was a ferocious law firm.
[00:14:52] KM: What does that mean?
[00:14:53] RB: That means that people are just afraid of us.
[00:14:57] KM: Oh, good. That’s a good thing when you’re a lawyer, I believe.
[00:14:59] RB: A junkyard dog. No. we were serious and he had a practice going, and I developed the practice. And it was just a lot of fun.
[00:15:09] KM: So why did you leave that and go and decide to become an associate justice for the Arkansas Supreme Court?
[00:15:14] RB: Fred went and became general council for the University of Arkansas, and I became of council with the law firm, and decided here again one day that I was going to run for the Supreme Court.
[00:15:27] KM: Just one day.
[00:15:28] RB: There wasn’t this groundswell of support saying, “Bob, you need to run for the Supreme Court.” I just decided to do it. And I had written an article on George Row Smith, who was kind of an icon for the Supreme Court, and Still Hayes who was a justice on the court said, “Bob, why don’t you run for the Supreme Court?” And I had never thought about it. But then I thought, “Well, the stars are aligned. My son is 11. Charlotte could stop working.” She’s a formidable campaigner. And why not? And it’s the best thing he ever did. The campaigning.
[00:16:07] KM: Once you’re a judge, are you always a judge? Or do you ever have to be – Do you have to run again and again?
[00:16:12] RB: On the Supreme Court, you have an 8-year term, which is just wonderful. Every 8 years, you had to run. But once you’re elected, it’s hard to get somebody out who’s an incumbent. So I had a hard campaign with my first campaign. But after that, it was duck soup.
[00:16:30] KM: Duck soup. You’re on the bench. You know all the governors when you decided to start writing your book Defining Moments: Historic Decisions by Arkansas Governors from McMath to Huckabee. When did you decide I’m going to start writing this book?
[00:16:43] RB: Well, I knew about Profiles and Courage, which was John F. Kennedy’s book, where he took several people in government throughout government who had made his stark decisions, really courageous decisions, and that was kind of my model. I took that book and I decided, “I’m going to find defining moments in these 10 governments where they had to make a very courageous decision in some cases or a really not so courageous decision. But this was a moment in time that defined their character.
[00:17:19] KM: What’d you call that book that you’ve read?
[00:17:21] RB: Profiles and Courage by John F. Kennedy. And Ted Sorensen, the speech writer actually wrote it.
[00:17:28] KM: Oh. So did you listen to my interview with Mr. Ernie Dumas?
[00:17:32] RB: I did as a matter of fact. We started listening to it this afternoon.
[00:17:35] KM: Oh, darn. Because I was going to ask you the same questions, and I don’t want to use any of his – Do you remember that I asked him a question?
[00:17:42] RB: No, I don’t. I just listened to the first of it.
[00:17:46] KM: You’re fresh.
[00:17:47] RB: Yeah, I’m fresh. I know Ernie well.
[00:17:50] KM: I knew you did. And y’all have a lot of opinion – Y’all both know a lot about governors. And so when he came on, I asked him this question to give me on word to describe each governor. Did you hear that part of the interview?
[00:18:04] RB: I didn’t.
[00:18:05] KM: Oh good! Okay, good. So you won’t be influenced. So you wrote about Sid McMath about his bout with the Dixiecrats, which I had to look up what the Dixiecrats are. And you can explain to our listeners in just a minute what they are. But if you were to give me one word for Sid McMath, what would it be?
[00:18:22] RB: A true democrat. Those are two words. But a real democrat.
[00:18:27] KM: So tell our listeners what his bout with the Dixiecrats was.
[00:18:31] RB: Well, the Dixiecrats, after Harry Truman decided to try to pass some landmark Civil Rights legislation in 1948, doing away with lynching, giving African-Americans the right to vote, equal opportunities as far as motels and restaurants. A far-reaching piece of legislation. Strom Thurmond, who was a governor of South Carolina; Ben Laney, who is our governor and others decided to formulate a state’s right party called the Dixiecrats and mount their own campaign. And that’s what they did. Strom Thurmond became the presidential candidate eventually for the Dixiecrats.
And obviously Harry Truman won that election. But the Dixiecrats really cut into the democratic base. But Sid McMath was gutsy, because I think Arkansas was very close to being majority Dixiecrat. And Sid McMath held the state for the democratic party, which was a formidable achievement on his part. But the Dixiecrats were – I won’t say that they were – Shall we say they’re very conservative, old guard southern democrats.
[00:19:53] KM: And Francis Cherry, he was another governor. If you were to use an adjective for him.
[00:20:00] RB: Judicial.
[00:20:00] KM: Was he a judge?
[00:20:02] RB: He was a judge.
[00:20:03] KM: Oh.
[00:20:04] RB: Yeah.
[00:20:04] KM: So you said his ploy was to label his opponent a communist.
[00:20:10] RB: Orval Faubus. And Orval Faubus was at least a socialist. He had gone – He denied this during the campaign. But he had gone through a school called Commonwealth College over in Mina. And he had been elected president of the student body and was very much in the socialist scam. And during the campaign, he came down from the hills and worked for Sin McMath as a matter of fact and was a war veteran. But he decided to run against Francis Cherry. And Francis Cherry had won one term, and those were two-year terms. Thought it’d be, again, duck soup to win another one. But Orval Faubus was just formidable. I mean, he was just probably the best politician that Arkansas has had.
[00:20:57] KM: Better than Bill Clinton, huh?
[00:20:58] RB: Oh, yeah.
[00:20:59] KM: Really.
[00:20:59] RB: Oh yeah.
[00:20:59] KM: Well, Orval Faubus has beat, obviously, Francis Cherry. And so I bet I know what adjective you’re going to give Orval Faubus.
[00:21:10] RB: I’ll give him pragmatic.
[00:21:12] KM: Oh, I thought you were going to say politician.
[00:21:14] RB: No. Pragmatic. Very practical. He wanted to win a third term. And actually run about 5 terms. But he did what was necessary. I think in his heart of hearts he was a liberal. His dad was a communist, and he’d gone through this –
[00:21:30] KM: Oh, that’s how he got labeled.
[00:21:32] RB: Yeah. And he went to – Well, he really got labeled because of the Commonwealth College. But in his heart of hearts, I think he was progressive. But he saw the handwriting on the wall and Arkansas was turning more conservative. And there was Jim Johnson, segregationist was looming large. And I think Jim Johnson and some of the things he was doing with amendments to the state constitution and whatnot scared Faubus in becoming a staunch, Dixiecrat, conservative, maybe even a racist.
[00:22:07] KM: Because he blocked the integration at the Little Rock Central high.
[00:22:11] RB: And that was his defining moment. He didn’t have to do that, but he did.
[00:22:15] KM: And that was the year you were in high school.
[00:22:18] RB: Yes. I was at Hall, but I just left Central.
[00:22:24] KM: And then another one that you were friends were, Winthrop Rockefeller.
[00:22:28] RB: I think Rockefeller is probably – Even though I worked with Dale and think he’s the most magnificent governor we’ve had, a lot of respect. I think Rockefeller was really the trailblazer for Arkansas. I mean, here is a guy who’s Republican. One of the richest men in the world, probably had a bit of an imbibing problem with the alcohol.
[00:22:51] KM: No. Probably. Definitely did.
[00:22:55] RB: I’m trying to be politic here.
[00:22:56] KM: Yeah, you are.
[00:22:57] RB: And was very shy and came to Arkansas because of army buddies he made during World War II, where he was a hero, and won the Bronze Star and all that. But I think he is the one who really changed the course for Arkansas politics.
[00:23:15] KM: Because of his New York connections.
[00:23:18] RB: Progressive stand. The old guard democrats, he stood up to them.
[00:23:25] KM: You said he did a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. on the State Capital steps.
[00:23:31] RB: That is an example of his courage. I mean, this is like 4 days after the assassination of Martin Luther King. And the pastors in Little Rock, the African-American pastors, wanted to do a memorial service at the State Capital. And they invited Rockefeller. And Rockefeller didn’t have to do it. It was a political liability. He could have been in danger. He could have been shot on the Capital Steps. And he did it. And he joined arms with the pastors and saying we shall overcome. It’s a very, very courageous thing to do. And he was the only governor in the country to do something out in the open publicly like that. And he almost lost the election 6 months later for another term. Because of that, I’m convinced.
[00:24:17] KM: Dale Bumpers.
[00:24:17] RB: Oh, magnificent.
[00:24:20] KM: Magnificent. Wow! Everybody likes Dale Bumpers.
[00:24:23] RB: Well, he was dazzling. I know he’s Ernie’s favorite, Ernie Dumas’ favorite. Well, I obviously worked with Dale for four years, and I know him well, knew him well. But again, Dale implemented Rockefeller’s programs, legislative programs for education, for re-organization of state government, or racing the state income tax to fund programs. To creating – I don’t know if he created this. But he certainly worked with African-Americans. Rockefeller want to have a commission for African-Americans and whites to work together to better the relationships. So Dale took a lot of those ideas and programs and implemented them.
[00:25:13] KM: You said Dale Bumpers battled against political corruption.
[00:25:17] RB: He did. He had to fight the old guard and the general assembly. And he was very adept at doing that. Political corruption in the sense that we still had pockets in Arkansas where you had control over the counties by county judges, legislators, whatever. They tried to create a special judicial district, as a matter of fact, up in Faulkner County, which is Conway in Morrilton so that they could control the prosecutor up there. Control the judges. And they just had their own little fiefdom. And there’s a bill that passed the general assembly, and Dale vetoed it. And everyone said, “Well, if you veto that bill, you’re never going to be elected dog cashier after that.” Of course, he was elected US senator. What do they know?
[00:26:09] KM: Right. A good does win out sometimes people. Let’s see, the next one, David Pryor.
[00:26:18] RB: Just the nicest guy in the world.
[00:26:20] KM: That’s what everyone says about him.
[00:26:21] RB: Yeah. I mean, you can’t help it like David. I ran a campaign against him with Jim Guy. And I learned a real lesson. Jim Guy probably is more talented, more adept at certainly governing and legislation and the ins and outs of being in government than David. And I thought that would carry the day. But David, everybody liked, and likeability, a nice personality. He always wins the day, and I learned a lesson in politics about that campaign.
[00:26:58] KM: A likeable personality.
[00:27:00] RB: That’s exactly.
[00:27:01] KM: David Pryor’s veto of the US Corps of Engineer’s Bell Folley Dam you said was his moment.
[00:27:07] RB: Oh boy! Well, that was guts.
[00:27:10] KM: His defining moment.
[00:27:11] RB: That was development, you know, real estate developers. I think John McClellan was involved in it. I think Bill Alexander, who is a congressman. And what it would do, it just would destroy. I think the name of the river was the Spring River, something like that. It would destroy that natural stream. And there were few free-running streams in the state of Arkansas, and that would be dammed up and destroyed.
And couple of the environmentalists in the state came to David and said, “You just really can’t do that.” And he and his staff, I talked to some of his staff, and they’ve got in a helicopter and flew over the site and this, that and the other. And David said, “I’m just –” Back then, a governor could stop a corps engineers’ project. And that’s what it was, corps of engineers. But the corps was going to create this lake and then the developers could create communities around the lake and sell those homes. So that’s where the money was, recreation and all of that. But David, it was a very, I thought, courageous decision for him to do that. And he stuck by his guns.
[00:28:20] KM: Frank White?
[00:28:21] RB: Frank White was just a – I criticize Frank, and I recognize his talents. The fact that he was a great master of ceremonies, great fund raiser, could really tell a joke. Again, everybody liked Frank White. But I didn’t like the fact that he introduced a bill, and he didn’t do it just on his own. I mean, it’s sailed through the house in the senate, and the bill basically said you had to give equal time to creationism as far as the way we developed, humans developed, kind of the Genesis theory, equal time to that, and Darwin, evolution. If you’re going to teach evolution, you have to teach Genesis.
And of course that piece of legislation, it passed. Was taken to court as an infringement on the protection against creating a religion with state legislation. It was a violation of the first amendment, separation of church and state. And the people who attacked the legislation won. But I thought that Frank had made a commitment, I think, during his campaign, that he was going to introduce that legislation. He was a very devout Christian. And kind of followed up on that commitment and got it done. But I thought it was the wrong thing for him to do.
[00:29:47] KM: Yeah. You’re saying the endorsement of creationism is to teach Christianity in church? I mean, in schools.
[00:29:56] RB: In schools, yeah.
[00:29:57] KM: Oh, I didn’t know that’s what endorsement of creationism is. It’s to teach Christianity in school.
[00:30:02] RB: Well, it was endorsement. That might not be the best word to use, but the bill said that if you t each evolution, Darwinism, you have to teach creationism.
[00:30:15] KM: I gotcha.
[00:30:16] RB: So equal time type thing. And that was a violation of church and state.
[00:30:21] KM: Bill Clinton.
[00:30:23] RB: Gutsy with his trying to reform education in the state and testing teachers. Can you imagine?
[00:30:32] KM: They were mad. I actually remember that. They were mad.
[00:30:36] RB: Oh! As wet hornets. I mean, this was just – It was just amazing.
[00:30:41] KM: Was it a good decision?
[00:30:43] RB: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, I think so.
[00:30:45] KM: Did it even do anything? It’s what I always wondered. Did it really ever do anything?
[00:30:51] RB: Well, I think it weeded-out – I hate to say this publicly. But I think there were some people that shouldn’t have been in the classroom and maybe some of them were involved in athletics. But it weeded-out a few people who did not know how to add, did not know how to write a sentence. I mean, I’m just being brutally frank.
[00:31:13] KM: So it did work.
[00:31:14] RB: Yeah. And I think people who took the test, serious with the test, that about 90% passed.
[00:31:21] KM: But 10% did not.
[00:31:23] RB: 10% did not.
[00:31:23] KM: And some people didn’t take even the test. They just refused to do it. They just said I’m quitting. That doesn’t even include those. Jim Guy Tucker, who you loved, you worked for.
[00:31:33] RB: I worked with Tucker, and I didn’t work with him when he was governor. I was over at the Supreme Court by that time. But he took each side to put a tax on the soft drink industry. And because Clinton left him with a bit of a deficit in state government and he had to find some money real quick, because people are going to be throwing of the Medicaid roles, etc. So how did he find that money? Well, the simple solution would have been to raise the sales tax. But that’s regressive. I mean, that hurts everybody. And he decided that something like a tax on soft drink syrup was the better route to go.
[00:32:16] KM: Well, it is a Medicaid. He’s trying to fund Medicaid, which has got health problems caused from sodas. So that kind of makes sense.
[00:32:26] RB: Well, I’m not going there.
[00:32:28] KM: Yeah, okay. But they have related those two together.
[00:32:33] RB: They said this is the poor man’s luxury, having Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola and whatnot. I mean, it was – You talk about people just rising up on their hind legs and screaming.
[00:32:44] KM: And then he had to resign, but he didn’t resign for – But he resigned for health reasons.
[00:32:50] RB: No. I think he said that he had been charged with – I don’t know. He was wrapped up in the whole thing where they were trying to get Clinton.
[00:33:00] KM: Oh, that’s right. Well, he was also awaiting a liver transplant.
[00:33:05] RB: Yes, that’s exactly right.
[00:33:06] KM: So he could either stay and fight the good fight in court and try to stay governor, or he could get out and try to save his health and get on the liver transplant. Yeah, he’d been through –
[00:33:14] RB: Yes. He’s very, very sick.
[00:33:17] KM: He was very sick.
[00:33:17] RB: And still is.
[00:33:20] KM: He might have caused himself his life if he’d stayed in that sort of a stressful situation.
[00:33:25] RB: I think that’s exactly right.
[00:33:26] KM: All right. Mike Huckabee is the last one in your book.
[00:33:31] RB: Mike Huckabee made a couple of courageous decisions. One involved education. You talked about one of my – What I thought some of my best decisions were. I think the Lakeview decision where we raised money available for students in high school was one of the best. We said it’s a state obligation. The state has to step in. Not just the school districts. And fund the education to make it equal for everybody. And Mike Huckabee, to his credit, I thought he was going to oppose it. And he came in. I think the decision was handed down November 2002. He came in January of 2003 and said, “I endorse it completely, and we need to go beyond what the court had said. We need to do more. We need to consolidate school districts and have topnotch programs; algebra, calculus and whatnot available to a broader range of students.”
[00:34:30] KM: Where is Lakeview school district? In the Delta?
[00:34:33] RB: It’s in the Delta. Putnam County I think.
[00:34:35] KM: I don’t understand the way they write these cases. Lakeview school district number 25 versus Huckabee. It sounds like he’s against it, the way you write those cases.
[00:34:47] RB: Well, what you’re doing is a case against the state government.
[00:34:52] KM: So the Lakeview school district number 25 is against the – I get you.
[00:34:56] RB: Yeah. I think first was against Jim Guy Tucker. And then Huckabee became governor and the name changed.
[00:35:04] KM: And that’s – I just want to tell everybody that you’re listening to Up in Your Business with me. I’m Kerry McCoy, and that I’m speaking today with the retired associate judge of the Arkansas Supreme Court, Mr. Robert L. Brown. We’re going to talk about some of Councilor Brown’s fascinating knowledge of the Salem witch trials in the 1600s in just a second. But first I want to talk about another important law suit you did, which was the US Term Limits versus Thornton. Again, that’s written really funny to me. I’m not a lawyer. That legal ease is odd to me. It sounds like Thornton is the bad guy.
[00:35:45] RB: No.
[00:35:47] KM: US Term Limits Inc. is the government, and Thornton is saying – What was he saying in his –
[00:35:55] RB: He was named in the suit when it went to the US Supreme Court. He was not originally part of the suit, but he was a congressman. And the Term Limits’ case had to do of where were you going to limit the terms of US senators and US congressman. So that’s why his name was part of the litigation when it went to the US Supreme Court.
The people of Arkansas had voted the limit, the term limits of governors and legislations and state senators. But also US congressman and US senators. And the question was whether they had the authority to do that. And my opinion said they did not. And it went up to the US Supreme Court. Our case did. Changed the name. And the US Supreme Court said that we were right. One vote, it was a 5-4 decision. If it had shifted the other way, we’d have term limits for congressman and senators now.
[00:36:49] KM: I thought we do have term limits for congressman and senators.
[00:36:52] RB: Not for US senators and congressman, just the state.
[00:36:54] KM: They just have to run all the time.
[00:36:55] RB: They have to run all the time, which –
[00:36:57] KM: But they can run forever.
[00:37:00] RB: Yes. That’s right.
[00:37:01] KM: Is every state the same?
[00:37:03] RB: As far as term limits?
[00:37:05] KM: Aha. Or is each state individual get to vote on a different –
[00:37:06] RB: They can change it. Each state could be different. But as far as the US, that’s a different ballpark. That’s subject to the United States Constitution. And that’s when I grounded the decision, “Oh, and the US Constitution says you have certain qualifications to serve as a senator or a representative.” And the fact that you have served before in this role, it’s not one of the named qualifications.
[00:37:31] KM: So those are the two you’re proud of.
[00:37:34] RB: I am proud of that.
[00:37:36] KM: Yeah. Which one are you wish that you could take back? Or is there one? I know you’re not supposed to dwell on the things you do wrong ever. But we all kind of have one.
[00:37:44] RB: Well, it’s hard to second guess perfection, but I’ll try.
[00:37:49] KM: Good touché.
[00:37:52] RB: There are a couple of environmental cases that I went along with what the federal agency, EPA, said about mercury being poured into some of the Arkansas rivers and whatnot. And I went ahead and I was with the majority and said that we would allow that. And I don’t think that was the right decision.
[00:38:17] KM: How does mercury get poured to a river?
[00:38:19] RB: It’s a matter of how much mercury. And they said the level was so minimal that it was okay. I don’t think any mercury is a good idea.
[00:38:29] KM: In hindsight.
[00:38:30] RB: In hindsight.
[00:38:31] KM: What factory has mercury?
[00:38:34] RB: Oh gosh! I think –
[00:38:37] GM: I think it’s a byproduct of coal production or coal burning. Yeah.
[00:38:41] RB: I think that’s right.
[00:38:43] GM: Coal power. Yeah.
[00:38:44] KM: Coal power. Well, there’s not much of that left, I don’t think.
[00:38:47] RB: Yeah, trying to phase it out. I think our president wants to resuscitate it, but I don’t think that’s worked.
[00:38:55] KM: Out of the 10 governors that we talked about in your book, which one was the one you didn’t know? You said you knew 9 of them.
[00:39:01] RB: I didn’t know Francis Cherry. He was only a governor for one term. And just never had occasion to meet him, but I certainly knew all the rest.
[00:39:12] KM: All right. You know what we’re coming up one now.
[00:39:16] RB: Halloween?
[00:39:16] KM: Halloween. Salem witch trials. So I just want to remind everybody again that you’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and that I’m speaking today with retired associate judge of the Arkansas Supreme Court, Mr. Robert L. Brown, Bob Brown. So I met you when you were doing a fun talk on the Salem witch trials. And I remember it was in the 1600ths I believe, and there were two sisters. Do you know what I’m talking about?
[00:39:48] RB: Yes. That’s how it started.
[00:39:49] KM: Okay. Tell us.
[00:39:50] RB: Well, it’s just a bizarre thing. It was a witch hunt in 1692, and what happened was one morning the daughter of the priest, the minister in that town, which was Salem, Massachusetts. The minister in that town, Salem Village, his daughter began throwing fits and talking gibberish just like the actors in the Exorcist. I mean, contortions and all of these. And she had a first cousin who lived in the house with her, a woman that’s named Abigail Williams, I think. The first cousin took on the same attribute, contortions and everything. Just think about the Exorcist. And that’s what they were doing. Something was wrong.
[00:40:43] KM: Have they theorized what was wrong with them?
[00:40:44] RB: No. They had no idea. They were witch craft. They were bewitched.
[00:40:48] KM: Oh, I got you.
[00:40:49] RB: And that was a criminal offense. In fact, you could be executed for being a witch under the laws of – It was a colony then, the Bay Colony in Massachusetts, what became Massachusetts. So it was a serious, serious thing. And they had people like Cotton Mather, who was a minister in Boston who came down and said, “Yeah, I think these people are witches.”
But they actually had trials, and it wound up with about I think maybe 19 people being executed. A couple of men, but by and large, they were women hanged as witches. And I think one man was buried under stones. But for the most part, they were hanged. They weren’t burned at the stake. That happened in Europe, Sweden. They had a similar situation where they out to the witches. But they were hanged.
[00:41:43] KM: Now these two girls didn’t – They didn’t do anything to these two girls, did they?
[00:41:49] RB: No.
[00:41:51] KM: Because they ended up pointing the finger at somebody else.
[00:41:54] RB: Absolutely. See, they were ministers of good, and they could say, “Okay, I’m accusing her.” It was something where you didn’t actually have to have proof. You could just say that this woman who was a beggar in town, she’s a witch. She gave me the evil eye, whatever.
[00:42:14] KM: And that’s how come I’m having fits.
[00:42:16] RB: And that’s why I’m having fits. I’m being bewitched by her. And there was someone else in that household we’re talking about. It was the Parris household that was a salve that worked in that household from Barbados named Tituba. And Tituba was accused of taking some of these young girls out into the field and teaching them events, like heathen events, stripping to the waist and all of that.
[00:42:47] KM: Oh, rituals.
[00:42:48] RB: The rituals. Thank you. And so Tituba and the two girls were the first three to be arrested and put in jail.
[00:42:57] KM: But then they didn’t – Not any of them. Not any of those three ended up being executed because they were clever.
[00:43:06] RB: No. It was just the people that they accused.
[00:43:09] KM: So they go to jail and they start saying, “Oh, I’m bewitched by the baker down the street.
[00:43:15] RB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But they didn’t like. People that they had heard bad things about.
[00:43:21] KM: So they became experts on who is a witch and who wasn’t.
[00:43:24] RB: That’s right. And when some of their peers, adolescence, they were all pre-pubescent. When some of their peers realized how much attention they were getting. And these were girls. They decide, “I want to join in with them. This is kind of fun. I think such and such, so and so is a witch.” So it really spread throughout the community. And they start having trials and it had magistrates sitting hear testimony against these people who were supposedly witches. And it was hysteria is what it was.
[00:44:00] KM: Yeah, it is. How did – Was there a jury or did a judge just go, “Yeah, I believe her.”
[00:44:08] RB: The magistrate is pretty much decided at. And then they brought the charges. And then there was a jury after that. There was a jury. But the jury was not going to take an opposite approach from the magistrates. And the popular opinion was such it was pro-conviction. It was hard to vote in favor of a witch.
[00:44:29] KM: Why?
[00:44:30] RB: Because witches were – If you looked like a witch. If you were destitute, your hair was stringy, you had this, that and the other, you were considered to be evil for the community.
[00:44:41] KM: Or too smart. I thought they got rid of smart women like that. I was like, “I’d be burned at this day.”
[00:44:46] RB: Well, there was one person. And the governor of the colony –
[00:44:50] KM: What?
[00:44:51] RB: There was one person who was accused and convicted. And the governor of the colony said, “No. No. We’re not going to convict her. We’re not going to execute her.” And there was such an outrage by the people in Salem. They said, “No! We’ve got to execute her.” And they did. And it was just – It was terrible.
[00:45:12] KM: What was the Barbados –
[00:45:15] RB: Tituba.
[00:45:17] KM: Didn’t she ended up getting the young girls in trouble somehow?
[00:45:21] RB: Well, yeah, she did. She did. And they got her in trouble.
[00:45:24] KM: Because the young girls fingered her and she fingered the young girl’s back somehow.
[00:45:29] RB: Yeah. They all were in cahoots. And Tituba told stories about riding on brooms and that sort of thing. I mean, she made –
[00:45:36] KM: In the house.
[00:45:38] RB: Around the house and how she had seen this, that and the other. Not so much the two girls that she had raised. She was the nanny for these girls in the house. But it was other girls that she talked about who were –
[00:45:50] KM: Did the preacher get to stay? The preacher?
[00:45:52] RB: He got stay, the preacher, and about six months later he said, “I think I was over skis on this one.” And he kind of backed up. Again, his parishioner said, “You can’t do that.” So he kind of got more steel and said, “Okay, I think that we have been besought by witchcraft.” But then at the end when everybody was reversing themselves, he reversed himself and had to leave the community.
[00:46:19] KM: All right. We’re at the end of the show. Councilor Brown, Bob Brown. Was the name of your book again? I saw it on Amazon.
[00:46:26] RB: Defining Moments.
[00:46:28] KM: Defining Moments, 10 governors’ defining moments.
[00:46:31] RB: Yeah.
[00:46:31] KM: And you’re writing another book now, aren’t you? My Path to Justice.
[00:46:36] RB: Yeah. Good for you.
[00:46:38] KM: Is it about your life?
[00:46:39] RB: It is. Memoire.
[00:46:40] KM: Memoire. I love that. That’s really nice. Well, I have you a gift for coming on the radio.
[00:46:46] RB: Oh! Hotdog.
[00:46:46] KM: I know, right? Ain’t she wrapped up nice?
[00:46:49] RB: She did.
[00:46:50] KM: Maybe I should pull it out for you. Wow!
[00:46:52] RB: Red, white and blue. That’s good.
[00:46:54] KM: Red, white and blue. Where is it? Gray.
[00:46:58] RB: Miniscule.
[00:46:58] GM: Perhaps it’s in the bottom of the bag.
[00:47:00] KM: Oh, there you go. Wow! All right. Here you go.
[00:47:02] RB: Oh! That’s beautiful.
[00:47:03] KM: It’s a US flag and Arkansas flag and a Texas flag from where you born. And here’s your base, the Lone Star. Texas has a great flag. That Lone Star is great. Everything about Texas is kind of good. They get boots and hats.
[00:47:19] RB: My son and my grandchildren are there, and we were talking recently about people are leaving California who wants to live in California now.
[00:47:26] KM: Oh no, it’s terrible.
[00:47:26] RB: And they come into Texas.
[00:47:28] KM: Well, there you go. Well, I just want to say in closing, thank you to my listeners for spending time with us. We hope you’ve heard or learned something that’s been inspiring or enlightening, and that it, whatever it is will help you up your business, your independence, or your life. I’m Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[00:47:53] GM: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today’s show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio and choose today’s guest. If you’d like to sponsor this show or any show, contact me, Gray. That’s email@example.com. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stay informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube channel or podcast wherever you like to listen. Kerry’s goal is simple, to help you live the American dream.