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Arkansans across the state are working toward a common goal of preserving our unique history. Communities are embracing the past to build a bright future and we’re pleased to advocate on behalf of these efforts.
For the last several years, residents of Blytheville have engaged in redeveloping Eaker Air Force Base to honor the men and women who served there and the role they played in safeguarding the world against the threat of nuclear war. The Arkansas Congressional Delegation is supporting this effort with the recent introduction of legislation to designate the exhibit as the National Cold War Center.
First opened during World War II as an advanced pilot training school, it later became an alert center during the Cold War. While the base closed in 1992, community members are working to preserve its history and display material and information about its mission and the wider conflict between America and the Soviet Union. I had the opportunity to visit the center in 2021 and witnessed the enthusiasm of leaders and citizens alike. They are dedicated to sharing the experiences of the selfless servicemembers who served there, promoting education and encouraging visitors to explore the exhibit.
There are a number of similar efforts happening across the state that recognize the historic significance of our state across other eras in our past.
Last month, President Biden signed into law legislation designating the Butterfield Overland Trail as a National Historic Trail. We guided this measure through Congress to celebrate the state’s role in westward expansion.
Stagecoaches traveled between St. Louis and Memphis to San Francisco delivering mail and passengers along this trail, including several locations in Arkansas before the routes merged in Fort Smith and continued all the way to the Pacific coast.
This legislation was driven by Arkansans dedicated to preserving and celebrating it. They have long maintained this designation will inspire more visitors to locations along the trail including the well-preserved Potts Inn Museum that served as a way station along the path.
In November, Marion community members broke ground on the Sultana Disaster Museum. This was the result of a decades-long initiative to preserve artifacts from the Civil War-era steamboat that exploded and sank in the Mississippi River claiming the lives of more than 1,000 passengers. It was rediscovered in 1982.
Since then, local residents have come together to ensure this tragedy will be remembered and the stories of individuals onboard will be shared for future generations. Building this museum is an investment in the community and the region.
Fort Smith is closely tied to the history of the U.S. Marshals Service and preserving law and order in our developing nation. The early days of the service is rooted in the buildings overlooking the Arkansas River near the location of the U.S. Marshals Museum, which will be opening in the coming months. This attraction honors the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the Marshals Service and will also be a boon to the local economy. As a history enthusiast, I enjoy visiting locations across the state to learn about the past and I’m pleased to support the enterprises underway to showcase the part it has played in shaping our culture, history and identity.