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‘Daughter of the White River’

The Homecoming of Helen Spence

lower White River, bayou bridge, circa 1900, by Dayton Bowers

lower White River, bayou bridge, circa 1900, by Dayton Bowers

Helen Spence Buster Eaton (788x1024)

By Denise White Parkinson

I journeyed many miles through this topsy-turvy world of love and loss before I found I did not have to walk alone. When I sought out a wise old river-man I had heard about, I gained a buddy for life. LC Brown shared his story, taking me back to my lost ancestral home (well, houseboat) on the White River, haunted as it is by the ghost of Helen Ruth Spence. I listened wholeheartedly, marveling as something invisible took tangible form.

As a muse, Helen Spence is matchless; as an avenging angel (LC’s name for her), she paid the price. No prison could hold her. She died a free woman. She beat the system in the only way possible, without going mad.

I miss my buddy terribly, but after six years working side-by-side to bring to light Arkansas’s (often dark) past, I can take comfort in the fact LC died at peace, knowing that the work was good and nearly complete. Daughter of the White River is a tribute to LC Brown, as are two upcoming exhibits that feature the Brown family’s archive of lost photos of the Delta.

This beautiful, ephemeral Spring sets a magical tone for Helen to make her debut. Her original photograph joins the traveling exhibit “White River Memoirs” for its Little Rock premiere next Friday, April 10, at Little Rock’s Butler Center Gallery. Reception from 5-8 pm.

In May, photographic archives from the family collection of LC Brown will premiere as “Delta Rediscovered: Arkansas County.” These lost photographs of Dayton Bowers of DeWitt span 1880-1924, depicting the rise of the Delta, its beauty and fertility. Stuttgart’s Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie welcomes this historic exhibit with a reception from 5-8 pm, Friday, May 22, in the gallery at 921 East 4th Street.

Visitors to “Delta Rediscovered: Arkansas County,” can view two dozen iconic images of lost Delta culture, digitally enlarged in a timeless union of past technique and present technology. In colorful counterpoint stands Linda Williams Palmer’s Prismacolor portrait of Arkansas’s Champion Bald Cypress, from her traveling exhibit “Champion Trees of Arkansas.” The state’s biggest tree, a landmark of the White River delta since before the river people came, will be standing long after we’re gone. Encounter a vision of cultural continuity relevant today as Arkansas struggles with looming shadows. This project is made possible in part by grants from the Arkansas Department of Heritage for May 2015 Heritage Month; and by the Morris Foundation.

Champion Bald Cypress of Arkansas County, by Linda Williams Palmer

Champion Bald Cypress of Arkansas County, by Linda Williams Palmer


Unclean Line

Unclean Line

Secretary of Energy
U.S. Dept. of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, D.C. 20585

Dear Secretary Moniz:

I am writing to express my misgivings regarding the “Plains and Eastern Clean Line” project slated to sever the state of Arkansas for the benefit of a limited liability corporation (“Clean Line Energy Partners”) that possesses no track record or accountability. The company’s project to cut across the entirety of the Upper White River watershed, which makes up 3/5 of the state of Arkansas, poses the greatest threat to the Lower White River Delta since the Great Depression.

The process of informing Arkansans about a proposal to cut the state in half has already resulted in marked division. The series of public meetings scheduled to share public information regarding this mammoth project all take place in the upper half of the state. Despite repeated requests that a meeting be scheduled in the lower half of the state, preferably near the White River Delta to inform Arkansans downstream, such reasonable requests were denied.

Historic precedent for this project occurred during the Great Depression when federal eminent domain was used to take control of Arkansas’s most fertile, prosperous region: the White River Delta. Upstream, federal flood control projects and dams resulted in the total destruction of a thriving culture. The White River’s mussel and button trade, as well as its fishing industry, were wiped out due to degradation of the White River, the state’s longest waterway. Families, including mine, lost their homes and way of life.

The “Clean” line project would similarly impact downstream communities along the White River watershed. The White River, proposed as a “National Blueway” in recent years, thus requires a greater level of scrutiny toward a project so vast in scope. To seek the sacrifice of entire systems of Arkansas watersheds for the needs of potential “Eastern” customers also poses a threat to the sovereignty of my home state.

The White River watershed has sacrificed enough to the greater good throughout the past century. The proposed “Clean” line throughway, hundreds of feet wide and hundreds of miles long, compounds an earlier wound still festering throughout communities displaced during the Great Depression’s disastrous eminent domain takeover; a takeover that has made the Delta the most impoverished region in Arkansas, if not the nation.

It is moreover a grave injustice to prevent the state’s poorest demographic (residents of the Delta) from participating in a process that (if approved) will affect them. The fact that no public meetings regarding this project are or will be scheduled in the Lower White River watershed demonstrates the inadequacy of the Plains and Eastern EIS from both a historical and environmental standpoint.

I protest this injustice against the citizens of Arkansas and call for termination of this project so that further degradation of the entire White River watershed can be prevented and further destruction of both upstream and Delta communities can be avoided.


Beverly Denise White Parkinson

Come see me at Tales From the South, Tuesday, Oct. 21

Tales From the South live taping

Tuesday, October 21, Historic Arkansas Museum, 200 E. 3rd St., Little Rock.

The schedule for the night is:
* Doors open at 5pm
* Dinner is served from 5pm-7pm. Dinner purchased separately from admission; food by Southern Salt Company Food Truck. Complimentary wine by HAM.

* Live music by Brad and Amy Williams from 6pm-7pm

This show is $10.00 admission and open to the public. All guests (except writers) MUST purchase a ticket before the show (and as soon as possible). Seating is very limited, and we tend to sell out 2-3 days before each show, so be sure to invite lots of people and to tell them to go to the website ( to purchase their tickets. The direct link for tickets for this show is: Tickets are non-refundable.

Seating is first-come, first served.