Republican, Democratic candidates graduated from same high school, likely a first in state’s gubernatorial history

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 1,415 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, left, and Jared Henderson are graduates of Springdale High School.

There are plenty of differences between the Republican and Democratic candidates in Arkansas’ gubernatorial race this year.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the Republican, and Democratic challenger Jared Henderson also have a common denominator, one that’s believed to be a first in the state’s modern political history.

Hutchinson and Henderson are both graduates of Springdale High School. The governor graduated in 1968; Henderson in 1997.

Has there ever been a governor’s race in Arkansas where the candidates from the two major parties are graduates of the same high school? It’s an interesting oddity, at the least. But a historical first?

(Before continuing, a note to point out: Mark West, the gubernatorial candidate representing the Libertarian Party this year, graduated from West Memphis High School.)

A quick scan of “The Governors of Arkansas,” a book published in 1995 by University of Arkansas Press, includes biographical sketches of the state’s 43 consecutive leaders since 1836, from James Conway to Jim Guy Tucker. The trouble is, it often doesn’t tell you much about their opponents, and sometimes not even who they were.

Historical election results in Arkansas are maintained by the Secretary of State’s office, but only dating back to 1976.

Seeking additional insight, the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal sought the input of Ernest Dumas of Little Rock, a legendary Arkansas journalist and a deft source of the state’s history and politics.

Dumas said he couldn’t recall an instance where graduates of the same high school ran against each other in an Arkansas governor’s race. If there was such an occurrence, “it would be more likely to happen the farther back you go, especially the days when there weren’t many high schools,” Dumas said.

As an interesting side note relating to high schools, Dumas made reference to J. Marion Futrell, Arkansas’ 30th governor who served from 1933 to 1937. Futrell did not believe in high schools, Dumas said, and tried to stop funding them. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, Futrell thought high schools “useless, in part because he considered their graduates not thoroughly educated, and because he felt that few educated people were needed in rural Arkansas. (He believed an eighth-grade education was enough.)”

Dumas said other governors, like Ben Laney, who served two terms as governor from 1945 to 1949, didn’t finish high school, though he did earn a bachelor’s degree from Arkansas State Normal School (now the University of Central Arkansas) in 1924.

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