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John F. Wells Papers

Identifier: MC 791

Scope and Content Note

Series 1, Biographical Materials, includes samples of essays written by John Wells when attending the University of Arkansas in the early 1920s, newspaper essays written by Wells that were primarily autobiographical, newspaper clippings which feature Wells and his career as the subject, correspondence pertaining to Wells personally and the operation of his newspaper, and research materials for articles Wells planned to write or collected out of general interest. Series 2, Jovejoy Award Documents, includes newspaper clippings and letters of congratulations Wells collected which primarily concern his winning of the Elijah Lovejoy Award in 1959. Series 3, Brooks Hays Litigation Documents, contains documents pertaining to the charges Wells filed with the United States House of Representatives challenging the 1958 election of Dr. Dale Alford. Series 4, J. William Fulbright Materials, contains letters and statements collected by Wells concerning Fulbright. Series 5, Orval Faubus Materials, includes clippings, letters, and research notes concerning the governor and school integration. Series 6 contains documents Wells collected concerning the many court cases he instigated or was interested in. Series 7 consists of photographs of Wells as a young man.


  • 1923-1983


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Access Information

RESTRICTIONS APPLY: To protect personal confidentiality, a letter dated December 17, 1958, from C. Stelle to John F. Wells has been removed from Series 3 and will be unavailable for research use until 2023.

Please call (479) 575-8444 or email at least two weeks in advance of your arrival to ensure availability of the materials.

Use Information

No Use Restrictions Apply.

No Interlibrary Loan.

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical Note

John Fenton Wells (1903-1987) was a Little Rock newspaper editor and publisher. He was a native of Little Rock and graduated from Central High School and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1925. He worked for the Arkansas Gazette from 1930 to 1936 as a reporter and city editor. When Carl Bailey became governor of Arkansas in 1937, Wells joined his staff as executive secretary and later served as a member of the Arkansas Corporation Commission. Aside from publishing a newspaper for troops stationed at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, in 1941, John Wells began printing the Legislative Digest, a daily summary of legislative activity and information on bills during sessions of the legislature. He temporarily lost the state's patronage for the Digest in 1958 after a squabble with Governor Orval Faubus. Wells established theLittle Rock Arkansas Recorder in 1949 and continued its publication until 1960. The Recorder was succeeded by the Daily Record, primarily a digest of the public transactions, and the Weekly News Review, a weekly compilation of articles lifted from the Record. Wells' political philosophy could be classified generally as extremely conservative, yet his admiration and detestation of Arkansas political figures frequently contradicted his apparent ideological sympathies. For example, Wells wrote in his 1962 book, Time Bomb, that he believed Orval Faubus was actually a liberal on the race issue and acted in the Central High crisis in such a manner as to strengthen the power of the federal government, but when Brooks Hays, a moderate on the integration issue, was defeated by Dale Alford for re-election to the United States Congress in 1958, Wells led the call for an investigation of the election. His courage and persistence were recognized in 1959 when Wells received the Elijah Lovejoy Award for Courage in Journalism given by Southern Illinois University.


0.5 Linear Feet (137 items in 1 Box)

Arrangement of the Papers

The John F. Wells papers have been arranged in seven series by subject.

  1. Series 1. Biographical Materials, 1923-1983 (Box 1, Folders 1-5)
  2. Series 2. Lovejoy Award Documents, 1959 (Box 1, Folders 6-7)
  3. Series 3. Brooks Hays Litigation Documents, 1958-1960 (Box 1, Folders 8-10)
  4. Series 4. J. William Fulbright Materials, 1941-1979 (Box 1, Folder 11)
  5. Series 5. Orval Faubus Materials, 1936-1972 (Box 1, Folder 12)
  6. Series 6. Miscellaneous Litigation Papers, 1929-1983 (Box 1, Folder 13)
  7. Series 7. Photographs, ca. 1903-1920s (Box 1, Folder 14)

Acquisition Information

The John F. Wells Papers were donated to Special Collections by Clifton T. Wells of Little Rock, Arkansas, on April 21, 1987.

Processing Information

Prepared by Kim Allen Scott, Special Collections Department, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas, in September, 1988.



John F. Wells Papers
Kim Allen Scott
September 1988
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Department Repository

University of Arkansas Libraries
365 N. McIlroy Avenue
Fayetteville AR 72701 United States
(479) 575-8444