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Dale Bumpers Papers

Identifier: MC 1490

Scope and Content Note

Materials include biographical information, correspondence, legislative and committee materials (Appropriations, Energy and Natural Resources, and Small Business committees). Additionally, the collection includes materials concerning personal and office records, speeches and voting records, photographs, posters, audio visual materials, and ephemera.


  • Creation: 1886-2011


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Access Information

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

Use Information

Restrictions Apply: Certain materials are restricted and not available for research.

No Interlibrary Loan.

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

Biographical Note

Dale Leon Bumpers was born in Charleston, Franklin County, Arkansas to William Rufus and Lattie Jones Bumpers on August 12, 1925. In 1943, he graduated from Charleston High School and in the fall of that year he completed one semester at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville before joining the U.S. Marines. Bumpers was discharged from the Marines in 1946, having attained the rank of Sergeant. He returned to the University of Arkansas and in 1948 graduated with a B.S. in Political Science. That same year he entered law school at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. In 1949, Bumpers married his long-time girlfriend, Betty Lou Flanagan, daughter of Herman Edward and Ola Dale Callan Flanagan. The couple had started dating as high school students in Charleston in 1942. They would have three children together, Brent, William and Margaret. The same year of his marriage, his parents were killed in a car crash. In 1951, Bumpers attained his law degree from Northwestern University and returned to Charleston to take over his family’s hardware and furniture store as well as opening a private law practice. Elected as Charleston City Attorney in 1952, Bumpers served in that capacity until 1970, having only lost only three cases.

On August 23, 1954, following the Supreme Court decision on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, Bumpers advised the Charleston School Board to abide by the ruling. The board acted on his advice and the Charleston School District was the first to integrate public schools in the South. Bumpers subsequently served three terms on the Charleston School Board. He made an unsuccessful bid for a State House seat in 1962. Bumpers sold the family hardware store and bought a 360-acre angus cattle farm in 1966, and served briefly as special justice for the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1968.

In 1970 Dale Bumpers decided to run for the office of Governor of Arkansas. Coming seemingly from nowhere, with a charismatic personality and superior skills as an orator, he defeated the prominent political figure Orval Faubus in the Democratic primary, and subsequently won the gubernatorial seat from the incumbent Governor Winthrop Rockefeller with 61.7% of the vote. He won a second term in 1972 with 75% of the vote. In 1974, perceiving a vulnerability in Senator William Fulbright’s seat in Congress, Bumpers ran for the senate and defeated Fulbright with 65% of the vote. He served in the Senate for twenty-four years until his retirement on January 3, 1999.

During his tenure in the Senate, Bumpers served on the Appropriations Committee, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and as chair of the Small Business Committee. He developed a reputation as a fiscal conservative, seeking drastic cutbacks to defense spending and striving toward reducing the national debt. He also advocated strongly for pro-environment issues and legislation. He introduced a bill in 1983 (passed by Congress) setting aside 91,000 acres as designated wilderness in Arkansas, earning him the Legislator of the Year award from the National Wildlife Federation. Throughout his career he dedicated himself to reforming mining laws seeking to halt mining companies from extracting resources from public lands without paying the proper royalties to the U.S. Treasury. In 1998 he was awarded the Ansel Adams award from the Wilderness Society for a career of advocating preservation of parklands and wilderness areas.

Though encouraged to run, Bumpers declined to seek the Presidency in 1976, 1984 and 1988. For his service to environment and agriculture, in 1995 the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees dedicated The College of Agriculture, Food and Life Science to him. After his retirement in 1999, Bumpers served as the director of the Center for Defense Information, a Defense subcommittee dedicated to monitoring military spending.

In January 1999, President Bill Clinton asked Bumpers if he would make the closing argument for the President’s impeachment trial. Many credit Bumpers’ subsequent speech as a deciding factor in the Senate’s acquittal vote two weeks later. In 2000 Bumpers took a position as counsel at the law firm Arent, Fox, Kintner, Plotkin and Kahnin Washington D.C. In 2003 he published his memoirs, The Best Lawyer in a One-Lawyer Town. He and Betty currently live in Little Rock, Arkansas.


1107 Linear Feet (1142 boxes)

1 Megabytes

Arrangement of the Papers

Materials are arranged and described in twenty-one series:

  1. Personal Materials
  2. Campaign Materials
  3. 94th Congress Materials
  4. 95th Congress Materials
  5. 96th Congress Materials
  6. 97th Congress Materials
  7. 98th Congress Materials
  8. 99th Congress Materials
  9. 100th Congress Materials
  10. 101st Congress Materials
  11. 102nd Congress Materials
  12. 103rd Congress Materials
  13. 104th Congress Materials
  14. 105th Congress Materials
  15. Issue Specific Materials
  16. Project Materials
  17. Speeches and Voting Records
  18. Photographs
  19. Audio-Video Materials
  20. Ephemera
  21. Oversize Items

Acquisition Information

The Dale Bumpers Papers were donated to Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, on December 4, 2000, by Senator Dale Bumpers of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Processing Information

Processed by Case Miner, Cody Hackett, Andrew Donovan, Todd Lewis, Britton Burnett, Vera Ekechukwu, Kirra Williams, and Alexandra Gough; completed in June 2013.

A recipe book compiled by Betty Bumpers was separated from the collection in 2004 as MC 1816, but was reintegrated into MC 1490 as Series 1, Subseries 1, Box 10 by Katrina Windon in August 2022.

Dale Bumpers Papers
Case Miner, Cody Hackett, Andrew Donovan, Todd Lewis, Britton Burnett, Vera Ekechukwu, Kirra Williams, and Alexandra Gough
June 2013
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