|Name||Sidney Sanders "Sid" McMath|
Hot Springs, Arkansas , United States
|| June 14, 1912
|Died||October 05, 2003
Jan 09, 2016 04:03pm
|Info||McMath was born on June, 14, 1912 in Columbia County, Arkansas. He was the first Arkansas governor to be born in the 20th century. When he was ten years old, his family moved to Hot Springs, where his father operated a barbershop. McMath worked his way through the University of Arkansas and law school by waiting tables, washing dishes, and boxing in exhibition matches. He earned his LL.B. degree in 1936. He married Elaine Broughton, who died following the birth of their son in 1942. McMath served in the Marine Corps and saw action at Guadalcanal, the Solomons, and Bougainville, where he received a battlefield promotion to lieutenant colonel. In 1944 McMath married Anne Phillips. Following the war, the couple settled in Hot Springs, where McMath opened a law practice. |
At that time Hot Springs was a wide-open resort town where illegal gambling ran rampant under the control of the political machine of Mayor Leo P. McLaughlin. In 1946 McMath created the Government Improvement League to challenge McLaughlin's control of the city. The league put forward a slate of nine candidates, including McMath who ran for city prosecutor. Despite threats of violence, all nine candidates triumphed, though by narrow margins. The press dubbed this turn of events the "G.I. Revolt."
At the age of thirty-four McMath had become the Infant Terrible of Arkansas politics, but his term as Garland County Prosecutor proved to be remarkably undistinguished. In 1948 he made his bid for governor. Aside from his youth and good looks, little distinguished his primary campaign from established tradition. Forced into a run-off election, McMath confronted an opponent who attempted to wrap himself in the mantle of state's rights and to engage in race-baiting. At issue were the efforts of President Harry Truman to promote federal action in the area of civil rights. These efforts had spawned a revolt among Southern Democrats who called themselves the "Dixiecrats." If McMath had chosen to parrot his opponent's demagoguery, he undoubtedly could have neutralized the potentially divisive issue of race and virtually have assured his election. Instead he championed Truman and the national Democratic Party in the face of the Dixiecratic challenge. Even so, showing his immense political skill, McMath easily won and was re-elected two years later.
McMath broke with the fiscal conservatism which had characterized Depression-era administrations. He realized that if Arkansas was to participate in the postwar boom sweeping the nation, the state would first have to dramatically improve its economic infrastructure. First and foremost that meant improving the state's roads which were among the worst in the nation. Just as Arkansas was beginning to retire the highway bond debt which had plagued the state for nearly two decades, McMath proposed a bold new highway construction program. During his two terms McMath would build more roads than any previous governor.
Mc Math was also a strong advocate of more adequate health care facilities, improved wages and safety standards for urban labor, and better schools for African Americans. He called for the repeal of the poll tax, supported an anti lynching bill, and appointed blacks to state boards and commissions. He a championed Arkansas rural electric coops in an effort to bring electric power to all Arkansans, a stance which won him powerful enemies at Arkansas Power and Light, the state's leading private electric company.
Scandals within the Highway Department emerged toward the end of McMath's second term. Though these were routine by Arkansas Highway Department standards, they received an enormous amount of attention through a well-orchestrated effort by McMath's enemies. This joined with Arkansas's tradition of limiting governors to two terms to ultimately defeat McMath's effort to win a third term in 1952. Two years later he narrowly lost in an attempt to unseat incumbent Senator John L. McClellan.
Sid McMath died on October 4, 2003 not long after the release of his appropriately titled autobiography, Promises Kept.