I suspect the state Legislature recently voted to replace the statues of U.M. Rose and James P. Clarke in Statuary Hall in Washington because both men have slipped out of public awareness. While Rose and Clarke are little known today, they have interesting histories and made substantial impacts on Arkansas history.
Uriah Milton Rose was born March 5, 1834, to Nancy and Joseph Rose of Bradfordsville, Ky. His father was a physician. Like so many others of that time, Rose was orphaned at an early age.
In 1853, at the age of 19, Rose began the study of law at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky., where he received a law degree and began his lifelong practice of law.
Rose, who married Margaret T. Gibbs of Kentucky while studying law, relocated to Batesville, Ark., in the winter of 1853. The family prospered in Batesville, including having three sons. In 1860, Gov. Elias N. Conway appointed the 26-year-old Rose to the statewide position of chancery judge.
He opposed secession during the run-up to the Civil War. However, once hostilities began he joined the Southern cause, though physical frailties prevented service in the rebel army. When Batesville was occupied in May 1862, Judge Rose was arrested since he was a Confederate office holder. Paroled, Rose and his family moved to Washington in Hempstead County, the Confederate state capital after Little Rock fell in 1863.
While living in Washington, Rose was delegated by the Confederate state government to travel to Richmond, Va., the Confederate national capital, to make a record of every Arkansan who served in the Confederate forces. The journey was an eventful one, including crossing the blockaded Mississippi River in a canoe while leading his horse alongside.
Rose and his crew of young women transcriptionists finished their work as Christmas approached in 1864. The records were lost when Union forces burned the warehouse in Mississippi where they were stored.
As soon as the guns fell silent in 1865, Rose moved his family to Little Rock. He joined the law firm of George C. Watkins, a former chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court and the former law partner of Chester Ashley. Ultimately, the practice became known as the Rose Firm, a name which continues today.
In August 1878, Rose journeyed to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where he joined 75 other invited lawyers to establish the American Bar Association. Four years later, he invited 21 lawyers from across the state to meet in his office to form the Arkansas Bar Association.
Rose reached the pinnacle of his career in 1907 when President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to a panel of three distinguished attorneys to represent the U.S. at the Second Hague Peace Conference.
Rose died in August 1913 after falling in his office. He was buried at Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock. Rose's descendants have continued to contribute to the legal community in Arkansas, especially his grandson, the late George Rose Smith, a long-serving member of the state Supreme Court.
Rose's prominence led the 1915 Legislature to select him to represent Arkansas in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. The life-size bronze statue was the work of New York artist Frederic Wellington Ruckstull, who earlier sculpted the Confederate Soldiers Monument on the stateCapitol grounds.
James Paul Clarke, who served as governor of Arkansas and U.S. senator, was the opposite of U.M. Rose in many ways, especially temperament.
Clarke was born in Mississippi on Aug. 18, 1854, to Walter Clarke, an architect and engineer, and Ellen White, a prominent planter's daughter. He studied law at the University of Virginia, receiving a degree in 1878.
Relocating to Arkansas in 1879, he settled first at Ozark in Franklin County then soon moved to the prosperous town of Helena on the Mississippi River where he established a thriving law practice. In 1883, he married Sallie Moore Wooten of Mississippi; they had three children.
Entering politics as a Democrat in 1886, Clarke won election to the Arkansas House of Representatives. Two years later he won a seat in the state Senate. The 1888 elections--in which the ruling Democratic Party was seriously challenged by an unusual reformist coalition of Republicans, disgruntled farmers, and labor--was probably the most corrupt in state history.
Clarke easily won election as state attorney general in 1892, but did not seek re-election. That was just as well because in 1894 the Democratic state convention nominated him for governor by acclamation.
He became a strong proponent of the coinage of silver, an inflationary idea which had broad appeal among the increasingly impoverished farmers of the state. Additionally, as historian Richard Niswonger has written, Clarke "struck at both the Populist and Republican threats by upholding white supremacy as the keystone of the Democratic Party."
In his final speech of the campaign, Clarke said: "The people of the South looked to the Democratic Party to preserve the white standards of civilization." By appropriating much of the Populist platform and wrapping himself in the cloak of racism, Clarke easily won.
As governor, Clarke undertook several progressive initiatives, including an unsuccessful call for a constitutional convention to rewrite the restrictive 1874 state constitution. He also supported four-year terms for state and county offices. That proposal, like his effort to move from biennial to quad-rennial legislative sessions, failed. Significantly, Clarke also failed in his bid to adopt a franchise tax.
Another popular agrarian reform which Clarke supported was an effort to create a state railroad regulatory commission. Clarke attributed the defeat of the railroad commission to bribes paid by the Iron Mountain Railroad. Clarke let his renowned short temper get the best of him and confronted on opposing legislator, took him "by the ear" and spat in his face. U.S. Senator Joe T. Robinson, who served with Clarke in the Legislature, recalled that Clarke's "physical courage was primitive, at times almost savage."
In 1896 Clarke did not seek a second term as governor, instead unsuccessfully opposing incumbent U.S. Senator James K. Jones. In 1902, with the help of Gov. Jeff Davis, Clarke defeated Jones in a hotly contested rematch.
Known as "old cotton top" for his head of white hair, Clarke continued his independent and confrontational style in the Senate. The Arkansas Gazette described Clarke as having "a tongue like a scythe blade that can cut and carve."
He often voted with Sen. Robert La Follette, the insurrectionist reformer from Wisconsin. Continuing to oppose the railroad companies, he voted to strengthen the Interstate Commerce Commission and opposed the imperialist tendencies of the times, unsuccessfully proposing a measure to grant independence to the Philippines.
Clarke died after a brief illness on Oct. 1, 1916. He was buried at Little Rock's Oakland Cemetery. One of Clarke's descendants, Little Rock attorney Clarke Tucker, has served in the state Legislature and in 2018 ran a strong campaign for Congress against an incumbent Republican.
Within a year of Senator Clarke's death, the Arkansas Legislature voted to place a statue of him in Statuary Hall. His statue was created by an Italian American from Texas named Pompeo Coppini.
Tom Dillard is a historian and retired archivist living near Glen Rose in rural Hot Spring County. Email him at Arktopia.email@example.com.
This statue of James Paul Clarke was given to the National Statuary Hall Collection by Arkansas in 1921.
Editorial on 04/14/2019
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