Perhaps no issue raises passions in a local election like the question of whether alcohol sales and transfers should be allowed or prohibited. Most of its current and former residents know that Bradley and Lafayette County are “dry,” but few know precisely how that came to be. While the most recent “local option” elections have been county-wide, Roane Township once had such an election of its very own, which did not affect the remainder of Lafayette County.
Prohibition had begun in 1920 as the law of the United States by the adoption of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the passage of the Volstead Act. Prohibition was repealed in 1933. At the time of its repeal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was quoted as saying, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” Roane Township voters apparently thought differently.
Two years later, on August 6, 1935, Lafayette County Judge A. M. Shirey entered an order in County Court calling a local option election in Roane Township:
“On this 6th day of August, 1935, … is presented the petition of Mrs. J. F. McKnight and 186 other legal voters of Roane Township, Lafayette County, Arkansas, which is 60 per cent of the legal voters of said territory … asking this Court to make an order … directing an election to be held in said territory on 22nd day of October 1935, … upon the proposition whether or not spirituous, vinous, or malt liquors shall be sold, bartered or loaned, therein and specifically requesting that if a majority of the legal voters be opposed to the sale, then barter or loan of said liquors as shown by said election that spirituous, vinous, or malt liquors shall not be sold, bartered, or loaned within said territory, neither shall they be sold by dispensaries, restaurants, hotels or clubs within said territory.”
“It is, therefore, … ordered … that an election shall be held on the 22nd day of October, 1935, within Roane Township, Lafayette County, Arkansas for the purpose of taking the sense of the legal voters in said territory and the
Sheriff, R. H. Duty is hereby directed to open a pole [sic] at each of the voting places within said territory on said date ….”
“In order that the sense of the legal voters of said territory may be determined in said election, the ballot shall read as follows:
‘For sale, barter and loan at wholesale and retail of spirituous, vinous, or malt liquors, in Roane Township, in Lafayette County, Arkansas.
Against sale, barter and loan at wholesale and retail of spirituous, vinous, or malt liquors, in Roane Township, in Lafayette County, Arkansas.’
This order can be found in County Court Record “S,” at page 88.
With 60 percent of the eligible voters signing the petition to hold the election, the outcome was predictable. On October 29, 1935, one week after the date of the election, Election Commissioners F. E. Baker, as Chairman, and F. W. Youmans, as Secretary Pro Tem of the Election Commission reported to County Judge Shirey:
“We … certify that the votes as cast at said election were cast as follows to-wit:
For the sale of Liquors and etc. ——————— 13 votes
Against the sale of Liquors and etc. ————– 186 votes.
The report of the Election Commissioners can be found at County Court Record “S,” at page 131.