Wet or Dry? 1945 (Part 2 of 3)

There was another, county-wide, local option election in 1945 on whether alcohol sales or transfers should be allowed.  That election, of course, affected Bradley and Roane Township just as much as the remainder of Lafayette County.

The 1945 election began when some petitioners, led by Rev. Fred A. White, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lewisville, presented their petition to hold an election to County Judge A. B. Parker.  On January 22, 1945, Judge Parker set a hearing on the petition for January 29, 1945. 

On the hearing day of January 29, Judge Parker found that the petitions to hold an election were sufficient and ordered a special election to be held on February 27, 1945.  An excerpt from Judge Parker’s January 29 order:

“Whereas at the time, place, date and manner of said ‘Public Hearing’ as set out in ‘Public Notice of same,’ did appear many qualified electors and/or voters in Lafayette County, Arkansas the said Rev. Fred A. White, upholding the validity of said petitions and qualifications of signers thereon, and a ‘general objection’ made by Pat Robinson, a regular license [sic] and practicing lawyer within the State of Arkansas as to the ‘invalidty of said petitions only’, together with oral argument, discussion, and debate of said petitions which were offered and open in said Court as evidence, the Court doth find that said petitions are sufficient and said petitions are signed by fifteen percent (15%) of persons who have paid their poll tax, and in accordance with law are qualified voters and/or qualified electors in and for Lafayette County, Arkansas as of the 22nd day of January, 1945.”  (County Court Record “T,” at page 169.)

Some members of the public were apparently not satisfied with Judge Parker’s ruling in the County Court, and filed an appeal to the Circuit Court.  Judge Parker entered an order granting that appeal, noting that it was requested by “John Coleman, V. J. Emerson, H. A. Fuller, Mark Jarnigan and A. A. Williams.”

The issue on the appeal to Circuit Court involved special federal rules in wartime allowing servicemen to vote, whether they were registered locally and had paid their poll tax (later found unconstitutional by the U. S. Supreme Court) or not.  The Circuit Court upheld the legality of the original petitions.  Its Order, recorded in Lafayette County Circuit Court Record 17, at page 633, stated in part:

“…the court doth find that said petitions praying for an election to be held … are sufficient, , said petitions having been signed and acknowledged by 509 persons who are qualified votiers [sic] and/or electors in and for Lafayette County, Arkansas at the time said petitions were filed.  That at the time said petitions were filed there were 2,358 qualified electors, as shown on the poll-tax records of Lafayette County, Arkansas, who having paid their poll tax in the manner and within the time as required by law and possessing all other requirements of a qualified elector.  That in addition to paid poll-tax from the records in evidence, at the time of the filing said petitions there were 981 men and women (white and black), residents of Lafayette County, Arkansas serving in the Armed Services of the United States.  That of this number in the Armed Services there is found to be 129 who are under the age of 21 years at the time of filing said petitions.  There has been 192 discharged from the Armed Services of the United States, and from the Records of the Circuit Clerk of Lafayette County, Arkansas there has been u8 [sic] men and women discharged from Armed Services prior to 7th November, 1944.”  (Circuit Court Record 17, at page 633.)

So, the election was back on, but had to be rescheduled.  The anti-election forces attempted to appeal the Circuit Court’s decision to the Arkansas Supreme Court, but were denied because they did not perfect their appeal in the time limit allowed.  On July 9, 1945, County Judge Parker re-set the date of the election for July 31, 1945 (six days before the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan). (County Court Record “T,” at page 205).

On August 2, 1945, County Election Commissioners A. M. Shirey, F. E. Baker, and John F. Riggins, certified the results of the election to the County Court (County Court Record “T,” at page 208). The “drys” won the election 838–538 (61% to 39%).  Precincts in the southern part of Lafayette County voted as follows:  Walkers Creek 32 wet, 8 dry; State Line 16 wet, 4 dry; Canfield 9 wet, 34 dry; Gin City 7 wet, 24 dry; Hackney 9 wet, 18 dry; Canal 10 wet, 14 dry; Bradley 19 wet, 120 dry.

Lafayette County, Bradley included, was henceforth “dry.”


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