50th Anniversary Celebration: Committee Spearheads Community College in Boone County
Posted Date: 2/15/24

North Arkansas College (Northark) was founded 50 years ago. To celebrate this historic 50th Anniversary, Northark will remember the people and places who made it the outstanding institution it is today. A series of articles and special events are planned for the upcoming year. This article focuses on the effort to establish community colleges in Arkansas.

When Dale Bumpers became Governor of Arkansas in 1970, he immediately began working to establish a community college system in the state. Gov. Bumpers believed community colleges would bring the opportunity for higher education to more people in Arkansas.

A local group, Citizens for Boone County Community College, headed by Dr.’s Clarence and Katala Williams, as well as both Boone County State Representative Roger Logan and Baxter County Representative Veda Sheid, played key roles in getting the Arkansas community college act passed in 1971.  Mike Nabors, publicity chair for the local committee, said the effort had some headwinds as the state’s four-year institutions were initially skeptical.  “They feared community colleges would take away from their enrollment. However, a study out of Florida showed the new community college system there was actually funneling more students into the four-year colleges and universities. That really helped us get the legislation passed,” Nabors said.  The act was approved and signed into law; it authorized the State Division of Higher Education to approve 8-10 community college districts in Arkansas.  

The Boone County group, led by the Dr.’s Williams, immediately began the application process.  Others serving on the initial steering committee were Jerry McFarland, financial support; Mike Nabors, publicity; Roy Baker, Jr. curriculum; Gene Durand, building and equipment; Felix Goodson, site acquisition; and Mike Hodges, petition circulation

A group from Baxter County also submitted an application.  “Unfortunately for us, the Baxter County application was approved,” Nabors recalled.  “But, fortunately for us, the voters of Baxter County rejected the proposal, and the Higher Ed folks gave us the green light to take the issue to Boone County voters and ask them to underwrite the college with a five-mill tax.”

The committee had their work cut out for them. They surveyed students, contacted legislators, spoke at churches, schools, businesses and civic clubs, wrote letters, made phone calls and, with the help of dozens of other volunteers submitted thirty-seven individual petitions containing 1,140 signatures to the Arkansas Secretary of State “We worked really hard,” Mike remembered. “It was a big sell. We went to county quilting meetings and every possible place we could go to speak.” He also lauded the support of KHOZ and the Harrison Daily Times saying, “Times Editor J.E. Dunlap was a huge voice for the college.” 

Their work paid off. Boone County voters approved the tax to fund the college on November 6, 1973, by 76 votes. Nabors recalls, “It was close.” 

The college’s service district included Boone, Carroll, Marion, Searcy, Newton and Madison counties. 

Governor Bumpers appointed a nine-member Board of Trustees as the governing body to establish policies for the institution. The original board included John O. Campbell, Maxine Pettit, Dr. Jim Fain, Felix Goodson, Doris Baker, Joe Miller, Frances Doshier, Virgil Stonecipher and Richard Hudson. When one of the Governor-appointed terms ended Nabors campaigned for it and became the first elected Board of Trustee member. 
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