The Latest On My Book: Rock Island Railroad In Arkansas

The cover of my book for Arcadia Publishing, released on April 3, 2017.

I’ve got several new events coming up related to my book Rock Island Railroad in Arkansas. First, I’ll have a book signing at Barnes & Noble, 4000 McCain Blvd in North Little Rock on Saturday, June 17 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Then on Wednesday, August 2, I’ll be hosting a lecture about the history of the Rock Island as part of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies’ Legacies  & Lunch program at 12 p.m. in the Darragh Center at the Central Arkansas Library System’s Main Library, 100 Rock Street in Little Rock. That will be followed by a book signing.

I’m excited to announce that I’ve recorded an interview for a half-hour episode of Barnes and… with Steve Barnes which will air on the Arkansas Educational Television Network in July. I’ll add an exact date when I have it. It will feature many of the historic photographs included in the book.

I’m nearing the debut of my first episode in a podcast series I’ve been producing, which will probably run about 15 episodes and feature segments from about two dozen interviews I’ve recorded over the years with former employees of the Rock Island and others with a connection to the railroad. Look for that by the first week in July.

One final note, I only recently bought a copy of my own book through iBooks on my iPad and was amazed at the quality of the photos. You can double click an image and then zoom deep inside the historical photos. The book is available for sale at most major bookstores in central Arkansas, as well as online retailers like Amazon, but if you’d like to get it for a digital device, I was very impressed at the quality. To learn more about my book, find links to watch a previous lecture I gave at the Clinton School of Public Service and more, click here.

Reporting Internationally On Fight Over Arkansas Executions

Watch the interview with i24NEWS

Joining i24NEWS anchor David Shuster (left) Friday, April 14 for a live interview during his program Stateside.

Arkansas’s plan to execute eight death row inmates over an 11-day period has generated a lot of attention from around the world. While courts removed two of the men slated to die, international media outlets continue following the story carefully. Shortly after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a stay for the executions, I reported live on Israeli television network i24NEWS to discuss the latest. You can find a link to watch the broadcast here. I mentioned in the interview that we were still waiting for a ruling from a federal judge, and that ended up coming down the next morning, also staying the executions. The state is now appealing those decisions.

Arkansas Week: Legal Challenges Ahead of Scheduled Executions

There was a lot of uncertainty when we recorded AETN’s “Arkansas Week” on Friday, April 14. As the state prepared to carry out an unprecedented seven executions over an 11-day period, there was a flurry of legal filings and decisions that were about to come down. A four-day federal court hearing had just wrapped up the night before, but no verdict issued yet, and the rapid pace of the lethal injections was drawing media attention from around the world. I took part in that week’s panel discussion joined by UCA political science Professor Heather Yates and Blytheville Courier News Editor Tom Henry.

Release of Rock Island Railroad In Arkansas

The cover of my new book for Arcadia Publishing, which was released on April 3. You can click on the cover to order a copy of the book.

A huge project which has dominated much of my free time over the last two years has been preparing a new book for Arcadia Publishing called Rock Island Railroad in Arkansas, which is part of its Images of Rail series. The book is a collection of mostly vintage photographs of the railroad taken around the state and was officially released on April 3. It’s available at major bookstores in Arkansas, or can be ordered online. I’m excited that my first lecture on the subject was Tuesday, April 4, at the Clinton School of Public Service, which is housed in the 118-year-old building that for much of its existence was the Little Rock passenger station for the Rock Island. Click here to find a link to watch a video of my presentation, learn more about the book, where to purchase it, or find when and where I’ll be taking part in future lectures or book signings.

I’ve been researching the Rock Island off and on for 29 years, recording interviews with former employees, visiting locations in the state that were once used by the railroad, and most recently, got access to the files of former Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton who was in his first term in office when the Rock Island was shut down in 1980. I plan to get many of those documents posted in the coming year to offer a different perspective on what a crisis this was for the state. About 700 people worked for the railroad in Arkansas at the time, and there were then efforts to try and get a new railroad to buy the former trackage, much of which ended up being removed.

But in the short term, my next project concerning the railroad is producing a podcast series using audio of interviews I’ve recorded with more than 20 people over the years, most former employees, to give a firsthand account of life working for the Rock Island and the impact its shutdown had on the state. Look for the first episode in the coming weeks. I expect I’ll probably produce about 10 to 15 episodes in the coming months.

Arkansas Week: New State And Federal Healthcare Proposals

I joined the panel for AETN’s Arkansas Week, with the top issue being proposed changes Gov. Asa Hutchinson is requesting from the federal government for the state’s Arkansas Works Medicaid expansion program. About 331,000 Arkansans are covered right now, but that would be reduced by about 60,000 as he wants to lower the income cap for eligibility. We also discuss reaction in Arkansas to the plan presented in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal and replace President Obama’s signature healthcare law, and have the latest in the Arkansas Legislature concerning guns, unused school buildings and expanding wine sales in grocery stores.