Fort Smith, Arkansas

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Fort Smith, Arkansas
City
Garrison Avenue in historic Downtown Fort Smith
Garrison Avenue in historic Downtown Fort Smith
Nickname(s): Hell on the Border
Motto: "Life's worth living in Fort Smith, Arkansas"[1]
Location of Fort Smith, Arkansas
Location of Fort Smith, Arkansas
Coordinates: 35°22′7″N 94°23′55″W / 35.36861°N 94.39861°W / 35.36861; -94.39861Coordinates: 35°22′7″N 94°23′55″W / 35.36861°N 94.39861°W / 35.36861; -94.39861
CountryUnited States
StateArkansas
CountySebastian
Founded1817
Incorporated1842
Government
 • MayorSandy Sanders
Area
 • City64.6 sq mi (170.5 km2)
 • Land61.7 sq mi (160.5 km2)
 • Water3.9 sq mi (10.0 km2)
Elevation463 ft (141.1 m)
Population (2010)
 • City86,209
 • Density1,391.2/sq mi (537.2/km2)
 • Metro298,592
Time zoneCST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST)CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code720xx-722xx
Area code(s)479
FIPS code05-24550
GNIS feature ID0076952
Websitehttp://www.fortsmithar.gov
 
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Fort Smith, Arkansas
City
Garrison Avenue in historic Downtown Fort Smith
Garrison Avenue in historic Downtown Fort Smith
Nickname(s): Hell on the Border
Motto: "Life's worth living in Fort Smith, Arkansas"[1]
Location of Fort Smith, Arkansas
Location of Fort Smith, Arkansas
Coordinates: 35°22′7″N 94°23′55″W / 35.36861°N 94.39861°W / 35.36861; -94.39861Coordinates: 35°22′7″N 94°23′55″W / 35.36861°N 94.39861°W / 35.36861; -94.39861
CountryUnited States
StateArkansas
CountySebastian
Founded1817
Incorporated1842
Government
 • MayorSandy Sanders
Area
 • City64.6 sq mi (170.5 km2)
 • Land61.7 sq mi (160.5 km2)
 • Water3.9 sq mi (10.0 km2)
Elevation463 ft (141.1 m)
Population (2010)
 • City86,209
 • Density1,391.2/sq mi (537.2/km2)
 • Metro298,592
Time zoneCST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST)CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code720xx-722xx
Area code(s)479
FIPS code05-24550
GNIS feature ID0076952
Websitehttp://www.fortsmithar.gov

Fort Smith is the second-largest city in Arkansas and one of the two county seats of Sebastian County.[2] As of the 2010 Census the population was 86,209.[3] With an estimated population of 87,443[4] in 2012, it is the principal city of the Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area, a region of 298,592 residents which encompasses the Arkansas counties of Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian, and the Oklahoma counties Le Flore and Sequoyah.

Fort Smith has a sister city relationship with Cisterna, Italy, site of the World War II Battle of Cisterna fought by the United States Army Rangers commanded by Fort Smith native William O. Darby.

Fort Smith lies on the Arkansas-Oklahoma state border, situated at the junction of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers, also known as Belle Point. The city began as a western frontier military post in 1817 and would later become well known for its role in the settling of the "Wild West" and its law enforcement heritage.

In 2007, Fort Smith was selected by the United States Department of the Interior to be the location of the new United States Marshals Service National Museum.

History[edit]

The site of Fort Smith became part of the United States in the Louisiana Purchase (1803). Soon after, the Pike Expedition (1806) explored the Arkansas River. Fort Smith was founded in 1817 as a military post. Around the fort a small settlement began forming, but the Army abandoned the first Fort Smith in 1824 and moved 80 miles further west to Fort Gibson. Army sutler and land speculator John Rogers (who some genealogists claim to be an ancestor to 20th-century Oklahoma comedian Will Rogers) bought up former government-owned lands and promoted growth of the new civilian town of Fort Smith, eventually influencing the federal government to re-establish a strong military presence at Fort Smith during the era of Indian Removal and the Mexican War.

Fort Smith's name comes from General Thomas Adams Smith (1781–1844), who commanded the United States Army Rifle Regiment in 1817, headquartered near St. Louis. General Smith had ordered Army topographical engineer Stephen H. Long (1784–1864) to find a suitable site on the Arkansas River for a fort. General Smith never visited the town or forts that bore his name.

In 1838 the Army moved back into the old military post near Belle Point, and expanded the base as part of the federal policy of removing Cherokees and Choctaws from their ancestral homelands in the Southeast and resettling the survivors in the nearby Indian Territory. Many displaced Native Americans settled down in Fort Smith and Van Buren, while Sebastian county was formed in 1851, separated from Crawford County north of the Arkansas River. In 1858, Fort Smith became a Division Center of the Butterfield Overland Mail's 7th Division route across Indian Territory from Fort Smith to Texas and a junction with the mail route from Memphis, Tennessee.

The fort was occupied by the Confederate Army during the early years of the U.S. Civil War. Union troops under General Steele took control of Fort Smith on September 1, 1863. A small fight occurred there on July 31, 1864, but the Union army maintained command in the area until the war ended in 1865. The town became a haven for runaway slaves, orphans, Southern Unionists, and other victims of the ferocious guerrilla warfare then raging in the Border States. Federal troops abandoned the post of Fort Smith for the last time in 1871. The town continued to thrive despite the absence of federal troops.

Two of Fort Smith's most notable historic figures were Judge Isaac Parker and William Henry Harrison Clayton, sometimes referred to as W.H.H. Clayton. In 1874, William Henry Harrison Clayton was appointed United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas by President Ulysses S. Grant. Fort Smith was a bustling community full of brothels, saloons and outlaws, just across the river from Indian Territory. William Clayton realized a strong judge would be necessary to bring law and order to the region. He knew of a strong judge in Isaac Parker. But there was a problem. Judge Parker had been appointed Chief Justice of Utah Territory and confirmed by the US Senate. With the help of President Grant and US Senator Powell Clayton, former governor of Arkansas, William Clayton was able to undo that appointment and redirect Judge Parker to Fort Smith.

Judge Isaac Parker, Hanging Judge
Gallows Ft. Smith Arkansas

Judge Isaac Parker served as U.S. District Judge 1875–1896. He was nicknamed the "Hanging Judge" because in his first term after assuming his post he tried 18 people for murder, convicted 15 of them, sentenced eight of those to die, and hanged six of them on one day. Over the course of his career in Fort Smith, Parker sentenced 160 people to hang. Of those, 79 actually were executed on the gallows. Judge Parker represented the only real law in the rough-and-tumble frontier border town. His courthouse is now a National Historic Site where "More men were put to death by the U.S. Government... than in any other place in American history."[5]

William Clayton was appointed US Attorney by four different presidents and later served as Chief Justice of Indian Territory. He was instrumental in achieving statehood for Oklahoma and together with Territorial Governor Frank Frantz, carried the Oklahoma Constitution to President Teddy Roosevelt after that state was admitted in 1907. Governor Frantz and Judge Clayton both lost their territorial positions when Oklahoma was admitted to the Union.

The Army returned to Fort Smith in 1941 with the establishment of the Fort Chaffee Military Reservation east of the city.

On April 21, 1996, a large tornado destroyed and heavily damaged much of historic downtown Fort Smith around the Garrison Avenue Bridge. The storm left 4 people dead in western Arkansas. Channel 5 KFSM-TV in Fort Smith covered the tornado and produced a documentary of the event shortly after called 'Sundays Fury'. Days later, the Eads Brothers Furniture Building was destroyed by one of largest fires in Fort Smith's history.

Geography[edit]

Fort Smith is located at 35°22′7″N 94°23′55″W / 35.36861°N 94.39861°W / 35.36861; -94.39861 (35.368691, −94.398737).[6]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 64.6 square miles (167 km2), of which, 61.7 square miles (160 km2) of it is land and 3.9 square miles (10 km2) of it (6.3%) is water.

Climate[edit]

Fort Smith has generally mild winters and hot, humid summers. The monthly mean temperature ranges from 39.4 °F (4.1 °C) in January to 82.3 °F (27.9 °C) in July; on average, the high stays at or below freezing on 5 days, reaches 90 °F (32 °C) on 74.7 days, and 100 °F (38 °C) on 10.7 days annually. The average first and last occurrences for freezing temperatures are November 5 and March 29, respectively. Extreme temperatures range from −15 °F (−26 °C) on February 12, 1899 to 115 °F (46 °C) on August 3, 2011. Fort Smith is situated near an area known as Tornado Alley in the central United States. The city has been struck by three major tornadoes which occurred in the years of 1898, 1927 and 1996.

Climate data for Fort Smith Regional Airport, Arkansas (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1882–present)
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Record high °F (°C)81
(27)
87
(31)
94
(34)
96
(36)
99
(37)
106
(41)
111
(44)
115
(46)
109
(43)
96
(36)
86
(30)
82
(28)
115
(46)
Average high °F (°C)49.9
(9.9)
55.4
(13)
64.7
(18.2)
73.7
(23.2)
80.5
(26.9)
88.1
(31.2)
93.0
(33.9)
93.4
(34.1)
85.4
(29.7)
74.8
(23.8)
62.8
(17.1)
51.5
(10.8)
72.8
(22.7)
Average low °F (°C)29.0
(−1.7)
33.1
(0.6)
41.1
(5.1)
49.5
(9.7)
59.2
(15.1)
67.5
(19.7)
71.6
(22)
70.8
(21.6)
62.3
(16.8)
50.7
(10.4)
40.3
(4.6)
31.2
(−0.4)
50.5
(10.3)
Record low °F (°C)−11
(−24)
−15
(−26)
7
(−14)
22
(−6)
34
(1)
47
(8)
50
(10)
45
(7)
33
(1)
22
(−6)
8
(−13)
−5
(−21)
−15
(−26)
Precipitation inches (mm)2.81
(71.4)
2.76
(70.1)
3.85
(97.8)
4.30
(109.2)
5.47
(138.9)
4.28
(108.7)
3.30
(83.8)
2.59
(65.8)
4.05
(102.9)
4.32
(109.7)
4.44
(112.8)
3.29
(83.6)
45.46
(1,154.7)
Snowfall inches (cm)2.4
(6.1)
1.1
(2.8)
0.6
(1.5)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
trace0.8
(2)
4.9
(12.4)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)7.57.89.79.110.79.36.56.37.78.47.57.798.2
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)1.10.80.4000000000.73.0
Mean monthly sunshine hours173.6175.2213.9237.0275.9303.0328.6294.5234.0220.1162.0155.02,772.8
Source: NOAA[7] HKO (sunshine hours, 1961−1990)[8]

Demographics[edit]

Historical population
YearCity[9]  ±%  
189011,311—    
190011,587+2.4%
191023,975+106.9%
192028,870+20.4%
193031,429+8.9%
194036,584+16.4%
195047,942+31.0%
196052,991+10.5%
197062,802+18.5%
198071,626+14.1%
199072,798+1.6%
200080,268+10.3%
201086,209+7.4%

As of the census[10] of 2010, there were 86,209 people, 34,352 households, and 21,367 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,391.2 people per square mile (537.2/km²). There were 37,899 housing units at an average density of 612.3 per square mile (236.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 69.3% White, 9.0% Black or African American, 1.8% Native American, 5.3% Asian (2.2% Vietnamese, 1.7% Laotian, 0.3% Asian Indian, 0.2% Filipino, 0.1% Korean, 0.1% Chinese, 0.1% Hmong, 0.1% Pakistani), 0.1% Pacific Islander, 10.3% from other races, and 4.2% from two or more races. 16.5% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race (11.6% Mexican, 2.2% Salvadoran, 0.4% Guatemalan, 0.3% Puerto Rican, 0.2% Honduran, 0.1% Cuban, 0.1% Peruvian, 0.1% Colombian).

In language, Fort Smith has over 10 Asian languages with over 2 percent and the rise of Hispanics from immigration in the late 20th century increased the total of residents who speak Spanish. 7.10% reported speaking Spanish at home, while 3.38% speak Vietnamese and Lao, and 2.50% speak Tagalog.[11]

In 2000 there were 32,398 households, of which 30.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.1% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.3% were non-families. 30.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.03.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.4% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 13.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 94.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,157, and the median income for a family was $41,012. Males had a median income of $29,799 versus $22,276 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,994. About 12.1% of families and 15.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.2% of those under age 18 and 9.6% of those age 65 or over.

Economy[edit]

Fort Smith has long been a regional manufacturing center, with major plants located in the city operated by Rheem, Trane, Georgia-Pacific, Gerber, Planters Peanuts, Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas, Mars Petcare, Umarex USA, Graphic Packaging, and many others.

Fort Smith is home to several corporations including Baldor Electric Company, a member of the ABB Group, Arkansas Best Corporation, and poultry company OK Foods.

According to the City's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[12] the top employers in the city are:

#Employer# of Employees
1Sparks Health System2,400
2Baldor Electric Company2,393
3OK Foods1,800
4Fort Smith Public Schools1,783
5Mercy Hospital Fort Smith1,487
6188th Fighter Wing1,100
7University of Arkansas – Fort Smith951
8Arkansas Best936
9City of Fort Smith914
10Rheem-Ruud900

Culture[edit]

Museums[edit]

Music[edit]

Fort Smith has an active music scene. There are frequent live performances in the downtown area by local and national Jazz, Blues, Country, and Rock bands. Local bands regularly frequent the riverfront area highlighting the river valley's finest.

Dance and theatre[edit]

Attractions[edit]

As the largest city in western Arkansas, Fort Smith offers many activities and attractions. Fort Smith's theatres and event venues regularly host major concerts and touring theatre companies.

Event venues[edit]

Downtown fountain after a freeze.

Shopping[edit]

Some notable shopping locations in the city of Fort Smith are:

Rogers Avenue

  • Central Mall
  • Greenpoint Shopping Center
  • Massard Crossing
  • Stonewall Village
  • Williamsburg Square

Phoenix Avenue/Greenwood Ave.

  • Fort Smith Pavilion
  • Maybranch Square
  • Phoenix Center

Fort Smith is the main shopping destination of Western Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma. Fort Smith has Central Mall, which is the state's largest indoor shopping center in terms of area. Retailers in Fort Smith include Dillard's, J. C. Penney, Sears, Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe's and Kohl's. Additionally, several smaller and niche retailers can be found throughout the city.

Landmarks[edit]

Annual attractions[edit]

Recreation and Sports[edit]

In addition to sports teams sponsored by the schools and UA Fort Smith, Fort Smith has several independent recreational sports programs administered by local organizations. These include:

Education[edit]

Postsecondary education[edit]

Reynolds Bell Tower

The city has one major university that is part of the University of Arkansas System. The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith was founded in 1928 as an extension of the Fort Smith Public School system, with the superintendent, James William Ramsey, acting as the college president and the high school principal as dean. Known originally as Fort Smith Junior College, the institution operated within the Fort Smith public school system until 1950, when the school was incorporated as a private, nonprofit institution with its own governing board. In September 1952, the College moved from borrowed facilities in the high school to its current site, initially occupying 15 acres (6.07 ha).

During the private college era, enrollment increased, as did course offerings, the number of faculty, and facilities. A vocational-technical division was added in 1960. During this period, the college began developing the programs and character of a comprehensive community college — a new concept in Arkansas and across the nation.

In the fall of 1965, the Sebastian County electorate approved the creation of the Sebastian County Community Junior College District, along with a tax levy on the real and personal property of the county. The governor appointed a Board of Trustees, and the school again became a public institution.

In 1966, the institution's name was changed from Fort Smith Junior College to Westark Junior College, and in 1972, to Westark Community College, indicating the larger area to be served and reflecting the more comprehensive mission.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the college developed and made changes within the context of its mission as a two-year institution. A significant development in 1989 was the establishment of a University Center. Five state universities partnered with the institution to offer six bachelor's and seven master's degree programs on campus. Between 1989 and 2002, 1,788 students graduated with bachelor's degrees through the University Center.

In 1997, the Arkansas Legislature passed an act granting Westark the authority to offer in its own right up to nine applied bachelor's degrees, developed in response to identified needs of the industries in the area served.

The name of the college was changed yet again in February 1998 to Westark College, more accurately portraying the role and scope of the institution.

On December 15, 2000, the Board of Trustees of Westark College entered into an agreement with the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas to merge with the University of Arkansas System as a four-year institution. In 2001, the Sebastian County electorate voted to support the merger. A formal request to change affiliation status to that of a bachelor's degree-granting institution under the name of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith was submitted to the Higher Learning Commission in August 2001 and approved by the Institutional Actions Council on November 19, 2001.

The merger, which became official on January 1, 2002, endorsed the concept of UA Fort Smith as a unique university, one that offers applied and traditional baccalaureate degree programs, one- and two-year associate and technical programs, and noncredit business and industry training programs. While the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith is the city's only state supported institution of higher learning Webster University and John Brown University each have a satellite campus located in the city.

Elementary and secondary education[edit]

The public schools in Fort Smith and Barling are operated by the Fort Smith School District. Currently, the district includes 26 schools. As of the 2009–2010 school year, the district has enrollment of more than 14,010. It has 2 high schools, 4 junior high schools, 19 elementary schools, and 1 alternative learning center. Fort Smith public schools provide education from kindergarten through the 12th grade, as do some private Protestant schools. Catholic parochial schools offer education through the ninth grade.

Jr. high schools in Fort Smith include:

Public:

Private:

High schools in Fort Smith include:

Public:

Private:

Media[edit]

Print[edit]

The Southwest Times Record is the largest newspaper in the city, as well as the region. It is owned by Stephens Media LLC.

The Hispanos Unidos is the city's local Hispanic newspaper who was owned and operated by Evan Giesen. They are the main source for reaching the Spanish community in the Greater Fort Smith Region and Northwest Arkansas as well as being the only Spanish language publication in the region.

In addition to area newspapers, the Fort Smith market is served by a variety of magazines covering diverse interests. The publications include:

Radio[edit]

AM radio Stations in the Fort Smith area include:

Call lettersFrequencyFormat
KFSA950Christian
KFPW1230Nostalgia
KYHN1320News Talk
KWHN1650News Talk

FM Radio Stations in the Fort Smith area include:

Call lettersFrequencyFormat
KAOW88.9Religious
KBHN89.7Christian
KUAF91.3Public Radio
KISR93.7Top 40
KFPW94.5Hard Rock
KERX95.3Variety
KKBD95.9Classic Rock
KZBB97.9Variety
KMAG99.1Country
KTCS99.9Country
KLSZ100.7Sports
KBBQ-FM102.7Urban/Hip Hop
KHGG103.1Sports
KQBK104.7Oldies
KZKZ106.3Christian
KEZA107.9Adult Contemporary

Television[edit]

Television stations in the Fort Smith area include:

Call lettersNumberNetwork
KFSM5CBS
KFTA24Fox
KWNL31Univision
KXNW34MyNetworkTV
KHBS40ABC
KFDF44MundoFOX
KNWA51NBC

Infrastructure[edit]

Transportation[edit]

Fort Smith is a major transportation hub for the surrounding region. It sits at the crossroads of two major interstate highways, is surrounded on three sides by the Arkansas River, is served by 1 major and 2 regional/switching railroad companies, and is the home of a regional airport.

The city sits just southwest of the intersection of Interstate 40 and future Interstate 49 when it extends southward to meet Interstate 30 in Texarkana, Texas. US 71 and US 64 also run through the community.

Fort Smith Regional Airport

Fort Smith is served by the Fort Smith Regional Airport (FSM), which is used for military aviation for Fort Chaffee and home of the 188th Fighter Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard, but is also served by two commercial airlines with flights to Dallas/Fort Worth and Atlanta.

Jefferson Lines bus service also links Fort Smith to other communities such as Little Rock, Kansas City, and Oklahoma City, as well as intermediate points, with numerous connections to other cities and towns.

The city is located on the Arkansas River, part of the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System and is served by the Port of Fort Smith.

Fort Smith is served by the Kansas City Southern Railway from a branch connection on the mainline at Poteau, Ok and affords connections to other railroads at Kansas City, MO and at New Orleans, LA. In addition, the regional railroad company, the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad directly serves Fort Smith and provides connections through the St. Louis, MO and Memphis gateways to the east. The Fort Smith Railroad provides local switching service to a variety of businesses as well as providing haulage for the Union Pacific Railway with which it connects at Van Buren, AR. At this time, there is no direct passenger service from Amtrak. The closest point for such service is Little Rock, AR.

Within the city, public bus service is provided by the Fort Smith Transit (FST). As of October 2010, FST operates 5 fixed routes, as well as paratransit service for disabled persons and Demand Buses.

A trolley bus operates in the downtown area, providing transportation between the Belle Grove Historic District and the Fort Smith National Historic Site.

Utilities[edit]

View of the coagulation and flocculation processes at the Lake Fort Smith WTP

Fort Smith uses two water treatment plants (WTPs) for its drinking water; one near Lake Fort Smith in Mountainburg and one on Lee Creek.

Health care[edit]

Hospitals in the Fort Smith area include:

Accolades[edit]

Notable residents[edit]

Notable figures who were born in, lived in, or are otherwise associated with Fort Smith.

Athletes[edit]

Actors, musicians, and writers[edit]

Politicians, statesmen, legislators, lawyers, judges[edit]

Other[edit]

Fort Smith in popular culture[edit]

Sister city[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Living
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ "American Fact Finder". Retrieved 29 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Census". Retrieved 2012-08-10. 
  5. ^ "Photo of gallows". Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau. Archived from the original on 2008-08-05. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  6. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  7. ^ "NowData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  8. ^ "Climatological Normals of Fort Smith". Hong Kong Observatory. Retrieved October 2011. 
  9. ^ "Fort Smith (Sebastian County)". Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  10. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  11. ^ Data Center Results
  12. ^ "City of Fort Smith CAFR". Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  13. ^ a b "Fort Smith AR, Best Places For Business 2006 - Forbes.com". Forbes. 
  14. ^ Fort Smith Regional Airport - News
  15. ^ America's Best Restroom Award From Cintas
  16. ^ America's Best Restroom Award From Cintas
  17. ^ "Jake Files' Biography". votesmart.org. Retrieved November 29, 2013. 

External links[edit]