The biography of Orval E. Faubus is one of the most fascinating accounts in American political life of the last century. And that is true not necessarily because of his accomplishments or actual positions. It is interesting more from the perspective of Funny Names Bloggers, because the life of Orval E. Faubus is a non-stop barrage of amusing names, silly monikers, and admirable appellations.
Orval Faubus was the 36th governor of the great state of Arkansas. To highlight the forthcoming avalanche of funny names, he was preceded in his office by Francis Cherry, succeeded by Winthrop Rockefeller, and before his election worked with then-governor Sid McMath.
Orval Eugene Faubus was born in 1910 in Hunstville, Arkansas. His father later said he never got into any mischief, and was so meticulous with everything he did, there was never a single weed in his row of corn. Back then this was considered a highly promising start for a future politician. Faubus served in World War II under George Patton and like many, wrote a book about his experiences called This Faraway Land. In 1955, back in Arkansas, he defeated the conservative governor Francis Cherry in a primary. He went on to face Little Rock mayor Pratt C. Remmel in the general election, winning handily. A major part in his win was played by a powerful local man named Jefferson W. Speck, whose name was so influential it spurred him right to victory.
Faubus is perhaps most famous for some political maneuvering during the desegregation of schools in the South of that time, for which history has judged him harshly. In the most notable episode he employed the National Guard to prevent African Americans from attending Little Rock Central High School. His moves at the time made him both popular and unpopular among a divided populace. Critics have noted for a long time that Faubus’ stance was entirely politically motivated, designed to get to the favors of white voters who would then forget about tax increases he had presided over. His stand against desegregation of course cost him later in his career, but at the time, in 1958, he was voted in as one of Gallup’s ten most admired men in the world. It may of course be that people merely voted for the man with the best name, knowing little about him.
His run-ins with other people of funny names did not end with Winthrop Rockefeller, oh no. In 1962’s election he defeated a pharmacist with the name of Willie Ricketts. In 1969 he briefly ran the Dogpatch, USA theme park in the Ozark Mountains. Faubus ran three more times for governor, falling short each time. The first of those races, in 1970, he lost to a particularly funny named candidate in Dale Bumpers.
Faubus may also be known to fans of Jazz music, as a song based on him and called “Fables of Faubus” was recorded by Charles Mingus on his well-titled album “Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus“, which leaves little doubt as to who the performer is.