The Arkansas Walk of Fame is set to induct six notable Arkansans in ceremonies Friday and Saturday, making it one of the largest additions to the walk since its inception in 1996.
The Class of 2023 includes country music star Buddy Jewell, who will be honored Friday at 5 p.m. before putting on a free concert in the Bridge Street LIVE Entertainment District. Five other Arkansans will be celebrated at Vapors Live, 315 Park Ave., at 11 a.m. Saturday.
"We're excited about all these folks that are going to be inducted," said Tom Wilkins, founder and president of the Arkansas Walk of Fame, located at 504 Central Ave.
Jewell, a native of Lepanto, was the first winner of the USA Network talent show "Nashville Star." Currently living in the country music capital, he is an award-winning singer-songwriter of country, bluegrass and Americana music.
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His family has settled in Osceola, helping to foster his early inspiration by other Arkansas greats such as Conway Twitty and Johnny Cash.
As the lone hometown hero in the bunch, Lafayette Lawson is a 1980 graduate of Hot Springs High School. He's a two-time World Champion Kick Boxer, a champion in Welterweight and Super Welterweight as well as a figure in the entertainment industry.
Living closer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame these days, Lawson is a physical trainer for entertainers in California on top of being a motivational speaker for young people. He also wrote and filmed "Color of a Dream" with some scenes shot in Hot Springs.
"Remember this is the Arkansas Walk of Fame," Wilkins said. "It's not just Hot Springs. Although because Hot Springs has been such a Mecca for entertainers. This guy is well-known here in Hot Springs. Without going into all his credentials now, he's a great guy. He actually is a big deal out in Los Angeles, and he's a big deal here in Hot Springs."
With four inductees to be added posthumously, the family and friends will be in attendance to remember their lasting legacies.
Another athletic inductee, Houston Harris, aka Bobo Brazil, was a professional wrestler born in 1924 in Little Rock. He made a huge impact in the world of wrestling, breaking down color barriers and being inducted into the WWE Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1994. He is considered the first African American superstar in the sport.
"Growing up my dad used to take me to wrestling matches," Wilkins said. "And we thought it appropriate if at some point in time we go ahead and find somebody famous from Arkansas that was a professional wrestler in their day."
Probably more widely known for her work breaking down color barriers is the late Daisy Bates. She was a journalist, civil rights activist, lecturer and publisher of the "Arkansas State Press." She's known for her help in mentoring and enrolling the Little Rock Nine in Central High School in Little Rock.
A much older Little Rock name being added to the walk is James "Mac" McDonnell, who made strides in the aviation industry early on. Originally from Denver, he was raised in Little Rock and graduated from high school there in 1917. He went on to McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, McDonnell Douglas and the James S. McDonnell Foundation. He also was the chairman of the United Nations Association of the United States in 1958 and was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1977. Three years later, he was enshrined in the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame.
Another contributor to Arkansas aviation was Capt. Field E. Kindley, who fought in WWI as a flying ace. He is credited with 12 confirmed aerial victories in his short, 23 years on earth. Born in 1896 in Pea Ridge, he spent his formative years throughout northwest Arkansas before serving in 1918 as a 1st lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Service.
His service earned him the Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster and the British Distinguished Flying Cross. Today, he is the namesake for several locations around the state and country and beyond, including Captain Field Kindley Memorial Park in Gravette, Field Kindley High School in Coffeyville, Kansas, Kindley Field in Bermuda and Kindley Field at Fort Mills in the Philippines
"It's a busy day here in downtown Hot Springs," Wilkins said.
Coming from all corners of the state, each of these inductees has made significant contributions in their chosen fields.
For more information, email Wilkins at [email protected] or call 501-622-9570.