Gordon S. Rather, Jr., attended his first Historic Arkansas Museum Commission meeting on Dec. 16, 1971
LITTLE ROCK – Historic Arkansas Museum (HAM) recognizes 50 years of service by museum commissioner Gordon S. Rather, Jr., by naming exhibit and educational space in the Woodruff Print Shop annex in his honor. Rather was elected to the commission during the Oct. 26, 1971, meeting and currently serves as secretary.
HAM has been receiving messages of congratulations from Rather’s fellow commissioners, past and present, including U.S. Congressman French Hill, who served with Rather from 1994 to 2014.
“An exceptional attorney and civic leader, Gordon Rather has devoted his adult life to preserving our rich heritage in Arkansas and ensuring generations of Arkansans have a hands-on way to experience life in territorial Little Rock,” said Hill. “I am proud to have served at his side in this worthy mission for two decades.”
“Gordon has lent good counsel, leadership and humor during his 50 years and counting tenure,” said Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Sec. Stacy Hurst. “He loves to tell the story of how one of his earliest assignments was to help hire the museum’s first executive director. He and then Commission Chair Ed Cromwell deserve the credit for bringing Bill Worthen to Historic Arkansas.”
Worthen ultimately served a prolific 44 years in the position and is still active with the museum through the most recent publication of the second edition of “Arkansas Made” volumes one and two, which he co-authored with Swannee Bennett and Jennifer Carman.
“As we evolved from the Arkansas Territorial Restoration, as it was then known, to Historic Arkansas Museum, Gordon oversaw many achievements, and witnessed the museum’s growth firsthand,” said Stephanie Haught Wade, the current museum director. “Two major accomplishments come to mind immediately: in 1981, the museum went through the rigorous process of becoming the first history museum in the state to earn accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums; and in 2001, we opened the renovated museum center, which doubled the size of the previous space.”
The new museum space allowed for 10,000 square feet of exhibits, a theater, a hands-on history classroom, an entrance atrium with views of the historic grounds and other amenities.
“Gordon Rather has been the solid foundation on which the commission has rested for a half a century,” said former director Bill Worthen. “I don’t think I can overestimate the value of the museum’s strong independent governing body to the success we experienced, in programming and in physical expansion, and Gordon has been front and center in these efforts.”
Commenting on Rather’s vast institutional knowledge, Worthen continued, “Gordon’s perspective on how things work, and the rich continuity he represents, have been vitally important for this museum.”
Rather is a partner with the law firm Wright Lindsey Jennings where he has been engaged in trial practice for more than 50 years. As an attorney, he has been recognized as a member of the Lawdragon “Hall of Fame,” having been selected as one of 500 Leading Lawyers in America for more than 12 years in a row. In 2019, Rather was presented with the James H. McKenzie Professionalism Award by the Arkansas Bar Foundation in recognition of his “sustained excellence through integrity, character and leadership to the profession and the community.”
For more information on the Historic Arkansas Museum Commission, please contact Director of Community Engagement Ellen Korenblat at Ellen.Korenblat@arkansas.gov or 501.324.9304.
Historic Arkansas Museum
Historic Arkansas Museum is the agency of Arkansas Heritage responsible for protecting and preserving our state’s territorial past, specifically inside a historic city block in downtown Little Rock that includes the oldest building in the Capitol City, an 1850s Farmstead, galleries of Arkansas Made art and history ranging from indigenous Arkansans to contemporary artists and artisans. The museum also serves the state as its primary collector of Arkansas Made decorative, mechanical and fine arts. HAM, as it is known, is open to the public Monday to Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Arkansas Heritage, a division of the Department of Arkansas Parks, Heritage and Tourism, was created in 1975. There are eight agencies with unique heritage focuses under the umbrella of this division: Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Historic Arkansas Museum and the Arkansas State Archives. Jimmy Bryant serves as director of the division while Stacy Hurst is the secretary of the Department of Arkansas Parks, Heritage and Tourism.