Title: Oral History Interview with Dale Bumpers, June 17, 1974. Interview A-0026.
Interviewer: DeVries, Walter
Interviewee: Bumpers, Dale
Subjects: Wallace, George C. (George Corley), 1919- Arkansas--Politics and government Arkansas--Economic conditions Democratic Party (Ark.) Fulbright, J. William (James William), 1905-
Abstract: Dale Bumpers was elected governor of Arkansas in 1970, before his election to the United States Senate in 1974. Bumpers begins the interview by offering an assessment of his administration as governor of Arkansas. Emphasizing such accomplishments as tax reform and reorganization of state government, Bumpers describes how his election and administration helped to demystify political myths in the South. In particular, Bumpers explains that his successful elections in 1970 and 1974 demonstrated that political power could be wrested from those who had a larger financial backing, and that it was not necessary to be highly visible in the state in order to garner enough support. On the contrary, Bumpers was a virtual unknown on the political landscape when he defeated Governor Winthrop Rockefeller in 1970. Rockefeller was the first Republican governor to serve in Arkansas since Reconstruction. According to Bumpers, Rockefeller's election demonstrated a shifting political landscape that ultimately foretold the crumbling political power structure that had dominated southern politics for decades. It was the weakening of this power base that, in part, allowed Bumpers to defeat Rockefeller in 1970 and incumbent senator William Fulbright (who had served in the United States Senate for thirty years) in 1974. In describing his successful campaign strategies, Bumpers explains how he sought to appeal to Arkansas pride and a tendency of citizens to feel defensive about their rural roots. Bumpers had just been elected when the interview was conducted, and he offers his predictions for southern politics in coming years. Namely, Bumpers expresses his hope that southern Democrats would rejoin the national Democratic Party. Bumpers concludes the interview by offering his thoughts on the changing political landscape of the South, arguing that the term "emerging South" was more appropriate than "New South" in describing the region's economic growth and social developments.