Influential Arkansans 

We highlight more than 50 who shape our state.

Page 6 of 24

Haydar Al-Shukri is the director of the Arkansas Earthquake Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and chair of the Applied Science Department. His mission is to educate the public about natural phenomena. He takes a complex subject he knows well — seismology — and talks about it in a way the public can understand. He's not trying to shake people up — "I don't usually use a scare tactic," said Al-Shukri — in his attempts to educate the public about the risk of an earthquake and ways to prepare for a disaster. He is both educator and researcher; a current project has taken him to a cotton field in Eastern Arkansas, where the Marianna Fault exists, which could produce an earthquake in the future. The Earthquake Center director has won a federal grant to operate six new seismic stations, including one at the New Madrid Fault, and to provide public education and data to the scientific community. Al-Shukri's expertise put him in the middle of the state Oil and Gas Commission's inquiry into whether fracking wastewater wells were causing an increase in the number of earthquakes north of Conway; Al-Shukri, who'd been paid by the well disposal operation Deep Six to conduct tests, testified the wells were not the cause of most of the small quakes. The state Oil and Gas Commission closed one well anyway.

Gay rights

In 1992, a 19-year-old volunteer in Bill Clinton's successful presidential campaign dropped out of Ouachita Baptist University to move to D.C. and work on Clinton's press team, thus becoming the youngest White House staffer ever. Both Griffin and Clinton were born in Hope, and their families were loosely acquainted. "I was inspired by my governor and first lady," Griffin said. "I not only followed him growing up in Arkansas, but I followed my first lady, who was incredibly active in education reform."

Griffin graduated from Georgetown University in Washington with a degree in foreign affairs and began to work on various legislative campaigns. He helped pass a cigarette tax in California that funds early childhood education and fought for stem-cell research. But Griffin is best known as an advocate for gay and lesbian civil rights.

In 2010, voters overturned a California Supreme Court ruling giving same-sex couples the right to marry. Griffin astounded everyone by convincing Theodore Olson and David Boies, lawyers for George Bush and Al Gore, respectively, during the U.S. Supreme Court presidential-election fight, to work together to challenge the law. It was the first time that same-sex marriage had been addressed in a federal court. Thus far, the Olson/Boies team has succeeded in three federal courts and is readying the case for the Supreme Court.

In March, Griffin was named the new president of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT advocacy group in the country. "Our movement has come a long way in the last 10 or even five years. If you look over the country, there's over 50 percent bipartisan support for marriage equality, there's tremendous support for an employment nondiscrimination act, 'don't ask, don't tell' is gone, we have the first president of the United States supporting marriage equality, but we still have a long ways to go," Griffin said. Currently, HRC is working on marriage-related ballot measures in Maine, Maryland and Washington, where there are measures to grant marriage equality, and in Minnesota, where HRC is working against a discriminatory measure. "Right now, what's before me are these four ballot measures. These are four opportunities that we can win, and we need to do everything in our power to do that," Griffin said. Beyond that, he plans to work with what he calls "fair-minded religious leaders and legislatures" to fight bullying and discrimination and offer LGBT people — particularly teen-agers — support and stability. For Griffin, "At the end of the day, this is about the Golden Rule."



Speaking of...

  • Arkansas gets poor score on LGBT rights in Human Rights Campaign's state equality index

    February 3, 2016
    The Human Rights Campaign today released its 2015 State Equality Index. Arkansas, along with twenty-seven other states, was ranked in the lowest-rated category, “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality.” /more/
  • State must face an old issue in pending charter applications

    January 23, 2016
    The spate of new charter school applications in Little Rock raises again the question of state actions that contribute to school and housing segregation in Little Rock. What will Commissioner Johnny Key do? /more/
  • Horn, Sell sculpture exhibit to kick off new gallery at Pulaski Tech

    January 20, 2016
    Pulaski County Technical College opens its new Center for Humanities and Arts next Tuesday, Feb. 2, and follows that with a public reception for the exhibition, "Merging Form and Surface," the first in the building's new Windgate Gallery, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Feb. 3. /more/
  • Judge approves Jacksonville school facilities plan

    January 14, 2016
    Saying "we must not let the perfect become the enemy of the good," federal Judge Price Marshall today approved a facilities plan for the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District over objections from lawyers for black children who said it would continue substandard elementary schools for black children. /more/
  • Tech Park predicts November-December opening

    January 13, 2016
    Tech Park executive director Brent Birch reported to the board that in response to several inquiries from various companies about the park and when it will be open, he's been saying November or December. Construction is to begin in March. The work is to begin on the top, sixth, floor of the building, known as the Annex. Leasing will begin before the work on the building is complete. /more/
  • Search committee named for successor to UALR Chancellor Anderson

    January 12, 2016
    University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt has announced the search committee that will consider candidates to succeed the retiring Joel Anderson as chancellor of UALR. /more/
  • Museums increase holdings in African-American art

    December 30, 2015
    New York Observer writer Daniel Grant follows the New York Times in his reporting on the move by museums to acquire art by African Americans in his Dec. 22 article, "In 2015, Art Museums Scrambled to Beef Up Holdings of African-American Artists." New York Times writer Randy Kennedy beat Grant to the punch with the great Nov. 28 piece, "Black Artists and the March into the Museum." Both articles reference Arkansas: Grant mentions Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art's acquisition of the Faith Ringgold painted quilt, "Mayas Quilt of Life," from the estate of Maya Angelou for $461,000, and Kennedy interviews former Razorback basketball star Darrell Walker about his collection of African American art, specifically Sam Gilliam. /more/
  • Rome junket for UA Board cost $23,000

    December 19, 2015
    A reader inquires on the tab for the October 10-15 junket to Rome taken by University of Arkansas President Donald Bobbitt and five members and spouses of the UA Board of Trustees. Happy to oblige. /more/
  • Library Board chooses Nate Coulter as next director

    December 10, 2015
    Little Rock lawyer Nate Coulter has been selected to succeed Bobby Roberts as director of the Central Arkansas Library System. /more/
  • Tech park agrees to terms of $17.5 million from consortium

    November 16, 2015
    The Little Rock Technology Park Authority board this afternoon signed off, with one nay vote, on the terms of two loans totaling $17.5 million offered by a consortium of Little Rock banks led by Centennial Bank. The authority board also agreed to extend the deadline for Richard Mays to accept its offer of $845,000 for his building at 415 Main St. to noon Friday. The deadline had been noon today. /more/
  • More »


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