Our staff's annual list of other Arkansans who stood out in 2011:
Bobby Petrino. The Razorback coach managed to top last season, by leading the football Razorbacks to an 11-win season and a final no. 5 ranking, better than the football Hogs have finished in years. His salty language, caught memorably by CBS camera crews during the LSU game, earned him the excellent nickname BMFP (Bobby MFin' Petrino). He and his wife donated a quarter of a million dollars to the Arkansas Children's Hospital.
Jeff Nichols. The Little Rock native's second film, "Take Shelter," won two prizes at the prestigious Cannes film festival and was nominated for five Independent Spirit Awards. He also wrapped up the biggest film shoot in Arkansas history with "Mud," starring Reese Witherspoon and Matthew McConaughey.
Speaker Robert S. Moore Jr. The amiable speaker deserves credit for keeping a House of Representatives that was sharply divided along party lines functioning reasonably productively rather than breaking down completely.
Alyse Eady. The Fort Smith native was robbed at the 2011 Miss America Pageant, where she finished first runner-up, after performing the greatest talent the pageant has ever seen — a yodeling, ventriloquist rendition of "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart."
Sheffield Nelson. He proposed a voter initiative campaign to raise the state's pitifully low gas severance tax to 7 percent. Look for it, we hope, on the 2012 general election ballot.
Gov. Mike Beebe. He deserves credit for nothing special. Just for maintaining an "all is reasonably well" condition that probably won't outlast his administration, considering how Arkansas politics are going.
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola. He campaigned long, hard and successfully for a 1 cent increase in Little Rock's sales tax, a jump that will raise half a billion dollars over 10 years. Now, city agencies must deliver. Meanwhile, Stodola injected himself in the fight to make something of Main Street. He lost an effort to push Pulaski Tech to Main with a new culinary school. The verdict is still out on his opposition to a Main Street clinic to serve veterans.
Christian Rudder. Match.com bought OkCupid.com, a dating website co-founded by Rudder, for $50 million in cash. Rudder continues working at OkCupid.com, where he runs OkCupid's research blog, OkTrends. Which means he uses charts and graphs, to statistically argue that, for instance, gay people aren't interested in straights and women are more sexual in their 30s. The Central High graduate also continues to play guitar in the popular indie rock band Bishop Allen.
Arkansas Supreme Court. Notably, the court handed down a unanimous decision ruling that Act 1 — the Arkansas Adoption and Foster Care Act that prohibited individuals who cohabitated with a sexual partner outside of marriage from adopting or serving as a foster parent — was a violation of privacy rights under the Arkansas Constitution.
Secretary of State Mark Martin. He undermined the FOI law at every turn — so much so that an executive assistant resigned in protest. He helped himself to $70,000 from the Arkansas Board of Apportionment's budget to buy a car and hire Republican consultants without approval from fellow board members Gov. Mike Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. And his office frivolously spent $54,000 on a contract with the Soderquist Center at John Brown University, which lists its mission as "Equipping people with the transforming power of ethical leadership." The expense included a retreat for top staffers at the Greystone Estate in Rogers and an "on-site visit" in Little Rock to interview staff members with questions like, "What is the Secretary of State's office best known for?"
Rep. Linda Tyler. As chair of the Public Health Committee, the Conway Democrat quietly shepherded the defeat of 10 radical anti-abortion bills during the general session. Now she'll seek the state Senate seat vacated by term-limited Gilbert Baker.
The Occupier. Little Rock's assembly inspired by the Occupy Wall Street Movement persisted through the beginning of winter at a parking lot camp next to Interstate 30 to shine a light on economic injustice. It even mustered a statewide rally of sympathizers.
The West Memphis Three. Given that our fine state kept Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin in prison for 18 years, and came close to putting one of them to death, after they were convicted in trials that even a kangaroo would be embarrassed to call a Kangaroo Court, they and their tireless advocates — Capi Peck, Blake Hendrix, Brent Peterson, Mara Leveritt, Jeff Rosenzweig, Patrick Benca and others too numerous to name — deserve recognition. Courage works. Perseverance works. Hope works. On Aug. 19, we saw the proof and promise of all three.
Mara Leveritt. Her dogged, years-long investigation into the West Memphis murders, published both on her website and in her book "Devil's Knot," helped bring the case to national attention. Now she has a movie deal in the works.
Peyton Hillis. Thanks to fan support, the Conway native and Cleveland Browns running back earned the cover of Madden NFL '12, the most enduringly popular sports video game on the market. Too bad an injury-laden season followed, yet again adding credence to the dreaded (and frequently cited) Madden Curse.
Geese in Burns Park. Chased severely but not given over to death.
Excellently analyzed and expressed, as always. Best Razorback commentary available. Thanks.
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