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Part of the lore of the 1957 desegregation crisis at Central High School is the famous chili incident. Minnijean Brown, probably the fieriest of the Little Rock Nine, finally endured all the taunts she could stand one day in the cafeteria and dropped a bowl of chili on nearby white students. She was expelled. No action was taken against white students.

Minnijean Brown Trickey now lives in Little Rock. One of the male students who was chili-splattered that day, but who has been described as an innocent bystander, is Dent Gitchel, a retired UALR law professor. Now they figure in another heated happening.



Reconciliation chili

Minnijean Trickey and Dent Gitchel are to join hands as judges March 5 of the Reconciliation Chili Cook-off at Central High. Local teams will compete at the cafeteria in an event to raise money for the Central High Museum. Central principal Nancy Rousseau will also be judging chili, says Colette Honorable, a museum board member and chair of the fund-raiser.



All in the family

Until the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported last week that the deal was coming to an end, few knew that Jennifer Smith, the wife of Sen. Terry Smith of Hot Springs, had a marketing consultant’s gig with the University of Arkansas-operated Garvan Gardens in Hot Springs. Since 2002, the UA (technically, its private foundation) has paid her $1,600 a month. UA asked in a contract renewal that she commit to specific working hours. Not worth her time, she decided.

The sweetheart deal was aromatic enough, given that the UA has plenty of marketing people. But we also dug up a little something not covered in the Democrat-Gazette article.

In the 2005 legislative session, Senator Smith passed a $200,000 appropriation for Garvan Gardens. By the time the legislature finished doling out the pork pie, his wife’s employer had to settle for $111,000. (Smith appreciates gardening, apparently. He also landed $22,500 for the Garland County Master Gardeners.)

When the senator filed his annual financial disclosure form in January, he said neither he nor his wife had sold anything worth more than $1,000 to “an office, department, commission, council, board, bureau, committee, legislsative body, agency or other establishment of the state of Arkansas.” The UA Foundation is, legally, a private nonprofit. A senator interested in avoiding even the appearance of impropriety perhaps might have disclosed the working arrangement. Because, surely, he had nothing to hide.




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