One hundred years ago, June 14, 1912, Sidney Sanders McMath was born in a dogtrot log cabin—yes, really!, a log cabin—on a hardscrabble farm in Columbia County, near the Louisiana border. He picked cotton as a boy and moved by muddy roads from one destitute community to another with his alcoholic father “Pap” and his mother and sister, until his father took up barbering and settled at Hot Springs. The hardship and dislocation he experienced everywhere as a youngster, along with all the family sorrows, infused in him a zeal to improve the lives of people, especially in the blighted Arkansas countryside. As a student and a Marine, he saw that things were better nearly everywhere else than in rural Arkansas. The passion to serve people would guide him in heroic pursuits on the battlefields of the Pacific, in the “GI Revolt” against the political machines after the war, in four momentous years as governor, and as the founder and patriarch of what he called a “people’s law firm,” which for the next 60 years represented nothing and no one but ordinary people in their quest for safety and justice in the workplace, equal services in the public realm, and protection of the land, air, water and natural resources that are the gifts to all people.

All text by Ernie Dumas