The Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) was created to honor Arkansans who have made outstanding contributions to the entertainment industry. Honorees include performers, non-performing contributors (such as writers, directors, and producers), and pioneers in the entertainment industry.
In 1985, the Arkansas General Assembly authorized the establishment of a museum honoring Arkansans who have made a considerable contribution to the entertainment industry. The first inductees were honored in 1996. The following year, the state legislature transferred the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame to the Department of Parks and Tourism, along with $300,000. Several cities competed to host the museum. Pine Bluff was eventually chosen, with the Pine Bluff Convention and Visitors Bureau receiving $250,000 to establish the Hall of Fame. On October 2, 1998, the Hall of Fame opened with a permanent home in the Pine Bluff Convention Center. In 2017, the state legislature transferred oversight of the Hall of Fame to the City of Pine Bluff.
The board of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame selects honorees for induction, with nominations coming from the artists themselves or from other individuals. After a review of applications to determine if the nominee meets the basic criteria of Arkansas connection and national significance, among other factors, the nominations are held until the board’s annual meeting, at which time they are voted upon.
A life-size animatronic statue of Johnny Cash greets visitors with some of the most popular songs of his career. Many other well-known Arkansas entertainers, both performing and non-performing, who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame have contributed artifacts to the exhibits that represent their achievements. For example, the museum houses Bob Burns’s “bazooka” as well as the musical instruments and clothing of other performers.
Among the inductees into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame are radio personalities Chet Lauck and Norris Goff (“Lum and Abner”); musical talents Al Green, the Browns, Patsy Montana, Levon Helm, “Lefty” Frizzell, and Jimmy Driftwood; singer/songwriter and television and motion picture actor Ed Bruce; composer William Grant Still; orchestra conductor Sarah Caldwell; jazz pianist Walter Norris; opera singer Barbara Hendricks; Broadway and motion picture performer William Warfield; gospel songwriter Albert E. Brumley; movie actors “Broncho Billy” Anderson, Julie Adams, Mary Steenburgen, Billy Bob Thornton, Dick Powell, and Alan Ladd; entertainment promoter Jim Porter; author John Grisham; screenwriter James Bridges; motion picture sound and camera lens inventor Freeman Owens; television producer and director Harry Z. Thomason; Broadway producer Elizabeth Williams; and Broadway musical performer Lawrence Hamilton.
Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame Inductees
For additional information:
Cofer, Brian. “Hall of Fame for Entertainers Opens Friday.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 27, 1998, pp. 1B, 8B.
Pine Bluff Convention and Visitors Bureau. http://www.pinebluffcvb.org/ (accessed August 3, 2018).
Slivka, Judd. “Pine Bluff Panel’s Pick to House Hall of State Stars.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 18, 1997, pp. 1B, 8B.
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Staff of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture