A Word from the Roberts Library: Old Acquaintance, Never Forgotten—and a New Year Ahead

I’m always hesitant to wish time away. I try to resist wishing for school to be out, for vacation to be here, for the heat of summer to be over (well, if I’m honest, I usually wish for that). Almost the only time I wish time would pass more quickly is when I’m stuck on an airplane that’s sitting on the tarmac for a couple of hours or when I’m waiting for a really good meal to be ready to eat.

I think we’re all glad that the year 2020 is over, however. Rolling your calendar to the new month, as you did just last week, won’t magically change everything, but many of us feel things are going to get better as the vaccine rolls out and we continue to find our footing safely. I don’t own a functional crystal ball, so I won’t try to anticipate what that will look like. Instead, I want to look back on two of the people we lost in 2020 who played significant roles in the development of the CALS Butler Center and its programs.

Richard Butler at the Butler Center’s annual genealogy conference; 2010.

On the night of June 4, we received word that Richard C. Butler Jr. had died. Richard was the son of Richard and Gertrude Butler, for whom the CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies is named. He was a full participant in our many programs and workshops, attended our Second Friday Art Night events, and, when given the opportunity, quizzed our Legacies & Lunch speaker about his or her mother’s maiden name. I’d love to see a highlight reel of those queries.

Genealogy and historic preservation were his passions, and he contributed much to keeping Arkansas’s memories secure. We’ll miss seeing him when we gather again. You may read more about Butler on the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas (EOA) here.

Only a short time later, we learned of John G. Ragsdale Jr.’s death. During his years of working with the Boy Scouts, Ragsdale became an expert in cooking with Dutch ovens, writing books about the subject (as well as other subjects) and performing cooking demonstrations at the Historic Arkansas Museum, Ozark Folk Center, and other places. In 2001, Ragsdale worked to get the Dutch oven designated as Arkansas’s official state cooking vessel.

Like Butler, he was another champion of Arkansas history, and he and his wife DeDe were the original benefactors of our own publishing enterprise, Butler Center Books. Although he spent his final years in Texas, it was clear that his heart remained in Arkansas. Ragsdale’s entry in the EOA is here.


These were only two significant losses for the CALS family this year. I hope next year truly is better, and that we have the chance to see each of you soon.

Stay well.


By Glenn Whaley, manager of the CALS Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art







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