he Rockefeller family name is synonymous with wealth, philanthropy, and New York, but the Rockefeller name has also played a vital role in making Arkansas what it is today. It took over 40 years—complete with a stint as a roughneck in the oil fields; distinguished Army service during World War II; time spent living a playboy lifestyle; a sudden wedding, the birth of a son, and then a divorce—to bring Winthrop Rockefeller to Arkansas. Once he made his home here, however, he began quietly helping Arkansans realize that they could become more than what they were, that they were capable of changing their government and changing their state for the better.
On the centennial celebration of Rockefeller’s birth, the UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture is proud to premier this virtual exhibit of the Winthrop Rockefeller Collection. The exhibit explores the collection, which is held by the Center in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas, along two axes. Walk through an historical viewpoint of Rockefeller’s work in several key areas and get a glimpse into his lasting impact on the state by using the grey vertical menu to the left. Or explore the contents and organization of the physical collection of his papers using the maroon bar above. A selection of digitized photographs, documents, and audio and video clips is available in the exhibit's media gallery
and in the center's digital repository
. Visitors can also take a photo tour of his life via pictures from the collection using the Historypin box at the bottom of this page.
Rockefeller himself was very conscious of his legacy, and he kept his own lifelong archives at his homestead atop Petit Jean Mountain in Central Arkansas. The Winthrop Rockefeller Collection available today is a result of Rockefeller's own efforts, and it serves as a rich source for primary research, offering a glimpse into an important transitional time in Arkansas specifically and in the south in general.
Rockefeller’s successes as governor are evident in educational progress, prison reform, passage of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, and visibility for civil rights issues in the state. While he was not able to enact some more progressive legislation due to a contentious relationship with the largely-Democratic General Assembly, the Democratic governors that followed him did successfully enact many pieces from his platform. Of equal research value are the extensive personal papers and documents related to his financial and business dealings, as well as his philanthropy and service to the state before he became governor.
After Rockefeller’s death from cancer in 1973, the papers from his various offices and storage facilities were gathered together, organized, and microfilmed under the direction of Joe Ernst, then director of the Rockefeller Family Archives in Sleepy Hollow, New York. In 1980, the trustees of his charitable trust deeded the collection to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and on December 12, 1980, the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas gratefully accepted the gift. Today, that gift is known as UALR.MS.0001, the Winthrop Rockefeller Collection.