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Veteran Journalist Ernie Dumas Discusses Career and Arkansas Politics

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Veteran journalist and revered Arkansas political writer highlighted his storied career Wednesday night at the David and Barbara Pryor Center in downtown Fayetteville.

Former Arkansas governor and senator David Pryor and his wife Barbara were among the large crowd that gathered to hear Dumas speak on stories he covered during his time as a political reporter for the El Dorado Daily News, The Evening Times and Arkansas Gazette, spanning more than 60 years.

During the evening, which was a part of the Pryor Center Presents series, Dumas revealed untold stories from his newly released memoir, The Education of Ernie Dumas: Chronicles of the Arkansas Political Mind.

“The whole thing is told from my perspective because I just happen to be the only person in Arkansas who was unlucky or lucky enough to be around for 40 years during pretty much the same thing writing about the subject of Arkansas politics,” Dumas said of the book.

Dumas also spoke about his reluctance to write the book and made mention of the headache some of his previous books had given him. The first book he was asked to produce, Dumas told the crowd, was a collection of essays about Bill Clinton, written by former Clinton friends, aides and colleagues. The book’s release was set to coincide with Clinton’s inauguration, if he were to win the presidency, but Dumas forgot about it until well after the election.

Pryor Center Presents Ernie Dumas – The Education of Ernie Dumas: Chronicles of the Arkansas Political Mind

The Pryor Center Presents lecture series continues this evening with veteran journalist and political observer Ernie Dumas as he talks about his memoir, The Education of Ernie Dumas: Chronicles of the Arkansas Political Mind. This book collects the mostly untold stories, often deeply personal, that reveal the inner struggles and sometimes the tribulations of the state's leaders—Cherry, Faubus, Winthrop Rockefeller, Dale Bumpers, David Pryor, John McClellan, J. William Fulbright, Bill Clinton, Jim Guy Tucker, Hillary Clinton, and others. Nightbird Books will have copies of Dumas's memoir for sale at the event.

Posted by Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History on Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Arkansas poet Miller Williams, who helped found the University of Arkansas Press and asked Dumas to compile the essays, called him just weeks before the inauguration to ask him how the book was coming. It wasn’t, but Dumas managed to piece the collection together just in time.

The second book Dumas was asked to write was a large coffee table book covering the history of Alltel in 1999. Dumas once again procrastinated and found out just 30 days before the book was due that he would need a heart operation.

“The doctor said I had ratty arteries,” he joked.

He convinced his doctor to postpone the surgery until he could finish the book, which was due on Oct. 1. His doctor scheduled the operation for exactly Oct. 1. Dumas finished the book just before midnight on Oct. 1, delivered it to FedEx to be shipped to the publisher and went straight to the hospital for his surgery.

Dumas also offered teasers for his latest book, including what he said was its bombshell: “the real story of Whitewater.” He also said the book contained the story of the feud between the Witt Stephens family and Sheffield Nelson, which he said led to the “great Whitewater snipe hunt.”

The book can be purchased here.

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Image courtesy of the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History

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