Various outlets are reporting that former Arkansas First Lady Betty Bumpers died today. She was 93.
Bumpers, a teacher and tireless advocate for childhood immunization and world peace, was the wife of former Arkansas governor and U.S. senator Dale Bumpers, who passed away in 2016.
Born Betty Lou Flanagan in 1925, she attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Art, the University of Iowa, and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and worked as an elementary school teacher before becoming First Lady of Arkansas in 1971 (along with her husband, she played a key role in the desegregation of the Charleston Public School District in Western Arkansas following the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision).
She used her position as First Lady to launch a groundbreaking campaign to have every child in the state immunized against childhood diseases. After Dale Bumpers won a U.S. Senate seat in 1974 and they moved to Washington, Betty Bumpers eventually teamed with U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter to expand the immunization program nationally.
As the Cold War heated up in the early 1980s, Bumpers founded Peace Links. From the Arkansas Encyclopedia:
In 1982, Bumpers and other congressional wives founded Peace Links on the idea that ordinary American women could develop lasting relationships with women in the Soviet Union based upon a shared concern for the wellbeing of children and families. In contrast to the Freeze Movement, Peace Links gave a voice to those who were not inclined to protest in the streets yet still wanted to express their desire for peace to the leaders of the two superpowers. Thousands of “mainstream women,” as Bumpers referred to them, joined Peace Links from some forty states, Europe, and the USSR. Bumpers spearheaded the organization and established the national headquarters in Washington DC with the help of longtime friend and Civil Rights activist Sara Murphy in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Peace Links organized discussions of peace-related issues, orchestrated rallies in cities across the country, provided educational materials for parents and educators to teach peace, held voter participation activities, and established cultural exchanges for Soviet women to visit the United States and for American women to visit the USSR.
Much more on Betty Bumpers at the Arkansas Encyclopedia.
Governor Hutchinson issued the following statement this evening:
Our prayers are with the family of former Arkansas First Lady Betty Bumpers tonight as we learn of her passing. She served our state with distinction and passion.
— Gov. Asa Hutchinson (@AsaHutchinson) November 24, 2018