Date of Graduation

5-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

History

Advisor

Patrick G. Williams

Committee Member

Michael C. Pierce

Second Committee Member

Jeannie M. Whayne

Keywords

1966, Arkansas, John Paul Hammerschmidt, James W. Trimble

Abstract

This study examines the campaign issues, demographic factors, and voting trends that helped Republican John Paul Hammerschmidt defeat incumbent Democratic congressman James W. Trimble in Arkansas’s third congressional district in 1966. Much of the historiography addressing this election largely neglects the historic significance of Hammerschmidt’s successful campaign and the factors contributing to his victory. Instead, historians primarily write about the election of Republican Winthrop Rockefeller to the governor’s office that year.

This thesis pieces together several theories on how Hammerschmidt defeated Trimble, including the effect of Winthrop Rockefeller’s coattails, the demographic changes taking place in the Ozarks beginning in the 1960’s, the region’s traditional and increasing Republicanism, and the growth of industrialization and urbanization in parts of the district. Meanwhile, this study incorporates the unpopularity of Lyndon B. Johnson’s expensive Great Society programs in the district and the impact mid-decade redistricting in 1965 had on the political and geographic makeup of the district. Overall, this study suggests that Hammerschmidt’s victory cannot be traced to one particular issue or factor; instead, several factors helped him win. That said, the study also suggests that Hammerschmidt’s focusing on national issues and campaigning against Johnson’s Great Society programs likely benefitted his campaign the most, along with the high-energy campaigning tactics he implemented. Meanwhile, this thesis acknowledges Trimble’s vulnerabilities in elections prior to 1966, and that northern and western sections of Arkansas had been gradually trending toward Republicans at the federal level since 1952. Finally, this study suggests that it is difficult to gauge how much demographic changes (primarily retirees moving to northern Arkansas) and the controversy surrounding the Buffalo River impacted the race due to a lack of comprehensive data.

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