Promises Kept: A Memoir

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Sidney Sanders McMath was a pivotal figure not only in Arkansas history but in the history of the Democratic Party and of American law. Still vibrant and engaged in his nineties, he sets out his story in full for the first time: how he rose and fell in public office, and rose again as a lawyer seeking justice for ordinary people. McMath divides his story into four parts. In the first, he describes how his early life in rural Arkansas sparked his commitment to people. The second section describes his service to democracy in the military, including his commission in the U.S. Marines, a battlefield promotion in the Pacific and other honors, and his subsequent advancement to the rank of major general. The revealing third section details McMath’s extraordinary life in politics, starting with his explosive debut in 1945, when he and other recent veterans dethroned one of Arkansas’s most powerful and corrupt political machines. Later, as a two-term governor, he fulfilled this promise of reform and modernization: he brought the first roads and electricity to rural areas, fought the poll tax, and built the state’s first medical center. He also helped change the party’s rules so that black citizens could vote in primaries. McMath describes how he worked with President Truman to keep the segregationist Dixiecrats from taking over the Democratic Party—and the presidency. But here his story takes a dramatic turn: political opponents alleged bribery in his highway program, and although no indictments were handed down, McMath’s political career ended. Arguing his case for the first time in fifty years, he sets the facts straight. McMath turned to the practice of law to fight for the people he had represented as governor. In the concluding section of the book he describes some of his most important cases, examples of how he put his life’s experience, knowledge, and integrity in the service of those who had few resources. These stories show exactly why he has been honored with membership in such exclusive groups as the Inner Circle of Advocates as well as the presidency of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. Promises Kept shows us the excitement and the hard choices of real democracy, offering compelling human stories, new information on past conflicts, and the crucial perspective of a man at the center of history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Sid McMath has been a significant regional and national figure for decades as a citizen, soldier, lawyer, and politician. His fascinating memoir serves to remind us of the American ideals that inspired his generation, and his life provides an example to which later generations can aspire.” —Judge Morris Arnold, United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit, and author of The Rumble of a Distant Drum: The Quapaws and Old World Newcomers, 1673–1804 (Arkansas, 2000)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557287540
  • Publisher: University of Arkansas Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 474
  • Sales rank: 1,561,330
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Dateline xiii
Foreword xvii
Acknowledgments xxiii
Prologue xxv
Part 1. Roots
I. The Old McMath Homeplace 3
II. John Ray Sanders 9
III. Papa Rudd 15
IV. The Confederacy and Reconstruction 21
V. "Mother Mae" 25
VI. "Old Judd" 29
VII. "Pap" 33
VIII. The Jack Parham Place 37
IX. "Uncle Spooks" 39
X. Bussey 41
XI. Foreman and Taylor 47
XII. Home Again 51
Part 2. Duty Calls
I. Hot Springs 63
II. Elaine Broughton 75
III. "The Old Breed" 81
IV. My Hometown 87
V. The Pull of the Corps 91
VI. American Samoa 99
VII. In the Mood 107
VIII. New Zealand 109
IX. Guadalcanal--The Solomon Islands 113
X. Bougainville 127
XI. Coconut Grove 155
XII. Anne Phillips 159
Part 3. Politics and After
I. The GI Revolt 167
II. Prosecuting Attorney 181
III. My Race for Governor of Arkansas 191
IV. The Governor's Mansion 213
V. My First Term 225
VI. My Second Term 245
VII. Power Versus the People 267
VIII. A Race for the Senate 295
IX. Little Rock Central High School, 1957 301
X. Vietnam 307
XI. A People's Law Firm 319
XII. Betty Dortch Russell 325
Part 4. Conclusion 331
"A Nation's Prayer" 337
Appendixes Cases That Made a Difference
I. Get the Facts 341
II. Let the Jury Decide 349
III. Sauce for the Goose 357
IV. A Subsequent Shock Shows How: Admissibility 363
V. Guns Don't Kill: Fleeing Fugitives Do 369
VI. Advertisements That Prey: Negligent Inducement 373
VII. Justice Weeps: A Petition for Redress 383
VIII. A Scream in the Night 389
IX. Death Takes a Holiday 397
X. Poisoning a Neighbor's Well 403
XI. Willful, Wanton, Reckless Disregard for Safety--A Policy Decision 415
XII. Insult and Outrage--Defamation--Projecting an Innocent Person in a False Light 423
XIII. Gee, Dad, That's a Lot of Tomatoes 431
XIV. The Wrong Road Taken 449
XV. Seek Justice, Plead for the Widow, Champion the Fatherless, Relieve the Oppressed--And Put the Money in Trust 459
Index 465
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2003

    A Fascinating Life History

    A memoir by one from the 'Greatest Generation'. A portrayal both of a life lived and the times lived in by one of the significant figures in Arkansas history. An excellent read.

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