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Embodiment of a Real-Life Princess Diary: Ginger Croom Beebe (First Lady, 2007-2015)

Old State House Museum - Friday, October 19, 2018

Ginger BeebeA local features writer once began a biographical sketch with this lead in: “In The Princess Diaries movies we were introduced to Mia Thermopolis who rises from humble beginnings to become royalty. The movies portray, perhaps, every young girl's dream: circumstances in life take her from an otherwise ordinary existence to become a stylish woman in a storybook palace, adored by her subjects. Oh, yes, and there is always a prince.” In this case, the author was writing about Arkansas’s fortieth First Lady, Ginger Beebe.

Like her husband, she never knew her natural father; she was born in Little Rock but was adopted at the age of four by Buell and Virginia Croom of Searcy. She has no photographic record of life before that time:"I was born in Little Rock, and then adopted at age 4 by a family in Searcy. I really don't know the circumstances of why I was put up for adoption at that age. One of those things I'll never know.” Her adoptive father was an Amoco Oil Company distributor, and her adoptive mother was a homemaker. After graduating from Searcy High School, where she was on the drill team and served on the choreography board, she attended Arkansas State University-Beebe and the University of Central Arkansas. By the time she met up-and-coming lawyer and newly minted Arkansas State University board member Mike Beebe, she was a member of the Searcy Jaycettes and Junior Auxiliary and divorced with two children. Mike and Ginger were married in 1980 and had one child together, Kyle Houston Beebe. In addition to Kyle, the Beebe household included Tammy Powell (Taylor) and David Powell III, Mrs. Beebe’s children by her first marriage.

Ginger Beebe inaugural gownHer work as First Lady was influenced in large measure by her personal journey. She was inspired by her drive to help families and children live happier and healthier lives, and by doing so, make a positive difference on a statewide scale. In 2006 her daughter’s husband committed suicide and a close friend of her family had done likewise. These twin tragedies led Ginger and her husband in 2007 to work to reform the state’s mental health system, particularly to remove the stigma from mental illness, and to encourage people to get access to the help they need. She emphasized, “Mental illness is like any other illness…like cancer. We have to treat it that way and help children and adults get the care they need.”

She was also passionate about literacy and worked with organizations such as Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), Reach Out and Read, Read Across America, Read for the Record, and Together We Read. Ginger also had the opportunity to share her collection of “Flat Stanley” books that have traveled with her as far as the White House. She also told her story of adoption to promote the need for adoptive parents for foster children, saying in a 2012 interview, “"Children add so much to your own life. You'll be providing them with a home and a good life, and they would be, in return, such a blessing to you, so I would encourage anyone to let their heart lead them."

Ginger Beebe is the living embodiment of the aforementioned quote, and her story and work has enriched the lives of all Arkansans, even after she and her Prince Charming departed the Governor’s Mansion.