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Orval E. Faubus:
Down from the Hills

Orval Faubus may well have been the last significant public figure in America to have been born in a log cabin. His parents were so poor they did not own the cabin but rented it. The tiny baby born on January 7, 1910, weighed less than three pounds. John Samuel Faubus, the father, was 22. For his son's middle name he chose that of his hero: Eugene V. Debbs.

Young Faubus grew up frail, painfully shy, and afflicted with an inferiority complex, feeling that his family was looked down upon not only for their mind-numbing poverty, but also because of Sam Faubus's controversial political views. Faubus inherited his father's interest in politics, but his relentless quest of normalcy led him to be militantly middle-of-the-road and he honed his centrist skills in a never-ending series of debates with his contentious father. He farmed, cut timber, taught school, and was a migrant farm worker while slowly pursuing his education. Faubus married in 1931, but didn't finish high school until 1934. Following that he briefly attended Commonwealth College, a Socialist school near Mena. Faubus's association with the leftist institution would later haunt his political career.

In 1936 Faubus ran for the legislature and lost by only four votes. In 1938 he was elected Madison County circuit clerk and reelected two years later. In 1942 he received the Democratic nomination for county judge, but withdrew to enter the army. Faubus quickly rose to the rank of major and served as an intelligence officer in the staff of General George Patton, a position which placed him on the front lines for most of the Battle of the Bulge. During this time he wrote a column for the Madison County Record reporting on his war experiences. As a result Faubus returned home as something of a war hero. Truman appointed him as the local postmaster and he used his earnings to buy the Record.

As the editor Faubus threw his support behind the GI revolt of Sid McMath. As a result McMath appointed Faubus first to the highway commission and later as a staff aide. When scandal began to infect the highway department, McMath placed Faubus in charge of the agency in 1951. Though the improprieties of the highway department were one of the issues which toppled McMath, Faubus managed to escape the stigma.


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