Jan 04 2018
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman recognized the bicentennial of Fort Smith on the Senate floor on Thursday.
“As home to a growing university, new medical school and vibrant new industries, I know Fort Smith is starting the 21st Century on a solid foundation. We have much to celebrate from the past, but even more to look forward to for the future,” Boozman said.
Fort Smith’s western heritage will be highlighted during events commemorating the bicentennial. Boozman shared about the city’s unique role in westward expansion as well-known citizens and leaders including Judge Isaac Parker to U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves.
Along with touting all the city has to offer, Boozman took time to thank all the residents who work tirelessly to make it a great place to live, including Dr. Jerry Stewart, a dedicated public servant who called Fort Smith home and passed away December 26, 2017.
“We are forever grateful to the men and women who have encouraged the community’s progress and implemented their ideas to shape the city for the next generation,” Boozman said.
The community kicked off a year-long celebration on December 25, 2017, the 200th anniversary of the day Army troops established Fort Smith as a western frontier military post. The 200th Anniversary Committee organized a wide range of activities for people of all ages to participate in throughout the year to commemorate this milestone.
The following is Boozman’s speech as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, I rise today to recognize the bicentennial of Fort Smith, Arkansas.
On Christmas Day 1817, Army troops established a western frontier military post on the confluence of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers. Major Stephen Long named it Fort Smith, after General Thomas Smith, Commander of the U.S. Army Rifle Regiment.
To recognize this significant milestone the community is organizing a year-long birthday celebration that highlights its rich history, its citizens and its future.
While the fort was abandoned by 1824, the community that had sprung up around it continued to grow and played a unique role in westward expansion and the preservation of law and order in our developing nation.
Judge Isaac Parker paved the way for bringing order to Indian Territory, and great lawmen like Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves helped lay the foundation that shaped Fort Smith’s role in the history of the U.S. Marshals Service. Reeves was one of the most well-respected lawmen of all time. To recognize his efforts, the Bass Reeves Legacy Initiative raised money to honor him with a monument in the community’s downtown.
Reeves’ career is well documented, as are the stories of Fort Smith during this period.
In 1968, Charles Portis depicted Fort Smith’s role in taming the west in his book “True Grit,” which portrays a teenage girl’s effort to avenge her father’s death with a U.S. Marshal by her side.
The bond between the community and the U.S. Marshals Service is strong and continues today as Fort Smith will be the home of the future U.S. Marshals Museum scheduled to open in 2019.
Part of its collection will include a gun and badge that belonged to Bass Reeves.
The National Historic Site and other organizations have done an exceptional job of keeping the community’s history alive.
Promoting its history in this way will also have positive benefits in the future.
Fort Smith is a city with an incredible story to tell in its faith communities, its schools, its industries and its arts and culture.
The community is marking its bicentennial with events throughout the year that include an attempt to break the world record for a lip dub video at the Old Fort Days Rodeo Parade and the city’s first Fort Building Competition for kids.
I was pleased to contribute to the time capsule and I am looking forward to seeing many old friends at the school reunion.
A lot has changed since my days as a Northside Grizzly, but the steadfast resilience and spirit of the citizens of Fort Smith have remained.
I am proud to be a native of Fort Smith and look forward to the events during this year-long celebration.
As home to a growing university, new medical school and vibrant new industries, I know Fort Smith is starting the 21st Century on a solid foundation. We have much to celebrate from the past, but even more to look forward to for the future.
We are forever grateful to the men and women who have encouraged the community’s progress and implemented their ideas to shape the city for the next generation.
Dr. Jerry Stewart is one such leader who led a life dedicated to public service.
He had a successful career as a pulmonologist and served as CEO of Cooper Clinic, leading the growth and development of one of the region’s top medical care providers. After his retirement, he helped underserved patients at the Good Samaritan Clinic and the River Valley Primary Care.
He was well respected in the medical community and admired for his influence beyond the walls of the clinic. His influence was felt across the community as a leader in civic organizations and community boards including the Fort Smith Public School Board and as chairman of the board for the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Smith United Way.
Dr. Stewart passed away December 26, but his legacy will live on. I appreciated and valued his friendship and like so many others will greatly miss him.
Fort Smith was blessed with Dr. Stewart’s leadership and guidance.
It continues to be fortunate to have talented leaders with the vision and dedication to make this great city even better.
Congratulations to the members of the 200th Anniversary Committee for all of their hard work and planning to celebrate 200 years of Fort Smith. I’m excited for the community as it comes together to recognize and commemorate this historic milestone and wish all the very best as the events take place throughout 2018.