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A Tribute to Former Arkansas First Lady Betty Bumpers and H.E. Flanagan Prairie Natural Area

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Monday, November 26, 2018

Former Arkansas First Lady, Betty Flanagan Bumpers passed away Friday, November 23 at the age of 93. While many are familiar with her outreach campaigns for childhood vaccinations and world peace, fewer know about her association with Arkansas's tallgrass prairies. Betty grew up in Franklin County, running and playing in the prairie that was later named in honor of her father, H.E. "Babe" Flanagan when it became a natural area in 1988. The property that now comprises H.E. Flanagan Prairie Natural Area was owned by Babe Flanagan for 60 years and is one of the few remnants of the more extensive Cherokee Prairie Complex that once occupied 135,000 acres of the Arkansas Valley.

In 1999, U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers narrated the Arkansas Educational Television Network’s (AETN) documentary “Arkansas’ Natural Heritage” in which both he and Betty are shown walking through the natural area, talking about her family’s history with the land and her desire for the future of the prairie. “I would like to think that every child in America could have the great, wonderful experience I had coming out here when I was growing up and enjoying this kind of thing. I think probably that the best thing that could happen is that we encourage teachers to bring children out here . . . and learn about areas like this and learn to appreciate them even more. I can’t think of a better way to take advantage of their tax dollar than that,” she said.

A digitized version of “Arkansas’ Natural Heritage” can be viewed on our website and YouTube page at .

The ANHC published a tribute to Sen. Dale Bumpers when he passed away in 2016. The article "Sen. Dale Bumpers: Preserving the Best of Arkansas's Natural Heritage" can be read here.

Above: Sen. Dale Bumpers and Betty Flanagan Bumpers are pictured walking through a field of liatris flowers at H.E. Flanagan Prairie Natural Area. Photo courtesy of AETN.

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