Harvey Parnell, Governor

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Harvey Parnell

Birthplace: Cleveland County, AR, United States
Death: January 16, 1936 (55)
Little Rock, Pulaski, AR, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William Robert Parnell and Mary Elizabeth Martin

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Immediate Family

About Harvey Parnell, Governor


Harvey Parnell (February 28, 1880 – January 16, 1936) was the 29th governor of Arkansas, and served from 1928 to 1933.


Parnell was born in Orlando in Cleveland County in southern Arkansas. Parnell attended public schools and graduated from Warren High School in Warren, Arkansas. After graduation, he worked as a bookkeeper and store clerk and farmed in Chicot County in southeastern Arkansas.


Elected in 1918, Parnell was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1919 to 1921. In 1922, Parnell was elected to the Arkansas Senate and served from 1923 to 1925.

In 1927, he assumed the post of Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas and the next year was elevated to the office of governor when John Ellis Martineau resigned to become a federal judge.[3] In 1928, Parnell won election to the office in his own right. In the general election he defeated, 77.3 to 22.7 percent, the attorney Drew Bowers, a Republican originally from Pocahontas in Randolph County in northeastern Arkansas. Bowers had also been the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 1926, when he was defeated by Martineau by a similar margin.

In 1930, Parnell was elected to a second term. In both 1928 and 1930, Parnell defeated future U.S. Representative Brooks Hays of Little Rock in the Democratic primary. In 1966, Hays ran again for governor but lost the primary to James D. Johnson, a former associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, who was then defeated by Winthrop Rockefeller. In the 1930 general election, Parnell defeated the Republican J. O. Livesay, a district judge from Foreman in Little River County in southwestern Arkansas. Livesay had lost a Republican race for the United States House of Representatives in 1912 from Arkansas's 4th congressional district.

The Republicans ran a newspaper advertisement prior to the 1930 general election in which it claimed the Democrats had given Arkansas "Inefficiency, wanton waste, coercive machine rule, and government for private gain at public expense." The GOP pledged instead a "clean business administration, substantial tax reductions, honest audits, law enforcement, industrial leadership, and real statesmanship." The notice pleaded with voters to "go to the polls and vote for Arkansas instead of self-seeking politicians." Livesay also had a running-mate for lieutenant governor, C. H. Harding, a Pennsylvania native who was the president of the Fort Smith Building and Loan Association in Fort Smith.[5]

Osro Cobb of Montgomery County, the only Republican member of the Arkansas House at the time, did not seek a third two-year term but managed Livesay's race against Parnell. Livesay finished with only 18.8 percent of the vote. Cobb noted that Republicans at the time had no representation on Arkansas election boards and were not guaranteed precinct watcher positions. Therefore he considered Livesay's small vote "suspect," meaning it could have been larger had there been a way to check for fraud.[6] Six years later, in 1936, Cobb was himself his party's unsuccessful gubernatorial nominee against the Democrat Carl Edward Bailey.

The Parnell administration focused on establishing a state highway fund, creating a Bureau of Commerce and Industry, upgrading the school system. Henderson State Teachers College in Arkadelphia was also created under Parnell. Parnell himself was a consistent supporter of women's suffrage and appointed Hattie Caraway to the United States Senate. Caraway would later win election for the office and become the first woman elected to the Senate.

Many Arkansans blamed Parnell for their situation as the Great Depression began, and he left office in 1933 to return to farming. He later worked for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation for three years.


Harvey Parnell died in Little Rock and is interred at Roselawn Memorial Park Cemetery.

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Harvey Parnell, Governor's Timeline

February 28, 1880
Cleveland County, AR, United States
January 16, 1936
Age 55
Little Rock, Pulaski, AR, United States