A former Arkansas Governor returned to his alma mater in Jonesboro on Thursday for a stroll down memory lane. His trip was just as historic as the building he visited.
Former Arkansas Democratic Governor Mike Beebe and his wife and former First Lady Ginger walked around the interior of a replica of his old Governor’s office in Little Rock--pointing out some of the differences and admiring the detail and care that was taken to bring his old workspace to life.
The office’s replica is inside of the restored V.C. Kays House at Arkansas State University. The house, which was the former home of the university’s first president, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the home office of the A-State Heritage Sites program. The program operates and preserves various historical properties across Crowley’s Ridge such as the Dyess colony which was the boyhood home Johnny Cash.
Dr. Ruth Hawkins is the executive director of the Heritage Sites program. While the actual Governor’s office is a little larger than the replica in the Kays House, Hawkins said her team had to make a couple of changes to accommodate the space while preserving the historic building:
“We had to reverse the walls for some things where he had something on the right and we had to put it on the left," Hawkins said, "But the biggest challenge was that his office in the capitol, the ceilings are so much taller, so these drapes we had to hem them up about 8 feet.”
The university had to purchase duplicates of some of the artifacts, such as the furniture since it belonged to the state. However, Beebe said he donated a couple of personal items to be used in the replica.
Beebe is an alumna of A-State’s Political Science program and is the first and only one to become Governor. So, when the Kays House was in danger of being demolished back in 2012, he told the local press that he was willing to help preserve the site to encourage future Governors from Northeast Arkansas.
“We’re in it today and it’s a landmark for the university, it was the first president’s house. And they are using it in a fashion that’s real nostalgic as far as I’m concerned. And I’m very grateful to ASU for it," Beebe said. "Hopefully, students and others visiting the campus will have the ability to come in and see what it looked like when their only alumnus was governor.”
Dr. Hawkins said the house is still not finished. She said there are plans for more exhibits that include the nation’s first elected female U.S. Senator.
“When we get grants, we’ll do exhibits that relate to V.C. Kays, Senator Hattie Caraway and other people of significance to the University,” said Hawkins.
The V.C. Kays House and the replica are open to the public.
Arkansas State University is the license holder of KASU 91.9 FM.