By Judy Williams
Director of Media Relations
It comes as no big surprise that Jay Barth ’87 includes Hendrix students in the acknowledgments of his latest book, Arkansas Politics and Government.
A winner of four different Hendrix senior classes’ Faculty Appreciation Award, the politics professor is a master at weaving students into all aspects of his work.
“I cannot thank enough the students at Hendrix College who have brought such joy to my professional and personal life through their enthusiasm for the study of politics and for their deep civility and kindness to me,” writes Dr. Barth. “The academic skill of the students with whom I have had the opportunity to work in my life as a professor is evidenced by the fact that several works written by them are cited in this book.”
Arkansas Politics and Government is the second edition of a book written by the late Diane D. Blair, a prominent professor of political science at the University of Arkansas who died of cancer in 2000 soon after beginning the revision. The newest edition, co-authored by Barth and released in April, discusses the shifts in Arkansas politics and government.
Barth also credits Grant Cox ’02 with providing important research assistance on the book, which is available most Arkansas bookstores, the Hendrix bookstore and from the publisher, University of Nebraska Press, www.nebraskapress.unl.edu.
Numerous book signings, including a reception on June 13 in the Georgetown home of Jonathan Rhodes ’98, the Hendrix alumni representative for Washington, D.C., have connected Dr. Barth with Hendrix alumni, colleagues and friends and have given him a platform to talk about his passion, Arkansas and Southern politics.
The book’s publication has also attracted media attention to Barth and Hendrix, including the cover article of the May 22 High Profile section in The Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
Barth used the book as a textbook this past semester for an Arkansas Politics Seminar. In addition to the class work, the 15 seminar students got practical experience working at a variety of political and governmental jobs, including the attorney general’s office, the American Civil Liberties Union, Arkansas Advocates and the Democratic House.
“A lot of political scientists tell themselves they shouldn’t get involved outside the academic arena because it threatens their objectivity,” said Barth in the High Profile article. “I think I’ve been able to achieve engagement in things I care about without losing my objectivity. What I hope to show my students is that you learn a lot from being in the public arena, but that you also have the responsibility to maintain that objective distance.”
The newest edition builds on Blair’s work which highlighted both the decades of failure by Arkansas’ government to live up to the state’s motto of Regnat Populus (“The People Rule”) and the positive trends of democracy. The book chronicles the development over the past 15 years – the two-term U.S. presidency of native son Bill Clinton, the retirement of players who defined the state’s politics in the nation’s most extreme legislative term limits, the complete overhaul of the state’s court system and the declaration that the state’s public education system was unconstitutionally inadequate and inequitable.
Barth, a central Arkansas native and a leading analyst, author and academic authority on the politics of Arkansas and the South, is a magna cum laude Hendrix graduate in American studies. He received a master’s degree in 1989 and a doctorate degree in 1994 in political science from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
His public affairs interest led him to a 1989 internship for Clinton in the governor’s office and to paid work in Clinton’s 1990 gubernatorial campaign. In 1992, he was a precinct captain in Orange County, N.C., for Clinton’s first White House race.
Barth has been a member of the Hendrix faculty since 1994 and is a member of the Inaugural Faculty of the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service. He chairs the Hendrix Odyssey Task Force which has helped developed the new curricular program, Your Hendrix Odyssey: Engaging in Active Learning.
He currently serves on the board of directors for the National Council on Community and Justice and is a national board representative for the American Civil Liberties Union.