Austin, Arkansas is a small town located in Lonoke County, just 25 miles northeast of the state capital, Little Rock. With a population of just over 3,000 people, it may seem like a quiet and unassuming place. However, the history of politics in Austin tells a different story.
The Early YearsThe town of Austin was founded in 1872 and was originally known as "Austin Station" due to its location along the Little Rock and Memphis Railroad. The town was named after Stephen F.
Austin, who is known as the "Father of Texas" for his role in the state's independence from Mexico. During its early years, Austin was primarily an agricultural community with cotton being the main crop. The town also had a thriving timber industry, with several sawmills operating in the area. However, as the railroad industry declined in the early 20th century, so did the economy of Austin.
The Rise of PoliticsIt wasn't until the 1950s that politics began to play a significant role in Austin's history. In 1953, the town elected its first mayor, J.
W. "Bill" Smith. Smith was a prominent businessman and farmer who had a vision for revitalizing Austin's economy. He focused on attracting new businesses and industries to the town, which led to an increase in jobs and economic growth. Under Smith's leadership, Austin also saw improvements in infrastructure, including the construction of new roads and bridges.
This made it easier for people to travel to and from the town, which helped to attract even more businesses and visitors. In addition to his role as mayor, Smith also served as a state representative for Lonoke County from 1955 to 1962. During this time, he was instrumental in securing funding for the construction of a new high school in Austin, which is still in use today.
The Civil Rights MovementLike many other towns in the United States, Austin was not immune to the effects of the Civil Rights Movement. In the 1960s, the town saw its first African American city council member, James "Jim" Smith. Smith was elected in 1966 and served on the council for over 20 years. During this time, Austin also saw its first African American mayor, James "Jimmy" Smith (no relation to Jim Smith). Jimmy Smith was elected in 1978 and served as mayor for two terms.
He was known for his efforts to improve race relations in the town and worked to ensure that all citizens were treated equally. However, despite these advancements, Austin still faced challenges when it came to racial equality. In 1983, a group of African American residents filed a lawsuit against the town, claiming that they were being unfairly taxed and denied access to basic services. The case was eventually settled out of court, but it brought attention to the ongoing issues of discrimination and inequality in Austin.
The Modern EraIn recent years, Austin has continued to grow and evolve. In 2006, the town elected its first female mayor, Bernice "Bunny" Adcock.
Adcock served as mayor for two terms and focused on improving the town's infrastructure and promoting economic development. Today, Austin is a thriving community with a diverse population and a strong economy. The town has seen an increase in new businesses and industries, including a large industrial park that has brought hundreds of jobs to the area.
The Future of Austin PoliticsAs Austin continues to grow, so does its political landscape. The town now has a city council with six members, including the mayor. The council meets regularly to discuss and vote on issues that affect the town and its residents. One of the biggest challenges facing Austin's politicians today is managing the town's growth while maintaining its small-town charm.
Many residents are concerned about preserving the town's rural character and ensuring that new developments are in line with the community's values. Another important issue for Austin's politicians is addressing the ongoing racial and economic disparities in the town. While progress has been made, there is still work to be done to ensure that all citizens have equal opportunities and access to resources.