UAMS Champion, Late Governor Honored with Portrait
Sept. 28, 2012 | "Wow! That is great," said Sandy McMath, taking a first look at a portrait of his late father, former Arkansas Gov. Sid McMath, whose support for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) gave the institution a new home and facilities in the 1950s.
The new portrait of McMath, governor from 1949-1953, was unveiled Sept. 20 in the UAMS Historical Center, alongside memorabilia from the time UAMS located to its home on Markham Street in Little Rock. McMath successfully lobbied the state for a 2-cent cigarette tax, which funded construction of the first buildings on the campus, said Jonathan Wolfe, Pharm.D., a professor in the College of Pharmacy.
"He had the vision for founding a modern academic medical center for Arkansas," Wolfe said of McMath, who would've turned 100 this year. "He cared for the spirit of this place."
College of Pharmacy Dean Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D.,Ed.D., and College of Nursing Dean Lorraine Fraiser, Ph.D., R.N., removed the ceremonial cover from the portrait. McMath also is credited with helping get the schools of pharmacy (established in 1951) and nursing (established in 1953) started at UAMS.
"Dad loved this school -- thought of it as a crowning achievement and one of his most lasting accomplishments as governor," said Sandy McMath.
He said that at the 1955 dedication of what was then called University of Arkansas Medical Center, McMath political rival Gov. Orval Faubus first said "Sid McMath should be doing this [dedication]." The McMath entry in the online Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture features a photo of McMath at the 1951 groundbreaking for the facility.
Sandy McMath said development of a first-class medical college was among his father's main goals upon taking office. He also supported the institution with his contributions.
In his later years, it wasn't uncommon for the former governor to visit the campus -- sometimes without letting anyone know, his son said.
"One day he was holding forth in a classroom about courtroom forensics when [then chancellor] Dr. Harry Ward walked in and asked 'are you teaching?' "
McMath said his father also remained involved in political debates through the years. He remembered a 1991 meeting with Ward and then-faculty member John Pauly, Ph.D., where the former governor encouraged UAMS to get involved in the ongoing litigation between various states and the tobacco industry.
Eventually, Arkansas joined the lawsuit. Proceeds from the tobacco settlement included funding to start the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at UAMS as well as the Arkansas Biosciences Institute headquartered at UAMS. The institute is a research consortium of Arkansas colleges and universities funding work to reduce or prevent tobacco-related illness.