American Rambler Podcast Season 7, Episode 1: John A. Kirk

John Kirk is English, but he has lived in Arkansas for more than ten years. Raised in the Manchester area, his fascination with the US began as a graduate student, where he studied the civil rights movement. He is the author and editor of ten books, and his newest is on soldier, philanthropist, and governor Winthrop Rockefeller (yes, that Rockefeller family). It is the first ful-lscale scholarly treatment of WR’s early life.

In Arkansas, the legacy of Winthrop Rockefeller is a palpable one. Elected in 1966, WR was the first Republican Arkansas governor since Reconstruction. The fact that it took 90 years for that to happen says a lot about the political culture in which he lived. His journey from New York City to Little Rock may seem odd for someone of his stature, but in many ways it was an old American story of someone starting fresh by going west.

WR was a reformer, but as John shows, the governor was always progressive when it came to civil rights. A flawed man, to be sure, WR nevertheless used his money and family name for good. While he struggled as a student at Yale, he felt comfortable in the oil fields of the 1930s and as an officer during World War II, where he was wounded in the Pacific during a kamikaze attack.

John’s book stops in 1956 when WR arrives in Arkansas. The book provides a detailed and penetrating look at Rockefeller, and it sets the stage for what will no doubt be an engaging and well-researched second volume.

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