The Big Fish Cookout in 1982

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Whenever summer time draws near, we can't help but think about cookouts. It also brings back fond memories of people who have been great in cooking for big events. Our friends, Mel Redd and Kenneth Grubbs were two of the finest bar-b-que cookers, that cooked in Poinsett County, from the 1970's until they passed from this life. Not only were they fine cookers, they took a big part, in the political scene from the 1970's until our present day.

I will never forget the political race for Governor in the 1982 year. Bill Clinton had been elected the youngest governor, in state history, during the 1978 general election. During the legislative session of 1979, there was a lack of money in the Arkansas General Fund. The legislature was strapped and decided to hike the price of automobiles tags, from an average tag price of $18.00 to $26.00, yearly. Bill Clinton, being the governor, went along with the majority of legislators with the price change in automobile tags. This move cost Bill Clinton the governorship in the 1980 year when he was defeated by Frank White.

This put Clinton on the move to be re-elected. At that time, Gerald Crawford was Sheriff in Poinsett County. Clinton, knowing that Gerald was a politician from way back, began speaking to Crawford on a frequent basis. Clinton, would time and again, ask Gerald what he could do to be re-elected. Gerald's advise to Clinton was, "Son, you are going to have to start listening and do not raise taxes, especially on automobile tags." Clinton agreed with Crawford and promised that he would work to reduce the price of automobile tags, statewide. He also asked Gerald what could be done to change Poinsett County around, from a defeat in 1980, to a win in 1982. Gerald told Clinton that he needed to have a big fish fry and invite everyone in the county.

During the summer of 1982, a fish fry was planned for Clinton in Poinsett County. The fish fry was centrally located at an old shop, belonging to the Hynemans in Weona. The price for admission was only $10.00 to attract a better turnout. Last, but not least, all of the city, county, state and federal officials had to be in attendance and they were. Mel Redd and Kenneth Grubbs were in charge of cooking. These two gentlemen, along with Benji Hyneman, of Hyneman and Associates, Juanaway Payne, Jess Wascom, Jimmy Moon and the Poinsett County Democratic Women engaged in a successful meeting and cookout for the voters of Poinsett County.

The rest is history. The fish fry was attended by more than 800 voters from Poinsett and surrounding counties. That fall in the General Election, Bill Clinton won the election in Northeast Arkansas and Poinsett County and was elected governor of Arkansas. He stated during the campaign that he had to win in Northeast Arkansas, which he did. After serving until 1992 as governor, Clinton went on to run successfully for President of the United States in 1992. Had Bill Clinton not had won the governorship in Northeast Arkansas in 1982, he probably would not have had the chance to run for President in the 1992 year.

To sum it up, there were citizens in Poinsett County, that had a direct bearing on the outcome of the 1982 Governor's election which led to a Clinton presidency in 1992. It just goes to prove that situations that seem small can prove to be very large in the political arena.