Voices in Support of the U.S. Marshal Museum
Voices in Support of the U.S. Marshal Museum
Al Whitson, software developer
"We’ve been searching for something iconic that says ‘Fort Smith’ for years now, and this has just been handed to us. But we’re not like Bentonville and other places where you have large donor money, although we’ve gained a lot of local money. We have the opportunity to become charter members here,” said Al Whitson, in favor of the sales tax.
“I hope that we can make this final push successful and pass the tax. I know it is going to have a positive economic impact on our community but it’s about so much more than that. The Marshals Service considers this sacred ground and I understand that. I not only have an ancestor who served for the Marshal Service under Judge Parker, but that marshal’s son was killed while riding as a posse for another marshal, who also was killed. That was Cal Whitson and his son Billy,” Whitson said. “Billy was killed by riding with deputy marshal John Phillips, who had just six months earlier lost three posse members in the same general area where this happened. I think it is a tremendous honor that we were chosen. I’m grateful that my generation gets to be a part of it. ”
“I think we have so much to look forward to. We’re a city that has survived ups and downs for many years and we have an opportunity that I don’t think most of us have yet grasped. This is a world-class museum, state of the art.”
As a software developer, he is very interested in the use of digital technology for what planners call “the museum experience.”
“People need to see what the experience is going to be like so they can see what we’re building. It’s not just an iconic building, it’s an experience they will never forget,”Whitson said. “They will want to come back and see it again. Museums are evolving in a a technological world where things are very different than they used to be. We’re starting this out as a technologically- driven museum.”
“The U.S. Marshals Service honored us by selecting us. This is our opportunity to repay that honor by doing it justice, not doing it half-way. It’s important that we repay their honor by doing justice to what the US Marshal service is and what that history means,” he said. “A museum tells a story and we’re part of that story. We are faced with the same economic challenges as every other city in the country. But unlike many of those cities, our past really can become part of our future. We just have to embrace it.”
"I’m grateful that it has come down to a vote. It’s our opportunity as citizens to become genuine stakeholders in what I think is one of the most important events in Fort Smith history."
Billie Johnson, retired nurse
"This museum is exactly what we need. We need to get it done and then really push it. We could get visitors from all over the world,” said Billie Johnson, a retired registered nurse. “They’ll add to the economy and help Fort Smith businesses.”
In her long career, Johnson has been a supporter of innovation more than once. While working in labor and delivery at the original downtown St. Edward Hospital, she volunteered for six months of training to help set up and staff the hospital’s first intensive care unit.
As a former Arkansas state president of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a service organization, she helped to raise $51,000 statewide for diagnostic scanning equipment for the former Sparks Hospital. Johnson believes that sometimes, to make progress takes a leap of courage and sacrifice.
“We need to do it now,” she said firmly. “I’m on a retirement income. This is just one penny tax for nine months. We need to consider that an investment in the future of our children and grandchildren.”
Tom McAllister, retired, AOG
"My wife and I have traveled to some other places around the country that have some wonderful museums,” said Tom McAllister. “I’ve seen the presentations from this one. I understand by that that it really needs to get off to a good start. It needs world-class exhibits for those who see it first, so they can convey it to people they know. We need to support it from the opening, also, for future fundraising efforts.”
“When Fort Smith people wanted this so strongly, i feel we ought to do anything we can to afford it. which includes this tax, for a little while.” McAllister also said he felt the museum’s mission to educate young and old about the Constitution and rule of law is important.
“I think we’ve gotten to a place that they need this community’s support and we should make this the world-class museum it can be."
Early voting begins March 5. Election Day is March 12.
The United States Marshals Museum Foundation will pay for the city’s cost of the special election.
The ballot measure is vote for or against collection of a one-time, non-renewable, nine-month only, one penny sales tax.
If passed the tax will be levied beginning July 1, 2019 and expire permanently March 31, 2020The estimated $15-$16 million in tax revenues will be used to finish the remainder of the USMM project.
This article appears in the March 2019 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith magazine.