Date of Award
Kevin C. Motl
Prohibition did not begin with the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1920, nor did it end after the repeal of the Prohibition Movement in 1933 . In fact, by the time national prohibition was sent to the states for ratification, twenty-seven states had already adopted statewide prohibition laws. When national prohibition was repealed, previously enacted state prohibition laws remained intact. Therefore, despite the repeal of prohibition at the national level, thirty-eight percent of the nation's population lived in areas with state or local prohibition after 1933.
After national repeal, however, state prohibition laws were gradually abandoned as more regions of the country became wet. In order to appease counties that wished to remain dry, some state enacted local option laws, which allowed individual counties to readopt prohibition. After Arkansas established local option elections in 1942, forty three counties opted to become dry again. Those forty-three counties remain dry today.
Clark County, Arkansas, is one of a handful of counties across the country that has remained dry. The issue of alcohol continues to be just as contentious in Clark County as it was decades ago during the height of the prohibition era. Attempts to repeal prohibition in Clark County have all been unsuccessful. The most recent attempt in 2006 failed after months of heated debate.
The distinction between wet and dry is being blurred in Clark County and other counties as they continue to wrestle with the debate over alcohol. Several dry counties are now opting to become "damp" by granting liquor licenses to certain establishments. Other counties are outright rejecting their dry status in favor of becoming completely wet. Many dry counties have reached a difficult impasse between the need for progress and the respect for tradition. True to its history, the prohibition of alcohol remains a controversial and dividing issue.
Arkansas and Clark County personify the past, present, and future of prohibition. Although the issue has faded from the national scene, it has not completely faded from local debate. Decades removed from national prominence, prohibition still manages to harshly divide communities along wet and dry lines. AI Capone, a famous gangster and bootlegger, may have summed it up perfectly when he stated, "Prohibition has made nothing but trouble."
McCormack, Katie, "Raising the Hatchet or Raising the Glass: Prohibition in Clark County, Arkansas" (2008). Honors Theses. 239.