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Dale Bumpers

In office
January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1999
Preceded by William Fulbright
Succeeded by Blanche L. Lincoln

In office
January 12, 1971 – January 3, 1975
Lieutenant Bob C. Riley
Preceded by Winthrop Rockefeller
Succeeded by Bob C. Riley (acting)

Born August 12, 1925 (1925-08-12) (age 84)
Charleston, Arkansas
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Betty Flanagan Bumpers
Alma mater University of Arkansas
Northwestern University Law School
Religion Methodist
Military service
Service/branch United States Marine Corps[1]
Years of service 1943-1946

Dale Leon Bumpers (born August 12, 1925) is an American politician who served as the 38th Governor of Arkansas from 1971 to 1975; and then in the United States Senate from 1975 until his retirement in January 1999. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Senator Bumpers is currently counsel at the Washington, D.C. office of law firm Arent Fox LLP, where his clients include Riceland Foods and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.



Dale Bumpers was born in Charleston in Franklin County in west central Arkansas near Fort Smith. He attended public schools and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1943 to 1946 during World War II. Bumpers graduated from Northwestern University Law School in Evanston, Illinois, in 1951. From his time in Illinois, he became a great admirer of Adlai Ewing Stevenson, II, the Democratic presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956. Bumpers was admitted to the Arkansas bar in 1952. He started practicing law in his hometown in that same year and served as Charleston city attorney from 1952 to 1970. He served as special justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1968.


Governor of Arkansas

Bumpers was virtually unknown when he announced his campaign for governor in 1970. Despite his lack of name recognition, his oratorical skills, personal charm, and outsider image put him in a runoff election for the Democratic nomination with former Governor Orval Faubus. Bumpers easily defeated Faubus and then unseated the incumbent moderate Republican Governor Winthrop Rockefeller in the general election. It was a heavily Democratic year nationally, and the tide benefited Bumpers. Bumpers, like Jimmy Carter of Georgia and John C. West of South Carolina was often described as a new kind of Southern Democrat who would bring reform to his state and the Democratic Party. His victory over Rockefeller ushered in a new era of youthful reform-minded governors, including two of his successors, David Pryor (later a three-term U. S. Senator) and future president Bill Clinton.

In the 1972 Democratic primary, Bumpers easily defeated two opponents, including the highly regarded State Senator Q. Byrum Hurst of Hot Springs. In the general election, he swamped the Republican Len E. Blaylock of Perry County even as Richard M. Nixon was handily winning Arkansas in the presidential race.

Bumpers was elected to the United States Senate in 1974. He unseated the incumbent James William Fulbright in the party primary and then overwhelmed the Republican John Harris Jones of Pine Bluff.

United States Senator

Bumpers was elected to the Senate four times, beginning with his huge victory over Fulbright, the veteran chairman of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Bumpers chaired the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship from 1987 until 1995, when the Republican Party took control of the Senate for a dozen years following the 1994 elections. Bumpers served as ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources from 1997 until his retirement. In the Senate, Bumpers was known for his oratorical skills and for his prodigious respect for the Constitution of the United States. Bumpers never supported any constitutional amendment.

Despite support from many colleagues, including ultimate 1988 Democratic candidate, Senator Paul Simon of Illinois, Bumpers decided to not seek the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988. Initially named as one of Walter Mondale's top potential choices for his vice presidential running mate in '84, but he took his name out of the running early in the process. Bumpers stated as his main reason for not running, "a total disruption of the closeness my family has cherished." Many observers felt that Bumpers perhaps lacked the obsessive ambition required of a presidential candidate, especially one who would have started out the process with low name identification. Another factor often mentioned was Bumpers key vote in killing labor law reform in 1978, a vote that angered organized labor and had clearly not been forgotten by labor leaders nearly a decade later.[2]

Bumpers, a self-declared close friend of President Clinton, gave an impassioned closing argument in defense of him during Clinton's impeachment trial.

Quotes from the closing argument of the White House presentation, January 21, 1999:[3]

H. L. Mencken said one time, "When you hear somebody say, 'This is not about money' – it's about money." And when you hear somebody say, "This is not about sex" – it's about sex.

Nobody has suggested that Bill Clinton committed a political crime against the state. So, colleagues, if you honor the Constitution, you must look at the history of the Constitution and how we got to the impeachment clause. And if you do that and you do that honestly according to the oath you took, you cannot – you can censure Bill Clinton, you can hand him over to the prosecutor for him to be prosecuted, but you cannot convict him. And you cannot indulge yourselves the luxury or the right to ignore this history.

The American people are now and for some time have been asking to be allowed a good night's sleep. They're asking for an end to this nightmare. It is a legitimate request.


In 1995, the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville founded the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences in his honor.[4]


Bumpers and his wife Betty were both known for their dedication to the cause of childhood immunization. The Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the National Institutes of Health was established by former President Clinton to facilitate research in vaccine development.[5]

Bumpers in fiction

In the 1977 Jeffrey Archer's novel Shall We Tell the President?, Bumpers was elected as the Vice President of the United States in a ticket headed by Ted Kennedy during United States presidential election, 1984. In the next version of novel, Archer replaced Kennedy with the fictional character of Florentyna Kane, and Bumpers with the real-life Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey.

See also


  1. ^ "Bumpers, Dale (1925– )". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  2. ^ Barone, Micahel and Ujifusa, Grant (1985), The Almanac of American Politics 1986, National Journal Inc., pp 66
  3. ^ "Statement by Dale Bumpers at Bill Clinton's impeachment hearing". PBS. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  4. ^ "Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences". University of Arkansas. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  5. ^ "Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center". National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 


Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Winthrop Rockefeller
Governor of Arkansas
Succeeded by
Bob C. Riley (acting)
Preceded by
Lowell P. Weicker, Jr.
Chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee
Succeeded by
Christopher "Kit" Bond
United States Senate
Preceded by
J. William Fulbright
United States Senator (Class 3) from Arkansas
Served alongside: John Little McClellan, Kaneaster Hodges, Jr.,
David Pryor, Tim Hutchinson
Succeeded by
Blanche Lincoln
Party political offices
Preceded by
Marion H. Crank
Democratic nominee for Governor of Arkansas
1970, 1972
Succeeded by
David Pryor


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