From Joe Walker…
With the publication of “Harvest of Death: The Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry, Arkansas” in 2011, I saw that, though I had presented a detailed battlefield of the last clash of the armies of the 1864 Camden Expedition, I saw the need to expand knowledge to encompass the entire expedition. Since that time, in between other writing projects, I have continued to research in the interm, providing the groundwork for a future work on the expedition. And while there is limited resources in print on the Camden Expedition outside of Michael Forsyth’s “The Camden Expedition of 1864 and the Opportunity Lost by the Confederacy to Change the Civil War” (2007), there remained a need for an exhaustive study of the most significant event of the Trans-Mississippi Theater of Operations. The initial writing project continued to expand, resulting in what is now a three volume set, detailing the entire expedition from the preliminary meetings in the White House in 1863 to the exhausted Federal Army finally making it back to the safety to Little Rock in May 1865. With the assistance of a professional team of editors, cartographers and period photograph experts, I have accomplished what I believe will become the benchmark for students of the 1864 Camden Expedition. With an expected release in the spring of 2022, I tell the story, through never before diaries and stories, here before unseen photographs, professional grade maps and information rediscovered after more than a century (including near complete casualty name and unit information).
It is a study worthy of the men who participated.
From Joe Walker…
As I wrote my last book, “Elvis in Arkansas,” it became obvious that a similar book on Johnny Cash deserved to be written. Like Presley, Johnny Cash had his start among the juke joints and high school auditoriums across Arkansas. But more importantly, Cash was a true native to Arkansas, growing up in the piney woods of southern Arkansas. And unlike entertainers such as Glen Campbell, who grew up – and out – of Arkansas, seldom returning, Cash returned to his home state often. From performing across the state to quietly returning for a weekend fishing trip, he genuinely loved his state.
What I have discovered while writing this Arkansas based biography is the sadness that became Johnny Cash had its roots in Arkansas. He wore black as if in mourning – mourning from the heartache he had endured growing up in the cotton fields in eastern Arkansas. His brother Jack’s tragic death 1944 forever changed him. That coupled with the strained relationship with his father shaped who he became.
During my talks, I am sometimes asked to compare Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Elvis, it seems, was like a rocket without a guidance system. He sprang to life, souring to incredible heights, but when he lost his mother in 1958, the compass that kept him on course fell away, leaving him eventually burning up as brightly as a shooting star. Cash on the other hand, moved slowly – with intensity – focusing on the dream. Don’t get me wrong, Cash experienced the same guidance system issues – that is until he met June Carter. From then on, she kept him grounded and encouraged him to do what he did best – make music.
And just as with “Elvis in Arkansas” – I set out to write “Johnny Cash in Arkansas” as not just another biography where the same material so many writers use is simply regurgitated from the last book with the same stories and the same photographs used over and over. No…I wanted to offer the reader a new perspective on Johnny Cash’s time in Arkansas, with never before published stories and photographs the reader has never seen.
And I believe I have accomplished just that.
From Joe Walker…
While writing my newest book, “Johnny Cash in Arkansas,” I discovered one of the most significant (and forgotten) events in Arkansas history. The crash of American Airlines Flight Number 1 in eastern Arkansas was, at the time, the deadliest plane crash in American history and remains the deadliest crash in Arkansas history.
I came upon the incident as a footnote – literally – in Arkansas history. While writing my Cash book, I wanted to include some detailed history on William Dyess – the WPA Administrator who had created the colony in east Arkansas the Cash family moved to in 1935. As I researched Mr. Dyess, I discovered the colony was named in his honor following his death in a tragic plane crash. Much to my amazement, I soon discovered the crash was not only just a short distance away from the colony, but it was horrific in so many ways.
The more I researched, the more fascinating the story became. The crew and passengers who perished each had individual stories that alone would be an amazing story in their own right but add the facts surrounding the crash and you discover a story that yearns to be told.
What happened to Flight Number 1is a mystery to this day. One prevailing theory that remains a solid possibility even eight decades later, is the possibility that a passenger breached the cockpit in an attempt to bring down the aircraft in what newspapers of the time referred to as the first hijacking of an American aircraft. And the evidence there is compelling and well worth revisiting, especially when you add the fact that the government issued a directive within days of the crash ordering all cockpit doors to be locked during flight – an eerie foreboding of things to come on September 11th.
Another possibility is mechanical failure on one of both of the DC-2‘s engines. In my book, “Terror over Arkansas: The 1936 Crash of American Airlines Flight Number 1,” I will examine in detail the fatal flight, from its initial take-off in Newark, New Jersey to its discovery broken apart in an east Arkansas swamp.
What this book is not is a conspiracy theory type read. Instead, it is a historically fact based account of the deadliest plane crash to ever occur in Arkansas.
The passengers and crew deserve for their story to be told.