No. 926



The city of Fort Smith, Arkansas, is now the second largest city in our state and is unique for many reasons. Back in the early days of our nation’s history, this scrappy border town grew up around the area’s first frontier fort established in 1817 to promote peace between the warring Indian tribes of the Osage and Cherokee.
Remains of the first fort lie within the Fort Smith National Historic Site perched on a bluff overlooking the Arkansas River. At this site you can stop and learn about the history of the Trail of Tears and find out about the Civil War in Arkansas. On the grounds nearby is a replica of the famed Fort Smith gallows where 80 men were ordered hanged by Judge Parker, who came to be known as the famous Hanging Judge.
We can add to this rich history the soon-to-be U.S. Marshals Museum. Several months ago, Jessica Hayes, vice president of museum operations, drove the 100-plus miles to our community to speak to our Lions Club about the museum. Jessica made a most interesting and informative presentation, and she really got my attention when she said the total cost would be in excess of $50 million. I knew then she was not talking about renovating a vacant warehouse. After she spoke, I was ready to go see the museum the next day, but it won’t be open until 2016. I am definitely planning to go see it when it does open.
When I saw the architect’s rendering, with its forward looking design on a point overlooking the river, the building reminded me of the famous Opera House in Sydney, Australia, while certainly not as elaborate. Here are some of the highlights of what the museum is designed to accomplish: Honor the past and future service of the U.S. Marshals; celebrate George Washington’s vision of the U.S. Marshals Service; create a national museum where visitors explore our nation’s history through the lens of the U.S. Marshals Service; engage visitors with interactive experiences throughout the three galleries; serve as a springboard for conversations relevant to our nation today; inspire visitors to live their lives with justice, integrity and service; recognize the more than 225 Marshals killed in the line of duty; and form educational partnerships with local, regional and national institutions.
As previously stated, the museum will consist of three main galleries: a Changing Nation Gallery, a Frontier Marshals Gallery, and a Marshals Today Gallery. The Changing Nation Gallery will show how and why the U.S. Marshals are intricately linked to the Constitution. Here visitors will learn there are often two sides to every issue. It will highlight four critical areas of American history – Slavery and the legacy of inequality, 1794 Whiskey Rebellion, labor strikes, and the enforcement of court orders in the Civil Rights era.
The Frontier Marshals Gallery will show the U.S. Marshals and Deputies as the lawmen of our country’s frontiers. Here it will show New Frontiers 1789, the American West, Alaska Territory, and New Frontiers and Beyond.
The Marshals Today Gallery depicts the era where we are today – Fugitive apprehension, protection of the Federal Courts, witness security program, transportation of federal prisoners and assets forfeiture.
In summary, the mission of the U.S. Marshals Museum is to form a national center of heritage and legacy, disseminate knowledge and inspire appreciation for the accomplishments of the U.S. Marshals Service. Should you travel Interstate 40, the third longest East to West highway in America, why not stop in Fort Smith and see this great attraction when it opens.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)