by Lucas Potts

Winthrop Rockefeller came to our state in the early 1950s, and at the Institute, we strive to champion the legacy he left behind after his 20 years here. However, a common question is asked: how did a Rockefeller end up in Arkansas? Enter Arkansas native Frank Newell, without whom it’s fair to say Winthrop might never have established roots here.

Newell was an old U.S. Army buddy of Winthrop’s. Their friendship began shortly after meeting in the service, and they remained friends for the rest of their lives. After WWII, Newell returned to Little Rock while Winthrop returned to New York, managing personal and family projects for some time. Despite his busy schedule, Winthrop was known for throwing parties at his residences. He shared some of these stories with Newell in an attempt to persuade him to come to New York. Newell prophetically replied: 

“I’ll see you living in Arkansas long before you ever see me working in New York.” 

Frank Newell

Winthrop had always been one to carve his own path in life. He had a desire to be in the thick of things, to drill the wells instead of running the oil company, or to fight the battles instead of helping finance the war. By the end of the decade and the end of his first marriage, Winthrop was looking for that next step forward.

This is where Newell came in. In letters, he encouraged Winthrop to visit Arkansas to get away from those pressures. Winthrop eventually made a few trips down South, originally planning to live near Newell in Little Rock. However, Newell took Winthrop to view some property 60 miles away on Petit Jean Mountain. The 927 acres where the Institute now stands, originally called Twin Trees, was just what Winthrop was looking for.

In 1953, Winthrop moved permanently to Arkansas. When members of the press and public scrutinized such a drastic change in environment, Winthrop repeatedly stated that Newell was the catalyst for his move. He called the day he arrived “the beginning of a new life” and said that “the real sunrise of my dream came when I moved up to my mountaintop.” 

It’s impossible to know whether Winthrop would have ended up in Arkansas if the pair had not met, but it’s safe to say that we continue Wintrhop’s legacy of transformational change because they did. 

Lucas Potts

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  1. 1
    Ada Hollingsworth on June 27, 2024

    I know this story and shared numerous others with Gov. Rockefeller, his wife Jeanette and children. My late husband worked for him, when he became governor of Arkansas. I recall my entire family being excited to support his candidacy for governor of Arkansas. My bonus father and one of his brothers were often called on to help with many of the very important Soiree’ that continued at Winrock, and hosted by the Governor and his wife.
    On the day that our son was born, July 23, 1970, my husband, Atty. Les Hollingsworth was in a meeting with the governor at the Mansion. The Governor sent me a dozen roses as Les had not been at the hospital with me. I have many beautiful memories of our friendship and the working environment created by Mr. Rockefeller’ move to Arkansas. He loved people as did Mrs. Rockefeller. He loved public policy and possessed great intellect, empathy and energy for his vision of helping Arkansas to prosper. He was the first governor that I knew personally and had worked to see him elected. I later served on the board of Winrock International, The Arkansas Program side. This was the beginning of sustained political activism for both me and Les, and our four children.

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