We all know about the United States Marshals, even if we had only seen movies like “True Grit,” “The Fugitive” or the television show “Justified.” The marshal service is one of the great traditions in the country, and the history of the organization is coming to Arkansas to stay.
James M. Dunn, President and CEO of the future U.S. Marshal Museum, visited officials at Nabholz Construction in Conway Wednesday touting his fund raising effort for the museum, which he believes will be the third jewel in the state.
“We already have the Clinton Library in Little Rock and the Crystal Bridges Museum in Northwest Arkansas,” Dunn said. “This will be the third national museum in the state.”
What will that mean for Faulkner County?
“What I think you are going to see is a lot of indirect economic impact for the area just based on traffic,” Dunn said. “Being right on I-40, tourists going to and from Little Rock to the west and northwest will be stopping in Conway. They will be eating in Conway. They will be spending money in Conway. I think you’ll see a difference in the coming years.”
The ground has not yet been broken on the museum, however, and Dunn believes it will happen when fund raising hits about $30 million. He said that about $10 million has been raised so far.
After a similar museum closed in Wyoming, a new location was scouted with Fort Smith being chosen. Fort Smith was the gateway to the west and Native American territory. Fort Smith was also the home to Judge Isaac C. Parker, “the hanging judge,” who would try fugitives brought in by marshals.
“It really seemed like a natural fit,” Dunn said. “It was the hub for so much marshal activity in those days.”
Once up and running, the museum will have about 50,000 square feet of display, with a theater devoted to films and multimedia of the history of the marshal service. Dunn said that although they have been etched in history through movies and television, their main duty was to enforce the laws of the day.
“What is interesting is that in the 1800’s, you would see the U.S. Marshals tracking down escaped slaves, and 100 years later, they were on the front lines defending civil rights,” he said. “It is a very interesting history.”
One that will make its way to Arkansas in a few years.