The town of Hope, Arkansas, settled in 1852, became famous when Bill Clinton ended his acceptance speech at the 1992 Democratic Convention with “I believe in a place called Hope.”
Hope’s population of slightly more than 10,000, represents about three thousandths of one percent of the U.S. population. Yet Hope is the birthplace of a disproportionate share of national political figures: Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, and Mike Huckabee, the current surging Republican candidate.
Clinton was born in Hope in 1946, three months after his father died in an accident. Clinton lived with his maternal grandparents in Hope while his mother went to nursing school.
Huckabee was born nine years later, by which time Clinton and his mother had moved 90 Miles away to Hot Springs.
Having a president and a presidential contender from Hope makes me wonder, what is it about this place called Hope? Why would such a small town produce one president and one presidential contender within 15 years? Why Hope?
The City of Hope was named for the daughter of James Loughborough, the Cairo and Fulton (railroad) land commissioner, who drew up the city plat. It is the county seat of Hempstead County, located 25 miles northeast of Texarkana and 120 miles southwest of Little Rock Arkansas.
Hope is “a nice little quiet town,” said Arkansas resident Tommy Horton.
This description reminds me of Carrollton, Georgia, the town where I grew up.
In the early 1970s, my family moved to the town of about 12,000 residents located an hour west of Atlanta. Though Carrollton might now be considered more of an Atlanta suburb, back then it was a small, close-knit community.
I called Hope Mayor Dennis Ramsey to learn more about Hope and why it produced a president and presidential contender.
“Everyone knew what everyone was doing” and back then “we didn’t have locks on the door,” said Ramsey, the president of Summit Bank in Hope, and a Hope native.
This too sounds similar to Carrollton. Growing up, we often left the door unlocked and, wherever we went, people knew who we were and who our parents were. They would look out for us as if we were their own children.
News traveled fast in Carrollton, as it probably did in Hope. I know from experience that news of a child’s misbehavior outside the home often had reached that child’s parents by the time she got home.