LR Cultural Touchstone: Joa Stafford-Humphrey

JoaJoa Stafford-Humphrey loved music and poetry.  But her most lasting cultural contribution is the creation of the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History.

She had admired General MacArthur for many years.  In the 1980s, while serving on the Board of the Museum of Science and History, her interest heightened.  The museum (now known as the Museum of Discovery) was at the time located in the Arsenal Building in MacArthur Park. It was in this building that the General had been born.

Later, when the museum was planning to relocate to the River Market district, Joa asked City leaders about the future plans for the building. When there were not any definite plans, she informed them that the building should house a museum about MacArthur and also the state’s military history.  She succeeded in lobbying the Future-Little Rock planning process to include this as plans for the soon-to-be vacant building.

In 1994, the MacArthur Military History Museum commission was established, and Joa was appointed as a founding member.  She led the commission for several years.  Over the years, she lobbied for funds and artifacts as well as recruited other volunteers.  Eventually, the City hired a full-time museum director Stephan McAteer.  The project received a setback in January 1999 when a tornado damaged the building.  However, on May 19, 2001, Joa’s dream became a reality as the new museum opened its doors.

While the museum was important to her, it was not her only interest.  She was active in the Geyer Springs neighborhood and Southwest Little Rock activities. Joa was also known for her New Year’s Day open houses which would attract political leaders as well as her neighbors.

Joa died in July 2013.