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Grand Opening of James Black School of Bladesmithing and Historic Trades

By Staff, 01/17/20 8:00 PM

This Historic Washington State Park and the University of Arkansas Hope Texarkana held a grand opening at the Stephens House which is located within the historic park. The Stephens House is now the home for the UAHT James Black School of Bladesmithing and Historic Trades.

Chancellor of UAHT Chris Thomason, started the historical event by saying, “The Arkansas #1 is the symbol of the Bowie Knifes new official status as Arkansas official blade and the designation of Historic Washington, Arkansas as the birthplace of the Bowie Knife”

Thomason acknowledged the special work of the 92nd General Assembly for leadership in the 2019 session in establishing Historic Washington as the first official Arkansas Heritage Site in the state of Arkansas, naming the Bowie knife as our official knife and creating the UAHT James Black School. Senator Larry Teague, Senator Jimmy Hickey, Senator Trent Garner, Representative Danny Watson, and Representative Jim Dotson were lead sponsors for the key legislation that have made this event possible.

Four very talented craftsmen were also present; Jerry Fisk, Linden Rhea, James Phillips, and Ricardo Vilar.  

Chairman for the University of Arkansas Hope Texarkana College Board of Trustees, John Goodson introduced Governor, Asa Hutchinson. Goodson stated, “A friend and ally of the University of Arkansas system for the last five years; no governor has been more successful, no governor has been more supportive, and for that we will always be externally grateful for governor Asa Hutchinson.”

Hutchinson told the story of Jerry Fisk, who is the creator of Arkansas #1. “When Fisk was only ten years old he took a trip to Historic Washington Blacksmith Shop. This became his inspiration to one day create the Arkansas #1. Fisk has been recognized as Brazil Father of Knife Making, Arkansas Times 50 most Influential People of Arkansas, Arkansas Game and Fish Hall of Fame, and American Blacksmith Hall of Fame.”

Governor Hutchinson had to honor of unveiling the knife to the public. The Arkansas #1 contains 1,836 layers of steel, the layers are to represent the year of statehood, the steel of a hand rail from the Statue of Liberty, the handle of the knife is crafted form the Arkansas designated James Black Walnut Tree, located at the burial site of James Black. There are engravings of twenty-five arrow points, as Arkansas is the twenty-fifth state.

After the unveiling the Arkansas #1, Thomason introduced Secretary of Parks and Tourism, Stacy Hursts. She stated “This is an example of what communities and organizations can do when they recognize their unique qualities for their local heritage.” She also introduced Linden Rhea who is a member of the Arkansas Knife Makers Association, and has master blacksmith ranking with the American Knife Maker Association. Rhea then led everyone to the shop were he held the ceremonial first firing of the forge.

Those in attendance got to view to Bowie Knife that was loaned for the special event by the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock alongside Arkansas #1.