Arkansas was only diverse in specific regions and in many rural areas of Arkansas minorities were a rarity. Clinton was notorious for his “grass-roots” campaign style and his staff repeatedly mentioned all of the localities they had to visit. They ate raccoon at the Gillette Coon Supper, armadillo at the Hamburg rally, wild game in West Memphis and oysters at the Slovak political rally. As they traveled the state, situations arose in which the governor clarified his racial stance. He announced that he would not attend a meeting where all of his staff were not welcome. Clinton kept his campaign promise to appoint qualified African Americans, and his administration continued to make history. Tommy Sproles was the first African American appointed to the state Game and Fish Commission. George Hemmons (a chemist with a Ph.D. from Harvard and a professor at Philander Smith College and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) was the first African American appointed to the racing commission. Joe Hargrave (a cardiologist) was the first African American on the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees. Dr. Alonzo Williams was the first African American appointed to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Board of Trustees. Rodney Slater, future U.S. Secretary of Transportation, was the first African American appointed the Arkansas Highway Department Board. An African American now serves on the majority of state boards in Arkansas.
Clinton asked the legislature for a tax increase to fund education improvements. The legislature agreed and Arkansas’ first teacher testing requirement was passed. The new law required teachers to pass a basic skills test during the 1984-85 school year. Those who failed would have to take a remedial course and a second test; if they didn’t pass by 1987, they would lose their credentials. Teachers were additionally required to take an exam in their specialty area, or complete six credit hours of college work in their field.
Clinton’s leadership style changed significantly between his first and second terms. Clinton began to work with the opposition to get his proposals passed. He served as his own lobbyist, calling legislators at all hours of the night and wandering the halls of the legislature armed with a notepad and a cup of coffee.
During his second term, Clinton “went native” hiring mostly Arkansans for his staff.