The Arkansas Assemblies of God
One of the first known Full Gospel meetings in the state of Arkansas was held at Nimmons, Arkansas in 1901. However, in 1910, the first annual "Encampment of the Apostolic Faith" was held in Malvern, Arkansas.
Revivals were also being conducted at Russellville, Dover, and Hartford, with thousands hearing the Pentecostal message for the first time preached by Sister Woodworth Etter and Sister Julia Ross, and also by a Holiness Baptist Minister, Rev. W.J. Walthall. Rev. Walthall began to preach the "deeper experience" message in the late 1800s.
In May of 1914, following the first General Council meeting at Hot Springs, Arkansas, a group met at Russellville and organized what would later become the Arkansas District Council. The meeting was in the Hot Springs Opera House that was torn down in later years. A commemorative marker has been placed at the location near the Mountain Valley Water Company.
This first meeting was established as a Fellowship Conference and Rev. E.R. Fitzgerald, who later became the first District Superintendent, was elected chairman.
At the 1915 conference, held in Malvern, Arkansas, Rev. E.N. Bell was chosen to serve as chairman. Bro. Bell was editor of the Word and Witness, a newsletter that set a standard for the Pentecostal Evangel and Pentecostal Gleaner. He served until 1916, when Bro. Fitzgerald was again elected. At this conference, membership in the Arkansas Conference stood at 23 with no official record of churches.
In 1917, the first District Board was chosen. It was comprised of seven elected Presbyters, along with the chairman and secretary. In 1918, at Russellville, Arkansas, the General Council Constitution was adopted and the fellowship conference became the Arkansas District Council.
Rev. W.J. Walthall was elected was elected as chairman and served until 1925. There were 50 ministers and 50 churches listed in the 1918 directory for the district. In 1927, the title of chairman was changed to District Superintendent and Rev. E.R. Fitzgerald was elected to this position. Also during this council, the state of Louisiana was taken in and the name of the district was changed to the Arkansas-Louisiana District. Rev. W.J. Walthall was re-elected Superintendent in 1928. Rev. C.A. Lasater was elected in 1929. Rev. David Burris succeeded Bro. Lasater in 1930 and held the office until 1950. During Bro. Burris' tenure, the council headquarters office was established and the office of secretary-treasurer became a full-time position. Rev. G.W. Hardcastle served as the first full-time secretary-treasurer. He served for a period of one year.
During the council meeting of 1951, Rev. G.W. Hardcastle was elected as District Superintendent. He served in this office until 1965. During his terms of office, the auxiliary departments, which were first established in 1926, continued to grow, and the Executive Presbyters purchased the first headquarters property in the Quapaw Quarter of Little Rock.
Bro. Hardcastle was succeeded in office by Rev. Fay Hutchinson in 1965, who served until January of 1976. Membership in the district during this time grew to 788 ministers and 446 churches.
In January of 1976, Rev. Merle J. Harris assumed the office of District Superintendent upon the retirement of Bro. Hutchinson. He served the district until he retired in 1989.
In 1989, Rev. E. Joe Wilmoth was elected as superintendent. During his tenure, improvements were made at the district campgrounds, as well as technological improvements at the district headquarters. He was a "pastor to the minister" throughout the district. He served until his retirement in 2001.
Rev. Alton Garrison was elected to serve as superintendent at the 2001 district council. During his tenure the mission statement "Empower, Equip, Evangelize" was adopted, and he created the Superintendent's Coaching group to help pastors and ministers through a program of training, mentoring, and relationship-building. In 2005, the district office building was relocated to the current Interstate 30 location. Bro. Garrison served until the fall of 2005, when he was elected to serve as the Director of U.S. Missions at the General Council in Springfield, Missouri. He currently serves as the Assistant General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
At a special-called district council in August of 2005, Rev. Larry Moore assumed the responsibility of superintendent by natural succession as the assistant. He currently serves the more than 1000 ministers and nearly 425 churches across the state as both superintendent and "pastor" to the Arkansas district.
In May of 2014, the Arkansas District will celebrate the 100th Anniversary.