WILLIAM MEADE FISHBACK was born in Jefferson, Virginia, on November 5, 1831. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1855, studied law, and then moved to Illinois where he was admitted to the bar in 1857. After a year of practicing law in Illinois, Fishback relocated to Greenwood, Arkansas, and entered into a partnership with Judge Solomon F. Clark. In 1861 he was elected as a Union sympathizer to the state convention, which passed the secession ordinance. Fishback established a unionist newspaper, The Unconditional Union, in 1863, and recruited approximately 900 men for the Fourth Arkansas Cavalry. He entered politics in 1864, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, but was not allowed to take his seat, along with several other representatives from ex-Confederate states. Fishback was a delegate to the 1874 Arkansas Constitutional Convention, and was a member of the Arkansas Legislature from 1871 to 1881. He introduced what is known as the “Fishback Amendment” to the state constitution, which prohibited the state authorities from paying the Holford railroad aid and levee bonds. On September 5, 1892, he was elected Arkansas’s 17th governor, and during his tenure, the St. Francis levee district was organized. Fishback enhanced the national image of Arkansas with the state exhibition, and other similar public relation activities. He left office in January 1895, and continued his work in increasing Arkansas’s industrial growth. William M. Fishback suffered a stroke and died on February 9, 1903. He is buried at the Oak Cemetery, Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
Donovan, Timothy P., and Willard B. Gatewood, Jr., The Governors of Arkansas, Essays in Political Biography, Fayetteville; The University of Arkansas Press, 1981
Herndon, Dallas T., Centennial History of Arkansas, Vol. 1, Chicago, Little Rock, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1922. 3 vols.
Old State House Museum