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Sidney S. McMath

Sidney S. McMath
Status: Deceased

(1912 - 2003)

Sid McMath was a decorated Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps, attorney, and the 34th Governor of Arkansas (1949-1953) who, in defiance of his state's political establishment, championed rapid rural electrification, massive highway and school construction, the building of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, strict bank and utility regulations, repeal of the poll tax, open and honest elections, and broad expansion of opportunity for black citizens.

As a former governor, Sid led the opposition to segregationist Governor Orval Faubus following the 1957 Little Rock school crisis. Then Sid, along with his law partner Judge Henry Woods, formed the states first peoples law firm to represent workers, consumers, and victims of personal injury. He went on to become one of the nation's foremost trial lawyers, representing thousands of injured persons in precedent-setting cases and mentoring several generations of young attorneys. His cases set a broad range of legal precedents, including the first million-dollar personal injury verdict in a U.S. District Court (in 1968 for an injured Arkansas River barge crewman), a woman's right to recover for the loss of her husband's consortium (an element of damage previously limited to men), manufacturers' responsibility for harm caused by defective products and negligent advertising encouraging their misuse, the chemical industry's liability for crop and environmental damage, drug companies' responsibility for fatal vaccine reactions in children, gun dealers' fault for the negligent sale of firearms, and the right of workers to sue third-party suppliers for job injuries. Sid's courtroom victories were all the more remarkable for being won in an era of "blue ribbon" juries handpicked by commissioners, themselves selected by state court judges beholden to insurance defense law firms from whom they received thousands of dollars in non-reportable (and non-refundable) campaign contributions for re-election races in which few were ever opposed. For more than forty years, he was an advocate for blue collar Arkansans, primarily in the area of product liability.

In the summer of 1966, at age fifty-four, Sid returned to active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps for a two-week tour of duty in Vietnam.
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