Wallace Townsend (August 20, 1882 - January 7, 1979) was an Iowa-born figure in the development of the 20th century Arkansas Republican Party. From 1928 until 1961, he was his party's national committeeman, having been succeeded by Winthrop Rockefeller, who was elected five years thereafter as the state's first Republican governor since Reconstruction.
Townsend was born in DeWitt in Clinton County in easternmost Iowa, a son of John R. Townsend and the former Italia James. His brother, A. E. "Jack" Townsend, was the long-term assistant postmaster in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1894, Townsend moved to Little Rock with his family. In 1902, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, and became an educator for eight years. From 1906 to 1910, he was principal of Little Rock High School, in which capacity he worked to secure the first accreditation of the institution.
In 1906, Townsend received his LLB from the now William H. Bowen Law School of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In 1910, he began a legal practice chiefly concerned with revenue bonds and that same year vacated the principalship in Little Rock and ran unsuccessfully as the Republican nominee for Arkansas superintendent of public instruction. He became an integral part of the GOP legal counsel active in the Lily White faction, which sought to recruit white Democrats into the Republican Party, then previously the domain of the relatively few African American voters registered in the state. In 1914, Townsend joined Augustus Caleb Remmel, chairman of the Pulaski County Republican organization, to take control of the state party for the Lily Whites. A. C. Remmel (1882-1920), known as "Gus" Remmel, was the father of later Republican figure Pratt C. Remmel, who was the mayor of Little Rock from 1951 to 1955, and ran in 1954 against the Democrat Orval E. Faubus for governor.
Townsend was the party's unsuccessful gubernatorial nominee in both 1916 and 1920, having been defeated by the Democratic nominees, Charles Hillman Brough and Thomas Chipman McRae, respectively. In the 1916 race, Townsend polled 43,963 votes (25 percent), compared to Brough's 122,041 (69.5 percent). Another 9,730 votes were cast for the Socialist nominee, William Davis.
In the 1920 race, McRae polled 123, 637 votes (66.6 percent) to Townsend's 46,350 (25 percent). An Independent Josiah H. Blount, the principal of an African American school in Helena, Arkansas, defected from the GOP and received the remaining 15,627 (8.4 percent). Blount was tied to the former Black-and-Tan faction of the GOP. The gains predicted by Townsend and the Lily Whites never materialized, and the Black and Tans, as they became known in other southern states as well, were reconciled for several more decades with the regular GOP. In time though the Arkansas black voters swung solidly Democratic by the 1960s and 1970s.
Townsend attended every Republican National Convention from 1912 to 1960. From 1916 to 1962, he served on the state party’s executive committee. He was the state party’s vice chairman from 1920 to 1928 and the national committeeman for thirty-three years, 1928 to 1961. During the Warren G. Harding administration, Townsend was named registrar of the U.S. land office at Little Rock from 1922 to 1924. The Hoover administration named him United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, a patronage appointment that he held from 1930 to 1934, when he was replaced in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. Townsend's career at times paralleled that of another Little Rock attorney, Osro Cobb, who served as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1927 to 1931 from Montgomery County. Cobb served as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas in the Eisenhower administration.
Townsend was active in many organizations, such as the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and the Little Rock Boys Club. In 1914, he married the former Bess Voss, with whom he had two daughters. She died in 1958, and four years later, he wed Floy Smith Plunkett. Townsend continued to practice law until 1974, when he retired at the age of ninety-two. He died some five years later in Little Rock.
Townsend's papers are housed at Special Collections of the Ottenheimer Library at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
- Wallace Townsend (1882-1979). encyclopediaofarkansas.net. Retrieved on May 27, 2012.
- Marvon Johansen Browning, "Pratt Remmel dies; GOP mayor of LR ran against Faubus", Arkansas Democrat, May 16, 1991
- Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, Vol. 2, 6th ed., p. 1601
- Billy Hathorn, The Republican Party in Arkansas, 1920-1982 (College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University, 1983), pp. 25-30
- " 'Mr. Republican' Dies at Age 96," Arkansas Gazette, January 8, 1979, pp. 1A, 3A