J. Frank Holt

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Joseph Franklin Holt​

Arkansas Attorney General​​
In office
1961​​ – 1962​​
Preceded by Bruce Bennett
Succeeded by ​​Jack Holt, Jr. (nephew)[1]

Associate Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court​
In office
1962​​ – 1966​​
Preceded by J. Seaborn Holt (cousin) (long-term justice)

Neill Bohlinger (interim)

Succeeded by Hugh M. Bland​​

Born October 22, 1910​​
Reared in Harrison

Boone County, Arkansas​​

Died October 30, 1983 (aged 73)​​
Little Rock, Arkansas​
Resting place Roselawn Memorial Park in Little Rock
Political party Democrat ​​
Residence Little Rock, Arkansas​​
Alma mater University of Arkansas at Fayetteville​​

UA Law School

Occupation Attorney; Judge​​
Religion Southern Baptist​​

Joseph Franklin Holt, known as J. Frank Holt (October 22, 1910 – October 30, 1983),[2] was a justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court for twenty-one years but is most remembered from having lost a bitter 1966 Democratic gubernatorial runoff election to segregationist James D. Johnson. However, "Justice Jim" Johnson, as his supporters called him, then lost the general election to Moderate Republican Winthrop Rockefeller by a wider margin than had been the spread in the runoff between Johnson and Holt.[3]


Holt was reared in Harrison in Boone County in northwestern Arkansas, one of eleven children. He worked in a garage and sold newspapers in high school and paid his way through the University of Arkansas by selling life insurance in the summers. He taught school at Cotter in Baxter County, having earned $50 a month during the Great Depression. He also worked as a clerk in the state highway department while in law school. When he graduated, Holt went to work for his older brother Jack Holt, Sr., who was then attorney general of Arkansas. He amassed political experience helping out with Jack's primary campaigns for the U.S. Senate in 1942, when he lost to John McClellan, and thereafter for governor in 1948, when he lost to Benjamin Travis Laney, and 1952, when he was defeated by Sidney Sanders "Sid" McMath. The brothers were partners in a private law practice in Little Rock after World War II.[3]

In 1960, Holt was elected attorney general in the contest in which Orval E. Faubus defeated Henry M. Britt for governor, and John F. Kennedy prevailed over Richard M. Nixon in the presidential race. In 1962, Holt won a special election in 1962 for the Arkansas Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by a cousin, J. Seaborn Holt, who had resigned the previous year.[3]

In 1996, Holt resigned from the court to enter an eight-man Democratic primary for governor. Faubus, did not seek a seventh consecutive two-year term. Holt lost by a few thousand votes in a bitter runoff with Jim Johnson, Holt's former colleague on the state Supreme Court. Holt did not openly promote integration, but he said Johnson had a "white supremist" attitude which would provoke "chaos and hatred" in a state still impacted by the desegregation crisis of the late 1950s. "The apostles of discord -- the 'aginners' -- are rallying around him," Holt said on election eve. He claimed the Johnson forces wanted to make Arkansas "a last-ditch battleground in a war against the 20th century." Holt said that Arkansas in order to grow would have to cooperate with the U.S. government and open its doors to industry from outside the state. If nominated and elected, Holt had promised an administration of "honesty, integrity and independence."[3]

Holt died of kidney failure in a Little Rock hospital eight days after his 73rd birthday. He was reported in "very critical condition" the night before his death on an early Sunday morning. Associate Justice Steele Hays said that Holt had been active on the job until his illness became acute. Services were held at the Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock.[3] Interment followed at Roselawn Memorial Park in Little Rock.[2]


  1. Office of Arkansas Attorney General. Encyclopediaof arkansas.net. Retrieved on August 29, 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 J. Frank Holt. Ancestry.com. Retrieved on July 24, 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Arkansas Supreme Court Justice J. Frank Holt, a 21-year veteran, dies at 72. UPI.com Archives (October 30, 1983). Retrieved on August 28, 2019.