ARKANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY, Volume 32(Autumn 1973), p. 217
Harvey C. Couch and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation
By JAMES S. OLSON*
Sam Houston State University
HARVEY C. COUCH has long been recognized as a pivotal figure in the modern history of Arkansas, an extraordinary individual whose life and career epitomized the classic American dream. Almost singlehandedly he transcended his rather humble beginnings to create the utilities empire governed by the Arkansas Power and Light Company, and to direct a series of railroads linking much of the southeastern United States. His accomplishments in the business world not only brought him great personal wealth but simultaneously raised the living standards of tens of thousands of men and women throughout Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana(1). Unfortunately, historians have been guilty of neglecting and even ignoring his brief but important career as one of the directors of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation during the Great Depression. During his stay in Washington, D.C., between 1932 and 1934, Couch played a direct and even crucial role in directing the RFC and establishing the precedent for massive, federally-financed public works programs. His efforts constitued a direct precursor for the Public Works Administration, one of the New Deal's most active anti-depression agencies.
During the early years of the depression in Arkansas, Couch had been deeply touched by the suffering and fortitude of the thousands of victims suffering from the unprecedented economic dislocation. He had been extremely active in
* Mr. Olson is assistant professor of history at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas.
(1) Arkansas Democrat (Little Rock) July 30, 1941; New York Times, July 30, 1941; Arkansas Power and Light Company, Harvey Couch (Little Rock, 1941); Who Was Who in America (Chicago, 1942), 264-265.