About

I’m image15121David Offutt, a student of and teacher of American history and western civilization. I am now retired and living in El Dorado, Arkansas, with my four cats.

I was interviewed twice for a Sunday newspaper column called Neighbors in the South Arkansas Sunday News. What follows is mostly an updated version of those interviews of 2001 and 2009.

Birthdate: In the tradition of Jack Benny, I celebrate my annual 39th birthday every December 29.

Why I write these essays – To provide historical and personal perspectives on current events

The one thing I’ve learned in life is AND my trademark cliché or expression is: “Offutt’s Law”: The more important it is for you to know something, the less likely it will be volunteered to you.

Occupation: I retired at the end of May 2014 after teaching at the Adult Education Center of SAU Tech in Camden, AR, for twenty years. Before that, I  taught U.S. history and western civilization in various public school systems and in private college prep schools; I taught for nearly ten years in New Orleans at the Xavier University Preparatory High School, and I taught history in Ecuador two years each at the American School of Quito and the American School of Guayaquil . I taught honors U.S. history four years at Central High School in Helena-West Helena, AR, back when it was a thriving community. I also taught the honors U.S. history classes for two years at the high school in Wynne, AR. Overall, I taught history for nearly 21 years and taught practically everything in adult education for 20 years.

Family: Four cats –  Tonka (12), Scout (8), Benny (10), and Cheyenne, a stray kitten that arrived in March 2015

Though I was proved wrong, I once said I’d never: Move back to El Dorado, AR. I returned in 1994 to keep an eye on my elderly father, who passed away in early 2001.

What kind of car do you drive? 2000 Nissan Quest minivan which I use on camping trips; 1986 Pontiac Grand Prix (In 2011 it became an antique; and, for the umpteenth time, no, I do not want to sell it).

My favorite presidents are/were: The Great American Triumvirate – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt

My least favorite presidents are/were: The Three Nixonians or the Diabolical Trio – Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush

My favorite kind of music is: New Age, folk, classical, and some movie themes and soundtracks

What most people don’t know about me is: I have visited all fifty states in the union. My American history students used to say that there was nothing they could study that I couldn’t show them. I provided slide shows of our classroom topics.

If I had time, I would write a book about: My four years living and teaching in Ecuador

My favorite author is: John Steinbeck

You will never catch me wearing:  a necktie if there is any way to avoid it.

My teenage idol was: actress Hayley Mills of Pollyanna, The Parent Trap, Whistle Down the WindThe Chalk Garden, and The Family Way

My all-time favorite television show is: Route 66 with George Maharis and Martin Milner

My favorite comedian is: Jon Stewart when he was on The Daily Show

My hobbies are: canoeing, camping, traveling, photography, watching/collecting movies, and writing

My favorite performer is: the late Gregory Peck; he  portrayed wonderful characters in such films as The Purple Plain, Twelve O’Clock High, On the BeachThe Big Country, and To Kill a Mockingbird .

My all-time favorite movies are: To Kill a Mockingbird and Judgment at Nuremburg

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Here I am on November 11, 2016, in my living room with a 1979 portrait done by a street artist on Jackson Square in New Orleans.

My heroes are: All gone now. As Angela Lansbury said in Something for Everyone, all that are left are mere facsimiles, if even that.  I do concur with the American Film Institute’s choice of the number one screen hero of all time: Atticus Finch as played by Gregory Peck. Peck was a strong proponent of liberal causes and was listed among Nixon’s “Enemies List.”

The four guests at my fantasy dinner party would be: producer/director Stanley Kramer, journalist Bill Moyers, singer Pete Seeger, and historian Howard Zinn [my real fantasy dinner would include Tarzan, Peter Pan, Bugs Bunny, and Huckleberry Finn] (my original answer was Steve Allen, philosopher Mortimer Adler, filmmaker Stanley Kramer, and Thomas Jefferson)

My favorite restaurants are:  The House of Wylie’s and Fayray’s (each in El Dorado, AR) and Brave New Restaurant (Little Rock)

My favorite junk food is: cocktail peanuts

If there’s one thing I won’t do, it’s: Go bungee jumping or jumping out of a perfectly good airplane

My pet peeve is: Litter bugs and slow drivers

My best asset is: I work hard and do the best I can

I absolutely will not eat: Pickled pigs feet ( My dad used to stink up the house cooking them)

A movie I walked out of was: I Know What You Did Last Summer ( I wanted to walk out on G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but I was stuck with a friend who thought it was a great movie!

My mother/father would say I’m: Spoiled  (Original answer: Very efficient—that was one of the last things my father said to me)

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At my work station in my living room in El Dorado, Arkansas (November 11, 2016)

Books I’ve read or re-read in 2016: The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway (1972); My Two Wars by Moritz Thomsen (1996); The Paranoid Style in American Politics by Richard Hofstadter (1964); It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1936); The Quotable Intellectual by Peter Archer (2010);  Mr. New Orleans: The life of a Big Easy Underworld Legend by Frenchy Brouillette and Matthew Randazzo V (2009); Eight is Enough by Tom Braden (1975); A Nation of Immigrants by John F. Kennedy (2004); Mission Accomplished, or How We Won the War in Iraq by Christopher Cerf and Victor S. Navasky (2008) – the title is facetious; The Trouble I’ve Seen by Martha Gellhorn (1936); A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (The Restored Edition by Sean Hemingway); Night by Elie Wiesel (1958); Hemingway – A Life in Pictures by Boris Vejdovsky with Mariel Hemingway (2011); The Imperial Way – By Rail from Peshawar to Chittagong by Paul Theroux and Steve McCurry (1985); Looking for Votes in All the Wrong Places by Rick Ridder (2016)

Books I’ve read or re-read in 2017: It Can Happen Here – Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush by Joe Conason (2007); The Gilded Age – A Tale of Today by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner (1873); The Intellectual Devotional – American History by David S. Kidder & Noah D. Oppenheim (2007); The Virtue of Selfishness – A New Concept of Egoism by Ayn Rand with Nathaniel Branden (1964)

Responses

  1. Well, were kind of neighbors! Missouri is just a kick away! Sorry to hear about the loss of your dad! Holidays can be tough when we think of the loved ones we’ve lost!
    I do hope you have a Merry Christmas…try and spoil those nine cats!

    Mona

  2. Hi David,

    I hope the above e-mail address is the correct way to reach you.

    Thank you very much for you nice note! Really appreciate it!

    I went to your web-site and read the first article, “The Have-not’s and Have-mores” or –was it “Haves and Have-mores–something close to that. Great stuff. You write so well and you think so clearly. I will read more later, one article at a time. (Reading for me has been the struggle of a lifetime–not complaining, just commenting.

    One sentence struck me: You were upset to find that many think Fox News the most reliable–me too. How painful was the SECOND election of George W–How could so many not have gotten it.

    By way of introduction, I am a retired professor of speech and theatre from the City Colleges of Chicago–37 great years.
    My wife Linda and I have been living just outside of Smackover for the last four years–to be near Linda’s father, Arthur Goodson of Standard Unpsted (also just outside of Smackover). Some culture shock for me after 72 years in and around Chicago.

    I’ve discovered “The Texas Shakespeare Festival” in Kilgore–went last year and thought they were wonderful. I now have a “season ticket” to see all four of their shows this season. So all is not lost living in Smackover.

    Thank you again for knowing so much and sharing it so eloquently.

    Laury Hamburg, Smackover
    e-mail: Lauryham@aol.com

  3. Are you by any chance the David Offutt who taught me American history at Central High School in West Helena, AR? If so, thank you. Your class was great (esp. the films you assigned to us and the music to which you introduced us) and was an essential part of my political awakening. You sure look like him!

    Hayes Biggs

  4. Hayes, I am he. I remember you well. You admired the music of Charles Ives, whose compositions I never played in class, and I suspect he is still a major influence in your own compositions. Great to hear from you.

  5. Happy to hear back from you as well, especially on such a sad day in the history of the U. S. Senate. Why can’t the Democrats grow a pair?

    I’m still a great admirer of Ives, one of our greatest artists in my view.

    I wish I had been as good a student in your American history class as I had the potential to be, but remain grateful to you.

  6. Hi David, Hayes alerted me to your blog. I’d heard you were back in El Dorado, glad to see you haven’t changed much. :) I was in your Am. Hist. class in Helena, 1973 – 74, and loved it, even though I was a mediocre student. I think I still have the class notes stashed away somewhere, and recently Hayes and I compared notes on what you said about the founding father’s religious beliefs (Deism). Anyway, glad you are still alive, hope you like El Dorado. :( Dan Lynch

  7. Dan, so good to hear from you. I never considered you to be a mediocre student – just one who didn’t make A’s all the time – that was Jane Woods.
    As for my not changing very much, if you are referring to the photo on this page, that shot was taken five or more years ago and needs updating. Besides that, I have a picture of myself that I keep hidden in the attic and covered with a shroud.
    I have mixed feelings about living in El Dorado. Arkansas turned hard right when a black man got elected president and may turn totally Republican in future elections. El Dorado recently elected a Rush Limbaugh devotee to be mayor. Nuff said about that.

  8. I haven’t heard anything from/about Jane Woods. Was it Jane, or her bestie Pam Gist who did the excellent report on the Elaine Genocide as her class project ? (Pam is a corporate lawyer in the DC area, last I heard) At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to that report, but my respect for the subject, and for her open minded approach, has grown over the years.

    My Helena landlord and neighbor, Jordan Lambert, Sr. (Blanche’s grandpa) participated in the massacre — which he described as firing as fast as he could pull the trigger and reload. I wish I’d recorded his stories, darn it. BTW, he was a banker, and that’s where the family got their money. During the depression, banks foreclosed on lots of property, which led to the Lamberts owning a farm, managed by Blanche’s dad, but they never lived on a farm or got their hands dirty. I always thought it was a bit hypocritical that she claimed to be a farmer’s daughter. You probably taught her big sis, Mary, who was the family rebel.

    BTW, rumor has it there was a similar massacre in the N. Louisiana town of Mer Rouge, not far from El Dorado. I’ve never seen anything written up about it, just heard the story second hand from someone who was living there at the time. I don’t the date, but I’m thinking 30’s, based on the man’s age

    I figured your photo was dated, but I was too polite to bring up that subject, lol. I meant that your political perspective and general taste and style has not changed much.

    My current state, Idaho, is in the same boat as Arkansas. When I moved here, there was a moderate, environmentalist Dem governor (Cec Andrus, Carter’s Interior Sec) and a Dem legislature. Their base was labor unions and environmentalists (which was not a 4 letter word at the time). Now Idaho is a right-to-work state, that union base is gone, and Rethugs are in total control. The worst kind of Rethugs, too. I stay in Idaho for the geography, but the politics and the culture are repulsive.

    It’s basically class warfare. Rethugs cleverly con poor people into turning out to vote for the rich by stirring up emotional social issues like gay marriage, Sharia law, prayer in schools, wolves, etc.. Young liberal and moderate voters don’t turn out because they don’t see a huge difference between the corporate Dims and the Rethugs. I could go on and on, but wouldn’t be telling you anything you didn’t already know.

    OK, I’ll try to read your post on the Rise of the Nixonians this evening. Sorry for the rambling post, lots to catch up on.

  9. The photo may be a few years old, but my memories date back to the early 1970’s. Just looking into your eyes, and remembering the slight 5 degree tilt to one side confirms you as one of my favorite teachers. I guess I carried a love of military battle maps into my first career.

    Now I am preparing for a second career–teaching. History and mathematics are the two fields I plan to get certified in to improve my probability of landing a job. Additional subject would be Mandarin Chinese.

    El Dorado is too south for me. We live in Fayetteville, but can’t see anything but hills and woods. Being in town but in the country at the same time.

  10. Hi David
    I live in the UK and have been trying to find a copy of The Rocking Horse Winner for years – I haven’t seen it since I was a child some 50 odd years ago. I remember that the film left a lasting impression on me and I would dearly like to see it again after all these years.
    Regards, Colin Jones

  11. Man, I am glad I found High Noon. You are right on about Norquist being the DeFacto president, and as smart as Obama is, he could not see early enough in his presidency who really runs things. I have no doubt that blue dog democrats and whatever democrats are in the senate that vote against the jobs bill today (10/11/2011) are either directly or indirectly in Norquist’s and the Koch Brother’s deep deep pockets. I am a public sector employee in Wisconsin, and I had to find out the hard way.

  12. david:
    let me join in the conversational of course, my memories of you and central high school are vivid; lanie sent me your articles from the arkansas times and i am glad to see that you are giving voice to what a lot of people are thinking. It is good to hear from your past students, many of whom I also remember; it is amazing how much influence we all had over that time we spent at central. I am very proud of that contribution.

    i returned to helena in 2011 and teach yoga here, so i am giving voice to these ideas in a very different way; I run into our students that didn’t have the opportunity that others had but who, nevertheless, have done well with their lives in very significant ways-mayors, lawyers, state representatives, and ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things!

    I will stay tune to your voice as you are published; I have been writing some but not publishing; I may change my mind as I see the contributions that can be made in this way.

    linda wesson

  13. Hi Mr. Offutt,
    This is Danette Woods Morrison c/o 82 of Xavier Prep. Thanks to Hurricane Katrina, I’m now living in Texas completing my Masters in Reading and Literacy. I’ve written many papers and have often referred to you as my inspiration. I believe I teach as I was taught; with that being said, my expectations are very high and I won’t settle for anything less than my students’ best. Thanks for pushing me to do my best.
    I’m not sure if you’ve heard but Prep is no longer Xavier Prep; it’s St. Katharine Drexel Preparatory. (long story) Hope to hear from you soon. Be blessed and continue blessing others!
    Danette W.Morrison

  14. Mr. Offutt , Germain Gilson XUP 1986!!! I’m watching Judgement at Nuremberg right now and decided to google you. Thanks for showing it in my junior year!

  15. Mr Offut I am your student from the American School in Quito and came to live to Costa Rica. I would love to get in touch after so long, I still remember how much I learned in your class in 1976-77 Would be great to contact you, Aixa

  16. Hello, Dave. Glad to learn that you are still alive. I remember you as an RA on the 10th floor of Yokum Hall in 1968-1969. Last saw you by the Chemistry Building in the fall of 1974. I got drafted in the summer of 1969. Finally retired from the Army as an NP in March of 2014. If you were me, you wouldn’t be so liberal – you’d have PTSD. Looks like you’ve done some good work teaching over the years. Good luck to you. JOE GLENN, DuPont, WA, jos.glenn@gmail.com

    • Hi Joe. Good to know that someone from my U of A years is still around. It’s been thirty years since I’ve heard from anyone else from those days! I loved my two years as RA in the Yocum Hall Penthouse. I’ve always joked that I held the highest official position on the U of A campus. Take care, David

  17. Hi, Mr. Offutt, I am a former student of yours from Xavier Prep. I talk about you all the time… You made History come to life! I loved your class… I hope you are doing well these days!!! You look exactly the same……

  18. Hello Mr. Offutt: I was your student at Colegio Americano 38 years ago. Where did all that time go? I am so excited that I found your website. I was researching Ecuador (for memories sake) and found your photo of the view of the Cotopaxi from the school. Thank you so much for posting that. It really warmed my heart. I remember you well, you were a great teacher (although I was probably more into having fun in those days). I don’t know if you remember me, I was a rotary exchange student from Connecticut for my junior year 1977 to 78. I was buddies with Barbara Valles from Staten Island, NY, Mike Cordova from NY, Jaime (I forget his last name) from Idaho, Sue (tall blonde) from Buffaloe NY and Anita (small Ecuadorian American) from New Jersey. That was a spectacular year. As a matter of fact I made sure each of my kids studied abroad. My 21 year old daughter is currently studying in Bulgaria. I read some of your website and loved the parts about Ecuador as it brought back precious memories. I also enjoyed your views on politics and environmental awareness (which I agree with). Do you remember the name of the blonde American woman English teacher? I believe she was from Arizona. She often wore the Indian clothing from Otovalo and we performed the play “The Great Gatsby” with her. What was her name? Do you remember how loud the rain on the roof of your classroom used to get? I hope you can drop me a line as I would love to hear from you.

    Fondest memories, Margaret Bienkowski

  19. Hi Margaret: It’s always good to hear from former students. My years in Ecuador were probably the most special of my teaching career. I don’t recall the blond teacher’s name. It’s a shame there was no school yearbook at the colegio – it would come in handy. My laptop is being repaired and should be be getting it back this week. I’ve been without it for nearly a month. When I get it, I will add my August post to my website and will send you a good email message. David

  20. Mr. Offutt,
    Thanks so much for sharing your article on Mr. Boehner on FB. I had no idea you wrote on/for World Press ( well Hayes may have told me but that was b4 I retired 😜) I have already shared it with my kids and will catch up on the rest of your articles. I’ve always told them about the excellent teachers I had at Central and how we were challenged to think, dig, question, and learn the why behind things.
    Thanks for being one of the best teachers, then and now.
    Joannie Gervasini Hubbard

    • Hi Joannie,
      Good students inspire teachers to do their best. Funny how that works. Thanks for sharing my site with your “kids.” I’ve been writing those essays about one a month since August 2004. By the way, isn’t retirement grand? David

  21. Hello, David. I wanted you to know I read and enjoy your articles. Your brother was a very dear friend of mine and he was my best man when I married in 2001. When I look at your picture I feel like I am looking at him.
    An old friend of mine in Canada and I exchange emails every day on politics, sports, traveling, etc. I told him that if Donald Trump became president he might have me as a new neighbor.
    I hope you keep the articles coming, David.
    Thank you.
    Steve Barfield


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