Garland County, Arkansas: Our History and Heritage

Isabel Burton Anthony Editor

Dr. Earl McWherter

Earl McWherter, son of Henry Luther McWherter and Ida Belle Knight (April 7, 1881-September 25, 1966), was born in Senath, Missouri, on October 31, 1911, or, as he liked to say, "on Halloween." In 1933 he completed his pre-dental study at Arkansas State College in Jonesboro, where he enjoyed playing football. He then enrolled in the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry. While there, on August 17, 1936, he married Kozette Louise Morton (July 29, 1915, in Marshall County, Mississippi-October 13, 1950, Hot Springs, Arkansas), daughter of Thurston Samuel Morton and Sarah Carolyn Owen. After receiving his D.D.S. degree in 1938, Earl and Kozette moved across the river to Marion, Arkansas, where he opened a general dental practice. At the same time, Earl began studying under Dr. Faustin Weber, a Michigan-trained orthodontist who wanted to start a specialty program in orthodontics at the University of Tennessee. In 1942, Dr. McWherter received a certificate in orthodontics from Dr. Weber, thus becoming the first dentist in Arkansas to have specialty training in orthodontics. He continued practicing general dentistry and orthodontics for 65 years.

Dr. McWherter volunteered for duty in the United States Navy and served on the USS Fulton as dental officer from June 1944 until the end of World War II. After being discharged, Dr. McWherter and Kozette moved with their young daughters to Hot Springs, where they joined First Baptist Church and Earl opened a dental and orthodontic practice on the 15th floor of the Medical Arts Building.

By 1950 the McWherters had become the parents of four girls and were expecting a fifth child. Their first daughter, Lucy Nell, had died at birth. The others were Ida Kozette "Kay," Elizabeth Ann, and Sarah Earline. Dr. McWherter had been scheduled to report for duty with the United States Marine Corps on October 13, 1950, when his wife died giving birth to their son, John Albert, who died the next day. Both were buried in Crittenden Memorial Park Cemetery in Marion, Crittenden County, Arkansas.

In 1951, Earl's pastor at First Baptist introduced him to Ruth Ann Bums Lawing (born September 16, 1911, Amity, Arkansas), daughter of Robert Hiram Bums and Effie Ruth Wallace. Ruth was then single with a six-year-old adopted son, Lawrence "Larry." Later that year Earl and Ruth were married, and Earl later adopted Larry.

In 1964, Dr. McWherter bought the former Christian Science building at 1348 Central, where he limited his dental practice to orthodontics exclusively. Dr. McWherter was a charter member of the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration and was a member of the Arkansas and American Associations of Orthodontists, the International Begg Society of Orthodontists, and the Arkansas and American Dental Associations. He lectured and gave table clinics throughout his career, and in 1995 he was honored as the first recipient of the Faustin Weber Outstanding Alumnus Award by the University of Tennessee Orthodontic Alumni Association.

Always community minded, Dr. McWherter became a Rotarian in 1939 and in 1997 was named a Paul Harris Fellow. He organized the AMVETS Hansford Riley Post No. 8 in Hot Springs in 1947, was its first commander, and was honored for his 50 years of service in 1999. In 1929 he was the first Eagle Scout in southeast Missouri. The Ouachita Area Council Boy Scouts of America presented him with their highest award, the Silver Beaver, and he received the National Good Shepherd Award from the Association of Baptists for Scouting. On September 17, 1954, Dr. McWherter was made a Master Mason, and on March 21, 1956, he joined the York Rite. Active in Gideons International for many years, he was instrumental in adding medical and dental offices as locations for their Bible placement.

Dr. McWherter's three daughters all became dental hygienists. Kay married Dr. Arthur D. Floyd, a pediatric dentist still practicing in Hot Springs. They have two children: Arthur D. "Tad" Floyd II and Sarah Elizabeth Wicket Hong­ Barco. Elizabeth "Bet" (April 7, 1944-June 1, 1991) married Richard F. Ceen, D.D.S. They had no children. Sarah Earline married Dr. Guillermo R. Sanchez, a pediatric cardiologist, and they live in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. They have four children: Christina Kozette, Marisa Carolina, Peter G., and Sarah Maria. Larry McWherter retired after 23 years in the United States Army and returned to Hot Springs, where he completed his degree in emergency medical services. In 2000 he joined the Arkansas Department of Health as an operator for the Emergency Communications Center and is now the Southeast Region Public Health Preparedness Coordinator.

Dr. McWherter loved God, his family, his work, and his community. He never wanted to retire. His practice ended only when his health failed. Ruth McWherter died at home February 26, 2006, and Dr. McWherter died at home July 3, 2007. Both are buried in Crittenden Memorial Park along with Kozette, John Albert, and Elizabeth McWherter Ceen.


                                              Submitted by Kay McWherter Floyd

Copyright©2009 Garland County Historical Society; All rights reserved

ISBN 978-0-9824534-0-7

Library of Congress 2009903370

Garland County Historical Society

PO Box 21335

Plot Springs National Park, AR 71903 - 1335


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