Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office announced Wednesday that it will donate more than $200,000 to a museum project in Marion.
The announcement comes nearly two weeks after the Arkansas Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit challenging Rutledge’s spending of taxpayer money.
Rutledge, one of eight candidates for lieutenant governor, said the office will allocate $250,000 to the Sultana Historical Preservation Society to help establish the Sultana Disaster Museum. The new multi-million dollar center will honor the approximately 1,200 men, women and children who died in the largest maritime disaster in US history.
A Marion Chamber of Commerce press release announcing Wednesday’s luncheon said the attorney general’s stipend was among a number of pledges that would be announced at the event. According to the release, a representative for Sen. John Boozman was to announce a $1 million federal grant from the Federal Economic Development Administration for the project, while Hartford Steam Boiler CEO Greg Barats would pledge $1 million and FedEx Corp. would announce a $1 million Challenge grant.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson also pledged $750,000 to the museum last year.
Officials said they expect the museum to attract 50,000 visitors a year and plan to inject about $3.5 million into Crittenden County and the Delta.
The Sultana was traveling up the Mississippi River in 1865 when the two boilers that powered the steam engine exploded, sinking the ship. The Sultana was designed to carry fewer than 400 passengers, but the military overloaded the ship with over 2,200 passengers, leading to disaster.
“What happened in the Sultana disaster is heartbreaking, and we must all remember those who tragically lost their lives that day,” Rutledge said Wednesday in a press release announcing the award. “I pray that the new museum will honor the victims and teach our young people about the horrific event that happened on the Mississippi River in 1865.”
Rutledge has made several allocations from the Consumer Education and Enforcement Fund for various causes, including educational institutions, according to Amanda Priest, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.
On April 14, the Arkansas Supreme Court dismissed complaints filed against Rutledge in a lawsuit that challenged his spending of taxpayers’ money on television commercials and legal filings in federal litigation outside the US. ‘State.
The court’s opinion concluded that the attorney general enjoyed sovereign immunity and could not be sued because the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that Rutledge’s actions exceeded his legal authority. The court also said that Rutledge, as an individual, was entitled to legal immunity because the plaintiffs failed to show that she acted maliciously.
Both injunction requests were quashed and dismissed by the court.
The Sultana Disaster Museum is part of a number of efforts in the state to remember the region’s sometimes tragic history.
In 2019, the Elaine Massacre Memorial was dedicated in Helena-West Helena to remember the violent massacre that occurred in 1919 in Elaine when armed white mobs killed 200 or more black people.
One of Elaine’s oldest commercial buildings will also be transformed into the Elaine Museum and the Richard Wright Civil Rights Center.