Dyess Colony in Northwestern Arkansas is about an hours drive from West Memphis to the south and Jonesboro to the West. Dyess was formed in 1934 in the depths of the Great Depression as a New Deal project by FDR’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration.
More than fifteen thousand acres was carved in to 20 and 40 acre parcels. Modest frame homes and outbuildings were constructed and 500 Arkansas farmers were offered homesteads in Dyess for less than $10 an acre with a promise to improve and farm the land. It was no easy task as this was raw swampy land with stumpage from previous logging operations. Johnny Cash came to Dyess as a three year old with his parents Ray and Carrie and brothers and sisters. And this is where the legacy of Johnny Cash was born, and it was the arduous life in the Mississippi Delta land where cotton was king with the periodic floods that served as inspiration for some of his memorable songs such as Five Feet High and Rising, Picken’ Time and I’m Busted.
Today the Johnny Cash Boyhood home has been restored, along with the Dyess Administration Building that now serves as an interpretive center and museum. Come along to Dyess Colony for a conversation with Dr. Ruth Hawkins, Director of Arkansas State Heritage Sites at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. Hawkins shares her passion and insights for Dyess and the restoration of the Johnny Cash Boyhood home.