Date Original



This collection contains photographs, news clippings, business records, correspondence, publications, and scrapbooks from the personal and professional files of Mary Leah Harkey. It contains information related to her tenure as superintendent of the Arkansas Confederate Home in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Biographical/Historical Note

Mary Leah Willson was born December 30, 1889, at Dardanelle, Yell County, Arkansas, the daughter of James A. and Minnie McElwee Willson. She was the granddaughter of Dr. Curtis Reed Willson, a surgeon in the Confederate Army. She graduated from Ouachita Baptist College and later attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. In 1915, she married Opal Noils Harkey, a merchant and banker with businesses in Ola, Plainview, and Dardanelle, Arkansas. In 1937, the Harkeys moved to Conway where they operated a number of retail businesses, including a women’s clothing store. Opal died January 9, 1940. In 1949, Mrs. Harkey became the director of the Arkansas Confederate Home at Sweet Home. In 1953, she supervised the relocation of the home’s inmates to a new building on the campus of the Arkansas School for the Deaf in Little Rock, Arkansas. She also oversaw the closing of the home in 1963. Mrs. Harkey's brother–in–law, Judge Clarence Price Newton (1879-1958), served as the second superintendent of the Confederate Home from 1913 to 1918. Mary Willson Harkey was a member of many professional and patriotic organizations including the United Daughters of Confederacy, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Business and Professional Women’s Club, and the Welfare Forum. She died in Little Rock on April 3, 1979, and was buried next to her husband in the Sandlin Cemetery at Ola, Arkansas. The couple had two children, Virginia Harkey Hilton and James Willson Harkey.

Physical Description

Document, 8.5" x 11"

Geographical Area






Resource Type



Willson-Harkey family papers, MS.000617


Arkansas State Archives

Contributing Entity

Arkansas State Archives

Recommended Citation

Willson-Harkey family papers, Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.


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United States History