Ep. 2 ‘KRPS Presents’ Ozark History with Dr. Brooks Blevins & John Woodman (D) running to flip Missouri’s 7th Congressional District Seat

This week on KRPS Presents (Episode 2), Fred Fletcher-Fierro continues his conversation with Dr. Brooks Blevins. The Noel Boyd Professor of Ozark studies at Missouri State University in Springfield. Author of the trilogy, The History of the Ozarks Volumes 1-3. Dr. Blevins and Fred speak about Volume 3, The Ozarkers, covering the past 100 years of Ozark history.

Seg A – Brooks Blevins
Seg B – Brooks Blevins

The region is similar in size to the state of New York, about 54,500 square miles. The state of New York is well known for being the head of the New York Stock Exchange and one of the capitals of global wealth. According to Blevins, the corporate wealth located in the Ozarks is vast and isn’t well known to people who haven’t visited or were born here.

Dr. Brooks Blevins A History of the Ozarks

“I’ve never done the math, and I don’t know that the Ozarks has more Fortune 500 companies or major corporations or family companies than any other place in terms of per capita in the United States. But certainly, I think a lot of people would be surprised at how much corporate money is situated here in the Ozarks.”

Blevins highlights well-known companies like Walmart, Tyson, and JB Hunt, all started around the same time (in the early 1960s) in Northwest Arkansas. According to the most recent information available (from 2020 and 2022) on Wikipedia, those three companies combined for over $625 billion in revenue. With nearly 10,600 stores worldwide, Walmart alone had over $570 billion in revenue when combining 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.

A constant theme in Vol. 3 The Ozarkers are the two Ozarks. One, a wealthy home of internationally recognized companies, and the other with some of the highest poverty rates in the US. Blevins says that as the Ozarks’ history continues to be written, some aspects of the area remain the same.

“It’s kind of a new story, but it’s also a bit of an old story if you’re looking at it just from the perspective of the Ozarks. It’s continuing trends that were established 200 years ago. The rest of the Ozarks often get left out, and it is kind of a different story, and that’s why I talk about it in the book, especially in the conclusion. There are at least two Ozarks. There’s still kind of the stereotypically poor rural sparsely settled Ozarks. And then you have these oases of affluence and prosperity.”

For four seasons, the Netflix show Ozark told the story of an American criminal family that relocated to the Lake of the Ozarks to launder money. However, none of the 44-episodes of Ozark was filmed in Arkansas, Oklahoma, or Missouri. Instead, the popular show was shot in North Georgia. Dr. Blevins was a fan, even though it does not accurately depict the region.

“It’s probably not as strong as it was when it first started a few years ago. When the show first started, you did have a couple of stereotypical hillbilly families. I was kind of interested in how they treated that, but most of them have been killed off by this point. And in a lot of ways, it’s just a Hollywood show. I like the show, and I’ve watched it, but I don’t really consider it all that much of an Ozark’s show despite the name.”

As a history professor at Missouri State in Springfield, Dr. Blevins teaches one of seven classes during any given semester. From Ozark 150: Introduction to Ozark Studies to History 730 American History Research Seminar. Before writing The History of the Ozark trilogy, he’d also authored Ghost of the Ozarks: Murder and Memory in the Upland South and Cattle Cotton Fields: A History of Cattle Raising in Alabama. Blevins says that he has so much research that it makes it easy to contribute to Ozark Highlands Radio, heard Sunday nights at 7 on KRPS.

“Oh, I love it. It’s one of the funniest things that I do. I’ve got so much research about the region in my career, especially in the last ten years or so, that I have just tons of unused materials. A lot of this stuff ends up on the proverbial cutting room floor. It doesn’t make it into the books, and a lot of that I’m able to use in outlets like those little back in the hills segments on Ozark Highlands Radio.”

Dr. Blevins also shared that he’s glad that the trilogy is finished, yet he also feels the need for a fourth book to the series because so much has changed since he completed research on the first three.

Woodman Tries To Flip The Script in Missouri’s 7th District

Nobody can remember the last time a Democrat held Missouri’s 7th Congressional District seat. We do know that it was last century. I’m a little tongue and cheek here, but the last Democrat to represent the 7th was Charles H. Brown. He held the office for five years between 1957 and 1961. There are some parallels to the area’s current Congressman Billy Long and Brown. Both men had careers in radio before running for office. Long both owned a talk radio station in Springfield and hosted a show on KWTO-AM. Brown was the former program director of KWTO from 1937-to 1938.

Seg C – John Woodman
Seg D – John Woodman

John Woodman wants to rewrite history with his election to represent Missouri’s 7th District. If Woodman is successful, he will break the Republican winning streak of five straight Representatives covering 61 years’ worth of election dominance. 2022 could be the Democrat’s year in Missouri. Two years ago, Teresa Monsery didn’t face a single challenger in her bid to become the Democratic nominee and headed into a General Election, losing by over 42 points.

Woodman is a different type of Democrat, though. That’s because he’s spent the overwhelming majority of his adult life as a Republican.

“I think I was attracted to the Republican party for a lot of the same reasons that a lot of people are attracted. We have narratives in our political discourse. And I believed the narratives from the Republican side. It did hurt that I had an Uncle that was a very committed Republican who was making fun of liberals and people on the left.”

The debunked conspiracy about President Barack Obama’s birth certificate dates back to 2008. The larger narrative became known as the “birther movement” as it was shoved into the mainstream by Donald Trump and talking heads from the right-wing media. The movement wrongly contended that President Obama was born in Kenya and not the United States as required by the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution. Woodman says that this was a turning point for him politically. So much so that he wrote a book about the subject, Is Barack Obama’s Birth Certificate A Fraud? A Computer Guys Examines the Evidence of Forgery.

Woodman started his research into President Obama’s birth certificate three years later, in 2011.

“Being a very dedicated Republican, I was interested in this. There were rumors going around that it was a photoshopped forgery. And this is my technology; I’ll have a look at this. I did take a look at it and what I saw pretty quickly, what was in that file was not actually evidence of any forgery. And you know, I’m seeing some things that are different from what other people are seeing. I could make a YouTube video.”

Woodman made four videos, all of which remain available to view by clicking this link. The first video now has over 126k views.

Flipping a seat that one party has held over nearly six decades is no easy task, especially when the incumbent Billy Long has defeated Democrats by an average of 36.5% over the past 12-years. Woodman says that flipping the 7th from Red to Blue for a first-time candidate is

“As you noted, it’s a heavy lift in the 7th District. We are the 24th most Republican District in the country. In the last election, the Republican candidate won by a margin of 45-points. I think that in this District, one of the things we have to do is we have to reach out, and we have to win Republicans, and we have to bring Republicans over, and have people who have been Republicans in cases for decades like I was, say, you know what, the Republican party actually isn’t giving us the answers we need.”

Unsatisfied with the course of the Republican party John Woodman charted his own and wrote a book about the subject, How We Can Fix America: A Course and a Plan. He also hosts a website, Woodman2022.com, where he lays out the platform for change in Missouri’s 7th and the US.

Woodman’s plan has three main points. The country and the Ozarks (the area that much of the 7th covers) have gotten wealthier and wealthier every year since the 1980s. In contrast, the middle and lower classes of the US have worked more hours for less. The US and its representatives need to represent the majority of residents (the two lower-income wage classes in the US) instead of multinational companies that pay for access to Congress.

Woodman also asserts that the US government must continue to affirm itself in protecting the environment. Also, maintaining a stable marketplace for healthcare that doesn’t drive US residents into bankruptcy—at the same time, improving the American education system so that it can compete with other first-world nations.

The third pillar of Woodman’s plan is to elevate the US to a higher quality of life by creating a system of government that helps its citizens thrive instead of barely surviving. Woodman claims that ¾ out of the jobs that have been created in the past 45-years have been produced under Democratic Presidential administrations and not Republican.

To stand out from the crowd of eight Republicans, Two Democrats, and One Liberation running for Missouri’s 7th Congressional seat, he’s going to have to stand out from the crowd and make believers out of those skeptical that a former Republican turned his back on the GOP and created his own path towards the truth.

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