History of VCK Democratic Women
How It Began
Adapted from the writings of Johnette Taylor
In December of 1993, Virginia Clinton Kelley asked her dear friend Johnette Taylor to come to her home; she had something important to tell her. Virginia asked Johnette to check into the possibility of forming a Democratic Women’s club in Hot Springs/Garland County. She knew that Johnette would honor her wishes; three weeks later, in January,1994, Virginia passed away from the cancer she had been fighting for three years.
In October of that year, Johnette received a call from Christine Walker, then president of the Arkansas Democratic Women’s Club. She invited Johnette and Jo West Taylor to a meeting in Benton, where they would be advised on how to form their club, name the organization, and recruit charter members.
Johnette began calling Democratic women she knew, and forty -two of them became the VCK charter members. They held their first meeting on October 24, 1994, and the first order of business was to name the club. Rosalie Goltz Hudson made a motion to name the group The Virginia Kelley Democratic Women’s Club. Jo West Taylor rescinded the motion in favor of one that named the club The Virginia Clinton Kelley Democratic Women’s Club. The motion was seconded and voted upon and VCK was born!
One week later, VCK invited Christine Walker to a meeting to elect officers and install them for the rest of 1994 and 1995. The first officers were as follows: President and Historian, Johnette Taylor; Vice-President, Donna Blackwood; Treasurer, Jo West Taylor; Secretary, Jerrie Hanson; and Parliamentarian, Janis Percefil.
VCK formed multiple committees, including Scholarship, chaired by Vicki Rima; Ways and Means, by Pat Sallee; Golf Tournament (sponsors and ads), by Kelly Prince; and the 1996 Installation Banquet, by Eleanor Pascual. All other committee duties were shared by the membership. There were several; VCK was on fire! Some of the highlights included the consideration of deserving students for a $500 scholarship; and honoring Women in Politics, for which eight Arkansas women were recognized for their achievements. VCK’s Vicki Rima and Jo West Taylor were among the women selected.
Members worked hard throughout the rest of 1994 and 1995. A pie auction raised $95; they held a Democratic Rally, with Bob Wheeler as emcee. VCK also held the first Annual Dick Kelley Golf Tournament in October of 1995. This was by request from Johnette’s late husband, Dick Taylor, an avid golfer himself, who asked the Board to consider a golf tournament and promised to help with it. VCK ultimately hosted several golf tournaments over the early years, first at the Glenwood Country Club, and later at the Hot Springs Golf and Country Club. Kelly Prince worked tirelessly to get sponsors, many from Glenwood. VCK had a big board that listed all the club’s sponsors; our first two tournaments brought in excess of $4,000 each!
Yearly club dues were $25 for members, and the club also offered an Associate membership for spouses and partners at $15. At the end of 1995, VCK’s Democratic Women memberships stood at 200,, with 155 Associate members. Among political organizations, VCK boasted the largest membership for the youngest club in the state of Arkansas!
In January of 1996, the club held its Installation Banquet, and Johnette passed the gavel to incoming President Donna Blackwell. Johnette remained with the club through the 1996 Golf Tournament; she resigned when her husband passed.away.
About Virgina Clinton Kelly, the woman
Information taken from Virginia Clinton Kelley’s Memoir
“Leading with My Heart: My Life” with James Morgan
Virginia Cassidy was born June 6, 1923, in Bodcaw, Arkansas, which is in the southwest part of the state with a population of about 100. She was born in a four-room tin-roofed board house across a dirt road from her grandfather’s cotton farm in a tiny settlement known as Ebenezer Community.
When Virginia was an infant her family moved to the big city of Hope, 12 miles away. Her
father’s favorite job was delivering ice. Virginia said she learned from her father to always try to see the
good in people. Her mother took a nursing correspondence course from the Chicago School of Nursing and received her degree as a practical nurse later working long hours as a private-duty nurse.
Virginia was in high school from 1937-1941 during the Depression. She was an avid newspaper reader throughout her life even in high school and would read about Hitler with horror. She was elected class secretary; chosen for the National Honor Society; and joined the Press, Dramatic, Science and Math, Music, Library and Art clubs.
As a high school senior Virginia went on her senior trip to Hot Springs, including Oaklawn
Racetrack. She said she found the horses at the track beautiful, the people glamorous and the action exhilarating. After she moved to Hot Springs, she continued to love to go to the races her entire life.
Virginia attended nursing school in Shreveport, Louisiana, and after three years of college
eventually became a nurse anesthetist.
She began dating Bill Blythe in 1943 and fell immediately and madly in love with him. It was
wartime and Bill joined the Army and was getting ready to leave for war in Germany. Before Bill left, they were married in Texarkana by a justice of the peace.
After nursing school graduation, Virginia went back to Hope to work and live with her parents while Bill was at war. When Bill returned home in 1945, he and Virginia met in Shreveport. Bill took a job in Chicago and wanted them to move there right away and start a family.
Just before Christmas in 1945, Virginia found out she was pregnant. In May, Bill was killed in an
automobile accident and once again Virginia moved back to Hope with her parents. Her son, William Jefferson Blythe III, was born on August 19, 1946.
In 1942 Virginia met Roger Clinton, a gambler from Hot Springs, and in 1947 they met again and
eventually married in 1950. They moved from Hope to Hot Springs in 1953 when Bill was seven and Virginia became a nurse anesthetist at St. Joseph and Ouachita Hospitals in Hot Springs. The Clintons moved into a house on Park Avenue and Roger eventually adopted Bill. It wasn’t too long before Virginia had a second son Roger. When Roger was small, Bill went to an attorney as a boy and had his name changed to Clinton so he and Roger would have the same last name.
Virginia and Roger had a tumultuous marriage and divorced for three months. They reunited and stayed married until Roger died of cancer.
In 1968 Virginia married Jeff Dwire, a hairdresser in Hot Springs. Jeff was the one who convinced
Virginia to leave a white streak in her hair. Jeff and little Roger were very close; however, Jeff died young and left Virginia a widow for the third time.
In 1970 Bill finished at Oxford University and went to Yale Law School. That was the same year
Virginia met Hillary Rodham. According to Virginia, Hillary was different from the girls Bill dated in high
school. Virginia said she and Hillary eventually became very close and claimed Hillary was the smartest
woman she had ever met.
After Bill graduated from Yale Law School, he went to Fayetteville to teach law at the University of Arkansas. He told his mother that he wanted to marry Hillary, saying it was Hillary or nobody. They got married in the fall of 1975 in Fayetteville. When Bill began his run for governor, Virginia went all over Arkansas campaigning for him.
During the late 1970s, Virginia began to date Dick Kelley and they married in January of 1987. In 1980 Chelsea Clinton, her granddaughter, was born and that was the highlight of her year.
In October of 1990 Bill announced his candidacy for president and Virginia worked diligently on his campaign until he was elected president in 1992. In 1990 Virginia was diagnosed with breast cancer and died in January of 1994.
We believe all women can embrace who they are,
can define their future, and can change the world.
We support and encourage Democratic and progressive women seeking & holding elected office. We strive to seek justice in our community of Hot Springs/Garland County and beyond.
Someday, with hard work and a clear vision, our elected leaders will reflect the diversity of the people they serve.
We celebrate the election of Esther Dixon , Justice of the Peace, to the Quorum Court of Garland County, Arkansas! JP Dixon is the only woman elected to the Quorum Court of 13 JP's! Esther is a strong leader, cares about the issues of Hot Springs impacting all her constituents, and is a vital member of VCK Democratic Women.