A true public servant

As a part of its series in celebration of Black History Month, the Razorback Athletic Department is saluting Trailblazers from the African-American community who have attended the University of Arkansas. Several of the honorees in our series were also selected as Silas Hunt Legacy Award recipients recently.

If Ms. Janis F. Kearney were asked what she feels most passionate about, she would answer: “Instilling a love for dreams and reading in our children. And for their parents, a realization that there is something miraculous in allowing one’s child to dream, and a magic in the world of words.” These passions were instilled in Janis Kearney from wise and visionary sharecropping parents, who raised 17 children — all college graduates, save one.

Kearney was born in Gould, Ark. She graduated from Gould High School in 1971 and from the University of Arkansas with a B.A. in journalism in 1977. In 1980, she began work on a master’s of public administration at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock.From 1978-1987, she worked for Arkansas state government.In 1987, she purchased the Arkansas State Press Newspaper from renowned civil rights activist Daisy Bates and published the statewide weekly newspaper for five years. During that time, she also served as a board director for the National Newspaper Publishers Association. She served as director of minority media outreach for the Clinton-Gore Presidential Campaign headquarters and joined the Clinton Administration in Washington, D.C., in 1993.Kearney served in the White House Media Affairs Office, before being appointed by President Clinton as director of public affairs and communications for the U.S. Small Business Administration in 1993, a position she held until 1995.From 1995-2001, she served as President Clinton’s personal diarist, a position that entailed chronicling the Clinton presidency — the first time in history a president had made such an appointment. She continued in that role through June 2001 before moving to Chicago to join her husband, Bob Nash — Clinton’s former director of presidential personnel and now vice chair for ShoreBank Corp.Kearney began a fellowship at Harvard’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute in September 2001, which included researching and writing “Conversations: William Jefferson Clinton from Hope to Harlem,” an oral history of former President Clinton’s race legacy.In 2003, she was appointed chancellor’s lecturer at Chicago City Colleges and was awarded the PUSH for Excellence Award for outstanding contributions in the area of communications. Kearney recently debuted her memoir, “Cotton Field of Dreams,” a vivid portrait of an Arkansas delta sharecropping family that tells how — through hard work and dreams — the impossible became reality.

The University of Arkansas’ Office of University Relations provided the content of today’s salute. For more information on the Silas Hunt Legacy Award Event, please jump here.