Betty Bumpers, a former Arkansas first lady who advocated for childhood immunizations nationwide and pushed for limiting nuclear arms proliferation, has died. She was 93.
Bumpers, long married to former Arkansas governor and four-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, died Friday at her home in Little Rock following a recent fall and complications with dementia, according to her daughter, Brooke Bumpers.
After her husband became governor in 1971, Betty Bumpers pushed childhood immunizations in Arkansas and later advised other states on her efforts. She worked with former first lady Rosalynn Carter on a national childhood immunization program during the late 1970s, and later with fellow former Arkansas first lady Hillary Clinton.
In 1982, she founded Peace Links with other congressional wives. The organization sought to bring together women in the United States and in the then-Soviet Union to help reduce the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to promote non-violent resolutions to world conflicts.
“She just felt strongly she should take advantage of the opportunities presented to her,” Brooke Bumpers told The Associated Press on Saturday. “Children were particularly important to her, both in her immunization efforts and for peace.”
Brooke Bumpers said Peace Links was the result of conversations prompted by a question she asked her mother after she left for college: “If there’s a nuclear war, how would we all find each other?”
“At the time there were (nuclear) missiles in Arkansas,” she said. “She was just so horrified she had a child that was growing up with these fears and thoughts, and she thought it was just insane.”
Former President Bill Clinton, also a former Arkansas governor, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a statement calling Bumpers “a remarkable person.”
“She and Hillary worked together in Arkansas and across the country to expand early childhood immunizations,” the Clintons said. “Betty was an early, effective voice against nuclear proliferation, a cause she championed when it was popular and when it wasn’t.”
Along with her daughter, Betty Bumpers is survived by her sons, Brent and Bill, and seven grandchildren.