Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Speech Communication


The purpose of this study was to analyze rhetorically the political speeches of Winthrop Rockefeller, 1964-1971. Criteria for the study were determined by the theories of Lloyd Bitzer, Ernest Bormann and Kenneth Burke, which as a whole, interrelated to give full understanding of Rockefeller's phenomenal political rise in Arkansas. Examined were the political conditions in Arkansas prior to Rockefeller's emergence as the Republican Party leader in 1964. Application of Bitzer's situational theory revealed that the controlling exigence, the lack of a two-party system, was the direct cause of other exigences such as poor racial conditions, poor educational standards, poor economic growth, and the inferiority complex. The rhetorical audience was composed of poor white farmers, who were Democrats, uneducated beyond the ninth grade, prejudiced against blacks, and resentful of outsiders especially Northerners. Rockefeller, a resident of the state since 1953, faced constraints in his campaigns for governor. The constraints included his political affiliation, name, wealth, shy personality, and status as an "outsider.". Application of Bormann's fantasy theme analysis revealed Rockefeller as a Moses figure and super-hero who wanted to lead the people into the promised land. The villains in the conspiracy drama, whose corrupt practices polluted the hierarchy, were Orval Faubus, Jim Johnson and Marion Crank, power figures of the one-party rule. Fantasy themes that chained out to mold the rhetorical vision, "Era of Excellence," were better education, better industry, better jobs, better roads, better prisons, and better government. Those who participated in the vision aspired for progress, excellence, independence, and honesty in government. They feared corruption, tyranny, and digression. Rockefeller's rhetorical vision met the political constraints of the situation demonstrated by his victories in 1966 and 1968. Thus, in Burkeian terms, the hierarchy was restored. The basis of identification was Rockefeller's conscious attempt to isolate and propose solutions to major problems perceived by Arkansans. Although Rockefeller's vision was shared by the majority of Arkansans, they grew weary of his conflicts with the legislature. He was defeated in 1970 by Democrat Dale Bumpers.