LITTLE ROCK — A pioneering female surgeon and a successful publisher are among the Arkansas natives who have contributed to black history and "helped shape the world," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday during a Black History Month ceremony at the state Capitol.

LITTLE ROCK — A pioneering female surgeon and a successful publisher are among the Arkansas natives who have contributed to black history and "helped shape the world," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday during a Black History Month ceremony at the state Capitol.


Hutchinson paid tribute to Edith Irby Jones, born in Conway in 1927, who became the first black student accepted to the University of Arkansas Medicaid Sciences and went on to be a successful physician and the first female president of a national medical association.


He also spoke of John Harold Johnson, who was born in Arkansas City in 1918 and founded Johnson Publishing Company, publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines.


"I just mentioned two. There’s many more," Hutchinson said. "But today as governor I’m pleased to participate in the Black History Month for all Americans."


The governor said it is "important that our state and our nation understand the contributions of African Americans to our country, to the cause of freedom, in the areas of business, education, medicine and sciences."


"I think everybody in this room understands that if you’re not a careful guardian of history, in future generations they can get it wrong," he said. "And so we need to guard history: the truth of it, the accuracy of it, the passion of it, the pain of it. Every aspect of that history we need to understand and value and keep for future generations."


Hutchinson said one thing that reminds him of the importance of black history is the monument on the Capitol grounds to the Little Rock Nine, the black students who integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957.


I get to see it every day, because as you look out my office you see the Little Rock Nine looking back, and it reminds you of their responsibility in that moment in history," he said.


Hutchinson also signed a Black History Month proclamation during the ceremony, which was organized by the nonprofit STAND Foundation.


Other speakers included Church of God in Christ Bishop D.L. Lindsey of North Little Rock, who made history when he was the first black person to serve on the North Little Rock City Council.


"Legacies within themselves never end, but there is always that generation that makes a commitment to say, ‘We’re going to pick up the baton. We’re going to continue as African Americans to leave our footprints in the sands of time,’" Lindsey said.