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An automotive family dynasty - Arkansas Online

In last week's column I addressed the advent of the automobile in Arkansas. This week we turn our attention to the Smart family of Pine Bluff--which can only be described as the first family of Arkansas automobile dealers.

The first auto dealers were brothers William C. and James P. Faucette, who were the leading political powers in Argenta. Faucette Bros. began selling steam-powered autos--called locomobiles--in 1902, but that dealership did not last long. Felix Gillespie Smart, the son of pioneering Pine Bluff settler Felix Grundy Smart, established the F.G. Smart Motor Co. on West Barraque Street in Pine Bluff in 1906.

For generations the Smart family gave the name Felix to their sons, which causes considerable confusion for historians. To clarify which Felix is under discussion, I will include their middle names.

The growing Smart family migrated to the Pine Bluff area in the 1830s while Arkansas was still a territory and Felix Grundy was a child. He attended local "subscription schools," since Arkansas would not have a public school system for another 40 years.

Felix Grundy is described by contemporaries as a "self-made man," which means his family was of modest means. He undertook numerous business pursuits, and is best remembered as a founder of the first bank in Pine Bluff in 1876. Later named Merchants and Planters Bank, it prospered until 1930 when it failed during the Great Depression. The bank building survives and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Felix Grundy died in December 1884 at his magnificent home in Pine Bluff, purchased during the Civil War for $12,000 in Confederate currency.

Felix Gillespie Smart, the son of Felix Grundy and Liza Hudson Smart, was born in 1876. Like his father, Felix Gillespie was a hard-working man in a hard-working and prosperous community. He was full of life and always open to new undertakings.

When the bicycle craze struck Arkansas and the nation in the 1880s and 1890s, Felix Gillespie was a leading cyclist and promoter of the new vehicle. He was president of the Pine City Cycling Club, and organized and participated in bike races. He won a two-mile competition in the autumn of 1894 despite having been "knocked senseless" in an earlier race the same day.

Additionally, Smart was a fan of motorized boats, in 1901 being one of three Pine Bluff residents who owned "swift little river launches."

Felix Gillespie began his business career early, purchasing the refreshments concession at Sulphur Springs, a popular weekend resort near Pine Bluff, when he was 18 years of age. Within two more years he was the owner of a thriving grocery store, soon adding a wholesale component. He dove into real estate with a partner, and built a large roller-skating rink. In 1905 Felix he purchased the People's Furniture Co., and the following year established Smart Motor Co.

Felix Gillespie was even more enthusiastic for automobiles than he had been for bicycles. On numerous occasions he organized automobile outings. In 1905, for example, he was among a "jolly crowd of automobilists" who drove from Pine Bluff to Little Rock and back home in one day. Driving anywhere in Arkansas in 1905 was an adventure given there were no service stations, and the roadways were little more than dusty trails. Newspapers covered these excursions avidly.

Smart Motor Co. was positioned to take advantage of the rapidly expanding automobile market. In 1912 the company acquired the Ford franchise for Pine Bluff, an important development since Henry Ford was in the process of transforming his company into a powerhouse which would make auto ownership feasible for the masses.

Felix Gillespie Smart died in 1915 at the age of 39. His son, 17-year-old Felix Gerrett Smart, left high school to carry on the family businesses. The auto company did quite well during the economically robust 1920s, selling 700 new and used autos in 1922 alone. They built new and larger facilities on West Second Avenue, which included an elevator for moving vehicles from upstairs storage to the expansive ground-floor showrooms.

By 1923, the company had a tractor sales department. In 1933, Smart gave up the Ford franchise and became a Chevrolet dealer, a relationship which continues to this day. Felix Garrett served as president of the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association.

Like his father, Felix Gerrett had multiple interests. He was especially active in civil aeronautics in Pine Bluff, where he led the movement to establish a city airport. During World War II, he served as a colonel in the Army Air Corps, while his brother-in-law S. Ray West Sr. ran the corporation. For years after the war he was an officer in the Air Force Reserve. He lost a son during the war, Felix Jr., killed while serving in the U.S. Navy.

Felix Gerrett was an active promoter of Pine Bluff, being a president of the Chamber of Commerce and the Pine Bluff Rotary Club. He played a major role in establishing an Army Air Corps flying school at Grider Field in Pine Bluff during World War II.

Like so many other Smart men, Felix Gerrett died early, on Dec. 17, 1957. His son, Richard L. "Bubba" Smart, then assumed management of the company. A variety of family members have kept the Smart dealerships going through the ensuing years.

Today the company has its headquarters and three dealerships in White Hall, not far north of Pine Bluff, as well as a Ford dealership in Malvern and a Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership and used car operation in Pine Bluff.

Tom Dillard is a historian and retired archivist living near Glen Rose in rural Hot Spring County. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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NEWS 11 SPORTS: AWC in action at the Chapman Automotive Thanksgiving Basketball Classic - KYMA

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - Arizona Western College basketball is looking to keep their winning streak going.

Both the mens and womens teams undefeated going into the Chapman Automotive Thanksgiving Basketball Classic at home, taking the dub Friday night and now heading into day two.

The mens team took on the Southern Nevada Coyotes and in the end it would be the the Coyotes taking this one.

They beat the matadors 73-69 making it their first loss of the season.

As for the Lady Matadors, they faced Dream City Christian and stay undefeated winning by 30 points, 70-40.


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Train collides with a car left on the tracks in Harmony Township; investigation underway - WHIO

HARMONY TOWNSHIP — Crews responded to a train-and-car collision in Harmony Township Saturday evening.

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The Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio State Highway Patrol were called to the 1200 block of Fletcher Pike at 6:30 p.m. after receiving reports that a train crashed into a car sitting on the tracks.

As of yet, neither the sheriff’s office nor the state highway patrol know the reason for the car’s presence on the tracks, dispatch for both departments told News Center 7. It is also unknown whether the car was intentionally parked there or if it stopped on the tracks. Investigators for the Ohio State Highway Patrol are currently looking into this.

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Crews at the scene reported that there were no occupants in the car, Clark County dispatch confirmed.

However, the car did sustain damage and required a tow truck to be removed from the scene, dispatch said. Additionally, there were no reports that the train sustained any damage. So far, officials could not determine the estimated costs from the collision.

>> TRENDING: 1 child, 1 adult hurt following crash in Dayton

There were no reported injuries from this crash, dispatch informed. Medics, however, did respond to the incident as a precaution.

Officers closed Fletcher Pike during this incident to investigate the scene and clear the car from the tracks, dispatch stated. The road has been reopened.

>> TRENDING: Several agencies called to fire in Auglaize County

Ohio State Highway Patrol will be the lead investigators for this incident.

News Center 7 will provide updates as the story develops.

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Dust Found on Cars, Buildings in Martinez - NBC Bay Area

Dust Found on Cars, Buildings in Martinez  NBC Bay Area
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Researchers: AI in connected cars eased rush hour congestion - Tulsa World

TRAVIS LOLLER Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As millions of people travel the interstates this Thanksgiving, many will encounter patches of traffic at a standstill for no apparent reason — no construction or accident. Researchers say the problem is you.

Human drivers just don’t do a good job of navigating dense traffic conditions, but an experiment using artificial intelligence in Nashville last week means help could be on the way. In the experiment, specially equipped cars were able to ease rush hour congestion on Interstate 24, researcher Daniel Work said on Tuesday. In addition to lessening driver frustration, Work said less stop-and-go driving means fuel savings and, by extension, less pollution.

The professor of civil and environmental engineering at Vanderbilt University is one of a group of engineers and mathematicians from universities around the U.S. who have been studying the problem of phantom traffic jams after a simple experiment in Japan a dozen years ago showed how they develop. Researchers there put about 20 human drivers on a circular track and asked them to drive at a constant speed. Before long, traffic went from a smooth flow to a series of stops and starts.

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“Phantom traffic jams are created by drivers like you and me,” Work explained.

One person taps the brakes for whatever reason. The person behind them takes a second to respond and has to brake even harder. The next person has to brake even harder. The wave of braking continues until many cars are at a standstill. Then, as traffic clears, the drivers accelerate too quickly, causing more braking and yet another jam.

“We know that one car braking suddenly can have a huge impact,” Work said.

Last week’s experiment showed that a few cars driving slowly and steadily could have an impact as well, for the better.

The experiment utilized 100 cars that travelled in loops on a 15-mile section of I-24 from about 6 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. each morning. Working on the premise that if 5% of the cars on the road were acting together, they could lessen the prevalence of phantom traffic jams, the researchers equipped those 100 cars to communicate wirelessly, sending traffic information back and forth.

They also took advantage of the adaptive cruise control that is already an option on many new vehicles. This technology lets the driver set a car to cruise at a certain speed, but the car automatically slows down and speeds up as needed to keep a safe distance from the car in front. In the experiment, the adaptive cruise control was modified to react to the overall traffic flow — including what was happening far ahead — using artificial intelligence.

The cars’ decision-making occurred on two levels, Work said. At the cloud level, information about traffic conditions was used to create an overall speed plan. That plan was then broadcast to the cars, which used artificial intelligence algorithms to determine the best action to take. The researchers were able to evaluate the effect the connected cars had on morning traffic flow using a special 4-mile stretch of I-24 outfitted with 300 pole-mounted sensors.

The experiment is a project of the CIRCLES consortium, a group that includes several automakers and the U.S. Energy and Transportation departments. Other lead researchers are based at the University of California, Berkeley; Temple University; and Rutgers University-Camden.

Liam Pedersen is deputy general manager for research at Nissan, a CIRCLES consortium partner who was in Nashville last week for the experiment. He said one of the exciting things about it is that it builds on technology that is already in many new cars.

“This is not autonomous driving,” he said. “This is something we could realize very soon.”

Asked if automakers will be willing to cooperate to ease traffic, Pedersen said, “I certainly hope so, because the system works best when lots and lots of cars participate.”

Last week’s experiment built off one Work and his colleagues conducted in 2017 at the University of Arizona. That repeated the Japanese experiment, this time with a single self-driving car thrown into the mix. The self-driving car smoothed the flow of traffic so that there was 98% less braking. That led to a 40% increase in fuel efficiency and a 14% increase in distance driven.

Researchers are still crunching the numbers on last week’s experiment, but Work said it “demonstrated that these jams can be reduced through the novel automated vehicle technologies we developed. It’s unquestionable that enhanced automotive technology can significantly reduce phantom traffic jams when implemented at scale.”

Still, he cautioned that the technology is not going to suddenly eliminate congestion.

“When there are more cars on the road than the road can support, there will always be traffic,” he said. “But this can make that congestion less painful.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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