Highway’s signs honor Arkansan’s True Grit

This sign, unveiled Thursday by the Arkansas Department of Transportation, designates a section of Arkansas 22 in Fort Smith as the “True Grit Trail.”

FORT SMITH — The Arkansas Department of Transportation unveiled commemorative signs Thursday for a section of Arkansas 22 that, thanks to recent legislation, has been immortalized as the True Grit Trail.

The signs were ceremoniously displayed in both Fort Smith and Dardanelle at different times Thursday. House Bill 1628, sponsored by Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, and Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, designated that part of the highway with that name in recognition of the 1968 novel True Grit by Arkansas author Charles Portis, now 84 years old. The bill passed earlier this year as Act 469.

The bill notes that the novel follows the story of a girl as she travels in Arkansas from the Dardanelle area in Yell County to Fort Smith in Sebastian County, where she hires a U.S. deputy marshal to help her avenge her father’s death.

Portis’ novel, published by Simon & Schuster, is considered by many — including writers Roy Blount Jr., Nora Ephron, Larry McMurtry and Ron Rosenbaum — as an American literary classic.

The novel would go on to serve as the basis of two feature films, with one starring John Wayne and Arkansan Glen Campbell, released in 1969, and another starring Jeff Bridges, released in 2010.

The story’s popularity, as well as the attention it brings to Arkansas, make a “compelling case” for renaming the portion of Arkansas 22 between Dardanelle and Fort Smith the True Grit Trail, the bill stated.

Danny Straessle, public information officer for the Arkansas Department of Transportation, said by email Thursday that the True Grit Trail spans about 67 miles as marked by the sign locations.