Special Guest Provides Lesson on Mules

A group of history students at Arkansas Tech University recently had an opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of one of the most important factors in the settlement and development of the American South and beyond.

Federal Judge Billy R. Wilson served as guest speaker in one of Dr. Tom DeBlack’s classes on Tuesday, Nov. 10, and he was joined by two additional guests — Ben the mule and Molly the donkey.

Wilson, who raises mules at Rasputin Mule Farm in Bigelow, told the students of the importance that the mule holds in the history of the United States.

“Anything a horse can do, a mule can do it better, with one exception…and that’s running fast,” said Wilson.

The students learned that as of 1860, there were 600,000 mules in the U.S. Wilson said that both sides utilized mules during the Civil War, and after the end of the conflict in 1865, mules played a large role in building the new South through agriculture.

Wilson went on to point out that the United States shipped 200,000 mules to Europe to assist in the moving of equipment during World War I. By 1920, there were 6 million mules in the U.S. Wilson said that there are approximately 800,000 mules in the country today, with uses as varied as trail riding and hunting.

“A mule has a strong sense of self-preservation,” Wilson told the students.

Wilson is a United States federal judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. He was nominated for the post by President Bill Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1993. He transitioned to senior status with the court in 2008.

Learn more about the Arkansas Tech Department of History and Political Science.