Getting to Know Eugene and Cora
Their Latimore Tourist Home
Eugene Latimore was born in 1871 in Anderson, South Carolina, and moved to Van Buren, Arkansas, after his father passed away in 1875 when Eugene was just four years old. Throughout his life, Eugene was an educator, a steam engine repairman for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and a livestock veterinarian.
Cora Wilson was born in Pope County, Arkansas, on September 6, 1895. Eugene and Cora were married on February 3, 1933, and they had two daughters, Anna Jean and Frances.
Shortly after their marriage, they purchased a home at 318 S. Houston Avenue, which was built at the turn of the 20th century by Gordon Parker, an African American carpenter. They could not have known at that time the legacy they would be building and just what a refuge that home would be for so many.
There are no records detailing exactly when the Latimores opened their home to Black travelers and railroaders passing through Arkansas, but we do know that the 1939 edition of “The Green Book” listed Mrs. E. Latimore as the proprietor of a home that welcomed African Americans and offered them a safe place to sleep and a good meal. It appears that the running of the Tourist Home was largely in Cora’s capable hands as Eugene continued to work outside the home.
Eugene and Cora welcomed guests into their home from the mid-1930s to the mid-1970s (well after the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act). We have no way of knowing how many guests the Latimores hosted during those years. However, the proximity of the home to Highway 64, and the fact that, for so long, it was the only Tourist Home listed between Little Rock and Fort Smith, means the number must have been significant over those 40 years.
Eugene died on July 7, 1980, at the age of 109, and Cora died on her 95th birthday in 1990. They are buried together at Reed Cemetery in Russellville, Arkansas.
In 2012, The Latimore Tourist Home was added to the National Register of Historic Places; recognition that Eugene and Cora could probably never have imagined. They were simply doing what they were called to do.
The Home has stood empty for many years. Sadly, in 2018, it was added to Preserve Arkansas’s List of Most Endangered Properties.
There are many unanswered questions about Eugene and Cora, but the one thing we do know is how extraordinary these two people were. They opened their home for 40 years to complete strangers. They gave them a place to rest. They gave them respite. They gave them warmth and safety. Eugene and Cora truly made a difference in the lives of every person they welcomed into their home. Let us never forget the life and legacy of the Latimores. And let us honor them by bringing their Latimore Tourist Home back to life.
To learn more about the Latimore Tourist Home:
Wilcox, Ralph S. (2011). Latimore Tourist Home: National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.
Rodrigues, Jeannie. (2018). Silent Witness. ABOUT the River Valley 2018 (2): 8-13. https://aboutrvmag.com/2018/02/01/silent-witness/
To learn more about the surrounding community, take the Black Historical Sites of Russellville, Arkansas.