The impact of COVID-19 in Arkansas
Protests following George Floyd's death
Lionel Morris dies in police custody
Law enforcement officials fired for racism, wishing 'death to all' Democrats
The murder of Sydney Sutherland
I-30 crossing project officially begins
Dawn Scott's exit, Tom Brannon returns
"Thank God for Sam Pittman"
Arkansas boy sings to little brother
Arkansas native sees Tik Tok fame
The Natural State doesn't disappoint
It's been quite a year and definitely one that will go in the history books.
But in Arkansas, 2020 has been filled with stories about protests and the pandemic along with stories of viral fame.
Below you will find the top 11 Arkansas stories of 2020.
Chapter one: The impact of COVID-19 in Arkansas
Since March 11, Arkansas has seen nearly 215,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 3,500 deaths due to the virus.
Arkansas seemed to have had a hold on delaying the spread of the coronavirus early on, but by the end of the year the spread has become increasingly more severe and harder to contain.
Throughout the pandemic, Governor Asa Hutchinson has been resistant to install strict guidelines similar to other states. Instead he has opted to urge Arkansans to use individual responsibility and follow the guidelines set by the health department.
With the arrival of the vaccine, it seems there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but for now health officials and Hutchinson continue to urge wearing a mask and practicing social distancing until the pandemic is over.
Chapter two: Protests following George Floyd's death
Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protests broke out across America to speak out against police brutality towards Black people.
In Arkansas, protesters gathered over several days at the Arkansas State Capitol and in other cities across the state to demand police reform.
Although the protests in the state were largely peaceful, clashes between counter-protesters and vandalism occurred on different occasions.
Police also used tear gas multiple times on protesters at the Arkansas State Capitol to disperse the crowds, including shooting at kneeling protesters.
In response to the protest, Gov. Hutchinson announced a law enforcement task force which shared its final report to the governor in December. The proposals include 27 recommendations to "increase accountability, training, and raise pay to a more competitive level."
Chapter three: Lionel Morris dies in police custody
On February 4, 39-year-old Lionel Morris died while in the custody of the Conway Police Department.
But security and bodycam footage of the arrest was not released until July. In the video, Morris is chased down inside of a grocery store after reportedly removing a drone from its packaging.
During the struggle to tackle Morris, officers tased him multiple times and even one officer admitted to punching two to four times in the back. Another officer said that while he was trying to get Morris on the ground "[Morris'] head inadvertently hit a shelf causing a minor laceration."
In the video, Morris can be heard saying he can't breathe and once medical personnel arrive he was described as "pulseless and unresponsive."
The Conway Police Department closed the investigation into the death in August and said that "specifics or records regarding or relating to the investigation and any resulting personnel action are deemed closed and per Arkansas law, not subject to public disclosure."
Chapter four: Law enforcement officials fired for racism, wishing 'death to all' Democrats
Two of our biggest stories of the year were about law enforcement officials being fired for troubling behavior.
In August, Arkansas County Sheriff Todd Wright resigned after a recording surfaced of him using racial slurs. In the five minute video, Wright can be heard using the n-word nine times while berating a woman for talking to a Black person.
"He said that he didn't mean it, but how do you not mean something when you continuously say it," said Jackie Diva, a representative from Black Lives Matter living in Arkansas who detoured from a planned trip to Washington to come to DeWitt and speak to the court.
Then in November following the 2020 elections, Marshall Police Chief Lang Holland resigned after he used the social media site Parler to say "death to all" Democrats.
Holland made several more troubling comments on Parler. The social media site describes itself as a website where people can "speak freely...without fear of being 'deplatformed' for your views."
Chapter five: The murder of Sydney Sutherland
Sydeny Sutherland was out for a run when she was murdered in August of this year.
She was reported missing and was found several days later. Her death was ruled a homicide for blunt force injuries and 28-year-old Quake Lewellyn was taken into custody as the suspect.
Lewellyn is currently facing charges of capital murder, kidnapping, rape and abuse of a corpse.
According to an affidavit, Lewellyn reportedly told police that the ran over Sutherland with his truck and raped her on the tailgate before burying her.
Chapter six: I-30 crossing project officially begins
In September, construction finally began on the biggest highway project in Arkansas history.
The $630 million project to widen Interstate 30 through the heart of Little Rock and North Little Rock has been long awaited and now the metro will soon see lots of construction.
That includes closing parking lots downtown, nightly lane closures and more along the seven mile corridor.
So, get ready for lots of traffic over the coming years.
Chapter seven: Dawn Scott's exit, Tom Brannon returns
After 21 years, longtime anchor and storyteller Dawn Scott announced in November that she will be stepping down from the nightly anchor desk, allowing her to have more time to devote to her family.
“I am so grateful, so blessed, and I could not have done any of it without your love and support,” Dawn said to viewers in a recent social media post.
From her dedication to finding homes for children awaiting a forever family while in foster care to unsolved cases in central Arkansas that deserved a second look, Dawn told the stories beautifully and with unmatched emotion and dedication to Arkansans that THV11 will always be proud of.
While we will miss Dawn, the sting is a little less painful knowing that a familiar face will grace our televisions once again in the form of our brand new Chief Meteorologist, Tom Brannon!
Brannon was on THV11’s morning show since its inception. He appeared weekdays for 20 years, making him the longest-running morning anchor in Little Rock before leaving the station in 2017.
He said, “I look forward to my next chapter at THV11. You don’t always get a chance at a second act, and for that, I’m very grateful!"
Chapter eight: "Thank God for Sam Pittman"
Sam Pittman. That's the tweet.
Chapter nine: Arkansas boy sings to little brother
In the beginning days of 2020, a video posted by Nicole Powell of her son Rayce singing to her other son in Cabot was shared thousands of times.
Tripp, her youngest child who has Down Syndrome, is cradled in Rayce's arms as he sings "10,000 Hours" by Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber.
"This is how Rayce bonds with Tripp. He sings to him all the time. He swears this song is about him and his brother," Powell wrote.
If this doesn't warm your heart, we don't know what will!
But don't take our word for it, check out the video that was recognized by Dan + Shay themselves who invited the family to a concert!
Chapter ten: Arkansas native sees Tik Tok fame
Nanny-Maw is a social media sensation followed by millions. She is hilarious and a bit irreverent, but she has stolen the heart of people across the globe. Turns out, Nanny-Maw is a character portrayed by Kyle Kidd from Ashdown Arkansas.
Where did this beloved character come from? Kidd said she is a culmination of the women from his family.
"They are all strong and outspoken and some are rough around the edges," he said. "It's a combination of my grandmother who passed away, my mother, and my aunts."
Kidd's humor is a needed reprieve during a year when we all could use a laugh.
"I love to make people laugh and that's what it's all about for me," he said.
You can follow Nanny-Maw on TikTok by searching for @nannymaw on the app.
Chapter eleven: The Natural State doesn't disappoint
Even in a year like 2020 where everything seemed to be dark and sad, one thing was very clear: Arkansas is called the Natural State for a reason, and these views never disappoint!
And a planned wedding photography session took one of those views to the extreme.
Skye and Ryan Myers decide to take jaw dropping pics at Whitaker's Point, going viral for the amazing sight. Obviously, both the couple and the photographer made sure they took all safety precaution before taking the photos.