Cash's Hometown Trying to Cash In

February 6, 2006 – Posted at 6:39 p.m. CST

DYESS, AR – Dyess, Arkansas is a town with a deep historical background. President Franklin Roosevelt created the town in 1934 for those whose lives were destroyed by the Great Depression.  However, you probably have heard of Dyess because of one of the residents who moved to Dyess for a fresh start.... Johnny Cash.

Now a more than 70 years after it's creation, Dyess is hoping to revitalize the town with a museum of the town's history and a memorial to the "Man in Black." It's a town that sprung out of swamp land and gave families new beginnings.

"Back during the Depression, people just didn't have anything to do or anything to make a dollar so the government came in and gave each family 20 acres," said Cash's friend Carl Bailey.

About 500 farming families moved into Dyess making it a thriving farming community but over the years the town has dwindled.

"People had to get away to find a better job, there are no jobs or anything here," said Mayor Larry Sims. One of the families who moved to Dyess in the Post-Depression era was the Cashs.

Folks like Carl Bailey grew up with the 'Man in Black" and still have vivid memories of this music legend.

"He was picking that old guitar and singing some of those songs for me and I asked him Johnny what are you going to do, and he said I am going to try and record. I said Johnny you better get a job because you are never going to make it in the music business. He just laughed," said Bailey with a smile.

Cash's childhood home sits on the outskirts of Dyess and the town has little to show visitors from around the world who come to pay homage to the musical hero. That's why the town is proposing a memorial for black and a museum showcasing the town's history.

"We have nothing to offer them when they come in, and if someone comes all the way in from Great Britain, Germany , Norway we want to have something to show them. The committee's first choice for the Johnny Cash Memorial and Dyess museum is the administration building seen right behind where at one point when Dyess was in its prime Eleanor Roosevelt spoke to 2500 people on the steps right over my shoulder. We want to get a place where people can come in and actually see something from Johnny Cash or Dyess history itself," said Sims.

To raise money for the project the town is holding a special reunion event in early July. Much like when the town offered new beginnings in the 1930's, townspeople hope this project will give Dyess a new beginning.

"I would like to see the town really cleaned up so that people will want to come here, not only to see Johnny Cash but just being in Dyess because there is so much history," said Bailey.

Part of the movie "Walk The Line" was shot in Dyess and the town hopes to use the publicity gained from the film to garner attention for the museum and memorial. The committee behind the project will meet on Thursday for more planning.