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  • Writer's pictureKirby Clark, MMT

Just A Touch Of History: Celebrating 72 Years of Massage Therapy in Arkansas

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

This week will mark the 72nd anniversary of the Massage Registration Act. Seventy-two years ago (this Saturday) Arkansas Governor, Sidney McMath, signed the Massage Registration Act of 1951 into law. Arkansas became one of five States (Hawaii being only a territory at the time) to regulate the profession of massage therapy.

To celebrate this occasion, I have planned a full week of content around the history of massage! We’ll get into my Arkansas massage history project, ways to participate, review the responses I’ve gotten (so far) from the history survey I created, question and answer sessions, a look at my archive/collection of historical items, a close look at the 1951 law, and even more details! But to kick off the week, this Massage Monday blog post is a re-introduction to the project.

I have started a new research project that I hope will someday be a published non-fiction book. It’s called A History of Massage Therapy in Arkansas. I began conceptualizing the idea for the book in November of 2021 and began preliminary research and oral history interviews after announcing in September. As an introduction to the project, I shared the synopsis in a Facebook live;

In 1951, Arkansas became one of the first states to officially regulate the massage therapy profession. In 2015, the Arkansas State Board of Massage Therapy was abolished. How did one of the oldest institutional authorities on massage therapy come to be dissolved with the stroke of a pen? How did it come to this?

It is important to me to note that this project does not seek to place blame or point fingers at individuals. The goal I’m striving for is to seek the truth and preserve this unique and long history of massage therapy in Arkansas for future generations of massage professionals. Initial research is primarily focused on massage therapy in Arkansas from 1951 to present day (while allowing for flexibility to research pre-1951 and the profession outside of Arkansas in order to establish context).

I envision the finished project to be divided into chapters each dedicated to a specific decade (ie, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, etc…) as well as including legacy biographies of notable therapists who advanced the profession in Arkansas.

I have already made several trips to review relevant documents and interview a number of oral history narrators all across the state. I have invested heavily in this project all out of pocket (travel, hotel accommodations, time away from work, hours spent writing about the project and cold calling professionals to share my vision for the work). I realize that this work is an incredibly niche subject and that any published book isn’t going to be widely marketable. But I think having a preserved record of one of the oldest states to have regulated massage is so important! Arkansas was the fifth state (Hawaii was still a territory) to pass legislation that registered practitioners- the majority of other states don’t have such a rich and lengthy history. We are so lucky for that and I think we deserve access to that history.

Be sure to follow along this week for all the new massage content that is to come (TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram) and keep an eye on my website here ( for more details on the project (under the SOMA) page and ways to participate – which we’re going to talk more about in tomorrow’s TikTok video!

Thank you so much for being interested in this project and welcome along in this journey!

Peace and Healing,

Kirby Clark, MMT, BCTMB

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