In 1964, Dyess became a regular municipality and has held reunions since 1981. 300 people come from across the country. J.R. Cash moved to Dyess with his family and remembers singing his first song in the back of the flatbed truck the government sent to move them. Legendary country singer Johnny Cash hasn’t been to a reunion, but every year he’s invited, and every year, there’s a communal hope he might just walk in.
Like the pioneer days, Dyess, Arkansas, was carved from 16,000 acres of snake-infested swamp in northeast Arkansas in 1934, a New Deal dream town for about 500 farming families ruined by the Depression. It was a second chance. Dyess was one of 102 towns President Franklin Roosevelt created for people left destitute by the Depression. 500 families, chosen from thousands of applicants for color (white), poverty level (the bottom) and physical ability to clear land and farm.