The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Conway Human Development Center will bring together many figures who have made the facility a haven for people with developmental delays today from 1-4 p.m.

Superintendents who charted the progress of the huge facility on Seibenmorgen Road will be on hand to hail its many successes, beginning as a colony for children and then moving on to developing into a sanctuary for individuals with many kinds of disabilities. 

Speakers will trace the history of the place; entertainment and foodstuffs for the public will be on the agenda. Slide shows and pictorial evidence of the treatment for the 500-plus residents of CHDC will be featured. City and state officials have been invited to be a part of the celebration. 

According to longtime employee Ed Jennings, who has been on board for 48 of the 50 years of the facility, the six superintendents who directed the operations of CHDC will be on hand. 

Starting with David Ray who helped select the site for the facility, other superintendents who have been invited include Charles Acuff, Clinton Wingfield, Dick Kenney, Bob Clark and the current superintendent Calvin Price. 

Special mention will be made of A. Nils Florenz, a Little Rock businessman whose daughter was disabled. Florenz toiled long and hard to bring the center to fruition, winning the attention of then Gov. Orval Faubus, who urged the Legislature to pass legislation that created the facility.

On Jan. 25, 1955, the General Assembly created Act 6, which engendered Arkansas’ first facility to serve children with cognitive disabilities. Arkansas was the 48th state to open such a facility. Workers began construction in 1958, and less than two years later, some 3,000 people attended the facility’s opening.

In 1981, the colony was renamed the Conway Human Development Center, and since the Conway center was such a success, five other similar centers have been built around the state at Arkadelphia, Alexander, Jonesboro, Booneville and Warren.