Who would have thought that a trip to Florida would lead to the future creation of Hog Tags? While driving through Florida on vacation with his family, the Honorable Ralph Wilson Jr. spotted a collegiate license plate, complete with an image of a manatee. “I believe it was a Florida State Seminole license plate that I saw. It just gave me the idea that it would be good to have something like that in Arkansas,” Wilson said.
After speaking to then executive director Mike Macechko, members of the Arkansas Alumni Association Board of Directors and former Chancellor Dan Ferritor, they agreed the program would benefit students, the University of Arkansas and the Alumni Association, and decided that a portion of the money generated would go toward the Association’s scholarship program. From there, the Hog Tag program was born.
Once the idea reached the Arkansas Alumni Association, Phillip Bryant, a staff member at the time, took the lead on presenting the idea to the legislature. “He organized a group representing other universities and colleges in the state to keep the legislature and state government from saying it was only a UA thing, and orchestrated it through to completion,” said Macechko.
With a requirement of obtaining 500 participants who would purchase the license plate, Macechko states that Arkansas was the first state to achieve that number, “hence the number 1 on the original plates.”
Receiving approval from the legislature, the Alumni Association’s Hog Tag program officially began in 1994. Since that year, the program has continued to grow and now there are more than 22,000 Hog Tags on the road today. The program has extended beyond Arkansas and Hog Tags can now be seen in Texas, Missouri and Tennessee.
Twenty-five dollars of each license plate sold goes to support the Association’s merit scholars. To date, the program has supported more than 984 scholarships, making it possible for students to attend the University of Arkansas.