Mrs. Bess Downs Jenkins, of Pine Bluff, founded the Arkansas Society for Crippled Children in 1926. As the wife of surgeon John S. Jenkins, who specialized in healing crippled bodies, she saw the need in Arkansas for a program to provide care and education to children with physical and developmental challenges.
Upon her death, she left a large part of her estate to the school for children with disabilities. These funds, along with matching donations, provided for the construction of the Jenkins Memorial Center, which began operating in 1968. The Center continues to operate with the support of the Board of Directors of Jenkins Memorial Center and Jenkins Industries, Inc. (formerly the Arkansas Society for Crippled Children, Inc.)