Fayetteville High School student spearheads campaign for Arkansas state dinosaur

Mason Cypress Oury in front of the skeleton of a baby Tenortosaurus at the Atoka County Museum in Atoka, Oklahoma.

The Arkansas state bird is a mockingbird. The state insect is a honey bee. Soon, if a certain local student has his way, Arkansas will officially adopt its very own state dinosaur.

Local student Mason “Cypress” Oury has been working since 2013 on his own campaign to get the Arkansas General Assembly to recognize the Arkansaurus Fridayi as the official dinosaur of The Natural State.

Oury, now a 17-year-old junior at Fayetteville High School, created a petition for his cause a few years ago, found support for his idea, and that support continues to snowball today.

He created a website, social media pages, and a series of YouTube videos on the subject. He has been in contact with his local legislators and media outlets throughout the state. He even contacted the New York Times.

Oury said he first learned about the Arkansaurus Fridayi, discovered in 1972 by Joe Friday on his land in Lockesburg in south Arkansas, from a book given to him by his father.

“I became interested, more like obsessed, with paleontology when I was seven or eight years old when I got a book about Arkansas’s fossils which included a smaller book about Arkansaurus,” he said. “Arkansaurus is my most favorite dinosaur ever.”

A cast of the foot bones discovered on Joe Fridays property in Arkansas in the 1970s

According to Oury, Arkansaurus is the perfect candidate to become the official dinosaur of the state of Arkansas because, as far as anyone knows, is it the only dinosaur that has been found exclusively in this state.

“Out of all of the dinosaurs that lived in Arkansas 120 million years ago, Arkansaurus is the only dinosaur found only here,” Oury said.

Recently, he secured a commitment from Arkansas House of Representatives officials Greg Leding and David Whitaker to bring legislation to the capitol that would make his dream of an Arkansas state dinosaur a reality.

Leding said he plans to make a proposal in Little Rock when the general assembly convenes in January of 2017.

“We are working on it,” he said. “We’re hoping to work with some of the legislators in that area of the state, like Senator Larry Teague and Representative Deanne Vaught.”

Leding said he’s learned that no legislation is a sure thing, but he feels pretty good about Oury’s chances of seeing his proposal become the law of the land.

“I think it has a good chance,” he said. “I think it helps that this is not some out of state scientific community that is pushing for this or something. It’s a kid, and I think thats important. I honestly have a hard time imagining there will be much opposition.”

Leding said he came away from his meeting with Oury impressed with the young man.

“You can tell that he has worked really hard,” Leding said. “He had an entire notebook that he had created for it. I’m pretty sure he wrote down every word we said in that meeting, too.”

Now that he has secured a pledge from Leding and Whitaker, Oury isn’t content to rest on his campaign.

He recently produced his own video podcast to give updates on his progress, one he hopes to update on a monthly basis. He is also emailing other state legislators hoping to gain their support.

Oury said he hopes the public will get involved in his campaign, through emails to their local state representatives, by telling their friends about the campaign, and submitting their ideas stories, drawings, poems, songs, etc. via his website.

Most of all, though, Oury just wants to see his home state become the ninth in the US with its very own official dinosaur.

“Arkansas is such a unique state,” he said. “There are only eight other state dinosaurs. How about Arkansas gets another unique quality for the state.”

This article is sponsored by First Security Bank. For more great stories of Arkansas food, travel, sports, music and more, visit onlyinark.com.