Dale Bumpers (born 12 August 1925) was a Democratic member of the United States Senate from the State of Arkansas, from 1975 until his retirement in January, 1999; and was governor of Arkansas from 1971 to 1975. He was elected to the Senate four times, beginning with his win over incumbent Senator J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.) in the 1974 state Democratic primary. He chaired the Senate Small Business Committee from 1987 until 1995 when the Republican Party took control of the Senate following the 1994 elections. Bumpers served as Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources from 1997 until his retirement.
Dale Bumpers was born in Charleston, Arkansas. He attended public schools and the University of Arkansas. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1943 to 1946, during World War II. Bumpers graduated from Northwestern University Law School in 1951 and was admitted to the Arkansas bar in 1952. He started practicing law in his hometown in that same year and served as Charleston city attorney from 1952 to 1970. He served as special justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1968.
Bumpers was virtually unknown when he announced his campaign for governor in 1970. Despite his lack of name recognition, his oratorical skills, personal charm and outsider image put him in a run-off election for the Democratic Party nomination with former Governor Orval Faubus, who had been defeated by a Republican reformer, Winthrop Rockefeller in 1966. Bumpers easily won both the primary election run-off and the general election against Gov. Rockefeller in 1970. Bumpers was often described as a new kind of Southern Democrat who would bring reform to his state and the Democratic Party. His win over Rockefeller ushered in a new era of youthful reform-minded governors, including two of his successors, David Pryor (later a three-term U. S. Senator) and Bill Clinton. Bumpers served as governor from 1971 to 1975, when he was elected to the United States Senate. He served in the Senate from 1975 to 1999, where he chaired the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business (now called the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship) for eight years. Bumpers was known for his oratorical skills.
Bumpers and his wife Betty were both known for their dedication to the cause of childhood immunization.
In his autobiography, former President Bill Clinton mentioned that Bumpers briefly considered running for the Presidency in 1988. However, the run never materialised, and Bumpers publicly declared he would not run for office.
Bumpers was never a particularly close political ally of President Clinton but gave an impassioned closing argument in defense of him during Clinton's impeachment trial.