Notable Deaths of 2009

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 28, 2009 12:00 am  

Notable Deaths of 2009


Walter "Wally" Sydney Tucker, 67, an educator and radio station owner, died March 6. The adjunct professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock was a past president of the Arkansas Broadcasters Association.

Darrell D. Dover, 75, a longtime commercial attorney in Little Rock, died March 17. Among his clients were Regions Bank, Arvest Bank and Bank of the Ozarks, as well as the nonprofit Arc of Arkansas, which named an annual arts award for Dover.

Frank Lightfoot, 70, an inveterate newspaperman, died March 20 in Pine Bluff, where he was a longtime reporter and editor for the Commercial. A one-time Arkansas Press Association president, he owned the weekly White Hall Journal for nearly 20 years.

George Kell, 86, a Hall of Fame third baseman and broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers, died March 24 in Swifton, where he was born. In 1949, Kell eked out the American League batting title over Ted Williams.

G. Larry Kelley, 92, whose construction company erected several of Little Rock's tallest office towers, died March 31. The retired Pickens-Bond Construction Co. head oversaw construction of numerous shopping malls and much of Little Rock's skyline: Regions Bank, Metropolitan Bank, Stephens Inc., The Peabody Little Rock. He served for two years as chairman of the Little Rock branch of the Federal Reserve Board.


James Hudson, 54, a Texarkana circuit judge and dedicated advocate for children, died May 3 of complications following cancer surgery. The former prosecuting attorney was chair of two state Supreme Court committees and was at the time of his death one of three candidates for a U.S. District Court judgeship in the Western District of Arkansas.

Tom Steves, 68, the marketing director for Twin City Bank and a longtime advertising executive, died May 26 when he wrecked his motorcycle trying to avoid a truck. Through a career spent at the agencies now known as Mangan Holcomb, Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods and Thoma Thoma, he came to know the players in banking and government as well as anyone in Little Rock.


Dr. Mark Edmund "Duke" Bainum, 56, a retired physician and managing director of the holding company for Diamond Bank of Murfreesboro, died of complications from an aneurysm June 9 in Honolulu, where he served on the city council. A dedicated volunteer doctor - he was one of the first in New Orleans after Katrina - he merged his family's two southwest Arkansas bank charters into Diamond Bank in 2007.

Marty Roenigk, 66, a former chairman and CEO of Maryland's CompuDyne Corp. who with his wife restored two historic Eureka Springs hotels, died June 18 in an auto crash in Iowa. More than 500 people gathered at his Crescent Hotel & Spa, where he lived, to eulogize him. He and his wife, Elise, also owned the Basin Park Hotel and War Eagle Mill, in Rogers.


Andree Layton Roaf, 68, who entered law school at age 34 and rose to become the first black woman on the Arkansas Supreme Court and then the Arkansas Court of Appeals, died July 1 after collapsing at her Little Rock office. The mother of National Football League all-pro tackle Willie Roaf, the one-time bacteriologist impressed Gov. Jim Guy Tucker with her "very quiet, methodical way," and in 1995 he named her the second woman ever to serve on the state's Supreme Court. After her term, Gov. Mike Huckabee appointed her to the Court of Appeals.

Leroy Donald Jr., 73, a longtime Little Rock reporter who wrote the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's weekly "Everybody's Business" column, died July 2. The jazz lover once produced and performed in the biennial Farkleberry Follies, a send-up of Arkansas politicians.

E. Lynn Harris, 54, who drew upon his race (black) and sexuality (gay) to give voice to 12 books with more than 4 million copies in print, unexpectedly died July 23 of heart disease. A former journalism student and cheerleader at the University of Arkansas, he began writing in his mid-30s while working as a computer salesman. He self-published and sold copies out of his car until he was discovered and became, as The New York Times wrote in his obituary, "one of the nation's most popular writers," with 10 consecutive books on the Times best-seller list.


Frank E. Robins III, 80, who for 35 years owned and published the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway, died Aug. 29. The Korean War veteran and former president of the Arkansas Press Association touched every facet of civic life in Conway, serving on the city's first planning commission in the 1950s and, for 23 years, on the Conway Corp. Board of Directors, where he was chairman for 21 years.


Wayne Hartsfield, 74, a former chairman of Regions Bank at Searcy and former chairman, president and CEO of First National Bank of Searcy, died Sept. 3. He spent his entire 39-year banking career at the same bank, spent four of his 17 years on the Arkansas Board of Education as chairman, and was a past president of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

Ron Blasingame, 60, a founder of Whole Hog Café of Little Rock, died Sept. 21 of multiple organ failure while awaiting a liver transplant. The former Marine dropped out of a sales job to make award-winning barbecue that he then licensed to another dozen locations in several states.


William "Bill" McArthur, 71, a criminal defense attorney wrongfully swept up in the investigation into his wife's 1982 murder, died Oct. 3 after collapsing outside his Little Rock apartment. In 1981, the brilliant courtroom lawyer defended Mary Orsini, on trial for the murder of her husband; Orsini then hired two men to kill Alice McArthur in her home and said she conspired with the attorney to do so. Bill McArthur was arrested in his wife's murder, but a grand jury refused to indict. Orsini was convicted of masterminding the whole scheme and died in prison.

Mark Pennebaker, 51, the senior vice president for commercial lending at Bank of the Ozarks in North Little Rock, died Oct. 5 unexpectedly while on vacation in Mexico. Remembered as a gregarious and pious man, Pennebaker had worked at the bank since 1996.

Mike Medlock, 59, the executive vice president of BancorpSouth Insurance Services of Arkansas, died Oct. 28, a week after the Arkansas State University College of Business Alumni Chapter named him Business Executive of the Year. The chairman of the ASU board of trustees and president of Insurance Network in Jonesboro had been receiving treatments for leukemia.


Donald Harington, 73, a retired University of Arkansas art history professor and author of 15 novels, most of which explored the fictional Ozark hamlet Stay More, died Nov. 7. A recipient of the Robert Penn Warren Award for fiction and member of the Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame, Harington was so beloved as a teacher that his students painted a mural in his honor at the university's art building upon his retirement last year.

Lawrence H. Schmieding, 89, businessman and philanthropist, died Nov. 16 in Springdale. The CEO of the Schmieding Foundation served in WWII and started H.C. Schmieding Produce, a wholesaler, in 1961. His 1999 gift of $15 million to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences established the Schmieding Center for Senior Health & Education.


Lloyd Schuh Sr., 94, a pioneer in direct-mail marketing and part of the first generation of ad professionals in Arkansas, died Dec. 4. In 1948, he founded the Little Rock company now called LSC Marketing, where he worked until age 92, earning the Advertising Federation's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.

Jodie Mahony, 70, a state representative and senator for 36 years who remained involved in public policy even after term limits forced him out of the Legislature, died Dec. 5 in El Dorado, where he was born. Known as a devoted, savvy lawmaker - and for lugging his files around the Capitol in a cardboard box - he specialized in public education policy and introduced more than 1,400 bills during his career.

Ernie Butler, 81, a former senior executive vice president and director at Stephens Inc., died Dec. 17. An Army veteran and accountant by trade, Butler worked for Stephens for 41 years before leaving in 1998 and forming I.E. Butler Securities Inc.

Paul Williams "Pete" Hoover Jr., 67, a Little Rock finance attorney, died of an apparent heart attack while duck hunting on Dec. 19. Since 2000 he had been a partner at Williams & Anderson and was general counsel to Metropolitan National Bank, which belongs to his father-in-law, Doyle Rogers of Batesville.

Eugene "Bud" Canada, 84, the University of Arkansas track and football star whose career as a state legislator spanned six different decades, died Dec. 21. Elected to the House in 1959, and later to the Senate from 1972 to 2000, Canada, a former Garland County sheriff, fought long to eliminate taxes on groceries; in 2007, they were reduced from 6 to 3 percent. He was enshrined in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.



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