Arkansas Business' 25 Minority Trailblazers (25th Anniversary)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 23, 2009 12:00 am  

Charles Stewart, executive vice president at Regions Bank

Of 117 individuals who were profiled by Arkansas Business during its first five years of publication, only seven were racial minorities. Arkansas' population is still more than 78 percent white, but Arkansans of color have certainly made their mark during the last quarter-century. Here are 25 of those trailblazers, in alphabetical order:

1. Al Bell
Brinkley native Al Bell was a veteran of the Stax record label in Memphis when, in the 1980s, he became president of the most storied name in African-American music: Motown. He helped negotiate its 1989 sale to MCA/Boston Ventures Group.

After that, Bell established Bellmark Records, through which he discovered Tag Team, whose hit single "Whoomp! (There It Is)" swept the market in 1993. Bell also produced Prince's single "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World."

2. Charles Cervantes
Charles Cervantes, who owns and operates Crates Inc., is also in his fourth year as state director of the League of United Latin American Citizens. He spends much of his time educating Hispanics about voting rights.

As director of LULAC, Cervantes is working with Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas to put a medical clinic in the old K-Mart at the southwest corner of Asher and University avenues.

A Texas native, Cervantes, after some time in the military, joined a paper company. While on a work-related trip to Arkansas, Cervantes decided to remain in the state, and in 1991, he opened Crates.

Crates sells packaging and recycling equipment and rebuilds old equipment.

Cervantes is a member of the Arkansas Friendship Coalition and a board member of Just Communities of Central Arkansas, Stamp Out Smoking and Arkansans Against Abusive Payday Lending.

3. Dexter Doyne
After graduating from college in San Francisco, Dexter Doyne returned to Little Rock to look after his ailing father and the family business. The upkeep of the family's rental properties led Doyne to open his own contracting firm in 1983.

Projects by Doyne Construction Co. of North Little Rock include the Clinton School of Public Service and the Clinton Presidential Library's water feature.

Doyne participates in the Minority-owned Business Enterprise Construction Mentoring Program, in which he mentors a minority-owned construction company for a year.

Doyne has received numerous awards, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Salute to Greatness Business Award in 2006, Minority Contractor of the Year in 2004 from Minority Enterprise Development Week and the U.S. Small Business Administration's Prime Contractor of the Year in 1995.

4. C.J. Duvall
Before Verizon gobbled up Alltel, C.J. Duvall worked as executive vice president of human resources for Alltel.

Duvall, who joined the company in 1986, climbed through the ranks at Alltel, holding the positions of senior vice president of human resources, vice president of employee relations, international human resources manager, compensation consultant and director of employee relations.

Duvall, who has master's degrees in scriptural studies and industrial and organization psychology, reaped a hefty sum when private equity firms TPG Capital and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners bought Alltel's stock. Duvall, who had a base salary of $325,177 in 2007, cleared $9.5 million in 2007, largely from the sale of Alltel to the private equity firms.

5. Joycelyn Elders
In 1987, Gov. Bill Clinton appointed Joycelyn Elders director of the Arkansas Department of Health. The outspoken Elders generated controversy for her views on abortion rights, sex education and school-based health clinics, but President Clinton stayed loyal, appointing her surgeon general in 1993.

Elders studied medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at Little Rock.

Despite her bright and busy career as a multiple award-winning physician, Elders still finds time to serve the community. She works with the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, the Northside YMCA and Youth Home Inc.

Elders is now retired, but stays busy giving lectures throughout the country and publishing medical articles.

6. Sybil Hampton
Although she was born in Springfield, Mo., Sybil Jordan Hampton grew up in Little Rock, where in 1959 she became a member of the second class of black students to attend Central High School. Although she felt racism's sting, her parents always urged her to pursue excellence, Hampton said, and she did.

She went on to earn master's degrees and a doctorate in education.

In 1996, Hampton became the third president of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. She retired from that position in 2006. She now serves on the board of trustees at Earlham College and at the Japanese American National Museum and on the executive advisory board at Purdue University Center of Regional Development.

Throughout her distinguished career, Hampton has received the Earlham College Outstanding Alumni Award, a Woman of Achievement award from Iona College and the National Conference for Community & Justice Humanitarian Award. She has also been named to Arkansas Business ' Top 100 Women in Arkansas list several times.

7. E. Lynn Harris
Although he is a native of Flint, Mich., E. Lynn Harris was raised in Little Rock and attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he became the first black yearbook editor and the first black male cheerleader. He graduated with a degree in journalism. After selling computers for 13 years after college, Harris started pursuing a career as a novelist.

Unable to land a deal with a publisher for his first novel, "Invisible Life," Harris published it himself and sold copies from the trunk of his car.

Since then, Harris has published many novels, many of which deal with Harris' experiences as an openly gay African-American. Five of his books have achieved New York Times bestseller status.

Harris received the Novel of the Year Award from Blackboard African-American Bestsellers Inc. and the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence, and was nominated for the Image Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Harris sometimes serves as a visiting professor at the UA.

8. George Howard Jr.
George Howard Jr. was unflappable, and despite the indignities he suffered as he broke down barrier after barrier, he spoke often of "this great nation."

In 1970, then-Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller appointed Howard to the Arkansas State Claims Commission, the first black to sit on the panel. Howard was reappointed to the same role by Gov. David Pryor, who later called on Howard to fill an unexpired term on the Arkansas Supreme Court, making him the first black Supreme Court justice. Howard finished out the term and returned to private practice, only to be called on six months later by another Arkansas governor. In 1979, then-Gov. Bill Clinton appointed Howard to the Arkansas Court of Appeals, making him the first black to sit on that court.

While Howard was serving on the Court of Appeals, then-President Jimmy Carter nominated him to fill a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

Of that appointment, which made him the first African-American in Arkansas to be a federal judge, Howard said: "I walked in not as a black judge for black people but as a judge for all the people."

While on the bench, Howard presided over a number of high-profile cases, most notably some of the Whitewater trials. He sentenced Clinton friend and former Associate Attorney General Webb Hubbell to 21 months in prison after Hubbell pleaded guilty to a number of felonies. "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required," Howard said, quoting the Bible.

He died on April 21, 2007, at the age of 82.

9. Keith Jackson
Chosen as all-American by Parade magazine and all-state as a tight end and safety during his senior year at Parkview High School, Little Rock native Keith Jerome Jackson exuded the promise of athletic success. Although Jackson went on to greatness, his passion for helping never subsided.

During the off-seasons of his successful nine-year career in the National Football League, which culminated in a Super Bowl Championship in 1997, Jackson returned to Little Rock to give back to the community.

In 1993, he founded the nonprofit P.A.R.K. Inc., which offers educational opportunities to high-risk youth to encourage college attendance.

Sixteen years later, Jackson and P.A.R.K. are still doing just that.

10. John Harold Johnson
Because there were no high schools for blacks to attend in his hometown of Arkansas City in the 1930s, John Harold Johnson and his family moved to Chicago, where he became editor in chief of his high school paper. It was the start of a remarkable career in publishing.

In 1942, Johnson founded Johnson Publishing Co., which publishes magazines such as Ebony, Jet and EM, also known as Ebony Men.

The enterprising Johnson expanded his company's portfolio to cosmetics with a business unit called Fashion Fair Cosmetics.

In 1996, Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then-President Bill Clinton, who said Johnson gave "African-Americans a voice and a face, in his words, 'a new sense of somebody-ness' of who they were and what they could do, at a time when they were virtually invisible in mainstream American culture."

Johnson served on myriad boards of directors such as Dillard's Inc., Chrysler Corp., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and Dial Corp., to name a few.

Johnson, who grew the largest black-owned magazine, died of heart failure in August 2005. He was 87.

11. Lawrence Johnson
In 2000, Lawrence Johnson became the first black chief of police of the Little Rock Police Department.

Before that, Johnson worked 27 years at the Oklahoma City Police Department, where he climbed to the post of deputy chief of police.

Johnson earned a bachelor's degree in general education and a master's degree in political science from the University of Central Oklahoma at Edmond.

Johnson, who faced accusations of preferential treatment among officers, stepped down after five years on the job.

12. Ernest P. Joshua Sr.
When Ernest P. Joshua Sr. founded J.M. Products Inc. of Little Rock in the mid-1970s, little did he know that what started as a one-man enterprise would grow into one of the largest manufacturers of ethnic hair care products in the United States.

J.M., which manufactures products such as Isoplus, has two manufacturing facilities in Arkansas – Little Rock and North Little Rock – and joint operations in Jamaica and South Africa.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan honored Joshua at the White House for his accomplishments as a small businessman. In 1994, President Bill Clinton invited Joshua on the first ever U.S. trade mission to South Africa.

Joshua died in September 2005 at Baptist Hospital in Little Rock.

13. Joseph Daniel McQuany
In 1962, Joseph Daniel McQuany decided to get clean. But defeating alcoholism is a daily struggle, one that requires the support of a group of friends who've been there and done that.

Unfortunately for McQuany, some Alcoholics Anonymous groups in the 1960s weren't able to accept the presence of a black man. The tenacious McQuany did not resign himself to the divisions of prejudice. He started his own groups, welcoming any and all who wanted a sober life. And what began as a small gathering place of hope was transformed into an institution that offers hope to struggling addicts 24/7.

Serenity Park in Little Rock has treated more than 30,000 recovering alcoholics and drug addicts since it opened in 1972.

McQuany, who helped the addicted rich and powerful just as he helped the addicted poor and obscure, left a lasting legacy.

Before his death in 2007, McQuany, more commonly known as just Joe, published several books that leave behind a roadmap for any addict who seeks a better life.

14. Mahlon Martin
Mahlon Martin once said that if there was anything he had learned in life, it was to treat others as he wished to be treated for "I'm no better or worse than anybody else."

Martin walked his talk. "He was just one of the nicest, kindest people you will ever know. He had a huge reservoir of patience," Richard Weiss, director of the state Department of Finance & Administration, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette when Martin died in 1995. Martin had hired Weiss as budget director when Martin was the DF&A chief.

Martin became the first black Little Rock city manager in 1980. Several years later, Gov. Bill Clinton appointed Martin to head the DF&A, making him the first African-American to fill that role as well.

After his time at the agency, Martin became the president of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in 1989.

Martin, who had battled cancer for many years, was only 50 when he died in 1995.

15. Cynthia Nance
After the death of the dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law in 2005, the faculty unanimously elected Cyndi Nance to fill the role, which made her both the first black and the first woman to be dean of the school since its inception in 1924.

Nance is co-chair of the American Bar Association's Section of Labor & Employment Law: Ethics & Professional Responsibility Committee and a member of the Arkansas Bar Association's Commission on Diversity.

Her many awards include the 2007 American Association for Affirmative Action Arthur A. Fletcher Award, the 2005 Arkansas Bar Association Outstanding Lawyer-Citizen Award and the University of Arkansas Alumni Association's Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award for Public Service among others.

16. Nolan Richardson
Nolan Richardson, a native of El Paso, Texas, became the first black head coach of a college team in the Southeastern Conference when he signed on with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1985. He also holds a historic basketball trifecta as the only head coach to win a Junior College National Championship, a National Invitational Tournament and a NCAA Championship.

Richardson left his mark on the game with an intense style of play that came to be known as "40 minutes of hell."

Richardson led the Hogs to the NCAA Final Four three times, emerging victorious in 1994.

However, Richardson's tenure was marred by his tempestuous relationship with Athletic Director Frank Broyles, which led to Richardson being fired in 2002. Richardson sued the university for race discrimination, and although he ultimately lost, the highly publicized trial forced the UA to acknowledge some disturbing attitudes and behaviors by officials. And in that way, many consider the suit to be part of the trail that Richardson blazed.

Richardson now spends much of his time at his 155-acre ranch in Fayetteville. He also does charity work for several cancer research foundations in memory of his daughter, Yvonne, who died at 13 from leukemia in 1987.

17. Art Porter
Art Porter Sr. displayed talent as a musician from an early age.

By the time he was 8, he was playing piano at church. When he was 14, he had his own classical music radio program.

Porter's career as a musician consisted more of teaching music than touring. However, he did perform at jazz festivals in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands during a tour with his son, jazz saxophonist Art Porter Jr., in 1991.

Porter taught music at several Arkansas high schools, Mississippi Valley College in Itta Bena, Miss., and Philander Smith College in Little Rock.

He released several albums, including "Little Rock A.M.," "Something Else" and "Portrait of Art."

18. Andree Yvonne Layton Roaf
In 1995, Andree Yvonne Layton Roaf was the first black woman, and only the second woman of any color, to sit on the Arkansas Supreme Court.

After teaching for a year at UALR's Law School, she moved into private practice, where she remained until then-Gov. Jim Guy Tucker appointed her to the Arkansas Supreme Court. She went on to serve as a judge for the Arkansas Court of Appeals for about six years.

In 1996, she received the Gayle Pettus Pontz Outstanding Arkansas Woman Attorney award from the University of Arkansas.

19. Lottie H. Shackelford
Lottie Shackelford is a 30-year veteran of the tough game of politics and has been elected and re-elected vice chair of the Democratic National Committee since 1989.

In 1987, she became the first woman elected mayor of Little Rock. In 1993, President Bill Clinton made her the first black woman on the board of directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corp.

The Little Rock native was secretary, vice chair and chair of the Arkansas State Democratic Committee. Shackelford also worked as the campaign manager for the Clinton/Gore Presidential Campaign in 1992. She was later named co-director of intergovernmental affairs for the Clinton transition team.

20. Rodney E. Slater
Rodney Slater served in several state government positions under Gov. Bill Clinton and became the first black director of the Federal Highway Administration when Clinton became president.

In 1997, the Marianna native was elevated to Secretary of Transportation, where he helped pass several historic legislative initiatives – including the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which invested $200 billion in surface transportation. He also fostered the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment Reform Act for the 21st Century, which provided $46 billion to improve the safety and security of America's aviation system.

Slater, a graduate of the University of Arkansas School of Law, is now a partner at the Patton Boggs law firm in Washington, D.C. He is also a partner in the James Lee Witt Associates crisis and emergency management consulting firm and is part owner of the Washington Nationals baseball team.

21. Lavenski Smith
After graduating from law school at the University of Arkansas, Lavenski Smith worked as a staff attorney for Ozark Legal Services but later opened his own private practice, the Smith Law Office.

He served on the Arkansas Public Service Commission from 1997 to 1999 and was appointed by Gov. Mike Huckabee as an associate justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court to finish the term of a retiring judge.

He was reappointed to the Arkansas Public Service Commission in 2001, where he was serving a six-year term when he was appointed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President George W. Bush in September 2001.

22. Charles Stewart
Charles Stewart, who last year was promoted to executive vice president of business development and public funds, institutional and not-for-profit business lines at Regions Bank of Little Rock, combines business success with civic responsibility.

Stewart co-founded and served as chairman of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Foundation. He has also been chairman of the board of Heifer International and a member of its executive committee.

Stewart has received many awards, includingthe Mrs. David Terry Humanitarian Award, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce's William J. Smith Award-Outstanding Young Executive and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock President's Award.

The 2007 Community Build project, which Stewart designed and led for Regions, received the Gold Presidents Volunteer Award given by President George W. Bush. 

23. Lencola Sullivan
In 1980, Morrilton native Lencola Sullivan became the first African-American to be named Miss Arkansas. She went on to represent Arkansas in the Miss America pageant in the same year, where she became the first black woman to place in the top five.

Sullivan later reported for KARK-TV, Channel 4, in Little Rock until she moved to New York.

Sullivan, now Sullivan-Verseveldt, works for Shell Oil Co. in the Netherlands and is preparing to launch a business security company with her husband.

24. Sherman Tate
Among his many accomplishments, Sherman Tate was the first black man to be elected chairman of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Tate joined Alltel in 1998 as vice president and general manger for operations for central Arkansas and became VP of external affairs before the company was sold to Verizon Wireless.

Before joining Alltel, Tate worked as vice president of the Arkansas distribution operations at Arkla Inc. Before that, Tate was co-owner of Fletcher-Tate Ford in North Little Rock until the dealership was sold in 2002.

Tate has served in many roles on many boards, including president of the Greater Little Rock chapter of 100 Black Men of America, chairman of the board of trustees of Philander Smith College and a board member of Southern Bank Development Corp. and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Reynolds Institute on Aging.

25. John W. Walker
In 1954, the University of Texas admitted John Walker and five other freshmen. But when he arrived to enroll in classes, he learned he had been "de-admitted" while the university awaited the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case.

Walker sued UT but eventually lost interest in enrolling there. However, he never lost interest in the fight for civil liberties, including representing black students in the desegregation case against the three school districts in Pulaski County.

Walker spearheaded several other prominent cases involving housing desegregation and civil rights in the National Guard and the workplace.

Throughout his legal career, Walker has received multiple awards from the National Bar Association and the American Bar Association. He has been appointed to the Constitutional Revision Study Commission and serves on the Arkansas Martin Luther King Jr. Commission.

He still practices at John W. Walker PA in Little Rock.

(Click here to see all the stories in our anniversary edition. Or click here to flip through each page of the edition in this special free electronic version.) 

 

 

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