Arkansas Business' 25 Women Leaders (25th Anniversary)

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

Betta Carney of Carney Investment Co.

17. Blanche Lincoln
Arkansas was the first state to elect a woman to the U.S. Senate, choosing Hattie Caraway in 1932. But the state's voters didn't repeat that performance until 1998, when Blanche Lincoln – who had been Arkansas' first female U.S. representative who didn't succeed her husband – was elected to succeed Dale Bumpers. At 38, she was the youngest woman elected to the Senate.

Ten years later, Lincoln has forged a reputation as a conservative Democrat and a fierce defender of farmers – and farm subsidies.

18. Jo Luck
To many people, the name Jo Luck is synonymous with Heifer International. President and CEO of the nonprofit relief agency since 1992, 67-year-old Luck has overseen its transformation from a successful but low-profile doer-of-good-works into a major player in the fight against world hunger. Her arsenal of experience includes serving in Gov. Clinton's first cabinet and helping establish Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families.

19. Diane Mackey
Her job title is impressive: Assistant dean for institutional and organizational affairs and director of the juris doctor and master's of public health dual-degree program at the UALR Bowen School of Law and UAMS College of Public Health. She spent 21 years at the Friday Eldredge & Clark law firm, where she was a specialist in health issues. And during the 2007 legislative session, she co-chaired a task force that recommended changes in how the state dealt with the mentally ill in the criminal justice system.

20. Margaret McEntire
Back in 1989, Margaret McEntire started Candy Bouquet International because she wanted to work somewhere fun. She also had this great idea for an alternative to giving flowers, which are nice but predictable. Her bouquets of lollipops, suckers, hard candies, chewy candies – you can see the theme here – proved wildly popular.

Twenty years later, McEntire presides over the largest candy franchise in the world, with some 700 franchisees and a presence in 50 states and more than 30 countries. She was the Arkansas Business Executive of the Year for 2004.

21. Cora McHenry
If you were looking for an example of power in Arkansas in the 1980s and 1990s, you wouldn't have had to look much further than Cora McHenry. Back then, she was executive director of the Arkansas Education Association, the teacher's union that led strikes against schools in Pulaski County and Marianna and wielded immense influence at the Legislature.

A former Arkansas Tech trustee (the first woman and first minority to hold a seat), McHenry, now 70, has been president of Shorter College, a historically black, 123-year-old junior college in North Little Rock, since 2002.

22. Julia Peck Mobley
As chairman and CEO of Commercial National Bank – which is now headquartered on the Texas side of Texarkana – Julia Peck Mobley, 65, runs the bank her daddy helped found on the Arkansas side more than 40 years ago.

A mover and shaker in Arkansas Democratic Party circles, she served as chairman of the state Pollution Control & Ecology Commission in the late 1990s. She was also a member of the Nature Conservancy board and supporter of the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra, among other causes.

23. Marla Johnson Norris
In 1995, the Internet wasn't a household word – much less service – in Little Rock. By co-founding Aristotle, which provided dial-up access at 25 cents an hour, Marla Johnson Norris helped change that. But she did more than get people and businesses online; she showed them what to do when they got there. Today, Aristotle is a major player in communications and marketing over the Internet, and Johnson is a sought-after speaker on those subjects.

24. Mary Beth Ringgold
Some people just have the touch. Among restaurateurs, Mary Beth Ringgold is one. Cajun's Wharf? An indelible institution. Capers? Raves from the start. Now there's Copper Grill & Grocery in downtown Little Rock, her latest venture. 

Ringgold also served as chair of the Little Rock Advertising & Promotion Commission and has held officer positions at the Arkansas Restaurant Association. Plus, she's a founding member of the Arkansas Friendship Coalition, which seeks to "encourage a reasonable and respectful" debate on immigration issues the state is facing.                                           

25. Patricia P. Upton
Aromatique has done pretty well for a venture that Patti Upton started just for fun in 1982. From that first Christmas potpourri, the Heber Springs company grew into an international sensation, expanding to incorporate bath, skin and spa treatments.

That success has enabled Upton, through her foundation, to donate millions of dollars to efforts she supports, including UAMS and the Nature Conservancy. Now 70, she has served on AT&T Inc.'s board of directors since 1993.

(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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