Arkansas Business' 25 Living Legends (25th Anniversary)

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

Over the past 25 years, these names and faces have graced the pages of Arkansas Business innumerable times. All have the business acumen and résumés to earn the title "Living Legend."

The businesses vary from agriculture to advertising to law to television, and some are long-since retired while others still trudge to the office every day. For this 25th anniversary issue, we persuaded most of them to sit still long enough for what we call "fresh art" – brand new photos.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

Richard Bell
After nearly two decades in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dick Bell spent 25 years at Riceland Foods Inc. of Stuttgart and built the 9,000-member, five-state cooperative into the world's largest miller and marketer of rice. The co-op also became a top 10 U.S. grain company and a major Mid-South soybean processor.

His work with Riceland and the USDA enabled him to shape Arkansas' and the United States' agriculture and trade policies. Bell now serves as the secretary of the Arkansas Agriculture Department.

Lee Bodenhamer
This El Dorado native founded Meridian Management Co. of Little Rock, an investment management firm. He now heads Centennial Consulting Co. Lee Bodenhamer earned bachelor's and master's degrees in business at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he was mentored by Harold A. Dulan, inventor of the variable annuity.

Bodenhamer left Dulan's team in 1964 to earn a doctorate at Harvard University, where he eventually taught. He later returned to Arkansas to establish First Variable Life Insurance Co.

As trustee of the Bodenhamer Foundation, he established the Bodenhamer Fellowships at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1998.

Bill Bowen
It isn't easy to get a law school named after you, but naming rights come up when you've followed a prestigious law practice by running the state's biggest bank and served as chief of staff for a future president. It also doesn't hurt that Bowen served as dean of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's law school from 1995 to 1997 and donated more than $3 million to the school that was renamed the William H. Bowen School of Law in 2000.

Bowen is best known for growing First Commercial Bank and First Commercial Corp. of Little Rock into the state's largest bank before it was sold – without his vote – to Regions Financial Corp. of Birmingham, Ala., in 1998.

The Altheimer native has stayed involved in the school and community since stepping down from the day-to-day grind of business.

Wayne Cranford
Wayne Cranford and Jim Johnson started the advertising agency of Cranford Johnson in 1961. The two were young and had few accounts and employees, but Cranford's business acumen and Johnson's creativity set the stage for the pair to build the state's largest ad agency.



Please read our comments policy before commenting.