Arkansas Business' 25 Living Legends (25th Anniversary)

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

Cranford continues to serve as chairman emeritus at the agency. In October, he was inducted into the 10th district of the American Advertising Federation's Southwest Advertising Hall of Fame.

Joe Ford
Joe Ford spent his career with the recently purchased Alltel Corp. of Little Rock. Beginning in 1959 when the company was called Allied Telephone Co., Ford served in several positions before becoming president and CEO in 1977.

Ford, who married Jo Ellen Wilbourn, daughter of Allied Telephone's founder, Hugh Randolph Wilbourn Jr., led the company to become both the sixth-largest telephone and sixth-largest wireless company in the nation. On completing a merger with Mid-Continent Telephone Co., Ford became president and COO of Alltel. He became CEO in 1987 and chairman in 1991.

Ford stepped down as CEO in 2002 and his son, Scott, succeeded him. Verizon Wireless bought Alltel in January. Not content to sit still, Joe Ford joined with Scott and Richard N. Massey to found a new investment company, Westrock Capital Partners LLC of Little Rock, in February.

Wallace Fowler
Wallace Fowler started out in the fast-food industry, operating franchises of Kentucky Fried Chicken in six states. But he has been most influential as the serial founder and seller of banks.

First came the purchase of Citizens Bank of Bentonville in 1982, which he renamed First National Bank and then sold in 1984. In 1985, Fowler bought a minority stake in North Arkansas Bancshares Inc. He sold his 40 percent stake in June 1990. Within months, Fowler had formed Southwest Bancshares Inc. The holding company sold to Little Rock's First Commercial Corp. in 1997, and when First Commercial sold in 1998 to Regions Financial Corp. of Birmingham, Ala., Fowler's shares were worth $90 million.

Fowler currently is invested in Liberty Bank of Arkansas, where he holds the title of chairman and CEO. The bank had $2.6 billion in assets as of Dec. 31.

Gene George
Gene George took over the family chicken business in 1969. At that time, George's Inc. was a regional business. It now is a multidivision corporation with 2007 revenue totaling $450 million. The integrated poultry company is active in both national and international markets.

George now serves as chairman of George Inc. George also helped found the start-up Legacy National Bank of Springdale in 2004, which ended 2008 with $234 million in assets.

Russ D. Harrington Jr.
Russ Harrington has been running Baptist Health, Arkansas' largest hospital system, as long as Arkansas Business has been in existence. Arkansas Business ' archives show that the hospital system had $125.8 million in annual revenue in 1987 and $895.1 million in 2007.

Harrington served as associate executive director before taking over as president and CEO. He also was administrator of Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock.

Harrington's work earned him recognition as manager of the year in 2006 by the Sales & Marketing Executives Association. He is also a past chairman of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and member of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Healthcare Industry Council.



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