Arkansas Business' 25 Living Legends (25th Anniversary)

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

Doyle Rogers
Dreaming up ideas has never been a problem for Doyle Rogers. He also has a history of following through. He founded the Doyle Rogers Co. more than 50 years ago. The Little Rock skyline is dotted with his daydreams. The idea for the current Peabody Little Rock and Statehouse Convention Center came about around 1978. By 1982, Rogers' vision became reality with the opening of the Excelsior Hotel and the adjacent convention center.

In 1985, Rogers began work on what is now the Stephens Inc. building. And his bank, Metropolitan National Bank, has the naming rights to Little Rock's largest building. Rogers purchased Metropolitan Bancshares in 1983 for $60 million. The bank ended 2008 with assets totaling almost $1.7 billion. Rogers continues to play an active role in Metropolitan National Bank, where he serves as chairman. Rogers was inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame in 2006.

Walter Smiley
Thousands of American entrepreneurs jumped into the technology game in the late 1960s, but very few achieved the success of Walter Smiley. In 1968, Smiley founded Systematics Inc. of Little Rock, a financial software and services company for the banking industry. Smiley served as chairman and CEO for 20 years.

The company sold to Alltel Corp. in 1990 for $550 million, changing its name to Alltel Information Services. Fidelity National Financial Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla., then bought AIS in 2003 for $1.05 billion.

Smiley serves as chairman of Southern Bancorp, and the bank approached him in 2003 to help with data-processing needs. Smiley recruited his son, Vance, and daughter, Elizabeth Glasbrenner, and Smiley Technologies Inc. was born. Smiley holds no official title in the company, but does offer his advice and guidance.

Buddy Sutton
William H. "Buddy" Sutton became the first chairman and managing partner of Friday Eldredge & Clark after the death of Herschel Friday in 1994. The firm has consistently ranked among the largest in the state and continues that tradition, although Sutton retired from leadership roles in 2005.

Sutton's work in the community has also earned him many accolades. Easter Seals named him Arkansan of the Year in 2004. He is a supporter and former trustee of Ouachita Baptist University at Arkadelphia, which named the W.H. Sutton School of Social Sciences in his honor.

Don Tyson
Don Tyson took over Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale in 1967, after his father died. Tyson joined the firm in 1952. Tyson Foods had only a small fraction of the market when Don Tyson became CEO. Tyson led the company through a series of expansions that resulted in the company controlling 25 percent of the nation's poultry market. Tyson stepped down as CEO in 1991.

One of Tyson's foremost deals was leading the 1998 purchase of Hudson Foods for about $650 million. Tyson still serves on the company's board.

Robert Wilson Sr.
An accomplished pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, Bob Wilson returned to his hometown of Little Rock and eventually organized The Wilson Co., a real estate investment company, in 1962.

Wilson began working at Union National Bank in 1971. He served as executive vice president of the bank for a time, leaving in 1996. The same year he organized Central Bank & Trust, serving as president and CEO. The bank was sold to Arvest in 2000 for a bit over $15.7 million.

He continues working full time as president of The Wilson Co., which has built, constructed and managed more than 2,000 units in Arkansas.



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