2008 Deaths of Note

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 22, 2008 12:00 am  

Michael Evans Wilson, 65, died Feb. 8. Mike Wilson was the great-great-grandson of Robert Edward Lee Wilson, who founded the agriculture-based company Lee Wilson & Co. in 1886. Wilson was CEO of Lee Wilson from 1987 until his death. He also served as mayor of Wilson (Mississippi County) from 1986 to his death.

Robert Addison Ginnaven Jr., 71, an actor and ad man, died Feb. 18.Bob Ginnaven appeared in several movies, including "Steel Magnolias" and Oliver Stone's "JFK." He also worked as a weatherman for KATV-TV, Channel 7, and held posts at local advertising agencies, including Faulkner & Associates, Leavitt Ginnaven & Dietz, Mangan Rains Ginnaven Holcomb and Ginnaven Patterson Associates. Ginnaven helped create national commercials for Radio Shack and Shell Oil Co. He also directed the Farkleberry Follies, a semi-annual political spoof put on by the Arkansas Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Will Etta "Willie" Oates, 90, a luminary in the Arkansas nonprofit community, died March 3. Oates was elected to the Arkansas Legislature in 1959, the first woman elected to the General Assembly in more than 30 years. During that time, Oates began wearing the elaborate hats that became her trademark. Oates' nonprofit credentials include being the first female chairman of the Salvation Army, being named the 1988 Governor's Volunteer Excellence Award recipient and organizing the auxiliary for the Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute. In 1989 the Arkansas Legislature named Oates the "Hat Lady of Arkansas."

Harry P. Ward, 74, chancellor emeritus at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, died March 11. Ward headed UAMS for 21 years before stepping down in 2000. His tenure included building the Arkansas Cancer Research Center, the Jones Eye Institute, the Biomedical Research Building and the Reynolds Center on Aging. In total, $200 million was invested in improving UAMS during Ward's stint. Ward came to Arkansas after serving as dean at the University of Colorado's College of Medicine.

The UAMS Foundation Fund had almost no assets when Ward took over, and he helped raise $1 million for medical research in 1980 as part of the fund's first fund drive.

Barbara Sears "Bobo" Rockefeller, 91, who married Winthrop Rockefeller before he became governor of Arkansas, died in Little Rock on May 19. Winthrop Rockefeller married the Pennsylvania native in 1948. The couple's only son, Winthrop Paul Rockefeller, went on to become Arkansas' lieutenant governor, but died of a blood disorder in 2006. Barbara and Winthrop Rockefeller divorced in 1954.

Charles "Chuck" Olin Durnett, 66, a well-known businessman and editor of Bullwhiz/Briefing Notebook, a long-running gossip e-mail report, died July 4. Bullwhiz thrived on anonymous tips, both true and fabricated, and always protected the tipster's identity.

Bill Gwatney, 48, car dealer, former state senator and chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party, was slain Aug. 13 at party headquarters in Little Rock. Gwatney and his family own several dealerships in central Arkansas.Gwatney entered the Arkansas Senate in 1993 at age 33. In 1995, Gwatney sponsored the Patient Protection Act, known as "any willing provider," which the health insurance industry fought for a decade. His political persona earned him the nickname "Gwatzilla," which was borrowed from his car dealerships' advertising.

Former Lt. Gov. Nathan Green Gordon, 92, died Sept. 8. Gordon received the Medal of Honor for rescuing 15 downed airmen under enemy fire in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The Morrilton native graduated from the University of Arkansas Law School in 1939 and enlisted for selective service in 1940. He learned how to fly when he was called up to serve by the U.S. Navy. Gordon served as lieutenant governor for 20 years, beginning in 1947. He served under Gov. Orval Faubus during the 1957 Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis, although his role was minuscule.

Anne Pressly, 26, a Little Rock television personality, died Oct. 25 from severe trauma that occurred during an Oct. 20 attack at her Little Rock home. Pressly anchored "Daybreak" at KATV-TV, Channel7, in Little Rock.A 2004 graduateof Rhodes College in Memphis. Pres-sly also portrayed conservative columnist Ann Coulter in Oliver Stone's movie "W."

Cyrus Arden Sutherland, 88, an architecture professor and leader in Arkansas' movement to preserve historic buildings, died Nov. 15. Sutherland taught and mentored students at the University of Arkansas School of Architecture for 32 years, eventually becoming professor emeritus. About 40 historically significant buildings in Arkansas survive thanks to Sutherland's dedication to preservation. He also designed several homes, churches and libraries in northwest Arkansas.Born Jan. 6, 1920, in Rogers, Sutherland earned a master's degree in architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1949. He joined the UA staff in 1958. Sutherland retired from the university in 1990.

Rodney "Nick" Tillman, 49, of Hot Springs, co-owner of retailer Earthbound Trading Co. of Dallas, died Nov. 24 in a private plane crash near Nashville, Tenn., that also killed his wife, Rebecca Ann Tillman, 42, and the pilot, Greg Secrest, 67. Earthbound was formerly known as Romancing the Stone and still operates more than 80 locations in 16 states under that name. Tillman also developed and renovated real estate in Hot Springs. He was among the partners who developed Three Monkeys, which included a restaurant, English pub, cigar lounge and a European-style discotheque called the Bronze Gorilla.

Imogene Brooks Brown, 92, the first black nurse permanently employed by Arkansas Children's Hospital and mother of Little Rock Nine member Minnijean Brown Trickey, died Dec. 1. Brown was born in Morrilton and graduated from Dunbar High School in 1935.  



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