Arkansas Business Hall of Fame to Induct Four for 2008

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Friday, Feb. 8, 2008 7:02 am  

The Arkansas Business Hall of Fame will celebrate its 10th year by inducting four more business leaders at its annual event at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock on Friday.

Those to be inducted are:

● Lee Bodenhamer, founder of Meridian Management Co. of Little Rock. A native of El Dorado, Bodenhamer earned a bachelor of science in business administration and an M.B.A. from the Walton College. In 1964, he went to Harvard to earn a doctorate. After teaching at Harvard, he returned to Arkansas to establish First Variable Life Insurance Co. In 1977, he founded Meridian Management Co. an investment management firm. He currently heads Centennial Consulting Co.

● William H. Bowen, retired president, chairman and CEO of First Commercial Bank and First Commercial Corp. of Little Rock. Bowen, a native of Altheimer, received a law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law and a master's in taxation from New York University. He is a graduate of Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers University. After a partnership in the law firm of Smith Williams Friday and Bowen, he joined Commercial National Bank (now Regions Bank) in 1971 as president. Under his leadership, it became the largest bank in Arkansas. After retiring in 1991, he served as Gov. Bill Clinton's chief of staff. In 1993, Bowen became president and CEO of Healthsource Arkansas Ventures Inc. He served as dean of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law School.

● The late Harvey C. Couch, founder of Arkansas Power & Light Co. (now Entergy) of Little Rock. A native of Calhoun, Couch was an entrepreneur known for bringing electricity to Arkansas. In 1900, he formed the North Louisiana Telephone Co., and in 1911 he sold it to Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. In 1913, he created Arkansas Power Co. He bought two failed electric companies in Arkadelphia and Malvern and connected the two cities with a 22-mile line. He continued to buy utilities and connect them. In 1915, his company became Arkansas Light & Power Co., which, by 1920, supplied power to 33 Arkansas communities. In 1926, Arkansas Power & Light was incorporated. During his lifetime, Couch developed Remmel Dam and Carpenter Dam for hydroelectric power from the Ouachita River. He formed Mississippi Power & Light Co. in 1923 as well as Louisiana Power Co. in 1925. In 1926, he joined these companies to form what would become Entergy in 1996.

● The late William H. Kennedy Jr., chairman and CEO of National Bank of Commerce of Pine Bluff. Kennedy graduated from Hendrix College and Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers University. He joined National Bank of Commerce of Pine Bluff in 1957 and retired as its chairman of the board in 1984. During his tenure there, the bank went from $45 million to more than $200 million in assets. Kennedy was the first Arkansan elected as president of the American Bankers Association. In 1983, U.S News & World Report named him the third most influential American in the area of finance. He died in 1991.

"The Arkansas economy has been blessed with a tremendous base of business talent," said Dan L. Worrell, dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, which is home to the Business Hall of Fame. "We are excited that it is our 10th year to highlight the many outstanding contributions of these business leaders. We believe it is vital to the state and its future business leaders to honor and perpetuate these inductees' names and accomplishments."

Criteria for selection included: the significance of the impact made as a business leader, the concern demonstrated for improving the community, and the display of ethics in all business dealings. In addition, the inductee must be over the age of 60.

For more information on the black tie optional event, call (479) 575-6146 or or visit



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