Notable Deaths of 2007

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 24, 2007 12:00 am  


John Lewis, 67, founder of The Bank of Fayetteville, died June 1 while golfing with friends in Branson, Mo. Lewis stepped down as president of The Bank of Fayetteville in July 2004 and then as CEO and chairman in 2005. He was a visionary in northwest Arkansas and is credited with leading the revitalization efforts of the downtown Fayetteville Square, beginning with his bank office that opened there in 1987. Lewis was an integral part of the Northwest Arkansas Council, made up of business and civic leaders in the region, which helped drive the development of Interstate 540, the Benton-Washington Regional Public Water Authority, widening U.S. 412 and the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. Lewis was also a long-time supporter of the University of Arkansas, having served as chairman of the Women's Athletics Committee during the Campaign for the 21st Century, which raised more than $1 billion. He served on the Fayetteville School Board for 12 years and also served on the boards of the Beaver Water District, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the University of Arkansas' Fulbright College, Southwestern Electric Power Company, Hass Hall Academy and the Washington Regional Medical Center. After retiring from banking, Lewis founded, a consulting company that promotes business ventures in the Arkansas Research & Technology Center in Fayetteville, which he also helped form.

Freddy Joe Walloch, 76, whose Walloch's appliance store was well known to Arkansas shoppers, died June 26 after a lengthy illness. Walloch started his own television repair business in 1952 and soon after began adding sales of appliances and televisions to his business and opened several locations. In 1973, he put everything under one roof in a two-level, 54,000-SF building at 9701 Interstate 30. From decades of television advertising, Arkansans knew that "if it's not from Walloch's, you paid too much." He retired and closed Walloch Home Center, which by then was offering furniture as well, in 1998.

Virginia Lillian Morris Johnson, 79, the first woman to run for governor of Arkansas, died June 27. She was the wife of former state Supreme Court Justice Jim Johnson. She won a spot in the Democratic runoff in a six-candidate field in 1968. Mrs. Johnson assisted her husband in his unsuccessful race for governor in 1956 and his successful race for the Supreme Court in 1958. In 1966, she spoke at political rallies all across the state for her husband's candidacy for governor, when he defeated a field of seven to win the Democratic nomination. She served as her husband's legal secretary for his entire career after they married in 1947.


John Iden "Jack" Fleischauer Jr., 58, one of Arkansas' most admired banking executives, died July 26 after a battle with cancer. Before the disease forced his retirement earlier this year, he was president of the western region of Regions Financial Corp., managing financial operations in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and western Tennessee. Fleischauer had served numerous other banks in his 35 years in the industry, rising to executive positions at Worthen Bank & Trust, First Arkansas Bankstock Co. (Fabco), National Bank of Commerce at Pine Bluff, Peoples Bank & Trust of Russellville and First Commercial Bank, which was bought out by Regions. He was United Way campaign chairman in numerous cities; a member of the boards and executive committees of the Chambers of Commerce in Little Rock, Pine Bluff and Russellville; a youth sports coach; and a volunteer for Easter Seals and the Southeast Arkansas Arts Center. An Eagle Scout, Fleischauer was also one of the founders of the King Cotton Holiday Classic high school basketball tournament at Pine Bluff.


Gregg Ogden, 45, the Fayetteville entrepreneur and founder of Athletic World Advertising, the nation's largest sports schedule poster company, died Aug. 25 from complications of a ruptured colon. He was named vice president/membership services for Sam's Club in 2006. AWA had sales of $100 million in 2005 and employs about 250 people in Fayetteville and Tulsa. University of Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles, a longtime friend and AWA board member, said Ogden increased the company's sales by 900 percent and is the only person he knows who took the sports poster concept nationwide.

Wilma Stephens Thornton, 98, sister of Arkansas business legends Jack and Witt Stephens and mother of former U.S. Rep. and state Supreme Court Justice Ray Thornton, died Aug. 30. Thornton was a schoolteacher in Sheridan for 41 years before retiring in 1970. She had lived for several years in Searcy near her daughter, Betty Thornton Ulrey, and son-in-law, Evan Ulrey, who are both retired from the Harding University faculty. A $5 million education building built on the Harding campus in 2004 was named for Thornton.


Melvin Schexnayder, 87, longtime owner of the Dumas Clarion, died Sept. 11 from several chronic health ailments, including diabetes. Schexnayder and his wife, Charlotte, a longtime Democratic state representative for Dumas, bought the 4,000-circulation weekly paper in 1954 and sold it to Emmerich Newspapers of Jackson, Miss., in 1998.

Delbert Liles, 60, owner of Calico Trailer Manufacturing Co. at Quitman, died Sept. 29 after a long battle with cancer. Family-owned Calico Trailer, founded in 1983 by Liles, makes more than 2,200 horse, stock and specialty trailers each year. It employs more than 80 workers.



Please read our comments policy before commenting.