Notable Deaths of 2007

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

January

Elsijane Trimble Roy of Little Rock, 90, the state's first woman Supreme Court justice and the state's first woman federal judge, died Jan. 24. Roy was Arkansas' first woman circuit judge, the first woman appointed in the 8th Circuit and was the first woman to follow her father as federal judge. In 1975, Gov. David Pryor appointed Roy to the Arkansas Supreme Court to fill the unexpired term of retiring Justice Lyle Brown. She was later appointed to replace retiring Justice J. Fred Jones. President Jimmy Carter appointed Roy to a federal judgeship in October 1977, and she retired in 1999.

March

C.E. "Doc" Toland, 85, former chairman, president and chief executive officer of Affiliated Foods Southwest of Little Rock, died March 12. He was a noted champion of serving the independent retailer in Arkansas and made immeasurable contributions to the retailer-owned segment of the food industry. Toland began in the retail grocery business with his own grocery store as a 20-year-old in 1936, and later grew Affiliated Foods to annual sales of more than $560 million.

John Woodruff, 65, longtime communications coordinator for the Arkansas Municipal League and a former reporter for the Arkansas Gazette, died March 27 following a long battle with cancer. He was legendary as both a newsman and a marathon runner, having worked as a reporter for the Gazette from August 1969 until it closed in October 1991, mainly covering the North Little Rock city government, school district and police department. Although Woodruff lived in Little Rock, North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays declared "John Woodruff Day" after the Gazette ceased publication. After the Gazette closed, he produced the Arkansas Municipal League's monthly City & Town magazine.

April

Cecil E. Williams Jr., 74, of West Memphis, the long-time executive vice president of the Agricultural Council of Arkansas, died April 12. He headed the council from 1965 to 2002 and was known as the "dean of the farm bills" for his strong grasp on complex farm issues and his ability to break them down so others could easily understand them. Williams was executive vice president of the Cotton Producers of Missouri at the time of his death.

Helen Walton, 87, philanthropist and matriarch of the world's largest retailer, died of natural causes April 19. The widow of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, she was president of the Walton Family Foundation in 2002 when it made a $300 million donation to the University of Arkansas, which is the largest contribution ever made to a public university in the United States. She was also active at the University of the Ozarks, a private Presbyterian school to which the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation donated $39.5 million in 1997 and another $20 million in 2006. Mrs. Walton also helped lead a group of investors in opening Bentonville's Helen R. Walton Children's Enrichment Center in 1982, and she served on its board for six years. Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said Helen Walton "helped set the standard for philanthropy in our state."

George Howard Jr., 82, Arkansas' first black federal judge, died April 21. Howard, appointed in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter, gained national attention as he presided over the "Whitewater" trials that ultimately led to the bank fraud convictions of Jim and Susan McDougal and former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker. Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller appointed Howard to the state Claims Commission in 1969. He then went on to serve on the state Supreme Court and the Arkansas Court of Appeals before moving to the federal bench, becoming the first black person to hold each of those positions in Arkansas. Howard also worked with the NAACP, serving as president of the State Conference of Branches.

May

William E. "Bill" Clark, 63, chairman and chief executive officer of CDI Contractors of Little Rock, died of cancer on May 15. Clark partnered with Dillard's Inc. of Little Rock to form the commercial contracting firm in March 1987, and grew it into one of the state's leading construction companies. CDI Contractors landed several high-profile projects, including the Clinton Presidential Library. Former President Bill Clinton wrote that Clark was "a brilliant contractor, a fine citizen, a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, and a very good man." In October, the library announced plans for the William E. Clark Presidential Park Wetlands Project, a $2 million wetlands conservation preserve near the Clinton Library and Riverfront Park in downtown Little Rock. It will be funded with federal grant money and private donations. He was a board member of the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation, the Little Rock Boys and Girls Club, Ouachita Baptist University Business Advisory Council, Simmons First National Corp., Baptist Health, Episcopal Collegiate School Foundation, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Center on Aging and the UAMS Foundation, among many others. Included among the numerous awards he won were the Edwin N. Hanlon Memorial Award for Contributions to the Arts, the Winthrop Rockefeller Memorial Award from the Arkansas Arts Center, the Arkansas Sheriffs' Youth Ranches Arkansas Children's Award, Boys and Girls Clubs of America National Service to Youth Award and the Arkansas Business Executive of the Year.

William Joseph "Bill" Gaskin, 62, a registered architect, president and sole owner of Gaskin Hill & Norcross Architects-Engineers of Little Rock, died May 15 after more than a decade-long battle with cancer. Gaskin's work can be seen throughout the state in structures like the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business & Economic Development at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the Arkansas Bar Center and bank branches for First Security Bancorp. Gaskin served as president of the Arkansas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, president of the board of directors of the Arkansas Governors Mansion Association, president of the Arkansas Governors Mansion Commission, and president of the University of Arkansas School of Architecture Professional Advisory Board. Gaskin also chaired the Little Rock Arts & Humanities Council and the City Beautiful Commission and served as an elder of Second Presbyterian Church.

June

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 teamlewis.biz, 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.

July

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.

August

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.

September

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.

October

Lloyd Peterson, 94, a pioneer of the poultry business in Arkansas who started Peterson Farms Inc. of Decatur in 1939, died Oct. 2. His study of genetics helped him develop the "Peterson male," and the company became a major producer of breeder chickens. Peterson Farms now employs nearly 1,100 people. All operations are conducted in plants at Decatur. Peterson was named the Arkansas Poultry Federation Man of the Year in 1956-57, and he received the President's "E" Certificate for exports in 1977. He was inducted into the Arkansas Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1989, and in 1992 he received the Lifetime Achievement award from the National Poultry & Food Distributors Association. He was inducted into the American Poultry Society Hall of Fame in 2001.

Richard Allin, 77, who wrote the "Our Town" column for the Arkansas Gazette and later the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, died Oct. 17 of heart failure. Allin joined the Gazette in 1963 and took over the "Our Town" column in 1965. He wrote his last column about life in Arkansas in 2003.

I.F. Jones, 93, founder and co-chairman of Ozark National Life Insurance Co., died Oct. 28. After several successful years with various insurance companies, he founded Ozark National Life Insurance Co. in 1956 and served as president from 1957 until his retirement in 1980. He continued to serve as chairman of the board until 1993. At the time of his death, Jones was chairman emeritus and a director of the company.

December

Joseph Hurst, 89, the former president of Tipton & Hurst who built the company into the largest florist in Arkansas and one of the top 50 in the United States, died Dec. 14. His father, Joseph Barber Hurst, was a founding partner of the company in 1886. He was president of Tipton & Hurst from 1945 until 1984, when he was succeeded by his son, Howard C. Hurst. Hurst was a founder and former president of the Arkansas Florists Association. He served as a Little Rock city director from 1967-70, was chairman of the Pulaski County Chapter of the American Red Cross and a former president of the Country Club of Little Rock. He served on the boards of Savers Federal Savings & Loan, the YMCA, the Salvation Army and the downtown Kiwanis Club.              

 

 

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