Notable Deaths of 2006

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 25, 2006 12:00 am  

January
Woodson W. "Bill" Bassett, 79, founding partner of the Bassett Law Firm in Fayetteville, died of prostate cancer Jan. 10. The Bassett firm is one of the largest firms in northwest Arkansas.
David Wall, 38, also a partner at the Bassett Law Firm, was also found dead Jan. 10 of an apparent heart attack.
Ralph A. "Pat" Walsh, 73, the larger-than-life, plain-spoken media consultant who managed radio station KAAY, Little Rock's "Mighty 1090," in its glory days, died Jan. 21 after a year-long hospital stay related to an infection in his knee. Walsh entered the advertising business in 1957, moved into radio sales in 1959 and managed KAAY-AM from 1964-76, during which time it was the market's No. 1 radio station and a nighttime fixture from Cuba to the Hudson Bay.
February
Roland S. Boreham Jr., 81, former CEO of Baldor Electric Co., died Feb. 5. Boreham took over the electric motor manufacturer in 1978. He also was known for his civic work in Fort Smith, especially with the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and Sparks Hospital. He was inducted into the University of Arkansas' Business Hall of Fame in 2002.
Jerry Bookout, 72, died Feb. 21 of cancer of the lymph nodes. A Democrat from Jonesboro, Bookout began his public service in the Arkansas Legislature in 1962 as a state representative. He became a state senator in 1973 and retired in 1994. He re-entered public service in 2003, again as a state senator representing District 14 in Craighead County.
March
Fred Wulfekuhler, 87, longtime publisher of the Paragould Daily Press, died March 4 at Jefferson Regional Medical Center at Pine Bluff after a long illness. He ran the newspaper, winning numerous state and national awards for editorial excellence, from 1959 until he sold it in 1989 to the Paxton Media Group.
Earl Alexander Gladden, 72, founder and former president and CEO of Delta Dental of Arkansas Inc., died March 18 at his home in Tulsa from emphysema and complications from a stroke. Gladden started Delta Dental, now the state's largest dental insurance carrier, in North Little Rock in 1982.
Cone Magie, 81, longtime publisher of the Cabot Star-Herald and other publications, died March 27 at Hot Springs. A former president of the Arkansas Press Association, Magie's other newspapers included the Carlisle Independent, the Lonoke Democrat, the Sherwood Voice and the Jacksonville Patriot.
Jim Pledger, 68, former president and general manager of the Arkansas State Fair & Livestock Show, died March 30 at Danville. Pledger, who retired from the fair last spring, had held the position since August 1994. Pledger was previously director of the state Department of Finance & Administra-tion and had worked in county and state government for nearly 40 years. He recently was inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame.
Polly Crews, 76, a longtime Arkansas broadcasting personality, died April 9 in Fort Smith. Crews, originally from Little Rock, was a broadcast journalist for more than 30 years. She had three television programs on NBC affiliate KPOM/ KFAA, Channels 24/51, which is now KNWA serving northwest Arkansas. She also served as the Fort Smith Arts Center director for more than 20 years and was an avid tourism activist, winning the state's Tourism Person of the Year award in 2002.
Bruce Oakley, 70, founder of Bruce Oakley Inc. of North Little Rock, a diversified bulk cargo and grain and fertilizer company, died April 19. Oakley, of El Paso, founded the company in 1968. It ranked 19th on Arkansas Business' 2006 list of the state's largest private businesses with $379.3 million in revenue in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 25, 2005, and it recently added more terminals and boosted its trucking fleet to 370.
May
Orville I. Richolson, 81, longtime publisher of the Newport Daily Independent and former president of the Arkansas Press Association, died May 1. Richolson managed the daily paper for more than three decades and also served as chairman of the Arkansas Parks & Tourism Department.
Daniel Ralph Norman, 39, founder of Shred-It, the largest on-site document destruction company in the state, died May 4 in an auto accident. He formed Shred-It in 1999 and was in the process of beginning two Pods Inc. franchises at the time of his death. Shred-It was a finalist in the Arkansas Business of the Year awards competition in 2005, and Norman was an Arkansas Business "40 Under 40" honoree last year.
B. Finley Vinson, 92, banker who grew First National Bank into one of the state's largest banks, died May 14. Vinson became president of First National in 1963 and chairman in 1967. He retired in 1979 but came back in 1993 to help with the merger of First National and Commercial National Bank to form First Commercial Bank, which was acquired by Regions Bank in 1998. Vinson also helped develop the Statehouse Convention Center, the Excelsior Hotel (now The Peabody Little Rock) and the Camelot Hotel (now the DoubleTree Hotel).
Jim Brandon, 73, an advertising and PR executive and former state representative and senator for the Little Rock area, died May 19 of complications from a stroke. In 1962, Brandon formed Brandon Agency, an advertising and public relations firm at Little Rock. He moved to Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s.
Hugh B. Patterson Jr., 91, former owner and publisher of the Arkansas Gazette, died May 29. The newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes under Patterson's leadership for its stance against segregation during the Central High School crisis in 1957. He was publisher for all but the first two years of his career at the Gazette, which lasted from 1946 until 1986, when his family sold the newspaper to Gannett Co.
Jean Tyson, 74, the wife of Tyson Foods Inc. patriarch Don Tyson, died May 31. She was the mother of John Tyson, former CEO and current chairman.
June
Robert R. Wright III, 74, a leader in establishing the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's law school, died June 4. He was a dean of the University of Oklahoma law school for six years and was a law professor for 22 years at UALR before retiring in 1999. He was the husband of U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright.
Leger D. Parker, 84, founder of Parker Automotive Group, died June 19. He built the Parker Cadillac dealership in Little Rock into one of the most respected in the nation with numerous customer service and satisfaction awards. Parker retired in 2002, leaving the dealership in his sons' hands. He also served on the board of Metropolitan National Bank for 33 years.
J.E. Dunlap, 83, Harrison Daily Times publisher emeritus, died June 28 at Springfield, Mo. He became publisher of the Boone County Headlight in 1945 and merged it with the Daily Times in 1954. He was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize, awarded the Ernie Deane Award in 2000 and received the Arkansas Press Association's Distinguished Service Award in 2002. He served more than 22 years on the Arkansas State Police Commission.
July
Roland "Rollie" Remmel, 88, a Little Rock businessman best known for his work with Ducks Unlimited and the coveted "Rollie Sticks" he crafted, died July 2. A native of Little Rock, he owned and operated Southland Build-ing Products and, later, Fixed Assets Leasing Co. and Compass Trading Co. He carved walking sticks, often with ducks heads for handles, and contributed them to charitable auctions, where the bidding could reach $8,000. He was married for 58 years to the former Ruth Rebsamen, daughter of the founder of Rebsamen Insurance Co.
Melvyn Bell, 68, died July 8 after a long battle with cancer. Bell was CEO for Environmental Systems Co., better known as Ensco, and a partner of Bell Burrough Brasuell & Uerling. He was a former owner of both the Magic Springs theme park and the Belvedere Country Club in Hot Springs.
Winthrop Paul Rockefeller, 57, one of the state's most beloved public figures, died July 16 after bone marrow transplants failed to correct a cancer-causing blood condition. The son of former Arkansas Gov. Winthrop Rocke-feller, "Win Paul" was elected lieutenant governor during a special election in Novem-ber 1996. He was re-elected in 1998 and 2002. In 2004, he served as chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, and in 2005, he announced his run for governor of Arkansas before withdrawing from the race on July 19, 2005, after his illness was diagnosed. He served from 1981-95 on the Arkansas State Police Commission and was appointed in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush to serve on the President's Council on Rural America and was elected chairman. Rockefeller also was deeply involved in philanthropy. He was a trustee of the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust and was vice chairman of the Winthrop Rocke-feller Foundation. The father of two children with special needs, he and his wife founded in 2000 what is now the Academy at Riverdale, a school for children with learning disabilities. Perhaps Rockefeller's favorite organization was the Boy Scouts of America, where he served on the executive board of the national council, and he was president of the Quapaw Area Council in 1997. Camp Rockefeller, the summer camp at the Gus Blass Scout Reservation at Damascus, was dedicated in his honor last year.
August
Paul Eells, 70, among the most recognizable names and faces associated with Arkansas sports, died Aug. 1 in a head-on collision on Interstate 40 near Russellville. Eells was famously known as the longtime voice of the Arkansas Razor-backs and KATV-TV, Channel 7, sportscasts since 1978. He began his career with KOKX in Keokuk, Iowa, as a radio announcer and moved to WMT in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before becoming the play-by-play man for Vanderbilt University. Eells, whose "Touchdown, Arkansas!" and "Oh my" calls endeared him to a generation of Razorbacks fans, was named Arkansas Sportscaster of the Year 11 times.
Sandra Wilson Cherry, 64, a federal prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of Arkansas for 30 years, died Aug. 1 of cancer. She was the first woman appointed to the Arkansas Public Service Commission and the second woman elected president of the Arkansas Bar Association, serving from 2001-02. She won the ABA's Golden Gavel Award for service to the legal profession in 1992.
Walter H. Koehler Jr., 82, owner of Koehler Bakery until it was sold in 2001, died Aug. 7. The North Little Rock bakery, founded by his parents in 1919, employed about 150. He joined the company in 1946 after completing a tour in the Navy and helped build it into one of the South's largest retail bakeries.
James T. "Red" Hudson, 81, founder of Hudson Foods Inc. and Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, died of lung cancer Aug. 20. Hudson founded the poultry and meat operation in 1972 after working for Ralston Purina for 26 years. The company was the fifth-largest poultry company in the country before an e. coli outbreak led to the largest beef recall — 1.2 million pounds — in U.S. history. Hudson Foods lost $23.4 million in the scare and sold the company's poultry operations to rival Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale and its beef operation to IBP of Dakota Dunes, S.D., which Tyson Foods bought in 2001. Hudson then founded a finance company in Rogers called Hudson & Associates that was involved in poultry operations in Poland. He ran that business until his death.
Thomas L. Hardeman, 67, longtime board member of J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell, died Aug. 20. Hardeman, who had been on the board of the publicly traded trucking firm since 1994, was president of BTTB Investments, a private investment company. He was corporate vice president of United Parcel Service from 1984 until his retirement in April 1994.
September
Ray Lincoln, 64, a long-time radio personality in central Arkansas, died Sept. 18. He had undergone a heart transplant in 2003. Lincoln worked at several Little Rock radio stations from the mid-1970s until he retired in 2000.
October
Vida Lampkin, 68, former president and CEO of Heartland Community Bank of Camden, died Oct. 10. Lampkin's 45-year career with the bank began as a teller. She was CEO during HCB's conversion to a publicly traded company (Heartland Community Bancshares) in 1997.
John Franklin "Jack" Trotter, 83, who operated the Border Star and the Arkansas Explorer vessels on the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers, died Oct. 22. He had been an owner of Trotter Ford in Pine Bluff but sold his interest in 1959.
William Vickery Jr., 57, executive director of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra since 1997, died Oct. 20 following a heart attack. He was Arkansas Business' 2004 Nonprofit Executive of the Year. Vickery, who attended the Julliard School for Performing Arts in New York, was formerly executive director of the Florida Philharmonic Orche-stra, president and managing director of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in Minnesota, director of the National Endowment for the Arts music program, executive vice president of the Aspen Music Festival & School in Colorado and orchestra manager at Julliard.
Bill Thomas, 54, president and executive director of the Cross County Economic Development Corp. and owner of a furniture store and gift shop, died Oct. 22. He led the effort to get voters to approve an economic development tax that led to Eakus Arkansas, a Japanese auto parts maker, opening a plant just south of Wynne, and K-Tops Plastic Manufacturing, an injection-molding manufacturer of baby products, opening at Colt.
John Heflin Jr., 61, a Little Rock businessman and philanthropist, died Oct. 26 of cancer. Heflin and his father, the late John "Jay" Heflin Sr., built a Terminix franchise into one of the largest termite and pest control businesses in the country. After the franchise was sold in 1999, Heflin and his two sons went on to found Bird & Bear Enterprises, which specializes in medical equipment, investments and building management. Heflin was involved in many charitable and nonprofit organizations, including the YMCA of Little Rock, which named a facility in North Little Rock for him and established the Johnny Heflin Humanitarian Award in his honor. Heflin also was named Philanthropist of the Year in 2004 by the Association of Professional Fundraisers.
November
A. Howard Stebbins III, 96, former president and director of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Arkansas, died Nov. 15. A 1932 graduate of Harvard University, Stebbins was president of Stebbins & Roberts Inc. and director of both American National Bank and Adkins-Phelps Co. He was also a philanthropist whose beneficiaries included the Arkansas Arts Center, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at Little Rock and Curran Hall.
December
Q. Byrum Hurst, 88, a lawyer who served 22 years in the state Senate, died Dec. 4 at Hot Springs. He also served as Garland County judge and ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1972, losing to Dale Bumpers.
Clifton Bolin Peck III, 92, who during the 1980s was the largest automobile dealer in the state, died Dec. 7. He entered the auto business in sales after World War II when he saw the surging demand for cars, starting or buying numerous dealerships throughout the state. He was one of the founders of St. James United Methodist Church and served on the board of the Methodist Foundation for 22 years.
Johnnie Bryan "J.B." Hunt Sr., 79, who founded one of the largest publicly traded trucking companies in North America, died Dec. 7 of head injuries from a fall. Hunt started J.B. Hunt Co., a rice hull business, in 1961. In 1969, he and his wife, Johnelle, used five trucks and seven refrigerated trailers to start the company that became J.B. Hunt Transportation Services Inc. of Lowell. Hunt gave up his position of company president in 1982 but continued to serve as chairman until 1995. In 2004, Hunt fully retired from the company and focused on his real estate development venture, the Pinnacle Group, which recently opened the 980,000-SF Pinnacle Hills Promenade shopping center in Rogers.
W.E. Ayers, 76, former chairman and CEO of Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff, died Dec. 8. The retired chief executive officer of Simmons First National Corp. first joined the staff of Simmons First National Bank in 1957. He was named president of the bank in 1985, and president and chief executive officer of both Simmons First National Bank and Simmons First National Corp. in 1986. He retired in 1995, but served as a director emeritus for Simmons until his death.
Harry L. Oswald, 91, the first statewide manager of the Rural Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, died Dec. 18. He is credited with increasing the distribution of electricity from 3 percent of rural farm families in the state to nearly 100 percent as general manager of the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. Oswald also was instrumental as a lobbyist in passing legislation to increase power quality throughout Arkansas.

 

 

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