Arkansas Business Looks Back: Notable Deaths of 2010

JANUARY

Henry Lee Woods Jr., 58, a congressional aide to several Democratic politicians from Arkansas, died Jan. 3. Woods worked in Washington, D.C., and served on the staffs of U.S. Rep Bill Alexander and Sens. David Pryor, Dale Bumpers and Blanche Lincoln.

Ron Strother, 61, the president and COO of Home BancShares Inc. of Conway, died Jan. 31 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Strother was an active member of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and had served on the executive committee and board of directors.

FEBRUARY

Dave Meredith Chism, 71, who owned and published The Times of North Little Rock and the Maumelle Monitor during times of award-winning journalism for both publications, died on Feb. 17. Chism, who with his wife, Kitty, bought The Times in 1993 and the Monitor in 1996, sold both papers to Stephens Media in 2005.

James Douglas Johnson, 85, known as "Justice Jim," died Feb. 13 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Johnson, a former state Supreme Court justice, was known for his segregationist views as a political candidate and in private life. He was director of the Arkansas White Citizens Council, a group that fought school integration.

Gene Prescott, 86, who captured history as an Arkansas Gazette photographer, died Feb. 18. Through his work at the Gazette, Prescott photographed Gov. Orval Faubus addressing the state Legislature during the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis, a picture that later ran in Life magazine. Prescott was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and served as president of the Arkansas' Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

MARCH

J.D. Ashley Sr., 87, who served as patriarch of his family's real estate development firm, The Ashley Co. of North Little Rock, died March 3. Ashley's developments include The Village Shopping Center in Little Rock and the Pike Plaza Shopping Center in North Little Rock. 

James Powell, 90, who was the editorial page editor and later a columnist for the Arkansas Gazette, died March 10. During his time at the Gazette, Powell led the publication's editorial support for the civil rights movement and was a recipient of the National Conference of Christians & Jews mass media award for promoting racial and ethnic understanding.

Dale Remy, 52, the general sales manager for KTHV-TV, Channel 11, died March 14 after complaining to his wife of shortness of breath. Remy, a Michigan native, moved to Little Rock and began working at KTHV just a year before his death.

Mary Brown "Brownie" Williams Ledbetter, 77, who worked as a political activist, died March 21. Ledbetter was the founder of the Arkansas Fairness Council, a coalition of grassroots organizations, and for 15 years was president and lobbyist of the organization.

APRIL

Brad Mooney, 40, a senior vice president of Centennial Bank, died April 24. Mooney was a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Monticello and the LSU Graduate School of Banking.

MAY

James E. Burnett Jr., 62, a lawyer and national leader on transportation safety issues, died May 15. Burnett served as a member and chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board for 10 years after appointment by President Ronald Reagan. At the time of his death, Burnett was the Republican National Committeeman for Arkansas.

Jerry Atchley, 68, the man credited with building country music powerhouse KSSN-FM, died May 20. Atchley bought KSSN in the 1970s, sold it and then later bought it back in the 1980s. Atchley was principal of Southern Skies Corp., which also owned stations in Memphis and Wichita, Kan.

JUNE

Dave Gieringer, founder of Telecom Management Inc., died June 7. Outside of his own company, Gieringer was active in the business community and was a member of the Central Arkansas Executives Association. Gieringer was also a founding member of the Arkansas Executives Forum of the University of Arkansas.

Charles "Monk" Wade, 90, banking executive and an executive director of the Arkansas Sate Golf Association, died June 20. Wade worked in banking for 46 years, before retiring in 1986 as senior vice president of Worthen National Bank.

JULY

Robert L. "Bob" Shults, 74, who was chairman and CEO of Financial Centre Corp., died July 1. Financial Centre Corp. pioneered much of the development of west Little Rock into a business district. Shults, who worked as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Allied Corp. before forming Financial Centre Corp., was a finalist in 2006 for the Arkansas Business Executive of the Year award.

Donald Wright, 75, a former member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame's board of directors, died July 1 after a battle with brain cancer. As a board member of the Hall of Fame, Wright helped select inductees.

Nick Bacon, 64, who was Arkansas' last living Medal of Honor recipient, died July 17. Bacon served in the Army from 1963 to 1984. In 1993, Bacon was appointed director of the Department of Veterans Affairs, a position he held until February 2005.

Jim Hanna, 76, founder of Hanna Oil & Gas, died July 19. Hanna, a longtime resident of Fort Smith, began the family business in the early 1960s by buying and selling oil and gas leases. He began drilling wells a decade later.

Mike Gauldin, 55, who served as press secretary to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, died July 22. Gauldin had been an editorial cartoonist for the Arkansas Times and a public affairs officer for the U.S. Geological Survey.

AUGUST

Armistead Freeman, 81, a former owner of the Pine Bluff Commercial newspaper, died Aug. 5 as a part of a murder-suicide involving his wife, Gail. The Freeman family owned the Pine Bluff Commercial for four generations before selling it in 1986 to what was then Donrey Media (now Stephens Media).

Eddie Christian, 48, an attorney from Fort Smith, died Aug. 9. Christian became known in Arkansas for representing John David Terry of Montgomery County, who sued University of Arkansas officials for failing to investigate an infamous e-mail critical of former Razorbacks quarterback Mitch Mustain.

A. Lynn Lowe, 74, of Texarkana, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, died Aug. 14. Lowe was chairman from 1974-80. Lowe also acted as Republican National Committeeman from 1980-88.

SEPTEMBER

Jefferson Thomas, 68, who was among the nine black students to desegregate Little Rock's Central High School in 1957, died on Sept. 5. Thomas and the other students known as the Little Rock Nine, received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.

John Ingram Purtle, 87, a retired associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, died Sept. 14. Purtle served on the state's highest court from 1979 to 1989, and he refused to resign even when charged with a felony of which he was ultimately acquitted.

OCTOBER

Sam Laser, 90, a Little Rock attorney, died on Oct. 20. In 1952, Laser founded the Laser Law Firm, where he practiced until 2008. In 2004, Laser received the Outstanding Lawyer Award given by the Arkansas Bar Association.

Keith Crass, 51, an accountant, was the Republican candidate for the District 24 seat of the Arkansas House of Representatives when he died Oct. 27. He won the election, held five days after his death.

Lisa Blount, 53, an actress born in Fayetteville and reared in Jacksonville, died Oct. 27. Blount was best known for her supporting role in the 1982 film "An Officer and a Gentleman," but she won an Oscar with her husband, actor Ray McKinnon, for 2001's best live-action short film, "The Accountant." On Sept. 9, Blount was inducted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.

NOVEMBER

Jack Shewmaker, 72, a retired Wal-Mart executive, died Nov. 17. Shewmaker began his career at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in 1970 and served in various roles at the company, including president and chief operating officer, vice chairman and chief financial officer.

Ferdinand McMillan "Ferd" Bellingrath, 82, who began his career as a Coca-Cola bottler and eventually became chairman of the board of the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of South Arkansas, died Nov. 19. Bellingrath was president of the Arkansas Soft Drink Association and the Arkansas Coca-Cola Council.

Norris Church Mailer, 61, a former Arkansan and the sixth and final wife of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer, died Nov. 21. Mailer wrote two novels, "Windchill Summer" and "Cheap Diamonds," as well as a memoir, "A Ticket to the Circus."

Mary Wagoner, 57, owner of Abacus Management Group, died Nov. 29. Wagoner was a past president of the Arkansas chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and a member of the society's Counselors Academy.

DECEMBER

Gene George, 88, the chairman of George's Inc. of Springdale, died Dec. 1. George became president and CEO of George's in 1969 and was named chairman in 1980. In 2002, George was inducted into the University of Arkansas' Arkansas Business Hall of Fame, and in 2009, Arkansas Business named George among its 25 "Living Legends."