Notable Deaths in 2005

December 2004

Dr. Jonathan Drummond-Webb, 45, the chief of pediatric and congenital heart surgery at Arkansas Children's Hospital, died Dec. 26 after overdosing on pain medication at his west Little Rock home, ending a long battle with depression. The South African physician was nationally known for his work and was the subject of a documentary miniseries on ABC television in 2002 called "ICU." Drummond-Webb performed the first successful implant of a heart pump for children and also performed the state's first successful heart-kidney transplant.


W. King Gladden, 49, chairman and CEO of Community First Bancshares and Community First Bank of Harrison, was killed in a private plane crash near his home in Eureka Springs on Jan. 12. Gladden, described as an innovator and leader in the banking industry, was the founding CEO and chairman of Community First. At the time of his death, he was involved with Gary Head, former president of Arvest Bank in Fayetteville; Johnny Allison, chairman of Home Bancshares of Conway; and others in forming White River Bancshares Inc., a holding company for Signature Bank of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Dr. Carl Lee Nelson, 71, a specialist in hip and knee replacement at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, died Jan. 12 after suffering a massive stroke. Nelson was chairman of the UAMS department of orthopaedic surgery and developed the first practice in Arkansas dedicated solely to joint replacement surgery. Nelson took over as chairman of the department in 1974 and helped the group grow from a faculty of two into an internationally recognized team of 50.


Philip E. Dixon, 72, a partner in the Dover Dixon Horne law firm in Little Rock and a former president of the Pulaski County and Arkansas bar associations, died Feb. 25 after nearly a month-long illness. Dixon had practiced primarily family law with Dover Dixon Horne and its predecessor firms for 44 years and was listed in "The Best Lawyers in America." He served as president of the Pulaski County Bar Association from 1973-74 and as president of the Arkansas Bar Association from 1988-89.


Dr. Fay Boozman, 58, director of the Arkansas Department of Health, was killed March 19 when a barn at his Rogers home collapsed on him. Boozman was the brother of U.S. Rep. John Boozman, R-Ark., and also tried to enter politics before being defeated by Blanche Lincoln in a run for the U.S. Senate in 1998.


Bill Shelton, 85, who for 33 years served as city editor of the Arkansas Gazette, died May 8. Shelton was the hands-on director of the paper's coverage of the 1957 Little Rock Central High School integration crisis — coverage that later won the Gazette a Pulitzer Prize. After retiring from the Gazette in 1985, Shelton worked part time there as a copy editor before rounding out his career editing copy at the Pine Bluff Commercial.


Former state Sen. Ben Allen, 80, who considered the passage of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act in 1967 one of his greatest accomplishments, died June 2 after a long fight with pancreatic cancer. Allen attempted to set ethics regulations for lawmakers and lobbyists and later served on the state Ethics Commission. He was one of the most powerful members of the state Senate from the 1960s through the 1980s.

John Walton, 58, the second son of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton and member of the retail giant's board of directors, died in plane crash in Wyoming on June 27. The ultralight aircraft he was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff from the Jackson Hole Airport in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. He was the aircraft's only passenger. Walton had been a member of the Wal-Mart board since 1992, and he worked as a crop duster in the 1970s and as a boat builder in the 1980s and 1990s. Walton also served in the U.S. Army Green Berets as a medic during the Vietnam War and was awarded the Silver Star for saving the lives of members of his unit while under enemy fire. John Walton was among the world's wealthiest individuals, worth an estimated $18 billion. He held about 12 million shares of Wal-Mart stock and owned a 25 percent stake in Arvest Bank Group of Bentonville, headed by his brother Jim. He was heavily involved in the family's philanthropic organizations and efforts to improve K-12 education.


Jackson T. "Jack" Stephens, 81, a leader in business, philanthropy, politics and sports in Arkansas and beyond, died July 23 at his Little Rock home. Stephens was chairman of Stephens Group Inc. The diversified financial holding company includes Stephens Inc., founded in 1933 in Little Rock by Jack's predeceased brother, W.R. "Witt" Stephens, and Stephens Media Group, formerly Donrey Media Group, which Stephens purchased in 1993. In 1968, Jack Stephens and Walter Smiley founded an information technology company called Systematics, which was eventually sold to Alltel Corp. and then to Fidelity National Financial Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla. Stephens also saved Worthen Banking Corp. with a $30 million recapitalization in 1985, an investment later worth at least $350 million. With a personal fortune estimated at well over $1 billion, Jack Stephens gave tens of millions of dollars to nonprofits, education and health care, including $48 million to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock to build the Spine & Neurosciences Institute; $5 million to the national First Tee organization, which offers low-cost access to golf for youngsters who otherwise might not get to play; $10 million to renovate the Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at Annapolis, Md.; $2.5 million to the Heart Center at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center in Little Rock; $20.4 million to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for a new basketball arena; art, including works by Monet, Picasso and Degas valued at $22 million, to the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock; and countless other gifts.


Richard B. Atkinson, 61, who was named the 10th dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville in 2003, died suddenly Aug. 3 at a hotel in Chicago, where he was attending an American Bar Association conference. Atkinson was a board member at Washington Regional Medical Center from 1980 up until his death and had twice served as chairman of the board.

John H. Johnson, 87, the Arkansas City native who founded Johnson Publishing Co. Inc. of Chicago, the largest black-owned publishing company in the world, died Aug. 8 after an extended illness. Founded more than 55 years ago, Ebony is the nation's No. 1 African-American-oriented magazine with a circulation of about 1.7 million and a monthly readership of 11 million. Johnson started Johnson Publishing in 1942 with a $500 loan against his mother's furniture. The company now employs more than 2,600 people and has sales of more than $388 million. Johnson was inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame in 2000.


Ernest P. Joshua Sr., 77, the founder and CEO of J.M. Products Inc. of Little Rock, died Sept. 22. J.M. Products is one of the largest manufacturers of ethnic hair care products in the country. It is the largest black-owned company in Ark-ansas, with manufacturing plants in Little Rock and North Little Rock with more than 300,000 SF of production space. It also has affiliate operations in Jamaica and Africa. The company has more than 100 employees and dozens of products distributed throughout the world at retailers such as Wal-Mart and Kmart and through beauty and barber suppliers, beauty schools, beauty salons, military outlets, and wholesale distributors.

Lucy Lockett Cabe, 90, a longtime supporter of the arts in Little Rock, died Sept. 27 at her apartment in Dallas. Cabe was best known for her work to create Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts, which began in 1986 with a $1 million donation. The park opened in 1990, and in 1996 it opened an $8 million theater named in her honor.


Frank McGehee, CEO of Legacy Capital Group of Little Rock, died Oct. 5 of a heart attack. McGehee also was a founder of Juanita's, the restaurant and music venue at 1300 S. Main St. in Little Rock. As CEO of Legacy Capital Group, McGehee led one of the largest corporate benefits firms in Arkansas.

Joel R. Stubblefield, 67, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith chancellor, died Oct. 19 from an undisclosed illness. Stubblefield had been with the evolving institution for 25 years, including two years as dean of business affairs, one year as vice president for finance and administration, and 22 years as president or chancellor. Stubblefield was president of Westark Community College from 1983 until the college merged with the University of Arkansas System on Jan. 1, 2002. He then became the first chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.


Carl S. Whillock, 79, a former state representative and past president of the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, died Nov. 7 of a heart attack. Active in political circles, Whillock is credited with helping advance the careers of several prominent Arkansas Democrats, including Bill Clinton and David Pryor. He earned a law degree from George Washington University in 1960, and later he became prosecuting attorney for the 14th Judicial District of Arkansas. Whillock ran David Pryor's successful 1974 gubernatorial campaign. And in 1978, he became president of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. He later became president of the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, a post he held for 16 years. The co-op even named a plant after him in Morrilton: the Carl S. Whillock Hydroelectric Generating Station. He retired from the co-op in 1996 but was still active, working as the U.S. Department of Agricul-ture's White House Liaison during the Clinton administration.


Truman Ball, 59, died Dec. 11 in Little Rock from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare brain disorder. He fell ill and sought help from a Minnesota specialist who diagnosed him with the disease just nine weeks before his death. After a stint in the insurance business, Ball switched to real estate in 1978. He opened Truman Ball & Associates Realtors in 1997.