Most Admired (Editorial)

When we set out to track down the 763 people who had been Arkansas Business 40 Under 40 honorees from 1994 to 2012, we knew it was a big undertaking. And despite our best efforts, we weren’t able to find them all or to get them to answer a list of questions.

But 394 did respond when we asked, “What is your political affiliation?” Of those, 44 percent said they were Republicans, 33 percent said they were Democrats and 22 percent self-identified as independent.

It’s not a scientific sample, but it does sound like a fair representation of the business community in Arkansas.

We also asked this question: “What business executive do you admire most?” And more than 200 of our honorees responded to that. The most common answer, the one given by 10 percent of the respondents, was Sam Walton — who died two years before Arkansas Business selected its first class of 40 Under 40 honorees. His influence on business and Arkansas still looms large.

Other common answers: Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates. And J. Thomas May, the CEO of Simmons First National Corp. whose business skills have been matched only by his grace under difficult personal challenges.

But something else stood out: Dozens of the “most-admired” business executives were names your Arkansas Business staff didn’t recognize. Not nationally known leaders like Walton and Buffett, nor statewide legends like Tommy May.

We can only assume that these admirable business executives were people who quietly taught memorable professional lessons to eager young minds. And to one person, these leaders were as important as a Sam Walton or a Bill Gates.

Let us all strive to be the most-admired professional for the up-and-comers in our orbit.