Beth Ward, a fixture on Little Rock television for more than 37 years, died Thursday after complications from heart surgery.
Ward's death was reported by KTHV, Channel 11, where she had hosted the noon newscast, which she helped to launch in 1987 as "Arkansas Today," and morning show. She was also widely known for her weather reporting and for hosting "Dialing for Dollars" on KARK, Channel 4, where she began her television career in 1968.
KTHV noted the heart ailment complications on its website. Her age wasn't readily available.
At the time of her retirement in 2005, she had been on Arkansas television longer than any other personality in the market. "The longtime TV icon's career included interviews with doctors, politicians and more," KTHV said, noting that many Arkansans "grew up watching Beth."
Chris May, anchor at KATV, Channel 7, was one of those.
"I remember as a kid watching her on 'Dialing for Dollars,' hoping and praying she would call my home phone asking for the count and amount," May said.
More seriously, May said Ward was a trend-setter as a woman on local TV news.
"First and foremost, Beth blazed a trail for women in Arkansas television," he said. "She proved in the late 60s and throughout the 1970s that you didn't have to be a man to attract an audience in broadcasting."
Former Little Rock anchor Amy Barnes, now a professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, agreed.
"I'm grateful to Beth and all the women (Liz Walker, Deborah Mathis) who blazed the trail into that 'man's world' for me and many more," she said. "We owe them all a huge debt and a heartfelt thank-you."
A Virginia native who attended William & Mary College, Ward spent her entire career and retirement years in Arkansas, and said in her retirement announcement that she had had a "long and rewarding ride" in television. "But recently I found a stop and want to get off."
In an obituary that she wrote for herself for Little Rock Funeral Home, Ward wrote lovingly of her family and faith in Christ, but also mentioned her career as part of a "life full of blessings."
"I must mention one… my career in television. It was so enjoyable. Meeting so many wonderful people, being around friends, gaining knowledge daily and watching that ever-changing weather forecast. It was a terrific 37 years."
She said her husband of 43 years, Dr. Charles R. Haynie, who died in May, had given her "years of happiness, love, protection and wisdom." She is survived by four children, Bracy Haynie of Nashville, Tennessee; Sarah Haynie Clark of Novato, California; Sherri Lindsey of Van Buren; and Andy Ward of Ripon, California; as well as seven grandchildren.
Mark Raines of Little Rock advertising agency CJRW noted that he was Ward's last news director at KTHV, and that when he saw her about six months ago, she gave him a hug.
"The viewers loved her because of her smooth style and professionalism," Raines said. "Beth's character and personality were consistent – the Beth Ward you saw on the air was the Beth Ward you saw off the air. A fixture on Arkansas television for almost 40 years, she paved the way for women in this market."
The funeral is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock.