Jama Fowler, whose business ventures with husband Wallace included Fowler Foods Inc. of Jonesboro, died last week at age 85, the family announced.
Jama, an Amity native, met Wallace in 1953, when he was a young U.S. Army soldier stationed in Fort Smith.
After stints working at Dillard's in Little Rock and Haverty's Furniture Store, Wallace purchased his aunt's furniture store in Jonesboro and the couple went into business for themselves. They purchased other small furniture stores in the region and in 1965 began purchasing Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises.
At one point, Fowler Foods Inc. had more than 90 KFC locations and was the fourth-largest franchise holder in the country.
The Fowlers were also prominent members of the Arkansas banking industry. Over the years, they ran and sold Citizens Bank of Bentonville, North Arkansas Bancshares Inc., Southwest Bancshares and Liberty Bancshares Inc.
Jama was a longtime supporter of the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University. She and Wallace donated millions over the years for projects including a new UA baseball and track training center and ASU's Fowler Center for performing arts.
“We are continually grateful for the kindness and partnership Mrs. Fowler always shared with the university, and our hearts are with her family at this time," UA interim chancellor Charles Robinson said in a news release.
Jama was also generous with her time. She served as a volunteer at the Phil and Flo Jones Hospice House, the Altrusa Club and the Salvation Army, and was a founding member of the Jonesboro Church Health Center. She was also on the board of directors of John T. Gray School in Jonesboro and an active volunteer with United Cerebral Palsy of Northeast Arkansas.
Jama is survived by her husband and three sons, Wallace Jr., Chris and Mark.