Clark partnered with Dillard's Inc. of Little Rock to form the commercial contracting firm in March 1987. Under his direction, CDI grew into one of the state's leading construction companies, with revenue that topped $400 million powered by a roster of high-profile projects that includes the Clinton Presidential Library.
"Arkansas has lost a legend," Bill Dillard, chairman and CEO of Dillard's Inc., said. "Bill Clark was a great family man, businessman and a man of unmatched character and integrity. However, he was much more than that to me.
"He was my dearest friend, and I will miss him greatly. Mandy and I share this enormous loss with Margaret and the Clark family."
Warren Stephens, CEO of Stephens Inc. and a repeat customer of CDI, said Arkansas had lost a leader who would be hard to replace.
"It's a loss for his family, for sure, but it's a real loss for the community and the state. I thought the world of Bill Clark. He was always very generous with his time and money and any cause that he got behind. Leaders like that are hard to come by."
Before launching CDI, Clark worked 22 years as an electrical subcontractor in Little Rock with C&C Electric Construction Co. and Bragg's Electric Construction Co.
Bob Shell, CEO of Baldwin & Shell Construction Co. of Little Rock, and a fellow member of Immanuel Baptist Church, called Clark "a friendly competitor."
"I knew Bill when he got out of college and went to work in the electrical business with his brother at Bragg Electric," Shell said. "They worked as a subcontractor for us for several years before he formed CDI.
"He was a fine person and a good, friendly competitor and an asset to our community from a business standpoint and as a philanthropist."
Clark took CDI to "national prominence," Shell said.
"He's going to be missed by a lot of people in the community, and I just hope his family is able to bear up."
Outside of his family, Clark's proudest accomplishment was developing the outstanding and loyal team at CDI.
He is survived by Margaret Windsor Clark, his wife of 41 years; son William and his wife, Christy; daughter Mary Catherine Conner and her husband, John; five grandchildren: Will, Benjamin and Alex Clark and Grace and Caroline Conner; and brother Russell Clark, all of Little Rock.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Laurence Edward Clark and Faye Barnes Clark, and brother Larry Clark.
A memorial service is scheduled for Immanuel Baptist Church at noon on Monday. The family will accept visitors immediately following the service in the Gathering Hall of the church.
Meanwhile, the Clinton Presidential Library plans to put a temporary memorial to Clark on display in its lobby beginning on Thursday. It will contain pictures and a memorial book for visitors to sign.
"Bill Clark was a brilliant contactor, a fine citizen, a devoted
husband, father, and grandfather, and a very good man," President Bill Clinton said in a written statement. "He built the Clinton Library with the care, concentration, and determination he brought to every part of his life. I cherished our friendship and will miss him very much. Hillary and I offer our prayers and love to Margaret and his family."
A Generous Man
On Wednesday, many of Clark's friends and competitors remarked on man they considered generous and decent.
"The CDI family mourns the loss of our founder, leader, mentor and friend," Lloyd Garrison, president of CDI Contractors, said in a prepared statement. "Bill Clark modeled a lifestyle to be admired.
"He was a man of faith, principle, compassion and courage. As a visionary leader who always put people first, his legacy will serve as the standard for CDI into the 21st century.
Charles Nabholz, chairman of Nabholz Construction Corp. of Conway, said Clark will be remembered for his charity and civic work.
"He was a great guy," Nabholz said. "We have known each other since the early '70s and remained close friends even though we became competitors."
University of Arkansas System President B. Alan Sugg said he got to know Clark during Clark's years on the UA Board of Trustees. Clark was chairman of the board for two years.
"He was my boss for that period of time, and I got to know him very well," Sugg said. "And he represents the best of what a decent human being should be. He was a great leader. He was honest, generous. He provided me with great council and advice. He had the ability to look at issues and solve problems just about better than anybody I've ever known. And we had some complex issues during the time he was on the board of trustees."
Sugg said Clark loved his family, his God and his state.
"He is a rare, rare individual and we're going to miss him," he said.
Golfer, Outdoor Enthusiast
Born in Little Rock on Sept. 9, 1943, Clark graduated from Little Rock Central High in 1961, where he was a starting member of the basketball team. After playing on the freshman squad at Little Rock University, he transferred to the University of Arkansas, where he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.
An avid duck hunter and outdoor enthusiast, Clark's favorite hobby was golf. He picked up the game after college and won numerous individual and four-ball tournaments during his playing career, capped with the 2004 ASGA State Senior Stroke Play Championship.
"When we first started playing golf together, we were at about the same talent level," Nabholz said. "But Bill went on to become quite good. I was always glad to be on his team."
Stephens, owner of The Alotian Club in west Little Rock, said golf brought him and Clark together.
"I think the first time I really got to know Bill Clark was at the Country Club of Little Rock, kind of working on the golf course," he said. "...There's a lot that happens around the game of golf, and I think one reason people enjoy it is you get to meet a lot of great people. Sometimes you end up doing business with them, sometimes you don't."
Clark "built Alotian and he built the school, Episcopal Collegiate, and his company is building the new gymnasium now," Stephens said. "And one of the reasons you liked working with Bill is he'd get things right... He certainly did that on the projects I worked with him on, and I know they'll continue to do that.
"It's just a sad day. Really unique guy, but we'll have to carry on and we'll have to figure out how to do that."
Top of the Game
Clark, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church for more than 27 years, was proud to build the congregation's new home in west Little Rock on Shackleford Road, a $33 million project.
Clark's firm is consistently among the top construction firms in the state, building some of its largest projects. Two CDI projects at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences topped Arkansas Business' 2007 list of the state's largest commercial projects: a $130 million patient tower and $90 million expansion of the Arkansas Cancer Research Center.
In 2004, CDI opened an office in northwest Arkansas, expanding its opportunities in the region. In the office's first full year during 2005, CDI handled enough projects to bring in $20 million in revenue. In 2006, business spiked 214 percent and the office had $62.7 million in revenue.
Away from the office, Clark enjoyed golfing with friends and especially his son, William.
Clark enjoyed helping others, individually and corporately, as indicated by his record of service.
He was a board member of the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation, the Little Rock Boys and Girls Club, Ouachita Baptist University Business Advisory Council, Simmons First National Corp., Baptist Health, Episcopal Collegiate School Foundation, UAMS Center on Aging and the UAMS Foundation.
Clark was a past president or chairman of the board for the Arkansas Arts Center, St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, St. Vincent Development Foundation, the Arkansas Chapter of National Electrical Contractors' Association, the Country Club of Little Rock, Fifty for the Future, the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees. He was also a past board member of Union National Bank, Worthen National Bank of Arkansas, Boatmen's National Bank of Arkansas, Ouachita Baptist University, Young Presidents' Organization, Nations Bank of Arkansas and the National Conference for Community and Justice.
He is the recipient of many awards and distinctions including the Edwin N. Hanlon Memorial Award for Contributions to the Arts, the Winthrop Rockefeller Memorial Award from the Arkansas Arts Center, the Arkansas Sheriff's Youth Ranches Arkansas Children's Award, Boys and Girls Clubs of America National Service to Youth Award, Arkansas Business Executive of the Year, Rotary Club of Little Rock's Business and Professional Leader of the Year Award, Paul Harris Fellow, given by the Rotary Club of Little Rock; Lions World Services for the Blind Vision Award, Reigning Cats and Dogs Award from the Humane Society of Pulaski County; American Heart Association Heart of a Caddy Award; the William F. Rector Memorial Award, given by Fifty for the Future; and election to the Arkansas Construction Hall of Fame, the University of Arkansas Engineering Hall of Fame, and the Arkansas Academy of Electrical Engineering.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests that memorials be made to the Parks Conservancy, P.O. Box 7329, Little Rock, AR 72217, for the construction and maintenance of the Wetlands Project, or to a favorite charity. Details of the Bill Clark Wetlands are available at www.littlerock.org.
(With reporting by George Waldon, Gwen Moritz and Lance Turner)