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Arkansas Business Mogul Wallace Fowler Sr. Dies at 87

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Northeast Arkansas business mogul Wallace Fowler Sr., whose ventures with wife Jama included Fowler Foods Inc. of Jonesboro, died Wednesday at the age of 87 and two weeks after his wife died

The Manila native and University of Arkansas alumnus was a 2011 inductee into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame. 

He was serving in the Army at Fort Chaffee when he met Jama. The two were introduced by Wallace’s brother, Dr. Jim Fowler, and were married for 65 years.

The Army moved them to Germany for a time but they returned to Little Rock when Wallace left military service. 

He was hired by Haverty Furniture and worked his way up over 10 years to sales leader and manager. Wallace also worked as a buyer for Dillard’s until the Fowlers bought his aunt’s furniture store in Jonesboro. 

Fowler Furniture purchased other small furniture stores across the region, eventually selling all of their stores in 1969 to a Memphis buyer.

In 1965, they began purchasing Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises. The Fowlers joined Wallace’s brother, Dr. Charles Fowler of Little Rock; Forrest City businessman Don Edmondson; and Little Rock banker Ed Penick Sr. in opening a network of 93 franchises.

Fowler Foods, once the fourth-largest franchise holder in the country, sold its restaurants in 1985. 

The Fowlers also acquired interest in Mercantile Bank, North Arkansas Bancshares, First Bank of Arkansas, Southwest Bancshares, Russellville Bancshares, Liberty Bank of Arkansas and Liberty Bancshares. 

In addition, Wallace served as a member of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission, the Arkansas State Police Commission and many national and regional committees for KFC. Jama and Wallace donated millions to the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University as well, for projects that included a new UA baseball and track training center and ASU’s Fowler Center for performing arts.

A visitation is set for 2-4 p.m. Sunday and a funeral service is set for 10 a.m. Monday, both at Emerson Funeral Home in Jonesboro. Burial will follow at Jonesboro Memorial Park Cemetery.

Wallace is survived by a brother, Dan Fowler; three sons, Wallace Jr., Chris and Mark; grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The family requests that lasting memorials be made to NEA Baptist Foundation, the University of Arkansas Razorback Foundation and Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation.

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