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Former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays Dies at 76

2 min read

North Little Rock announced that Patrick Henry Hays, the longest serving mayor in the city’s history, died from cancer Wednesday morning at age 76.

Hays was an assistant city attorney in North Little Rock and served one term in the Arkansas House before he was elected mayor in 1989. He served six terms as mayor before leaving office in 2013.

During his 24 years leading North Little Rock, he oversaw a wave of redevelopment downtown and in the Park Hill area sparked by the construction of Simmons Bank Arena — then known as Alltel Arena — and Dickey-Stephens Park.

Hays was part of a coalition of public and private figures from around the region who teamed up to secure the arena project, which led to hundreds of millions of dollars in economic growth on both sides of the Arkansas River. The ballpark, which became home to the Arkansas Travelers, was financed by a temporary 1% sales tax that Hays proposed. The tax also funded construction of the North Little Rock Senior Citizens Center, now named the Patrick Henry Hays Senior Citizens Center.

He unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House as a Democrat in 2014, losing with 44% of the vote to Republican French Hill.

“I knew Mayor Hays nearly my entire life,” Terry Hartwick, the city’s current mayor, said in a statement. “I have known him as a close friend and as an opponent. He was a fighter until the end. I cared deeply about him and I know he will be sorely missed by all of us in North Little Rock.”

Hays, a U.S. Army Reserve veteran, was also a former president of Metroplan and the Arkansas Municipal League.

In a statement on Facebook, Circuit Judge Morgan “Chip” Welch described Hays as “very easy to like; self-effacing, but knowledgeable, quick, funny and, above all, loyal to his friends.”

Welch recalled visiting the Arkansas Municipal League with Hays more than a decade after he’d left the mayor’s office and receiving a reception that was “like Elvis returned!”

“Pat was our Mayor in North Little Rock,” Welch said. “He was hugely effective at the job. You might say he was born for it.”

The city said funeral arrangements for Hays will be announced in the coming days.

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