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UA Business Hall of Fame 2017: Sherman E. Tate

4 min read

Sherman Tate has stacked up a pretty good record of being “the first” at a number of things in his long career in business and government in Arkansas.

First personnel director of the state legislative council and its first employee of color. The first person of color to head the Arkansas Office of Personnel Management. The first person to develop and implement a comprehensive marketing plan for Arkansas/Louisiana Gas Company. And on and on.

But what Tate has been best at over the years is being “the best” at whatever he set out to do.

Breaking barriers was never something Tate shied away from but it wasn’t really his goal, either. He did it living by values taught him by two loving parents as he grew up in the farming town of Marvell. Tate has more than once described his upbringing as a “Leave It to Beaver” experience. He says his mother encouraged education and his father advocated hard work. Both of those have served Tate well. He says what they didn’t preach was prejudice toward anyone.

After graduating from M.M. Tate High School in Marvell, Tate enrolled as a freshman at Philander Smith College in Little Rock in the fall of 1963 and was soon part of four days of sit-ins that peacefully integrated the cafeteria at the state capitol. He graduated from Philander Smith and went to work for the consulting firm General Behavioral Systems, working with the City of Little Rock.

In 1971, Tate became a personnel analyst with the state office of personnel management. Tate was then recruited to work for the legislative council as its first personnel director and the first employee of color in the history of the council. He was recruited in 1975 by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to develop a personnel department for non-academic employees. In 1977, Gov. David Pryor hired Tate to head the state office of personnel management in another first for a person of color.

In 1980, he was hired by Arkla Gas as personnel director for the Arkansas Division. After only two years with the company, he was promoted to vice president, responsible for consumer relations and community affairs in a number of states.

While working at Arkla, Tate was never one to sit in an office and issue directives. He put on the company uniform instead of a suit and tie and worked in the trenches alongside employees, learning directly from them what they needed to make the company succeed.

Tate moved up the corporate ladder at Arkla. He was promoted to vice president of marketing in 1989, developing and implementing the company’s first comprehensive marketing plan.

In 1991, he was promoted to vice president of distribution operations for the Arkansas Division of Arkla where he oversaw 36 district offices and 1,100 employees throughout the state.

After Arkla was sold to Houston Industries, Tate continued his corporate career with Alltel, starting in 1998. At Alltel, he managed the wireless operation in Arkansas before being assigned to oversee both the wireless and local telephone operations. Verizon bought Alltel in 2009. Tate remained with the company assuming the responsibility for government relations in Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

In 2011, Tate left Verizon and formed his own management consulting firm. That firm, Tate & Associates, consists of The Domino Effect, a management consulting group, and HT & Associates, a sports consulting firm. Tate also has been a partner in auto dealerships in Hope, with Mack McLarty, and Little Rock, with Frank Fletcher.

Tate served as a member of the U.S. Army for two years, with one year of service in Vietnam. He also was a member of the Arkansas National Guard, serving for 28 years and retiring as a full colonel.

In addition to his business and governmental work, Tate has served on numerous boards and commissions, including the Arkansas State Police Commission; the Arkansas Real Estate Commission; the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, a current member and chairman in 1989; the Philander Smith College Board of Trustees for 12 years, 10 as chairman; American Gas Association; the Pulaski County Facilities Board, where he helped oversee the construction of Verizon Arena in North Little Rock; chairman of the Southern Bancorp Bank Governing Board; the Arkansas Urban League Board; the Greater Little Rock Chapter of 100 Black Men; the Quapaw Council of the Boy Scouts of America; the board of Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield; and the dean’s executive advisory board for the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.

Over the years, Tate has been recognized many times for his professional accomplishments and community service. Some of those honors include having the gymnasium at Philander Smith named in his honor. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Philander Smith in 2004. In 2015, Tate received the Legacy Award from Junior Achievement and was named a distinguished alumnus of Philander Smith in 2015. He has received the Silver Beaver Award from the Quapaw Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America and in 1998, Arkla Gas established the Sherman Tate Scholarship at Philander Smith College.

Tate is married to Marylene Williams Tate and has one daughter, Amber Nicole Tate.

Today, Tate serves as president and chief executive officer for Tate & Associates Management. He brings the same intensity to that job as he has any other. Because of that intensity of giving his job 100 percent every single day, Tate says he’s never had a job he didn’t like.

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