Notable Deaths in 2021 | Arkansas Business News
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The founder of publicly traded USA Truck Inc. of Van Buren, Robert “Bob” Powell, was among the notable Arkansans who died this year. Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer Paul Greenberg was another, as was the founder of Hudson Cisne & Co. Here are a few of big names lost.
Thomas Foltz Jr., a Fort Smith businessman and civic leader, died Jan. 3 at 83. After graduating from the Wharton School of Business, he joined the insurance agency of Kennedy Albers & Phillips in Fort Smith, an agency founded by his great-uncle Allan Kennedy and grandfather Harry Albers in 1867. Foltz served as president of the Fort Smith Insurance Association, the Fort Smith Board of Realtors and the Independent Insurance Agents of Arkansas. In 2005, he received the first Thomas Price Foltz Jr. Award from the United Way, created in his honor for his service to the agency.
Jim White, who joined Ray Coulson and Coulson’s wife, Lois, in building Coulson Oil Co. of North Little Rock into one of Arkansas’ largest privately owned companies, died Jan. 4. He was 81.
Don Martin Schnipper, a partner in what became the Schnipper Britton & Stobaugh law firm of Hot Springs, one of the oldest law firms in Arkansas, died Jan. 4 at 81. He represented clients such as Entergy, Weyerhaeuser and the Oaklawn Jockey Club and served as president of the Arkansas Bar Association and the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce.
Aaron Gamewell, 51, chairman and CEO of SBS CyberSecurity of Little Rock, died Jan. 13. Gamewell, who had more than 20 years of experience in banking and business operations before he joined the company in December 2015 as president and COO, led SBS as it doubled revenue and expanded its reach nationally.
Carolyn Robinson, the first female mayor of Pine Bluff, as well as its first alderwoman, died Jan. 14. She was 84. Elected in 1984, Robinson served until 1992. “She was the type of person that she did what she thought was right,” said Dutch King, himself a former Pine Bluff mayor.
William Daniel “Danny” Thomas Jr., 86, founder of the Danny Thomas Co., a Little Rock real estate firm, died Jan. 23. Thomas was hired as a salesman with the Rector Phillips Morse Co. and went on to found his own company in 1976.
Stephen Owen “Steve” Stephens, Arkansas broadcaster, ad man and, later, personal director of communications for financier Jack Stephens, died Jan. 29 at 90. The Newport native’s fluid baritone made him a broadcast hall of famer and Arkansas’ version of Dick Clark with his 1950s dance program “Steve’s Show” on KTHV. His work spanned radio, TV, film, politics and travel, including stints in press relations for U.S. Sen. John L. McClellan, decades of ad work and civic leadership in Little Rock, and a long association with Stephens (no relation) and Stephens Inc.
Ralph “Chad” Colley, 76, of Barling, a Paralympian and advocate for veterans and the disabled, died Jan. 30. Colley lost both legs and his left arm during the Vietnam War, but surmounted his injuries to go on to win two gold medals in the 1992 Paralympics. He received national recognition for his work on behalf of the disabled and veterans and served as national commander of the Disabled American Veterans in 1984-85.
Charles Wesley Stewart III, a Fayetteville lawyer, co-owner of Ozark Steel Co. and Arkansas’ longest-serving state representative, died Feb. 1. He was 93. Stewart served 44 years in the Arkansas House, sitting for a number of years on the powerful House Revenue & Taxation Committee, and under eight governors.
Richard Lee “Dick” Cisne, 70, founder of Hudson Cisne & Co., a Little Rock accounting firm that grew to be one of the state’s largest, died Feb. 7. Cisne, named a Paul Harris Fellow by The Rotary Club of Little Rock, “definitely put service above self, which is the Rotary [Club] motto, and he followed that to a tee,” said Karen Garrett, managing partner at the firm.
James H. Faulkner of Little Rock, founder of the Faulkner & Associates advertising company, real estate investor and member of the University of Arkansas’ Arkansas Business Hall of Fame, died Feb. 9. He was 88. Faulkner & Associates’ clients included Worthen Bank, then the largest in the state, Dillard’s Department Stores and Riceland Foods.
Charles Joseph “Joe” Giroir Jr., a prominent Little Rock attorney who was one of Arkansas’ first securities lawyers, died Feb. 12. He was 81. A 1996 article in Arkansas Business noted that “when locally owned companies went public or a firm like Stephens Inc. needed underwriter’s counsel, they usually looked to Giroir.”
R.L. Qualls of Little Rock, director of the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration under then-Gov. Bill Clinton and former president and CEO of Baldor Electric Co., died Feb. 15. Qualls had served as president and chairman of the board of the University of the Ozarks, executive vice president of Worthen Banking Corp. and as a director of what is now Bank OZK.
Steve N. Wilson, director of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission from 1979 until his retirement in June 2000, died Feb. 21. He was 76. A Batesville native, Wilson oversaw the passage of Amendment 75 in 1996, which established the one-eighth-cent Conservation Sales Tax divided among the G&FC, Arkansas State Parks, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission.
Joseph Patrick “Pat” Lynch, 70, a Little Rock radio broadcaster and activist, died Feb. 24. A Mobile, Alabama, native who came to Little Rock in 1983 to work at KARN, he was one of the last Arkansas stars in the local talk radio era, before national chains dominated. Lynch, a supporter of the ACLU of Arkansas, was an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and was honored as the state’s Civil Libertarian of the Year.
George Edward “Butch” Locke of Hot Springs, a former state senator, died on March 2. He was 85. Locke was a partner in the Little Rock investment firm Collins Locke & Lasater, which Arkansas Business described in 2009 as “a poster child for the go-go ‘80s in Arkansas. The firm was blown apart during a four-year cocaine investigation that produced jail sentences for its namesake partners: David Collins, 24 months; Locke, 15 months; and Dan Lasater, 30 months.”
Gene Roebuck, 85, of Jonesboro, former state senator, died March 8. He served two terms in the Arkansas Senate and was chair of the Legislative Audit Committee.
Paul Smith, who helped lead the Arkansas Democrat to its victory over newspaper rival the Arkansas Gazette, died March 9. He was 76. Smith was vice president and general manager of the Arkansas Democrat when the newspaper’s owners bought the Gazette’s assets in 1991 and began publishing as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He later was president of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Inc. and retired as president of WEHCO Newspapers Inc. at the end of 2013.
Ted Boswell of Bryant, 88, well-known trial lawyer and one-time gubernatorial candidate, died March 28. Boswell, who practiced law for 62 years, also ran for the U.S. Senate in 1972, advocating for a system of national health insurance. He was involved in historic preservation in Bryant and served on the board of Arkansas Audubon.
Paul Greenberg, the former Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page editor who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for civil rights editorials that appeared while he was writing for the Pine Bluff Commercial, died April 6. He was 84.
John A. “Jack” Riggs III, former president and chairman of the J.A. Riggs Tractor Co., died April 6. He was 86. Riggs served on the boards of the Little Rock Kiwanis Club, Quapaw Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the United Way of Pulaski County, the Meadowcreek Project and the Joseph Pfeifer Kiwanis Camp. He also served on the boards of the Little Rock Regional Chamber and Worthen Bank & Trust.
Edmond Freeman, 94, former publisher of the Pine Bluff Commercial, founded by Freeman’s great-grandfather in 1881, died May 3. He led the newspaper, which became known for nurturing talent that went on to major publications, until its sale in 1986.
Robert Dudley Cabe, a Little Rock lawyer, health insurance executive and civic leader, died May 14. He was 78. Cabe served as executive vice president for legal, governmental relations and communication services at Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield.
James L. “Jim” Shaver Jr. of Wynne, 93, a former state representative, died May 27. Shaver, a lawyer, was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1955, serving until his retirement in 1994. He was speaker of the House in 1977-78 and was a former president of the Arkansas Bar Association.
Roy D. Fisher, a North Little Rock restaurateur who was proprietor of Roy Fisher’s Steak House, died May 29. He was 80. The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame recognized Roy Fisher’s Steak House this year in its Gone but Not Forgotten category.
Nancy Munder Gray, 66, a pioneering chemist, former president of BioVentures at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and longtime member of the Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board, died June 2. Her research on central nervous system diseases resulted in three products being accepted for clinical development in five years. She also helped develop antihistamines Allegra and Xyzal.
John McDonnell, legendary University of Arkansas track and field coach, died June 7. He was 82. McDonnell, a native of Ireland, led Arkansas to 40 national championships before retiring in 2008. “For the entire state of Arkansas, he gave world credibility that track and field is something you better be proud of, because Arkansas was synonymous with winning,” said Lance Harter, coach of the University of Arkansas women’s cross country and track and field teams.
J.W. “Buddy” Benafield, a businessman, former mayor of Little Rock and England and adviser to Arkansas governors of both parties, died June 14 at the age of 93. Benafield also served on the Arkansas Highway Commission and teamed with former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker in business, including a partnership in the redevelopment of the 12-story Centre Place Building in downtown Little Rock.
Charles Scharlau, who retired as CEO of Southwestern Energy in 1998 after 47 years with the company, died June 18 in Fayetteville. He was 94. During Scharlau’s time at the company, it grew from a small natural gas distribution business in the Arkoma Basin of Arkansas to what is now the third-largest natural gas producer in the country. He was elected to the University of Arkansas’ Arkansas Business Hall of Fame in 2017.
Norman August Klappenbach, 89, founder of Klappenbach Bakery in Fordyce, died June 26. Although the bakery, which opened in 1975, closed in 2011, it had attained legendary status during its operation, with Arkansas governors and congressmen numbering among the customers. The bakery was recognized by the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame in the Gone but Not Forgotten category in 2019.
William Christopher “Chris” Barrier, a prominent Little Rock lawyer and civic leader, died July 3. He was 78. Barrier, a partner in the Mitchell Williams Selig Gates & Woodyard firm, practiced there for more than 50 years, helping it grow from eight to more than 90 lawyers in five offices.
Michael Lejong, 49, a principal with MAHG Architecture in Fort Smith, died July 19. His work included the $55 million Windgate Studio & Design Center at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the Future School in Fort Smith and the Van Buren Center for Arts Education.
Berbon “Bubba” Sullivan, a leader in establishing the annual King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena-West Helena who was known as the “godfather of the blues,” died Aug. 18. He was 81.
Dr. Timothy John O’Brien, 81, a professor, researcher and entrepreneur, died Aug. 19. O’Brien joined the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in 1984 and founded UAMS Arkansas BioVentures in 1997. O’Brien discovered that a particular gene can identify the presence of ovarian cancer cells. His work was patented, the first patent for UAMS, and was licensed to a Pennsylvania biotechnology company. In 2004, he received the Abbott Award for lifetime contributions to advances in ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Fred James Taylor, 88, who was chancellor at the University of Arkansas at Monticello from 1977 until 2004, the longest-serving chief executive in the school’s history, died Aug. 27. Under his leadership, UAM experienced unprecedented growth, awarded its first master’s degree and achieved specialized accreditation for programs in forestry, teacher education, music and nursing. Building projects during his tenure include the John F. Gibson University Center, forestry and agricultural research and extension centers, and a library and technology center renamed by the board of trustees the Fred J. Taylor University Library & Technology Center.
Randy Morton Rankin, 69, a farmer who served as a state representative for Arkansas’ 12th District from Eudora, died Aug. 28. He was the coordinator of the state’s criminal detention facilities review committees under Gov. Mike Beebe.
Bill Wayne Schwyhart, a northwest Arkansas developer who with the backing of trucking magnate J.B. Hunt sparked an explosion of commercial property growth in Rogers, died Aug. 31. He was 64. After the commercial real estate meltdown in 2008, Schwyhart battled financial difficulties including lawsuits and foreclosures.
Erma Hendrix, 91, a member of the Little Rock Board of Directors, died Sept. 8. She first joined the city board in 1993, serving until 1994. Hendrix rejoined the board after she was elected to represent Ward 1 in 2006 and continued to win re-election, most recently in 2018. She was described as a champion of the people in her ward and of racial equality.
Ellen Matilda Gray, former executive vice president of Stephens Inc., died Oct. 5. She was 91. She was a life board member of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, board chairman of the Arkansas Museum of Science & History when it transitioned from MacArthur Park to the Museum of Discovery, and president of Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts. Gray was also a charter member of the Arkansas Women’s Leadership Forum and of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas.
Robert “Bob” Powell, the founder of USA Truck Inc. of Van Buren, died Oct. 7 at the age of 87. Powell joined what is now ArcBest Corp. in Fort Smith in 1960 and rose through the ranks to become executive vice president of ABF Freight in 1973. In 1983, ArcBest formed a truckload segment, Crawford Produce Inc., which became USA Truck in 1986 as a wholly owned subsidiary. Powell and his partners bought the company in 1989. The company went public in 1992. Powell served as CEO from 1988-2007 and was chairman of the board from 2000 until his retirement in 2011. He sold his nearly 1 million share stake in the company in 2013.
Henry Joseph Mariani, a Little Rock businessman and entrepreneur who served on the boards of Twin City Bank and Bank OZK, died Oct. 9. He was 83. Mariani was involved in numerous business ventures, buying the Nite Light Co. of Clarksville, acquiring other catalog companies and changing the business’ name to NLC Products Inc.
James Trester Dyke, 84, the longtime head of building material supplier Dyke Industries Inc. of Little Rock and philanthropist, died Oct. 11. Dyke led the family-owned business to regular appearances on Arkansas Business’ annual list of the state’s largest private companies. He was also a president and chairman of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts and on the advisory board of the National Gallery of Art.
Allan E. Meadors, a leader in the Arkansas insurance industry and co-founder of the Little Rock insurance agency now known as Meadors Adams & Lee, died Oct. 12 at the age of 89. He was inducted into the inaugural class of the Arkansas Insurance Hall of Fame in 2015. He also served for many years on the board of the Independent Insurance Agents of Arkansas.
Carolyn Pollan of Fort Smith, 84, who served longer in the Arkansas House of Representatives than any other woman or Republican, died Oct. 23. She served in the state Legislature from 1975 to 1999, creating and chairing the Children & Youth Committee, now the House Committee on Aging, Children & Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs. Pollan was the first woman appointed as associate speaker of the state House and worked for three years in the administration of Gov. Mike Huckabee. She became a member of the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame in 2020.
Robert Lee “Bobby” Glover of Carlisle, a former state senator and president and CEO of Glover Insurance Agency, died Oct. 27. He was 85. Glover was a longtime member of the Arkansas Board of Corrections. He served a total of 28 years in both the Arkansas House and Senate.
John Bernard Frazer Jr., 82, a Warren banker and former mayor of Warren, died Nov. 5. Frazer, the second-generation owner and operator of the Frazer’s Funeral Home, was a director of Selected Funeral & Life Insurance Co. and chairman of the Warren Bank & Trust Co.
Lloyd C. McCuiston Jr. of West Memphis, a former state representative, died Nov. 9. He was 103. In 1961, McCuiston was elected to the state House of Representatives, serving for 34 years under seven governors. McCuiston was elected speaker of the House in 1981 and 1982. He was especially proud of having passed legislation establishing Mid-South Community College, now Arkansas State University Mid-South.
Garrick Feldman, publisher of the Jacksonville newspaper The Leader, died Dec. 5. He was 73. His parents survived the Holocaust and the Red Army to bring their family to this country. Feldman founded The Leader in 1987. Under his leadership, the paper aggressively covered north Pulaski County and Lonoke and White counties. It expanded into North Little Rock after the demise of the North Little Rock Times in 2018.