Remembering Bob Lamb | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Remembering Bob Lamb

Posted By on Sun, Oct 26, 2014 at 7:40 AM

The overnight mail brings several notes on the death of Bob Lamb, a pivotal figure in Arkansas politics thanks to 25 years as head of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. He was 82.

Lamb headed the chamber from 1965 to 1990 and then spent 18 more years in government relations at Arkansas Western Gas Company in Fayetteville.

You can read his full obituary here. It details his work in economic development and touches on the political ramifications of that work.

Lamb also organized and helped lead 14 statewide legislative issues or constitutional amendments on such matters as usury, freedom to work, ethics, taxation, and utility regulations. 

You can probably guess correctly that Lamb and I often had different viewpoints on such issues as "Right to Work" (for less), raising the amount of interest banks could charge working stiffs and how much profit and how little regulation public utilities should be allowed. But he was soft-spoken, courtly and genial. We got along.

And he'll live forever in my (fading) memory for a singular accomplishment: He was the linchpin of a dramatic, multiple-vote battle in the 1989 legislative session that finally saw passage of a historic settlement of the Pulaski County desegregation case.

It was not a popular idea to obligate the state to payments for its role in segregation in Little Rock. But Lamb not only enlisted in the cause, he was a behind-the-scenes leader of the lobbying effort of the Clinton administration. He scurried around the second floor of the Capitol with his roll call check sheets. He collared recalcitrant legislators. Who knows how many side deals Gov. Bill Clinton, Lamb and others wrangled to push this over the top? (Had everyone had a see-the-future machine for what followed, it wouldn't have happened.) 

Bob and I  had a shared view on that issue and I'll never forget it. Perhaps I read it wrong, but I thought at the time that — whatever broader and complicated political considerations explained his role in that event — his remarks to me in the marble halls indicated that he also simply thought it was the right thing to do. I'll prefer to remember it that way.

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