Even when engaged in spirited disagreement, as all legislators must from time to time, it was hard for Jerry Bookout to be unpleasant. The most amiable of men, he valued the good will of his colleagues more than the scoring of transient debating points. Few people involved in the Arkansas legislative process ever stayed on as good terms with as many people for as long a period of time as Bookout. Even reporters were friends.

He was a good and serious legislator too. In his early years, some thought him flighty, a new boy who seemed to enjoy the legislative milieu as much as the business of government, and who showed gumption in the advancement of only one cause, that of his alma mater, Arkansas State College at Jonesboro (soon to become, with Bookout’s help, Arkansas State University). But he grew into the legislator’s job. As time went by, his interests broadened — not just ASU now, but higher education, and not just higher ed, but public ed, and correctional institutions and all those huge issues the legislature confronts. He stayed after them for nearly 30 years, a “parttime legislator” who spent far more time on the state’s business than on his own. The state was better for it.

Bookout died last month, and surely some said that we won’t see his like again, which is painfully true. But we did get to see him at his peak. Had Arkansas had its three-terms- and-you’re-out law when Bookout was first elected to the legislature, we would not remember him so reverently as we do. To become a legendary public servant requires a deepening of character and a broadening of experience that does not happen quickly. It is also painfully true that we won’t see the likes of Jodie Mahony and Jay Bradford in the legislature again. Happily, they’re still with us in the flesh, but they are two more legislative giants who’ll be missing from the chambers next year, removed not by voters but a malicious term-limits law.

The term-limits law was devised and sold to credulous voters by elitists who don’t believe in democracy, who don’t think the people should choose their own leaders or are capable of doing so wisely. (To chooe unwisely, they believe, is to choose leaders unacceptable to the monied interests accustomed to running affairs in this low-income state.) Bookout, Bradford, Mahony — all were among those legislators too proud, too honest, too loyal to their state to be controlled by the special interests. With seniority, they achieved the influence to exert their independence. Now, we no sooner learn that a legislator has a talent for public service, than we must replace him or her, usually with someone worse. It’s a sorry system, and it ought to be changed.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Arkansas Times Staff

  • New episode of Rock the Culture: "People's Police"

    In this week’s episode, Antwan and Charles provide perspective and conversation on the ongoing contract negotiations between Little Rock Education Association and Little Rock School District regarding Fair Teacher Dismissal Act, the Little Rock Mayoral Runoff Election, and lack of coverage of white nationalist’s rally. In addition, they interview Sgt. Willie Davis of the Little Rock Police Department regarding importance of community policing and his involvement in the O.K. Program, a mentoring program for teenage black males.
    • Nov 13, 2018
  • New episode of Rock the Culture: "Vote for a Change"

    In this week’s episode, Antwan and Charles provide perspective and conversation on the 2018 local elections in Little Rock and Central Arkansas.
    • Nov 8, 2018
  • New episode of Out in Arkansas: "The Rainbow Wave"

    Out in Arkansas’s hosts Traci Berry and Angie Bowen talk about all the things because all the things are LGBTQ things. This week they talk about the outcome of the mid-term elections and finding positives in even the smallest steps of progress, as well as what comes next. It doesn’t stop with our votes! Thank you for listening! #outinarkansas #beinggayinthesouth #dontbeadouche #beadecentperson
    • Nov 8, 2018
  • More »

Latest in Editorials

  • The end of an era

    We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
    • May 8, 2014
  • A stand for equality

    Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
    • May 8, 2014
  • Same old, same old

    Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.
    • May 1, 2014
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • On to 2020

    I'll add my two cents to the chorus of advice for Democrats in 2020: Do not limit your imagination by falling back on candidates who have previously appeared on the ballot.

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation