Our Arkansans of the Year 

From Alice Walton to Harry Ward.


Alice Walton (Jan. 18), for building Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the world-class, $2 billion art museum in Bentonville. Alice Walton will no longer be remembered as a Wal-Mart heiress, Doug Smith writes in his profile of Walton. "There are lots of heiresses around. Alice Walton is an art patron and philanthropist of spectacular dimension, a benefactor of her native state in unprecedented fashion."


Republicans (Jan. 19), for making unprecedented gains in 2010 elections and, as Doug Smith writes, "achieving near parity with the historically dominant and less combative Democrats, and readying their home state to become a copy of regressive neighbors like Oklahoma and Texas."


Mike Ross and Blanche Lincoln (Jan. 21), for all they did, and didn't, in the fight over health-care reform. Ross, a leader of the Blue Dog coalition of conservative Democrats, participated in high-profile negotiations with President Obama and congressional leaders, but ended up voting against the House version of health care reform. Lincoln, a member of the Senate Finance Committee worked to find an alternative to the public-option and ultimately voted for the Affordable Care Act, though she later voted against an amended version in the reconciliation process in the Senate.


Bill Halter (Jan. 15), for successfully leading the campaign to establish a state lottery. "He risked what no other major politician dared to do and won," writes Ernest Dumas in his article on Halter. In its first two years, the lottery generated $177 million for scholarship funds, but management has come under constant fire.


The Immigrant (Jan. 24), for growing in number and changing the face of Arkansas. Among the perceptions of Latino immigrants Doug Smith explores in his Arkansan of the Year profile: Business owner Eduardo Martinez sees them as "ambitious, hard-working, law-abiding." Rogers Mayor Steve Womack (now U.S. congressman) sees "people who drive up the crime rate, strain government services as well as the patience of natives." A coalition of businessmen and do-gooders sees "someone who needs protection from ill-informed and ill-intentioned elected officials."


Mike Beebe (Jan. 18), for becoming Arkansas governor. His ascension, despite a childhood of poverty and domestic upheavals, "testifies to his tenacity, brainpower and strength of personality," writes Joan Duffy in her profile. "What happened to me has given me a great respect for and appreciation for education being the great equalizer," Beebe tells Duffy.


Jermain Taylor (Jan. 12), for winning the middleweight championship of the world and successfully defending his title in a rematch. "It's a measure of his broad appeal that Gov. and Mrs. Mike Huckabee are Taylor fans and so is the Arkansas Times," Doug Smith writes in his profile. "I love Arkansas," Taylor tells Smith. "It's the place I was born, it's the place I'm going to raise my kids, it's the place I want to die."


Skip Rutherford and Jo Luck (Jan. 20), for leading non-profits that, in addition to their larger missions, are transforming the core of Little Rock: Rutherford, for his role as chairman of the Clinton Foundation and planning coordinator for the Clinton Library, and Luck for presiding over enormous growth at Heifer International. Rutherford stepped down from leading the Clinton Foundation in 2006 to become dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. Luck resigned from Heifer in 2010, saying she wanted to focus on writing a book about her experience leading the non-profit.


Mr. and Mrs. Rural Arkansas (Jan. 23), for successfully fighting school consolidation. "To save their tiny local schools, these men and women out-organized and outfought the governor, big corporations, the press, and what should have been a majority of the state legislature," Doug Smith writes. Despite this success, school consolidation continued in the years that followed. In 2004, there were more than 300 school districts in the state. Today, there are fewer than 250.


Mark Pryor (Jan. 24), for bucking a national Republican tide in 2002 to win a U.S. Senate seat despite the largest surge of money into a single campaign since the fourth and losing Winthrop Rockefeller campaign for governor in 1970.


Warren Stephens (Jan. 25), for being the dominant man in business in Arkansas. Also, Ernest Dumas notes in his profile, Stephens "has led fund drives for higher education, given millions with his wife and father for the expansion of the Arkansas Arts Center along with other philanthropies including a stunning private high school; skirmished with the company's critics on medical investments while steering the company deeper into biomedicine and genome research."


Townsend Wolfe (Jan. 26), for turning "duck-hunting businessmen into collectors of fine art, tight-fisted millionaires into philanthropists and the Arkansas Arts Center into a destination," Leslie Newell Peacock writes. Wolfe, director and chief curator for 33 years, put an indelible stamp on the Arts Center, expanding its collection of works on paper, broadening its outreach and presiding over the Arts Center's biggest capital campaign, which added 32,000 square feet to the museum. (He retired shortly afterward, and the Arts Center is still struggling to find firm ground.)


Mike Huckabee (Jan. 28), for being "as much the big dog of Arkansas politics as Clinton ever was" and for "some real, if exaggerated, accomplishments — health insurance for poor children, especially; a modest highway program — and, frankly, for not being as bad as we feared," Doug Smith writes. By the time his term as governor ended in 2007, he was the third longest-serving Arkansas governor, and some of our fears were justified.


Houston Nutt (Jan. 29), for guiding the Razorbacks to a 9-3 record in 1998. Nutt was hailed by no less than Orville Henry, the pen of the Razorbacks, as the answer to fans' prayers. In his Arkansan of the Year profile, Hoyt Purvis points out that it was Nutt's 14th wedding anniversary the day Nutt was introduced as the Razorback football coach. Nine years later, Nutt resigned after two semi-scandals related to cyber messages: His 1,000 texts to a female television news anchor and another friend's derogatory e-mail to quarterback Mitch Mustain.


Dr. Harry P. Ward (Jan. 30), for developing UAMS into one of the most powerful institutions in Arkansas. Under Ward's leadership as chancellor, UAMS saw $200 million in new construction over the previous decade. "The campus makeover," Bob Lancaster writes in his profile, "has transformed UAMS from a provincial little doctor factory — with a rather shabby hospital for indigent patients — into a first-rate metropolitan medical center." Since 1980, the year after Ward began his position, the UAMS annual budget grew from $60 million in 1980 to nearly half a billion in 1997.



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