Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller’s office announced his death this morning at UAMS. The news release:
Lt. Governor Win Rockefeller, 57, died peacefully at 10:37 a.m. today at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. He was surrounded by his family.
Funeral services will be announced by this office in a later press release.
Rockefeller had undergone two bone marrow transplants in Seattle through the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and UW Medicine – the first on October 7, 2005, the second on March 29 – after he was diagnosed with a blood condition described at the time as an unclassified myeloproliferative disorder. Neither achieved the desired results. He arrived in Little Rock early in the morning of July 8 and was admitted to UAMS.
He is survived by his wife, Lisenne, his mother, Barbara, three daughters, five sons, a granddaughter, a step-brother and a step-sister. He is the son of the late Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller.
Rockefeller lived in Little Rock and at Winrock Farms on Petit Jean Mountain, where a plaque outside his home quotes Micah 6:8: “And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” That verse summarized Rockefeller’s views on his life and his responsibilities as a member of one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful families.
Rockefeller was elected lieutenant governor during a special election in November 1996 and by wide majorities was elected to a four-year term in 1998 and re-elected in 2002. As lieutenant governor he focused on economic development, education and literacy. As acting governor on September 11, 2001, the day terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he resisted calls to declare a state of emergency and instead urged Arkansans to remain calm and to donate blood, which they did. He sponsored Project ChildSafe, a national firearms safety program that has distributed hundreds of thousands of free trigger locks in Arkansas, and he served as honorary chairman of the Arkansas Literary Festival. In 2004, he served as chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas.
He was running for governor of Arkansas when doctors discovered his medical condition and he was forced to announce he was withdrawing from the race July 19, 2005. In the year since that announcement, he drew strength from the thousands of well-wishers who sent him cards, letters and e-mails and phoned his offices to tell him they were thinking of him and praying for him.
Rockefeller was involved in numerous philanthropic and charitable ventures, but his favorite organization was the Boy Scouts of America, with which he had a three decades relationship. When once asked by Lisenne whether he would rather quit politics or Scouting, he replied that politics is less important because it is temporal, while his work with Scouting had eternal benefits. As in all of his endeavors, he contributed not only his financial resources but also his time and talents. He served on the executive board of the national council, and he was president of the Quapaw Area Council in 1997 and was a vice president in the years following. In 1997, he created Books in the Attic, in which Boy Scouts collect used books to distribute to families. Most importantly, he served for many years as an assistant scoutmaster for Troop 12 and attended Scout camp regularly. Although he did not have the opportunity to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout as a boy, he was very proud that one of his sons is an Eagle Scout and that three others are working toward that rank. Two Boy Scout councils, including the Quapaw Area Council, awarded him the prestigious Silver Beaver Award for his sustained and exemplary volunteer service in Scouting. He also was awarded the District Award of Merit. Camp Rockefeller, the summer camp at the Quapaw Council’s Gus Blass Scout Reservation, was dedicated in his honor in July 2005.
The parents of two children with special needs, the Rockefellers in 2000 founded what is now the Academy at Riverdale, a school for children with learning differences. The school has tripled its enrollment since it moved into a state-of-the-art facility in Little Rock in 2004.
Rockefeller was involved in numerous other service organizations. He served from 1981 until 1995 on the Arkansas State Police Commission. He was appointed in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush to serve on the President’s Council on Rural America and was elected chairman. An accomplished saltwater fisherman, in 1986 he founded The Billfish Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting marlin, swordfish and other billfish. Through the foundation, he established the practice of tag and release as the conservation standard for offshore fishing. He served as a Texas Christian University trustee and was on the national boards of Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy. He served on the boards of the Arkansas Cancer Research Center and the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation. He was a trustee of the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust and was vice chairman of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.
He received numerous awards in recognition of his service, including the Arkansas Coalition for Juvenile Justice’s Lifetime Advocate for Arkansas Youth Award, the Arkansas Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2003 President’s Award, the U.S. Baltic Foundation’s Baltic-American Public Service Achievement Award, the Arkansas Aids Foundation’s Compassion Award, the Botanical Research Institute of Texas’ 2005 International Award of Excellence in Conservation, the American Red Cross of Greater Arkansas’ first annual Clara Barton Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service, and the National Conference for Community and Justice’s 2001 National Humanitarian Award.
Born September 17, 1948, Rockefeller was the great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, who founded Standard Oil, and the grandson of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
Rockefeller’s father, Winthrop, moved to Petit Jean Mountain in 1953 and established Winrock Farms, which became one of the world’s premier producers of Santa Gertrudis cattle. Winthrop Rockefeller soon became an active philanthropist and corporate citizen. During his tenure as head of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission from March 1955 until April 1964, more than 600 plants were established and 90,000 jobs were created in Arkansas. After running unsuccessfully for governor in 1964, he was elected in 1966 and re-elected in 1968.
Lt. Governor Rockefeller spent his early childhood on an Indiana farm with his mother and his grandparents. The language spoken in the home was his grandparents’ mother tongue, Lithuanian. He was educated in New York, Switzerland, France and England, and often spent part of his summers on Petit Jean Mountain.
He graduated from the ranch management program at Texas Christian University and became chief executive of Winrock Farms after his father died in 1973. He had interests in timber and minerals and owned four automobile dealerships in Little Rock and Conway. He also had interests in retailing, development and the resort industry.
He was an active member of Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church in Little Rock
Max here, briefly, in Santa Fe, where I happened to find a computer outside a restaurant and caught the breaking news. I knew Win Rockefeller more as a neighbor, public school supporter and a devoted Boy Scout leader than anything else. He walked the walk in these roles. He endeavored to continue the public spirited contributions of his father and it’s a loss to us all that his mission ended prematurely. I’ve been told that one of his last conscious signals to friends was a thumbs-up sign — as doctors moved to aid his breathing. May we all aspire to such dignity and courage.
Statements as I’m able to post them have come from the State Republican Party, State Democratic Party, Mayor Jim Dailey, Asa Hutchinson, State Police, Mike Beebe, and more.