ACCIDENT SITE: About a mile east of Highway 33 on U.S. 64.

  • ACCIDENT SITE: About a mile east of Highway 33 on U.S. 64.

STANLEY REED: Talking Thursday with reporters.

  • STANLEY REED: Talking Thursday with reporters.

Stanley Reed, the Marianna farmer and lawyer who’d been a top contender yesterday for the job of University of Arkansas System president, died this morning in a one-vehicle accident about 9:45 a.m. on U.S. Highway 64 east of Augusta, about a mile east of Highway 33 in Woodruff County.

Another driver who saw the accident told Woodruff County authorities Reed’s SUV, eastbound on a straight stretch of U.S. 64, veered off the road and hit a tree. He was dead when a trooper arrived at the scene, the State Police said. The vehicle reportedly drove straight off the road, without a sign of attempted correction as it left the highway. That led to speculation that Reed might have had a heart attack or other health problem that contributed to the accident. He reportedly was on an errand for his farm business.

Reed, 59, briefly was a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2010, but dropped out of the race. He recounted to reporters yesterday in Little Rock, following his interview with the UA Board, how he’d had sleepless nights and elevated blood pressure during that period.

The UA Board, of which Reed had once been a member, Thursday chose Dr. Donald Bobbitt as system president to succeed retiring Alan Sugg. Sources close to the board said that the board was evenly split in the final analysis between Reed and Bobbitt, before a consensus developed in the executive session for Bobbitt. Reed, a UA undergraduate and law school graduate, was a former president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau. He would have turned 60 Aug. 1. He said in a statement distributed yesterday that his experience in law, education, agriculture, general business and public services was the “right mix” to lead the system.

A friend who spoke with Reed by cell phone about an hour before his death said he was in good spirits and “at peace” about the UA board’s decision. He invited his friend out to join him in some field work he had planned.

Statements from the UA and others follow on the jump, as well as a preliminary State Police summary that is in line with information first reported here based on Woodruff County authorities. Wordsmith Rex Nelson pays Reed a fond tribute here.