CIRCUIT JUDGE COLLINS KILGORE. His sweeping and definitive ruling about the shortcomings of Arkansas public schools – upheld by the Arkansas Supreme Court – could change the future of an entire state.
BOBBY ROBERTS. The director of the Central Arkansas Library System is a perennial bridesmaid in our contest. If it’s not for the library’s latest bright idea or new branch, it’s for the institution’s new exhibition space, coffee shop and book store in the interesting Cox Building. Or, as in 2002, it’s for Roberts’ important role in political struggles, such as the successful fight to beat a damaging initiative to remove the sales tax from groceries.
WESLEY CLARK. The Little Rock native and former NATO commander is now back in town as a consultant to the Stephens Group. The CNN commentator emerged as a potential presidential candidate with impressive remarks on our foreign military expeditions.
The WALTON FAMILY, for their historic $300 million gift to the University of Arkansas.
DEREK FISHER. The former UALR guard is a bona fide pro star who’s continued to nourish his hometown roots in a friendly and understated fashion.
KEITH JACKSON. The retired pro football star and UA sports commentator scores more points than ever with his foundation to prepare at-risk kids for academic success with after-school programs.
JIMMIE LOU FISHER. If the award were determined by reader votes, the outgoing state treasurer would have won easily. She was nominated for her game, graceful and strong challenge of Gov. Mike Huckabee’s re-election bid. It was a race no one else of any stature was brave enough to undertake.
JO LUCK. She pilots a growing effort – and Little Rock presence – by Heifer International, the worldwide hunger relief organization
BILL CLINTON. The former president continued to draw a crowd whenever he visited Arkansas, but his major impact was the emerging profile of his presidential library. He seems certain to be a source of continuing interest here. Ample evidence can be found daily in the vitriol he continues to inspire in the letters and columns of the daily newspaper.
JIMMY MOSES. The jump-starting of downtown Little Rock is no done deal. A rash of small-business failures is proof enough of that. But much of the millions of new commercial and residential development downtown can be credited, in the beginning, to super salesman/developer Moses’ dogged advocacy through a number of very dark years.
STACY SELLS PITTMAN, a PR woman who leads both the Blue Ribbon Commission on education and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.
MARA LEVERITT. Readers cited the Arkansas Times senior editor for completion of an important book on the West Memphis Three killings, a carefully researched tale of the imperfect justice that sent three youths to jail more on hysteria about Satanism than evidence.
COLLEEN NICK. The Alma mother made something positive out of the unthinkable, the 1995 disappearance of her daughter. She set up a foundation to raise awareness about child abductions and to encourage rapid responses to missing child reports.
LYNDON POOLE. He spearheaded the drive to pass a bill to institute meaningful penalties for animal abuse in Arkansas. That a coalition of powerful special-interest lobbies beat him with immense sums of cash and bigger lies doesn’t diminish the work that he did.
JACKSON T. “STEVE” STEPHENS. If the campaign to remove the tax on groceries had passed, Stephens would have been our award winner. Not because we agreed with the idea, mind you. But he single-handedly underwrote the effort and, had it succeeded, he clearly would have made the greatest impact on Arkansas of anyone in 2002.
MADISON MURPHY. Like Stephens, a man of inherited wealth with a passion for public policy, the El Dorado oil scion contributed to research groups and political efforts that mirrored his conservative thinking. He influenced the governor’s education plan and the general public debate. He also was rewarded by the governor with a seat on the powerful state Highway Commission.
LITTLE ROCK JUNIOR LEAGUE. They do so much and they do it so well, including the renovation of the Woman’s City Club as a new headquarters and center for other community groups.
MATT JONES-TO-DECORI BIRMINGHAM. None dare call a game- and conference-winning TD hookup trivial. We prefer to remember their miracle moment against LSU, rather than what came later, in reviewing the UA football season.
Many others were mentioned. They included:
Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller; Barry Travis, the director of the Little Rock convention and visitors effort; University of Arkansas Chancellor John White; Arkansas native and best-selling author E. Lynn Harris; PR man Skip Rutherford, whose invisible hand is at work in much more than Clinton Library affairs; U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder; trial lawyer Todd Turner, winner of some huge tire and other product liability cases; the lifesaving surgeons at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, stars of a memorable TV special; Bob Robbins, the KSSN DJ who’s active in charitable causes; the volunteers of Arkansas, who spell success for any number of charitable, church and education endeavors; school teachers, underpaid and overworked and now the center of state legislative attention.
Others nominated by readers included state Sen. Jim Argue of Little Rock, a leader in the education reform movement; Rep. Marvin Parks of Greenbrier, the House minority leader; retired Secretary of State Sharon Priest, a competent and scandal-free public oficial; UA professor Gordon D. Morgan; Sandy Sanders of Fort Smith, executive director of the Fort Chaffee Public Trust; Charles Hathaway, retired chancellor of UALR; Dr. Trudie Reed, president of ever-improving Philander Smith College, and Dr. David Lipschitz, the UAMS gerontologist and TV celeb.
Finally, the late Glenda Martin of Jacksonville, a bank employee, was remembered by one of our readers as a “loyal employee, good friend and Board member of the Jacksonville Senior Center.”