A former U.S. senator who defended an impeached president during his Senate trial and a former U.S. representative who was a member of House committee that brought articles of impeachment against another president are among the notable Arkansans who died during 2016.
Former governor and Sen. Dale Bumpers died New Year’s Day at age 90 and former U.S. Rep. Ray Thornton died April 13 at age 87.
Bumpers was a little known lawyer from Charleston when he defeated former Gov. Orval Faubus in a runoff for the 1970 Democratic nomination for governor, then defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller in the general election.
After a second term as governor, Bumpers challenged and defeated incumbent Sen. J. William Fulbright in the 1974 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, then won the general election and would serve four terms.
Bumpers’ signature moment on the national stage came in 1999, just weeks after leaving the Senate, when he defended President Bill Clinton, who was on trial in the U.S. Senate after being impeached by the House on charges of lying about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky while testifying before a grand jury in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.
“H.L Mencken said one time, ‘When you hear somebody say, ‘This is not about the money,’ it’s about the money,” Bumpers told the Senate. “And when you hear somebody say, ‘This is not about sex,’ it’s about sex.’”
Clinton was acquitted by the Senate.
“For more than 40 years Hillary and I cherished his friendship. I am grateful that his advice made me a better governor and president,” Clinton said after Bumpers’ death. “I loved him. I loved learning from him and laughing with him. I will miss him very much.”
Thornton, a Democrat, had won a south Arkansas U.S. House seat and was a member of the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 while it looked at the Watergate break-ins and he hand-drafted original articles of impeachment against Nixon, who resigned shortly afterward.
Thornton lost a race for U.S. Senate in 1978, then served terms as president of both Arkansas State University and the University of Arkansas before winning another seat in the U.S. House in 1990, this one from central Arkansas.
In 1996 he won a seat on the state Supreme Court and served for eight years.
Other notable Arkansans who died during the year include former state Supreme Court Chief Justice, Jim Hannah, 71, and former justices Donald Corbin, 78, and Bradley Jesson, 83.
Former Arkansas House Speaker Hayes McClerkin, 84, died in January, Jerry Taylor, who served in both the state House and Senate and as a Pine Bluff mayor and city councilman died in March at age 78, and Lawrence County Judge Dale Freeman, 75, died of injuries suffered in an August automobile accident.
Ron Pierce, 81, the founder of Bass Cat Boats and a former member of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, died in December.
Longtime Little Rock television personality Beth Ward Haynie, 74, a news anchor on KTHV after hosting “Dialing For Dollars” on KARK died in December.
The entertainment industry saw the deaths of Bonnie Brown, 77, a Sparkman native who, with her brother Jim Ed and sister Maxine, performed as the Browns and were inducted in 2015 into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and of blues guitarist Long John Hunter, 84, who spent part of his childhood in Arkansas.
In sports, longtime college and high school football coach Jimmy “Red” Parker, 82, died in January and Mike McCoy, 62, a West Memphis native who played eight NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers died in February.