LITTLE ROCK — Storied football coach Frank Broyles, international entertainer Glen Campbell and disgraced evangelist Tony Alamo were among the noted and notorious Arkansans who died in 2017. Two stars of the small screen died, too, five decades after entertaining Arkansas children with their local television shows.
Broyles died Aug. 14 at age 92, from Alzheimer’s complications. He guided the University of Arkansas to a 1964 national championship awarded after the bowl season and later served as the Razorbacks’ athletic director.
As head football coach for nearly two decades, he won almost 71 percent of his games and earned a spot in the National Football Foundation’s College Hall of Fame. As AD, he led the school into the Southeastern Conference and directed fundraising efforts that led to the construction of Bud Walton Arena, and in his post-coaching years he was a popular analyst on ABC college football broadcasts.
Broyles graduated from Georgia Tech but turned down offers to play football and baseball and instead took an assistant football coaching job at Baylor. After a year at Missouri, Broyles became Arkansas coach in 1958.
Campbell, from near Delight, died Aug. 8, six years after announcing he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 81. Songs “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Wichita Lineman” were among hits from a 60-year career that included his winning five Grammys.
He hosted his own CBS variety show after having appeared on other programs, including The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and had a role in True Grit, earning a Golden Globe nomination for best newcomer and an Academy Award nomination for his performance of the movie’s title song.
“I’m not a country singer per se,” Campbell once said. “I’m a country boy who sings.”
Patti Upton, who founded the Aromatique home fragrance company, died May 23 at age 79. She started her company in 1982 after mixing together leaves, acorns, pine cones, berries, spices and oils to help a friend’s shop “smell like Christmas.” The Heber Springs-based company sold products through thousands of stores, including the Dillards department store chain.
Alamo was 82 when he died in prison May 2. The former street preacher ran a multimillion dollar network of businesses — including designing elaborately decorated jackets for celebrities such as Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson — before he was convicted in 2009 of sexually abusing young girls he considered his wives.
“Consent is puberty,” Alamo told The Associated Press in September 2008, the weekend that state and federal agents raided his compound near Fouke.
Gary Weir, 75, and Betty Fowler, 91, entertained Arkansas children on television— Weir in a 25-year run as Bozo the Clown and Fowler on “Betty’s Little Rascals” in the 1950s.
Weir, as the big-shoed Bozo, used to perplex children by asking: “Do you walk to school or carry your lunch?”
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that the waiting list to appear on Weir’s show was two years long. He later hosted a show featuring racing replays from the Oaklawn Park race track. He died Oct. 4.
Fowler, who died April 15, was the musical director for the Miss Arkansas Pageant for more than two decades and for The Farkleberry Follies, a stage show of political satire produced by the Society of Professional Journalists from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Third-generation Oaklawn Park President Charles Cella died Dec. 6 at age 81. He introduced full-card interstate simulcasting and wagering at the track and offered the Racing Festival of the South, which features lucrative stakes races including the Arkansas Derby, a Kentucky Derby prep race.
He offered a $5 million purse for the track’s Apple Blossom Invitational in 2010 if both superstar female horses Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta showed up. Only Zenyatta did, and she won — though the purse had reverted back to $500,000.
Longtime federal judge G. Thomas Eisele, who was appointed to the bench by President Richard Nixon in 1970, died Nov. 6 at age 94. Several of the 50 clerks he had over the years became judges themselves. He twice ruled against mandatory sentencing guidelines, a position the U.S. Supreme Court adopted in 2005 by making the guidelines advisory.
Rockabilly pioneer Sonny Burgess died Aug. 18 after suffering a fall amid complications from diabetes. He was 88, though those who saw him said he was a young man while on the stage. He combined rhythm and blues, gospel and country in the 1950s and enjoyed new popularity over the past 30 years. He and his band, the Pacers, were noted travelers along U.S. 67, dubbed by the state as Arkansas’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Highway.