Benton Douglas Brandon Jr. (1932–1992)
Benton Douglas Brandon Jr. was a legislator, businessman, and civic leader who brought a business presence into a state legislature dominated by attorneys, helping to open the state to outside commerce and financial growth. Brandon felt that unless Arkansas had adequate education, proper roads, and a strong civic presence, the state could not grow to its potential. He saw the Arkansas legislature as the vehicle for this growth.
Doug Brandon was born on August 23, 1932, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Anne Maloney and Benton Brandon Sr., a local businessman and early aviator. Brandon graduated from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) with a business degree. He later joined the U.S. Army, graduating from Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and reaching the rank of major in the Army Reserves. In 1956, Brandon joined his father in a local furniture business. He took over the Brandon House business in 1974, and it grew under his tenure into one of the top 100 private furniture companies in the United States, carrying lines from around the world. Through a program of purchasing existing local stores and early usage of the computer, Brandon House expanded to thirteen facilities throughout the state. Brandon was named regional Retailer of the Year in 1982 and became the first Arkansan elected to the National Home Furnishings Association’s executive board and the Dallas Market Center Advisory board.
Brandon married Elizabeth (Sissi) Riggs of Hot Springs (Garland County) on July 2, 1957. They had four children.
Brandon was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1962; he served until 1974 and again from 1977 to 1978. He was the Democratic nominee for Congress in 1978 but lost to a Republican. He returned to the House for the 1981–1982 term and was elected to the Arkansas Senate in 1983, serving until 1990. During his tenure, he chaired the Arkansas General Assembly’s three most powerful committees: Joint Budget, Revenue and Taxation, and the Legislative Council. His unique grasp of budget matters in both government and business served him well in public service. Brandon was principal author of Act 35 of 1969, merging Little Rock University with UA to form the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He authored the first Code of Ethics for Public Officials, endeavored to change Arkansas’s outdated usury law, authored Arkansas’s first Adult Protective Services Law, and created the Arkansas Waterways Commission, which led to the National River Academy, the nation’s only school for river pilots.
Brandon also served on the Arkansas Children’s Hospital board for ten years, three as president; the conference center there bears his name. He was a liaison between the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and the legislature. The Vatican honored him with a papal appointment to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem for his involvement in the Roman Catholic Church.
Brandon died of cancer on July 13, 1992, and is buried in the National Military Cemetery in Little Rock.
For additional information:
Dougan, Tracie, and Carl Kozlowski. “Cancer Claims Doug Brandon, Ex-lawmaker, Businessman, 59.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 14, 1992, pp. 1B, 8B.
Obituary of Benton Douglas Brandon Jr. Arkansas Gazette, July 14, 1992, p. 4B.
Taylor, Tim. “A Career of Caring.” Arkansas Business, July 20, 1992, p. 32.
Elizabeth Riggs Brandon
Little Rock, Arkansas
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