Charlie Daniels (1939–2023)
Longtime state official Charlie Daniels began public service as a member of his local school board. A career that spanned over three decades included lengthy tenures in a number of statewide offices: commissioner of state lands, secretary of state, and state auditor.
Charlie Daniels was born on December 7, 1939, in Parkers Chapel (Union County) to Louie Green Daniels and Ruby Marie Hill Daniels. He grew up in nearby El Dorado (Union County). He joined the U.S. Air Force after graduating from high school, and his four years of active duty were followed by fifteen years in the Air Force Reserves. Upon completing his active duty, Daniels attended Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia (Columbia County) and then the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He then worked for thirteen years as an electrician with Arkansas Power and Light Company.
In 1972, Daniels was elected to the Parkers Chapel Board of Education. In 1974, Daniels was appointed director of the Arkansas Department of Labor by Governor David Pryor, and he continued serving in that role under Pryor’s successor, Governor Bill Clinton. In 1980, after a tenure that featured the creation of the Office on Women in Work as well as national recognition for innovations in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) programs, Daniels became director of governmental affairs for the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation. In 1984, he was elected commissioner of state lands. Daniels held that office from 1985 until 2003, winning election five times. In 2002, unable to seek reelection due to the term limits that had been adopted by the state’s voters in 1992, Daniels sought election to the position of secretary of state. After running unopposed in the Democratic primary, he defeated Arkansas first lady Janet Huckabee in the general election; despite Huckabee making a campaign issue of Daniels having once been arrested for driving while intoxicated in a state vehicle, Daniels earned sixty-two percent of the vote while winning the most votes of any statewide candidate that year. Daniels was reelected four years later, again winning more than sixty percent of the vote. With term limits again causing him to seek a different position, Daniels was elected state auditor in 2010. With the Republicans failing to offer a challenger, Daniels won every county while taking over seventy percent of the vote against his only opponent, a Green Party candidate.
Daniels served as member of the State Board of Finance and was the administrator of Arkansas’s Unclaimed Property Act. He also chaired the State Board of Election Commissioners, the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission, and the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. Daniels had leadership roles in the Western States Land Commissioners Association and the National Association of Secretaries of State, among other organizations.
In reflecting on his years in state office, Daniels marveled at how advances in technology allowed the government to better serve the people. While he was secretary of state, his office established Voter View, an online resource that allows people to see ballots and obtain information about their polling places. The office also created new online business and commercial application services. In his term as state auditor, Daniels oversaw the launch of an e-filing system for unclaimed property. He also took pride in the fact that the land commissioner’s office saw an increase in annual revenue from $300,000 to $12 million, while also noting that it had inaugurated a program to preserve the historical land records that were maintained by the office. In addition, he oversaw major renovations and restoration of the Arkansas State Capitol.
Daniels was married for forty-six years to Patricia Burleson Daniels, who died in 2005. The couple had a son and a daughter. Daniels resided in Bryant (Saline County).
Daniels died on July 9, 2023.
For additional information:
“Arkansas Auditor Charlie Daniels Won’t Seek Re-Election.” Times Record, May 6, 2013.
“Charlie Daniels.” Ballotpedia. https://ballotpedia.org/Charlie_Daniels (accessed July 10, 2023).
Langhorne, Will. “Charlie Daniels, Longtime State Official, Dies.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 10, 2023, pp. 1B, 3B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2023/jul/10/charlie-daniels-longtime-state-official-dies/ (accessed July 10, 2023).
Obituary of Charles L. (Charlie) Daniels. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 11, 2023, p. 2B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/obituaries/2023/jul/11/charles-daniels-2023-07-11-8821/ (accessed July 11, 2023).
Wickline, Michael R. “Colleagues Pay Tribute to Daniels.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 15, 2023, pp. 1B, 3B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2023/jul/15/colleagues-recall-daniels-love-of-state-capitol/ (accessed July 17, 2023).
William H. Pruden III
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