Eugene “Bud” Canada (1925–2009)
Eugene “Bud” Canada was a longtime member of the Arkansas General Assembly, serving in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Over the course of his distinctive career, he became known as a passionate opponent of the state’s tax on groceries, believing that the tax placed an unfair burden on Arkansas families.
Eugene Canada was born on June 6, 1925, in Hartshorne, Oklahoma, to Laura Inez Canada and William Canada. “Bud,” as he was known, grew up in Hot Springs (Garland County). He sold newspapers while in high school, where he was an accomplished athlete, starring for the Hot Springs High School football team and winning the Arkansas Gold Gloves. His athletic success earned him many college scholarship offers, and after his 1945 graduation from Hot Springs High School, he accepted an offer to play football at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). At UA, Canada was a four-year starter in football and played on the 1946 Southwest Conference championship team that played Louisiana State University to a scoreless tie in the 1947 Cotton Bowl. He was also a four-year letterman in track, capping his career as a member of the school’s 440-yard relay team, which set a record that lasted twenty-five years. Canada was inducted into the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor in 2003 and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
Following his graduation from UA, Canada served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper in the Korean War. Entering the service as a private, he left as a lieutenant and also received a Bronze Star for his efforts. After the war, he had a successful insurance business, ultimately becoming president of the company.
In 1958, Canada became a Democratic candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives, where he served from 1959 to 1962. He then returned home and was elected Garland County sheriff. He served in that role from 1967 to 1972. He won election to the Arkansas Senate in 1972, where he served until 2000 when the advent of Arkansas’s term limits forced his retirement.
During his time in the legislature, he was a consistent advocate for reducing the tax burden on the citizens of Arkansas. He sponsored bills that would provide for higher credits on homestead property taxes, remove the sales tax on electric bills, and lower taxes for retirees. He also sought to exempt the sale of used vehicles from the sales tax and to forgive student loans for teachers. The first bill he ever proposed provided that people over sixty-five should be allowed to fish without a license. Canada was also an advocate of strengthening the enforcement of boating safety laws, sponsoring a law that made it illegal to operate a boat while drunk or high on drugs. He also proposed legislation mandating that school boards hold their meetings after 5:00 p.m. so that working parents could attend. In 1993, he sponsored the act that defined stalking.
Throughout his lengthy career, the issue with which he was most closely identified was eliminating the sales tax on groceries. He pursued the elimination of this tax to no avail despite his longtime chairmanship of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee. However, when the grocery tax was reduced from six cents to three cents under Governor Mike Beebe in 2007, Canada was invited to witness the signing of the bill. The former Razorback football star said that seeing the change enacted was like winning the Cotton Bowl. His longtime campaign was further rewarded a short time later with another one-cent reduction.
Canada’s marriage to Sandy Rephan ended in divorce; they had three daughters. Canada and his second wife, Patty Canada, married in 2001.
Canada died suddenly on December 21, 2009, in Hot Springs. He is buried in Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Hot Springs.
For additional information:
“Eugene ‘Bud’ Canada.” ArkansasGravestones.org. https://arkansasgravestones.org/view.php?id=501947 (accessed September 25, 2020).
“Former Sen. Bud Canada Dies.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 21, 2009. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2009/dec/21/former-sen-bud-canada-dies/ (accessed September 25, 2020).
William H. Pruden III
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