Fay Boozman (1946–2005)
Fay Boozman was a prominent ophthalmologist and public official in late twentieth-century Arkansas. The brother and business partner of Senator John Boozman, Fay Boozman also served in the state government and was heading the Arkansas Department of Health at the time of his sudden death at the age of fifty-eight.
Fay Winford Boozman III was born on November 10, 1946, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) to Fay Winford Boozman Jr. and Marie Nicholas Boozman. His father was a U.S. Air Force master sergeant, causing the family to move frequently, but Boozman spent much of his youth in Fort Smith. He attended Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, from 1964 to 1966, then Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County) from 1966 to 1967, and ultimately received his degree in 1971 from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock (Pulaski County). He later received a master’s degree in public health from Tulane in 2002.
After receiving his ophthalmology degree, Boozman entered private practice and, with his brother John, co-founded the Boozman Regional Eye Clinic (now the BoozmanHof Regional Eye Clinic) in Rogers (Benton County). While his practice began to flourish, he served in the Air National Guard from 1971 to 1979.
He was elected to a seat in the Arkansas Senate in 1994, and served a single term, from 1995 until 1998. During that term, his responsibilities included serving as vice chair of the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee; the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee; and the Children and Youth Committee.
In 1998, Boozman was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the retirement of incumbent Dale Bumpers. In the hard-fought campaign against former congresswoman Blanche Lincoln, Boozman was heavily criticized when he said that women rarely became pregnant when raped because they are protected by natural defense hormones that surge during the trauma of the assault. Amidst considerable criticism, he apologized but did not change his stance on the issue. Meanwhile, the Lincoln campaign used his stance to reinforce its argument that Boozman was not in touch with average voters. Lincoln won the election by a 55–42 percent margin.
An association with Mike Huckabee dating back to his work on Huckabee’s original 1993 special election campaign for lieutenant governor allowed Boozman to continue his public service career. Soon after his election as governor, Huckabee appointed Boozman director of the Arkansas Department of Health, a post he held from 1999 until his death in 2005. In that office, he was a strong advocate on behalf of the Governor’s Healthy Arkansas initiative. Seeking to reduce the state’s healthcare costs and improve the quality of life of its citizens, the effort focused on fighting obesity at all ages, lowering the state’s high smoking rate, and trying to stem the increase in diabetes. His efforts earned him honors including the National Governors Association award for Distinguished Service to State Government and the Southern Health Association’s Charles Jordan Memorial Award for outstanding service to public health.
Fay Boozman died on March 19, 2005, in an accident on his farm in Rogers. Reports indicated that Boozman, who was working alone in his barn, was crushed when part of the structure gave way. He is buried in Benton County Memorial Park in Rogers. Boozman was survived by his wife, Vickey Boozman, and their three children.
Following his death, the College of Public Health at UAMS was renamed in his honor. The Arkansas Physician Resource Council bestows an annual Fay Boozman Award to doctors whose family practice and community involvement reflect their Christian faith.
For additional information:
“Arkansas Senate.” Key Races. Washington Post, November 4, 1998. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/campaigns/keyraces98/arsen/arsen.htm (accessed February 25, 2021).
“Boozman Is Killed in Farm Accident.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 20, 2005, pp. 1A, 15A.
Fay Boozman Award. http://fayboozman.com/ (accessed February 25, 2021).
“Fay W. Boozman.” Find-a-Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=10662599 (accessed February 25, 2021).
William H. Pruden III
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