George Thomas Frazier Sr. (1918–2013)

George Frazier was a well-known business, civic, and political leader in Hope (Hempstead County) for six and a half decades. He served as a close friend and advisor to prominent Arkansas Democrats, most notably two Hope natives: Bill Clinton and Mack McLarty. Frazier was also a key figure in the effort to preserve Clinton’s boyhood home in Hope as a National Historic Site.

George Thomas Frazier was born on October 29, 1918, in Anderson, Kentucky, to Leonard Leigh, a machinist, and Faye Thomas, a secretary. Leigh left his family when George was two, and his mother married John Joseph Frazier, a construction worker from St. Louis, Missouri, in 1923. John Frazier adopted George, and the family lived in St. Louis throughout Frazier’s childhood. After graduating from Washington University High School in St. Louis, Frazier enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and served varying tours of duty during World War II, including in southeast Asia, North Africa, and Italy. He once recalled his service as a tail-gunner on a B-25 Mitchell bomber, stating that it was where he learned to pray due to the harrowing nature of that kind of combat. He was discharged with the rank of master sergeant in late 1945. Due to the urging of his close army buddy, Saner Davis, Frazier moved to Hope and took a job at Young Chevrolet Company as assistant parts manager.

Frazier had worked in radio while living in St. Louis, and this experience led him to apply in 1948 at the new KXAR-AM 1490 radio station established by Alex Washburn, the owner and publisher of the Hope Star. Frazier served as a disc jockey and as the station’s program director until 1949. One of the station’s promotional events when Frazier was on staff was regularly held at the Hope Municipal Auditorium at City Hall, which, sponsored by KXAR, hosted performances by Elvis Presley, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, and Jimmie Rodgers Snow. Frazier emceed Presley’s show in 1949 and pronounced himself unimpressed, although he later changed his mind about him.

Frazier met Effie Hyatt when on a sales call to a local bank early in 1948; they were married on December 30 of that same year. The couple had three children: George Thomas Jr. (Tommy), Robert (Bo), and Carol. The family moved to Austin, Texas, in 1949 when Frazier enrolled at the University of Texas, earning a degree in marketing and advertising in 1954. He worked in a Houston, Texas, advertising agency for a year before returning to Hope in 1955 and entering the insurance business, going to work for longtime Hope insurance agent Roy Anderson. He became Anderson’s partner in the mid-1960s and sole owner of the agency by 1970. Frazier sold the agency, Anderson-Frazier Insurance, in the early 1980s to Steve Buelow, who had come to work at the agency years before, and became an insurance advisor to business firms before reestablishing his own independent agency. A recognized leader in the insurance industry at the local, state, and national levels, he was a longtime active member of the Independent Insurance Agents of Arkansas and, in 1961, served as the group’s president.

Nationally, Frazier served on the executive committee of the Independent Insurance Agents of America (IIAA) from 1973 to 1979, which then had over 300,000 members. Frazier served as the association’s president from 1977 to 1978. Frazier was the only Arkansan ever to have served as the president the IIAA. At his installation in 1977, he introduced the group to Arkansas attorney general Bill Clinton, saying that he believed Clinton would become the youngest governor ever to be elected as well as later become president of the United States. Frazier was the winner of the Allan Kennedy Memorial Award in 1967, given by the Independent Insurance Agents of Arkansas for outstanding insurance agent of the year. He was given the Woodworth Memorial Award in 1980 by the IIAA, the group’s highest individual honor for outstanding service. In 2015, Frazier was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Insurance Hall of Fame.

Frazier’s wide array of civic activities earned him the name “Mr. Hope.” He was an active member of the First United Methodist Church of Hope, where he served as chairman of the administrative board and as a Sunday school teacher for a half century. Frazier served as president of the Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Girl Scouts of America—Conifer Council. He served on the board of directors of the Hope Water and Light Commission and of Citizens National Bank of Hope, on the foundation board of the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope (which later became the University of Arkansas at Hope-Texarkana), on the board of directors of Medical Park Hospital, and on the CARTI Foundation board. He was also a sixty-five-year member of the Hope Kiwanis Club with several terms as president. Frazier was instrumental in establishing the Virginia Clinton Kelly Nursing Scholarship at University of Arkansas Community College at Hope to honor Clinton’s mother, who was a nurse anesthetist. Frazier was named Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in 1969, and in 1994, he was named Arkansas Industrial Development Volunteer of the Year.

Frazier had a long record of political involvement. He was one of the prominent business leaders who led the successful effort in 1957 to change Hope’s form of government to the city manager form, and he served on the City Board of Directors from 1958 to 1967 and as mayor from 1959 to 1961. He served a term on the Hope School Board as a strong advocate for civil rights in Hempstead County in the 1950s and 1960s, including school consolidation and integration in 1969. Frazier was also instrumental in winning support for Amendment 55 in 1974, re-forming county government. He served on the new Hempstead County Quorum Court from 1977 to 1983, serving as the finance chairman. A lifelong active Democrat, Frazier served for over fifty years on the Hempstead County Democratic Central Committee, which included several terms as chairman, was active in the campaigns of Hope natives Bill Clinton and Mack McLarty, and served a term as chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas from 1993 to 1995. Frazier was one of the original board members of the Clinton Birthplace Foundation.

Frazier died in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on October 20, 2013, ten days after his wife’s death, and is buried in Hope’s Rose Hill Cemetery.

For additional information:
“George Frazier, Instrumental in Clinton Home, Dies.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 22, 2013.

McLemore, Ken. “Frazier Induction Set Today at UCA.” Hope Star, October 15, 2015, pp. 1, 3.

Obituary: George Frazier (October 29, 1918–October 20, 2013), Brazzel-Oakcrest Funeral Home. https://www.brazzelfuneralhomes.com/obituary/5495283 (accessed November 5, 2019).

Revis Edmonds
Arkansas State University

Last Updated: 11/05/2019