James Gus Wingfield (1926–2024)

James Gus Wingfield was an Arkansas legislator, state auditor, and state treasurer. He served as state auditor during the administrations of Governors Jim Guy Tucker and Mike Huckabee and served as state treasurer during Huckabee’s last term. 

Gus Wingfield was born on September 17, 1926, in Antoine (Pike County) to grocery store clerk Clyde A. Wingfield and Margaret WingfieldHe began attending public schools in nearby Delight (Pike County), where his family eventually settled. After graduating from Delight High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in the latter part of World War II. After the war, like many other veterans at the time, he had some difficulties finding employment and reenlisted. During the Korean War, he served in the U.S. Air Force. After his honorable discharge, Wingfield briefly attended Southern Technical Institute in Dallas, Texas, before finishing his bachelors degree at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). 

He took a position at the Bank of Delight after completing his studies. By 1968, he was serving on the board of directors and had earned a promotion to executive vice president. He served on the Delight School Board for five years starting in 1973.  

Wingfield ran for the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1978 for the Nineteenth District, which then included Pike and Nevada counties. His attempt to unseat freshman Representative L. J. Bynum narrowly failed, with Wingfield losing the Democratic Party primary by nearly 300 votes. However, Wingfield tried again against Bynum in 1980 and won easily. He would ultimately serve seven terms in the state legislature, representing portions of Pike County. He continued to serve with the Bank of Delight throughout most of his time in the legislature. 

In 1994, Wingfield announced his candidacy for state auditorthe incumbent, Julia H. Jones of Little Rock (Pulaski County)had mounted a bid for secretary of state. Wingfield had gained many allies and considerable respect in his years in the legislature, which helped his bid for statewide office. He defeated former state Representative Bobby Tullis of Mineral Springs (Howard County) in the Democratic primary. The final results were close, with Wingfield winning the nomination with 51.8 percent of the vote, a margin of just over 11,000 votes. In the general election that fall, Wingfield easily defeated Republican candidate Darrell Glascock with 63 percent of the vote. 

He assumed office as the thirty-seventh state auditor in January 1995. In 1998, Wingfield ran for reelection. He was unchallenged in both the Democratic primary and the general election, claiming a second term. 

When Jimmie Lou Fisher of Paragould (Greene County)like Wingfield, a Pike County native—who had served as state treasurer for twenty-two years, announced her run for governor in 2002, Wingfield announced his candidacy for the position of treasurer. He was unopposed in the Democratic primary and faced Republican Randy Bynum in the general election. Wingfield won with 57.5 percent of the vote, a comfortable margin of more than 116,000 votes. Wingfield was succeeded by fellow Democrat Jim Wood of Newport (Jackson County) as auditor in 2003. 

State finances flowed smoothly during his time as treasurer. Late in his term, however, Wingfield faced criticism for employing two of his daughters in the treasurer’s office. A subsequent investigation, however, cleared Wingfield of criminal wrongdoing, although he was fined and reprimanded by the Arkansas Ethics Commission. 

Turning eighty in 2006, Wingfield declined to run for reelection. Martha Shoffner of Newport succeeded him as state treasurer when his term expired in January 2007. 

Upon his retirement, he returned to Delight. Wingfield was the last World War II veteran and the last Korean War veteran to hold statewide office in Arkansas. He died on January 21, 2024 at his home and was buried at Antoine Cemetery. Wingfield was survived by his wife, Alice, and his three children.

For additional information:
Johnson, Ben F. Arkansas in Modern America since 1930. 2nd ed. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2019. 

Obituary of Gus Wingfield. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 24, 2024, pp. 4B, 5B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/obituaries/2024/jan/24/gus-wingfield-2024-01-24/ (accessed January 24, 2024).

Kenneth Bridges
South Arkansas Community College 


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