Johnnie Patricia Jones Roebuck (1942–)
Johnnie Patricia Jones was born on December 7, 1942, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and was raised on a Mississippi Delta cotton farm. Her mother, Marjorie Ethridge, was a bookkeeper, and her father, John Paul Jones, was a farmer. She attended Bobo High School in Clarksdale and graduated in 1960. As a first-generation college graduate, she was honored as an Outstanding Young Woman of America.
Jones moved to Texas and attended Belhaven College and then transferred to Texas Woman’s University, where she received a BS in social work in 1964. Jones worked as a probation officer for the Memphis Juvenile Court from 1964 to 1966 and from 1967 to 1969 was a social worker in a mental health center in Coahoma County, Mississippi. She focused on special education and became a public school teacher in 1969. She married Presbyterian minister Joe Tom Sheeler in 1970, and they had two children prior to divorcing. She moved to Arkadelphia (Clark County) in 1972 and earned an MSE in guidance and counseling in 1974 from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. In 1985, she became the special education director for the Dawson Education Cooperative. She attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where she received an Ed.S. in educational administration in 1988 and an Ed.D. in educational administration in 1990.
In 1988, she married Tommy G. Roebuck, a dentist and Vietnam War veteran who served in the Arkansas legislature from 2001 to 2007. Johnnie Roebuck was a consultant for the Management Development Institute in San Antonio, Texas, from 1990 to 2005 and was president of her own consulting firm Managerial and Leadership Concepts. She became dean of the Henderson State University Graduate School from 1995 to 2002 while also teaching educational leadership there from 1990 to 2007.
Roebuck served on the board of directors and as president of the Arkadelphia Education Association; was an elder and director of Christian education at First Presbyterian Church; was in the Arkansas Business and Education Alliance; served on the Arkadelphia Chamber of Commerce board and as chair of the Retirement and Tourism Subcommittee; was Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts Board of Trustees chair; was a charter board member of Group Living Inc. and Economic Development Corporation of Clark County; and was chair of the Arkansas Professors of Educational Administration Executive Council. She received many honors, including Henderson State University’s Excellence in Service Award, Excellence in Scholarly Activity Award, and Excellence in Teaching Award. She was on the Rotary International Group Study Exchange Team to Argentina and was a graduate of the 1998 Leadership America class. She was founding president of the Southwest Federal Credit Union and co-founder and charter board member of the Henderson State University Alliance for Continuing Excellence in Teacher Education.
In 2006, as a Democrat, Roebuck ran for and won the legislative seat her husband was vacating due to term limits. Two male opponents dropped out of the race, and she was unopposed. She was reelected without opposition in 2008 and 2010. She was the first female House member from her district, and she was a candidate for Speaker of the House.
Representative Roebuck was vice chair of the House Education Committee and served as Majority Leader of the House. She filed legislation on issues related to teachers, education, and schools; litter reduction; commercial driver’s license records; tax exemption for used textbooks; concurrent employment; officer death benefits; state agency subpoenas; motor vehicle impounding; retirement fund efficiency; municipal procedures; infection data; college admission standards; payroll deductions for tax-deferred college savings plan; and jury selection. She co-sponsored the resolution for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. She was appointed by the speaker to represent Arkansas in the National Conference of State Legislators Women’s Legislative Network, and she gave several speeches about women in government and encouraging women to run for office.
Roebuck passed legislation creating the Task Force on Higher Education Remediation, Retention, and Graduation Rates and served as its chair; establishing a system of education within Youth Services; establishing performance ratings for education service cooperatives; and creating the Comprehensive Arkansas Higher Education Annual Report. She passed legislation granting subpoena power to the State Board of Education and professional Licensure Standards Board, modifying the funding formula model for universities, requiring clear exit standards for higher education remedial courses, ensuring missing child information was entered into the missing persons information clearinghouse, and requiring an Arkansas Lottery Commission comprehensive annual financial report.
Representative Roebuck said that she was particularly proud of the passage of her teacher excellence and support system legislation, the creation of the Health Facility Infection Disclosure Act of 2007, and the passage of the Arkansas Professional Licensure Standards Board bill. She received many honors for her service, including Outstanding Legislator awards from the Sierra Club, Arkansas Police Benevolent Association, Arkansas Public Policy Foundation, Arkansas Dental Association, Arkansas Firefighters Association, Arkansas Counseling Association, Arkansas Voices for Children Left Behind, and Arkansas Municipal League.
After legislative service, Roebuck continued community service, working on campaigns and with the Democratic Party of Arkansas. She was also president of her consulting firm Managerial and Leadership Concepts, Inc. In 2014, the Dr. Johnnie Roebuck Educational Leadership Scholarship was established at Henderson State University, and she was named a Distinguished Alumni by Texas Woman’s University in 2012. She was elected Arkansas National Committeewoman to the Democratic National Committee in 2020.
For additional information:
“Dr. Johnnie Patricia Jones Roebuck.” Office of Alumni Engagement, Texas Woman’s University. https://twu.edu/alumni/alumni-and-student-awards/past-honorees/dr-johnnie-patricia-jones-roebuck/ (accessed May 20, 2021).
Johnnie Roebuck Papers, 1992–2013, UALR.MS.0247. University of Arkansas at Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture, Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Professor to Run for Seat in House.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 7, 2006, p. 5B.
Roebuck, Johnnie. Video interview with Lindsley Armstrong Smith, June 20, 2012. “Women in the Arkansas General Assembly,” David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
Lindsley Armstrong Smith and Stephen A. Smith
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Last Updated: 05/20/2021