Oley Eldon Rooker (1931–2009)

Oley Eldon Rooker was a Little Rock (Pulaski County) businessman whose neighborhood engagement and support of library funding led to a branch of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) that opened in 2010 being named in his honor.

Oley Eldon Rooker was born on November 2, 1931, in Des Arc (Prairie County) to Darrell Rooker and Tura Louise Guess Rooker. Young Oley and his mother moved to Little Rock at some point—the 1940 census shows him as a resident of the Working Women’s Home in the capital city. His mother married D. Wylie Hall, who would later stand as Rooker’s best man at his wedding. He was an active student, and newspaper accounts of the period show him involved in school plays and sporting activities during his elementary and high school years. He graduated from Little Rock Senior High School in 1950 and then enrolled in Little Rock Junior College (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock), earning his degree in business administration in 1953.

Rooker married Meredith Lynn Ward on June 6, 1954; they had three children. He served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955 and lived in Little Rock for the rest of his life, working for forty years as a manufacturer’s representative. He was active in civic organizations in southwestern Little Rock for many years and served as president of the Crystal Valley Property Owners Association. A vocal proponent of the tax increase that made a new library for the Otter Creek area possible, he lived to see the groundbreaking of the facility before his death on May 23, 2009. His obituary stated that he “lived a full and vibrant life to the extent he completed his ‘bucket list.’” He is buried at Forest Hills Memorial Park in Alexander (Pulaski and Saline counties).

A committee of the CALS Board of Trustees held a public meeting at its Dee Brown branch library on June 22, 2009, to solicit possible names for the new facility, and Oley E. Rooker’s was the only name submitted. The CALS Board unanimously approved naming the library for Rooker at its June 25, 2009, meeting. The building, designed by Allison Architects and built by James H. Cone, Inc., opened in December 2010. The 13,500-square-foot building is a LEED-certified “green building” and features a plaza with a sculpture by artists Maritza and Terry Bean of three playful otters, an acknowledgment of the library’s address of 11 Otter Creek Court.

For additional information:
Central Arkansas Library System Board of Trustees minutes, June 25, 2009, and December 9, 2010. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Obituary of Oley Eldon Rooker. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 24, 2009, p. 8B.

Schuette, Shirley, and Nathania Sawyer. From Carnegie to Cyberspace: 100 Years at the Central Arkansas Library System. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2010.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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