Entries - Entry Category: Business and Economics - Starting with W

Walker, William “Sonny”

William “Sonny” Walker was an educator and civil rights activist who went on to serve in positions in local, state, and federal government, becoming the first person of color to serve in the cabinet of a southern governor. Sonny Walker was born on December 13, 1933, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). His parents were the Reverend James David Walker and Mary Coleman Walker; they later divorced, and his father married Nettie Harris. Early influences in his life included the Boy Scouts of America, gospel choir, drama and speech organizations, and community education through social and sports activities at Merrill High School; Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff); and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. …

Walmart Inc.

aka: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Founded in 1962 by Sam Walton, Walmart Inc., the world’s most profitable retail outlet, is also the largest employer in the United States, with more than one million employees (called “associates”) and thousands of stores worldwide. For most of its history, it has been closely identified with its founder, whose homespun image often belied the aggressive, innovative business model he developed. Born near Kingfisher, Oklahoma, on March 29, 1918, Walton grew up during the Depression, working on his family’s farm and at a number of other jobs. After graduating from the University of Missouri at Columbia, he took a job in Des Moines, Iowa, as a management trainee for clothing retailer J. C. Penney, earning seventy-five dollars a month. After …

Walton, Alice Louise

Alice Louise Walton is the heir to the Walton family fortune; in April 2019, she was estimated by Forbes magazine to have a net worth of almost $46 billion, making her one of the richest women in the world. She is also well known as a philanthropist, having established the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville (Benton County). Alice Louise Walton was born on October 7, 1949, in Newport (Jackson County), the youngest of four children and the only daughter of Sam and Helen Walton. Sam Walton opened Walton’s Five and Dime Store in Bentonville and then created Walmart, which changed the retail industry worldwide. Alice Walton grew up in Bentonville, attending public schools there. After graduating from …

Walton, Helen Robson

Helen Robson Walton was a noted philanthropist. Her husband, Walmart Inc. founder Sam Walton, called her one of his best advisors. When ranked as one of the world’s wealthiest women and asked for a description of her work, she defined herself simply as “volunteer to community, state and nation.” Along with making large charitable donations in areas such as the arts, education, and organizations for families and children, she was the first woman to be named chairwoman of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Foundation. Helen Alice Robson was born on December 3, 1919, in Claremore, Oklahoma. She was the daughter of homemaker Hazel Carr Robson and banker/rancher Leland Stanford (L. S.) Robson. She had three brothers and a sister. The family …

Walton, Samuel Moore

aka: Sam Walton
Samuel Moore Walton was founder and chairman of Walmart Inc., the world’s largest retailer. At one time, he was the richest man in the United States. Sam Walton was born on March 29, 1918, in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, the first of two children to Thomas Gibson Walton, a banker, farmer, farm loan appraiser, and real estate and insurance agent, and Nancy Lee Lawrence Walton. Walton showed signs of an entrepreneurial gift early on, selling magazine subscriptions, starting at about age seven or eight. He worked his way through college with newspaper routes. After adding routes and hiring helpers, he was earning $4,000 to $5,000 a year. He attended the University of Missouri at Columbia, earning a business degree in 1940. His …

Webb, John Lee

John Lee Webb was a well-known African-American contractor and philanthropist in Hot Springs (Garland County). John L. Webb was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, on September 17, 1877, to the Reverend B. L. Webb, who was a Baptist minister, and his wife, Henrietta Webb. The couple had ten other children. John Webb’s family was not wealthy, so he had to provide for many of his own wants. Webb began studying at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1897 at nineteen years old and was spoken of highly by the wife of Booker T. Washington, founder of the institute. He volunteered for the Spanish-American War, serving from April 25 to August 12, 1898. After the war, he returned to Tuskegee and finished …

Webb, Kathy Lynette

Kathy Webb—the first openly gay member of the Arkansas General Assembly—has had a long career in private business (most notably as co-owner of Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some restaurant), philanthropy, and local and state government. She has also been a leader in the women’s rights movement. Webb, who battled breast cancer, served as the founding president of the Chicago-area Susan G. Komen Cancer Foundation. Kathy Lynette Webb was born in Blytheville (Mississippi County) on October 21, 1949. The youngest of three children—with a brother twelve years older and a sister nine years older—of Maurice Webb and Atha Webb, she graduated from Hall High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) before going on to Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (now Randolph College) in …

WEHCO Media, Inc.

WEHCO Media, Inc., of Little Rock (Pulaski County) is a privately owned communications company with interests in newspaper publishing, cable television, and digital services. Established in 1909, it operates daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, and cable television companies in six states. WEHCO (pronounced WAY-CO) is an acronym for Walter E. Hussman Company. The company chairman is Walter E. Hussman Jr., who also serves as publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the company’s largest newspaper. Hussman is the grandson of Clyde E. Palmer, whose media holdings formed the basis of WEHCO, and the son of newspaper publisher Walter Hussman Sr. The company has almost 2,000 employees. In a history of his family for the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, Hussman wrote: “In 1909, …

Weldon Gin Company Historic District

The Weldon Gin Company Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its association with the farming economy of the town of Weldon (Jackson County), as well as for being the only example of cotton gin architecture and technology in Weldon. By the late antebellum period, Alvin McDonald was farming more than 900 acres just south of the current town of Weldon. Survey maps and federal land records of the period show that McDonald paid $1.25 an acre for just over 930 acres. As was the case with many of his peers in Jackson County, McDonald’s farm income was supplemented rather than supported by cotton. Smaller farmers who could not afford to build their own gin depended …

Wheat and Small Grain Industry

Wheat and other small grain crops have been important to Arkansas since the first European settlers arrived. At first, these crops were mainly used on the farms where they were grown for both human and livestock consumption. Today, these grains are a multi-million-dollar industry in the state and are sold worldwide. Cereal grain crops are grass species that are grown primarily for their edible seeds or grain. This group includes the world’s six most widely grown crops: wheat, rice, corn, sorghum, millet, and barley. Cereal grain crops with a small plant structure are generally categorized as small grain cereals. Wheat, barley, oats, and rye are considered small grains. Although rice fits the definition, it is often considered separately because of …

Wheelbarrow Strike of 1915

The Wheelbarrow Strike of 1915 was a union-management conflict centered upon Wheelbarrow Mine in Johnson County’s Spadra coal fields. Lawsuits subsequent to the strike remained in the court system until 1928 and resulted in the United Mine Workers (UMW) being found guilty of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. Many of the miners in Johnson County were members of local unions formed by the regional District 21 of the UMW, and the Wheelbarrow Mine operated under union agreements. Complications with a small strike in 1910 prevented a new union contract from being created, and the Wheelbarrow mine came under the control of the Pennsylvania Mining Company (PMC), which had been founded by the Pennsylvania businessman James Gearhart earlier that year. Because of …

Wheeler, Lloyd Garrison

Lloyd Garrison Wheeler was a prominent and trailblazing African-American lawyer, political figure, and businessman in Illinois and Arkansas. Lloyd G. Wheeler was born in Mansfield, Ohio, on May 29, 1848. His father was active in the Underground Railroad, but when Ohio passed a law making the harboring of slaves illegal, the family relocated to Chatham, Canada, where Wheeler received his early education. When his mother died, he returned to the United States, settling in Chicago, Illinois. There, he worked at a variety of jobs, including on the railroad and as a shoe black. Throughout this period, his greatest ambition was a career in law. He became the first black mail carrier in Chicago while studying law in the office of …

White Bluff Generating Plant

The White Bluff Generating Plant is a coal-fired electrical energy generating plant located near Redfield (Jefferson County) and operated by Entergy Arkansas. It was the first coal-fired plant constructed in Arkansas and one of four in operation. Until the early 1970s, electricity, gasoline, and natural gas had been cheap and apparently in plentiful supply in the United States, but the first Arab oil embargo quickly drove energy prices up sharply, causing immediate gas and oil shortages. Energy suppliers, including electric utilities, had already begun to plan for the use of alternative fuel sources. For example, Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L—now Entergy Arkansas) had begun construction of two large nuclear fuel generators near Russellville (Pope County). At this point, however, there …

Wiederkehr Wine Cellars, Inc.

Wiederkehr Wine Cellars is the oldest operational winery in the state, having been continually in business from 1880 to present. During Prohibition, when wine was outlawed, Wiederkehr was allowed by the state to produce sacramental wine for use in religious services. This winery was founded in the late nineteenth century by Johann Adreas Wiederkehr, an immigrant from Switzerland who settled in Altus (Franklin County), which he found similar to his own homeland and ideal for growing grapes; it is now one of the largest wineries in the region and is well regarded throughout the nation for the quality of its wines. One of the first things that Johann Wiederkehr did after he arrived in Altus was to start construction on …

Wilson, Charles Kemmons

Charles Kemmons Wilson was a businessman who founded the Holiday Inn hotel chain. Called the “Father of the Modern Hotel,” he revolutionized the travel industry by providing affordable, comfortable, dependable lodging. Kemmons Wilson was born on January 5, 1913, in Osceola (Mississippi County) to Kemmons Wilson, who sold insurance, and Ruby “Doll” Wilson, a homemaker. He was their only child. His father died when Wilson was nine months old, and his mother took the baby to her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, where she found work as a dental assistant. Wilson’s business career began when he was six and sold subscriptions to The Saturday Evening Post. When he was fourteen, he was hit by a car while making deliveries on his …

Wilson, Robert Edward Lee

Robert Edward Lee Wilson created a plantation empire out of the swamps of Mississippi County in the late nineteenth century, an empire that remains in place today. He was able to fashion his 65,000-acre plantation and lumbering operation by purchasing cut-over land considered worthless by less imaginative men and then draining and developing the swamps. His substantial holdings and creative financing allowed him to weather the economic catastrophe of the 1920s relatively unscathed. By the time the New Deal was implemented in 1933, Lee Wilson & Company was characterized as operating the largest cotton plantation in the South, and its founder enjoyed the kind of political and economic connections that made it possible for him to take best advantage of …

Winder, Ray

Ray Winder was a minor league baseball executive. After learning the ins and outs of the minor league baseball business through a decade of short-term stints with teams in the Southeast, Winder joined the Little Rock Travelers (now the Arkansas Travelers) for good in 1931. By the mid-1940s, he had become one of the team’s owners and was the driving force behind the team for the next twenty years. Ray Winder was born in Indian Springs, Indiana, on February 5, 1885. He moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) with his family in 1905 to run a livery stable. While the stable was the last in the city to close, it was still a dying business, and Winder was forced to …

Wineries

Winemaking in Arkansas began when European Catholics, primarily German-Swiss but also Italian, immigrated to the state, attracted by the range of opportunities the then-frontier had in store. Chances are that wine was made at the Hinderliter Grog Shop in Little Rock (Pulaski County), built around 1827 by Jesse Hinderliter, a man of German descent, and currently the oldest standing building in the city. In addition, there are accounts of a winery run by one J. Ressor about six miles south of Batesville (Independence County) in the 1830s and records of German immigrants in the small town of Hermannsburg (Washington County) making wine as early as 1845. However, the wine industry of Arkansas really took root in the 1870s. At that …

Winrock International

Winrock International, a nonprofit organization with headquarters in Little Rock (Pulaski County), traces its roots to a research endeavor that Governor Winthrop Rockefeller established at his home and ranch on Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton (Conway County). Winrock International works in the United States and around the world to increase economic opportunity, sustain natural resources, and protect the environment. It has active projects in an average of sixty-five countries each year with a focus on agriculture and enterprise develoment, clean energy, ecosystem services, forestry and natural resource management, leadership development, volunteer technical assistance, and agricultural and environmental policy. It is one of the few international development organizations that has an active domestic program. Winrock International Livestock Research and Training Center …

Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation

  Winthrop Rockefeller, who died in 1973, left most of his estate to the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF)—a private, nonprofit foundation—was created from this trust in 1974, with a focus on education, balanced economic growth and development, and social justice in Arkansas. In the twenty-first century, the foundation remains active in these areas, as well as working to improve conditions for children and at-risk families. From 1974 to 2009, the foundation gave more than $135 million to nonprofits in Arkansas. Thomas C. (Tom) McRae IV became the first president of the foundation in 1975, serving until 1989. McRae focused special attention on addressing problems that caused Arkansas to appear at or near the bottom of …

Wittenberg, Delony & Davidson Architects

Wittenberg, Delony and Davidson Architects (WD&D) is the firm responsible for some of Arkansas’s most noteworthy buildings, including Little Rock (Pulaski County) landmarks such as Little Rock Central High School, Robinson Auditorium, and the Regions Bank Building. George H. Wittenberg and Lawson L. Delony formed a partnership in Little Rock in 1919 under the name Wittenberg and Delony, Architects. The firm is still active in the twenty-first century and is the oldest continuing architecture firm in Arkansas that has kept essentially the same name. (The only name change was when Julian Davidson became a partner in 1946.) Either alone or in association with other firms, it has designed many award-winning projects throughout Arkansas and the nation. Wittenberg and Delony were …

Women’s Foundation of Arkansas

The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas (WFA) is dedicated to the economic, educational, and social advancement of women and girls in the state, and is the only statewide foundation to focus solely upon women and girls. WFA’s mission is to promote philanthropy among women and to help women and girls achieve their full potential. To fulfill this mission, WFA serves as a grant-maker, a convener, and a resource on the status of women and girls. The organization was inducted into the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018. WFA’s programs and initiatives include Girls of Promise, an annual two-day science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) conference for eighth-grade girls; annual grants that support projects that assist Arkansas women and girls in achieving …

Wood, Forrest Lee

Forrest Lee Wood is known worldwide for his success in the sport fishing industry. In 1968, he founded Ranger Boats, now the largest manufacturer of bass boats in the nation. Wood has thus become known as an “outdoor legend” and the father of the modern bass boat. Forrest Wood was born in Flippin (Marion County) on June 9, 1932, to Ervin and Beulah Wood; he has one younger brother. His father served for a time as a game warden, and he and Wood worked on the construction of the Bull Shoals Dam. On April 21, 1951, Wood married Nina Kirkland; they had four daughters. The couple began raising cattle early in their marriage, but cattle prices dropped, and Wood found …

Worthen, William Booker (W. B.)

William Booker Worthen was a banker in Arkansas from 1874 until his death in 1911, and he also wrote a history of Arkansas banking. The bank he founded survived recessions and the Great Depression, becoming the largest bank holding company in the state, until being acquired by Boatmen’s Bank in 1994. It is now part of Bank of America. Born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on September 17, 1852, one of four children of George Alfonso Worthen and Louisa Booker Worthen, W. B. Worthen grew up in the turbulent times surrounding the Civil War. His father, a merchant with a variety of business interests, died as a civilian in 1864. After the Civil War, Worthen studied as a cadet at …

Wynne Wholesale Commercial Historic District

The Wynne Wholesale Commercial Historic District is situated around what was considered the most vibrant part of Wynne (Cross County) in the early 1900s. The district consists of five structures—four of which are contributing to the historical significance of the district—and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 25, 2010. The current building for the Wynne Municipal Waterworks was originally constructed sometime between 1904 and 1908 and altered between 1945 and 1951. The one-story building has a simple rectangular plan with a gabled roof. Two metal vents are centered along the ridge of the roof, and a stepped parapet adorns both the front and back elevations. The building rests on a continuous concrete foundation, and the …