Entry Category: Business and Economics

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 was known worldwide for his success in the sport fishing industry. In 1968, he founded Ranger Boats, which became the largest manufacturer of bass boats in the nation. Wood thus became 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 had 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 …

Yarnell’s Ice Cream Company

Yarnell’s Ice Cream Company, headquartered in Searcy (White County), maintained operations through four generations of the Yarnell family from 1932 to 2011. The only ice cream-producing company in Arkansas, it had branches in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Hot Springs (Garland County), Paragould (Greene County), Texarkana (Miller County), and West Memphis (Crittenden County). The company closed amid bankruptcy in 2011, but was purchased in 2012 by Schulze and Burch Biscuit Co. and relaunched in April 2012. The predecessor of Yarnell’s, the Grisham Ice Cream Company, produced Grisham’s Angel Food Ice Cream. Grisham was headquartered at Searcy in 1923, though it had plants in McGehee (Desha County) and Morrilton (Conway County). The company merged in 1927 with the Terry Dairy Co., which had locations …

Young, Paul Holden

Paul Holden Young was a bamboo fly-rod designer known for making the bamboo fishing rod lighter, shorter, and capable of being broken down so that it could be more easily transported. Today, his rods are collectibles worth many times the prices they sold for in the 1930s and 1940s. Paul H. Young was born in Cherry Valley (Cross County) on August 27, 1890, to Charles Henry Young and Sarah Alice Young; he had four siblings. His father taught in a variety of local schools but was eventually forbidden from teaching in Cross County after arguments with each school board. Young’s mother, who had several sisters in Jonesboro (Craighead County), raised two of her five children and sent the rest to …

Zero Mountain

Zero Mountain, Inc., founded in Johnson (Washington County) in 1955, is a company specializing in cold storage. It provides 30 million cubic feet of controlled-temperature storage to companies like Cargill, Simmons, Walmart Inc., Tyson, and ConAgra. It is the only company of its type in Arkansas. The idea for a sub-zero processing and storage vault in northwest Arkansas took hold when George Bazore Sr., a local businessman, visited a Kansas City cold storage facility in 1951. Bazore, C. A. Stump, Joseph Rumsey, and Price Dickson worked for four years to create the facility. Bazore had attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and was familiar with the area’s hills and valleys. When he saw an abandoned limestone …