Business Leaders

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Entries - Entry Category: Business Leaders - Starting with B

Bailey, O. C.

aka: Olin Cavanaugh Bailey
Olin Cavanaugh Bailey of El Dorado (Union County) was a leader in the Arkansas oil industry and served as the first chairman of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission. Both Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) and Hendrix College have buildings named in Bailey’s honor. O. C. Bailey was born in Blevins (Hempstead County) on July 28, 1894, the second child of Gentry Ethridge, a farmer from Haynesville, Louisiana, and Sarah Margaret Stephens Bailey, a housewife from Wallaceburg (Hempstead County). Bailey graduated from Ouachita College (now Ouachita Baptist University) with a BA in 1914. Bailey married Leila St. Clair Lide of Camden (Ouachita County) on September 12, 1917. The couple had no children. On October 18, 1918, Bailey joined the United States …

Barkman, Jacob

Jacob Barkman is known as the father of Clark County. An early settler along the Caddo River, Barkman eventually became a prominent landowner and planter. Jacob Barkman was born on December 20, 1784, in Kentucky. Little is known of his early life, but, by 1811, Barkman had married Rebecca Davis. Eventually, the couple had two sons and a daughter. Wishing to move west, the family joined Barkman’s brother John, John’s wife, and their several slaves at Bayou Sara in Louisiana in 1811. Joining another group organized by John Hemphill, the party moved up the Ouachita River. The Barkmans settled along the Caddo River, just a few miles from its merger with the Ouachita. This location was a few miles to …

Bartell, Fred Wallace

Frederick Wallace Bartell was a Siloam Springs (Benton County) merchant, church leader, and Circuit Chautauqua manager. He organized Associated Chautauquas, which was among the first “tent” or “traveling” Chautauqua circuits. Fred W. Bartell was born in Milford, Kansas, on October 12, 1872, to immigrant parents. His father, Edward Charles Bartell, was from Germany; his mother, Louesa (or Louise), Edward’s second wife, was from France. He was the fourth of their five children. There also were six children from Edward’s first marriage to Catharine Branscom, who died in 1860. Louesa died in 1878. Edward Bartell and other family members migrated to Siloam Springs sometime before May 1892, when Fred Bartell arrived. Bartell said of his arrival, “I came with the flood,” …

Bartlett, E. M.

aka: Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr.
With the exception of his protégé, Albert E. Brumley, no other Arkansas figure contributed more to the development of the Southern gospel music genre than singer, songwriter, and publisher Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr. E. M. Bartlett was born on December 24, 1883, in the small community of Waynesville, Missouri, according to Barlett’s World War I draft card, though historians have variously placed his year of birth in 1884 and 1885. He and his parents eventually relocated to Sebastian County, Arkansas. Educated at the Hall-Moody Institute in Martin, Tennessee, and William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, Bartlett received training as a music teacher. In 1917, Bartlett married Joan Tatum; they had two children. As an aspiring songwriter, Bartlett became an employee …

Barton, Thomas Harry

Colonel Thomas H. Barton, a pioneer El Dorado (Union County) oilman and philanthropist, launched his small Lion Oil Company into a major oil company that included exploration, production, marketing, distribution, refining, and research programs. Barton was born in Marlin, Texas, on September 20, 1881. His father, Thomas Killebrew Barton, was a merchant and farmer in Falls County. At age sixteen, he entered Texas A&M College, but limited funds forced him to leave school early in his second year. He entered the U.S. Army in 1901 and was discharged in 1904 with the rank of corporal. From 1905 to 1917, he worked in a variety of occupations that included banking and lumber in Dallas County. In 1906, he was commissioned with …

Baucum, George Franklin

George F. Baucum was a Confederate officer and a Little Rock (Pulaski County) businessman. He served in many major battles of the Civil War’s western theater, including at Murfreesboro in Tennessee and Chickamauga and Atlanta in Georgia. After the war, he became a prominent grocer, cotton broker, and banker who owned plantations in central Arkansas. George Franklin Baucum was born on February 1, 1837, in St. Charles, Missouri. He was the son of Daniel Baucum and Kathryn Baucum, both of whom were natives of Mississippi. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1851. Two years later, the Baucums settled in Searcy (White County). At the outbreak of the Civil War, Baucum was working as a grocer in Searcy. He joined …

Beebe, Roswell

Roswell Beebe was the first benefactor of the city of Little Rock (Pulaski County); the town of Beebe (White County) was named after him. In the late 1840s and the 1850s, he was one of the most important businessmen and politicians in Little Rock. He donated several pieces of land to the city. Roswell Beebe was born on December 22, 1795, in Hinsdale, New York, to a wealthy English family. When he was seventeen, he talked his father into letting him go to New Orleans, Louisiana. He was behind the cotton bales with Andrew Jackson when the United States turned back the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Roswell was successful in several businesses. The 1832 New …

Bennett, Alvin Silas (Al)

Alvin Silas (Al) Bennett was a recording industry executive best known for his tenure as president and director of Liberty Records from 1958 to 1968. Known as a “music business wizard,” Bennett is largely credited with the transformation of Liberty Records from a struggling start-up operation to a dominant force in the recording trade. “Alvin” of Alvin and the Chipmunks was named after Bennett. Al Bennett was born in Joiner (Mississippi County) on September 21, 1926, to the farming family of Silas S. Bennett and Jessie Starling Bennett. The oldest of four children, he spent his early years working on the farm while attending Shawnee School, graduating in 1943. Bennett enlisted in the U.S. Army on November 5, 1945, for …

Bertig, Adolph

Adolph Bertig, a Jewish immigrant, was one of the leading merchants and financiers in northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was later known as the “Merchant Prince of Paragould.” Ad Bertig was born on June 21, 1853, in Kraków, Galicia, part of what was then the Austrian Empire. He was the eldest son of Wolff Jozef Bertig and Maryem Cortel Bertig. Bertig was nineteen when he immigrated alone to the United States in 1872, arriving first in New York, then migrating west to Little Rock (Pulaski County). While in Little Rock, he gained employment from one of the town’s most prominent businessmen, Colonel John G. Fletcher, who sent Bertig peddling goods to …

Blackburn, Sylvanus

Sylvanus Walker Blackburn is noted for building the first gristmill in Benton County, locating his mill on War Eagle River. After selecting a site, Blackburn built a home, followed by a gristmill, blacksmith shop, carpentry shop, sawmill, and school. Today, Blackburn’s two-story home still stands, while a 1973 reproduction of the mill sits on its original spot. War Eagle Mill is Arkansas’s only remaining working mill and is believed to be the only undershot waterwheel now in operation in the United States. This is also the site of the well-known annual Ozark Arts and Crafts Fair, generally known as the War Eagle Fair, established in 1954 and held in October. Born on February 15, 1809, Sylvanus Blackburn was the son …

Blass, Gustave (Gus)

Gus Blass was a Jewish immigrant who settled in Arkansas and became one of the state’s most successful merchants, establishing what became the largest department store in Arkansas, the Gus Blass Company. Gustave (Gus) Blass was born on February 15, 1849, in Obornik, Germany, a small town north of Poznan, which is now part of Poland. At the age of sixteen, he boarded a ship bound for New York, identifying himself on the ship’s manifest as a merchant. After a short stint in Memphis, Tennessee, he made his way to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he founded the Gus Blass Dry Goods Company in 1871. The following year, Blass married Bertha Katzenstein, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. They had …

Block, Abraham

aka: Abraham Bloch
Abraham Block was the patriarch of the first documented Jewish family to immigrate to the state of Arkansas. After a period as a businessman in Virginia, Block moved his family to southwest Arkansas in search of new economic opportunities. Along with his sons, he created a regional merchant empire with businesses in Washington (Hempstead County), Fulton (Hempstead County), and Paraclifta (Sevier County) in Arkansas, as well as in New Orleans, Louisiana, and at several stops along the railroad in Texas from Houston to Dallas. The family home in Washington has been restored and is currently a house museum in Historic Washington State Park. Abraham Block (or Bloch) was born on January 30, 1780, or 1781, in Schwihau, Bohemia. The names …

Bond, Scott Winfield

Scott Winfield Bond was a successful landowner, farmer, and businessman at a time when the total number of African-American farm owners and their average acreage declined both in the state and in the nation. He was among wealthy Arkansans in the period before the New Deal. Scott W. Bond was born enslaved in Livingston, Mississippi, near Canton. His mother, Ann Bond, was enslaved as a domestic. His mother married fellow slave William Bond when Scott was eighteen months old. On the eve of the Civil War, the white Maben-Bond family moved their enslaved property from Mississippi to Fayette County, Tennessee, and finally to Cross County, Arkansas. Bond’s mother died during the Civil War, and Bond moved with his stepfather to …

Bond, Ulysses Scott (U. S.)

Prominent businessman and entrepreneur Ulysses Scott (U. S.) Bond, like his father and brothers, was a member of a small group of well-educated, wealthy African-American businessmen who encouraged the advancement of minorities. He grew up in a progressive family that provided him with the opportunity to achieve a level of success not typically found in the town of Madison (St. Francis County), and with this success, he encouraged the growth of the black community and economy in St. Francis County. U. S. Bond was born on August 1, 1897, in Madison. His parents were Scott Winfield Bond—a landowner, businessman, and notable resident of St. Francis County—and Magnolia (Nash) Bond. He was the tenth of the eleven sons born to Scott …

Bowen, William Harvey

William Harvey Bowen was a senior partner in Arkansas’s largest law firm, president of the state’s largest bank, chief executive officer of a health insurance company, and dean of the state’s largest law school, which was later named the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. He was a friend and adviser to Bill Clinton and managed the governor’s office for a year while Clinton was running for president. He was also a friend and adviser to Dale Bumpers and David Pryor when they were governors and U.S. senators. William H. Bowen was born on May 6, 1923, in Altheimer (Jefferson County), one of five children of Robert J. (Bob) Bowen, who farmed and managed …

Boyle, John

John F. Boyle Jr. was a Little Rock (Pulaski County) businessman and philanthropist whose name survives in the Boyle Building downtown and Boyle Park in the west-central portion of the city. John F. Boyle Jr. was born on November 14, 1874, in Little Rock to John F. Boyle Sr. and Mary Matilda Dorsey Boyle. After completing primary and secondary school in Little Rock, around 1900, Boyle was hired to work for his father’s insurance firm, Adams & Boyle Insurance Company (1877–1921). He had a long career as a general insurance agent as well as cotton salesman and real estate investor. In 1910, Boyle started his first company, the Boyle Realty Company, but it failed a year later. In 1916, he …

Bradford, Jay T.

Jay Bradford is an Arkansas businessman and government official. A longtime member of the Arkansas General Assembly, he capped a public career of over thirty years with a six-year stint as state commissioner of insurance. Jay T. Bradford was born on April 30, 1940, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to J. Turner Bradford and Chrystal Jacobs Bradford. He had one brother and two sisters. After Bradford’s mother died when he was eight years old, his father, who was a traveling salesman, placed his children in the care of relatives in Paris (Logan County). After receiving his early education in the local schools, he attended Subiaco Academy, a Catholic college preparatory school in Subiaco (Logan County). After graduating from Subiaco, he …

Brandon, Benton Douglas, Jr.

Benton Douglas Brandon Jr. was a legislator, businessman, and civic leader who brought a business presence into a state legislature dominated by attorneys, helping to open the state to outside commerce and financial growth. Brandon felt that unless Arkansas had adequate education, proper roads, and a strong civic presence, the state could not grow to its potential. He saw the Arkansas legislature as the vehicle for this growth. Doug Brandon was born on August 23, 1932, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Anne Maloney and Benton Brandon Sr., a local businessman and early aviator. Brandon graduated from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) with a business degree. He later joined the U.S. Army, graduating from Command and …

Brown, Jacob

Jacob Brown was an important but often overlooked figure in Arkansas’s territorial and early statehood period. He served as the chief disbursement agent for the Office of Removal and Subsistence and was the first president of the Arkansas State Bank. After Brown fought and was killed in the Siege of Fort Texas during the Mexican War, Fort Texas was renamed Fort Brown in his honor; the city of Brownsville, Texas, also bears his name, as does Brownsville (Lonoke County). Jacob Brown was born in Charlton, Massachusetts, on July 19, 1789. Brown’s father, also called Jacob, had served during the Revolutionary War against Great Britain, and his mother was Mary Wells Brown, also from Charlton. Brown served with distinction in the …

Busey, Samuel Thompson

Samuel Thompson Busey was a 1920s oil speculator and promoter of the Arkansas oil industry. While originally trained as a physician, he later became a geologist and completed the famed “Discovery Well,” or Busey No. 1 Well, outside El Dorado (Union County) in 1921. Busey’s efforts helped usher in the south Arkansas oil boom of the 1920s. Samuel Busey was born in Champaign County, Illinois, on February 10, 1867, and was the fifth of six children of John Simpson Busey and the former Caroline Marie Snyder. Busey came from a family of adventurers and community activists. His father was a farmer until 1845, when he left farming to travel across the United States. His father then took over his own …

Bush, John

John Edward Bush, a chairman of the Republican Party in Arkansas, rose from poverty to national prominence when he co-founded the Mosaic Templars of America (MTA), an African-American fraternal organization of international scope, spanning twenty-six states and six foreign countries from the 1880s until the 1930s. Headquartered in Little Rock (Pulaski County), MTA became one of the largest and most successful black-owned business enterprises in the nation and the world; it included an insurance company, a building and loan association, a hospital, a business college, a publishing house, and a nursing school. Living most of his early life in the downtown 9th Street district of Little Rock, Bush was widely acknowledged as one of the wealthiest black men in Arkansas …