Business Leaders

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Entries - Entry Category: Business Leaders - Starting with D

Dalton, Donald

Donald Dalton served as a brigadier general in the Arkansas National Guard. At the end of his career, he was the commander of the Arkansas Air National Guard. Donald Dalton was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 10, 1939, to John and Dora Dalton. His father worked as a baker, and Donald had an older brother and two older sisters at the time of his birth. While he was a child, the family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), and Dalton graduated from Central High School in 1957. Dalton enlisted in the Air National Guard as a weapons mechanic that same year. In 1961, he received a commission as a second lieutenant and entered undergraduate pilot training at Laredo …

Davis, Gregory A.

Gregory A. Davis is the founder of Davis Broadcasting, a regional media company that owns several radio stations in Columbus and Atlanta, Georgia; the stations range from urban contemporary and gospel to sports and Spanish-language formats. Davis serves as the president and CEO of Davis Broadcasting. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2016, the same year that marked the thirtieth anniversary of the company he founded. Gregory Davis was born in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in 1948. His mother was an educator at the local black school, and his father worked in a bakery before opening a shoeshine parlor. He attended twelve years of Catholic school, graduating from St. Anne’s Academy, where he was the …

Davis, William Delford (Willie)

Willie Davis is a millionaire business executive, civic leader, and former football standout who grew up in Miller County. Davis achieved athletic success in football at the high school, college, and professional levels. After retiring from a National Football League (NFL) career of twelve seasons (1958–1969), he moved into the business world, where he attained equal success. Davis is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. William Delford (Willie) Davis was born on July 24, 1934, in Lisbon, Louisiana, to David and Nodie Davis. After his parents separated when he was eight, his mother moved the family to Texarkana (Miller County). His mother supported the family by working as a cook at the Texarkana Country Club. Willie Davis …

Dierks, Herman

Herman Dierks was the co-founder and two-time president of the Dierks Lumber and Coal Company, supervising its lumberyard in De Queen (Sevier County) and other parts of eastern Oklahoma and northern Louisiana. With the help of his brothers, he helped create and control the Dierks timber empire. Born near Lyons, Iowa, on September 24, 1863, Herman Dierks was the seventh child of Peter Henry Dierks, a German farmer and a banker, and Margaretha Dorothea Tauk, a Danish immigrant. He joined his brother Hans in Nebraska after Hans bought land there along the newly constructed Burlington Railroad. Dierks farmed until he and his brother bought a lumberyard in 1887, which later proved to be the source of Dierks’s fortune. On May …

Dillard, William Thomas

William Thomas Dillard was the founder of Dillard’s, Inc., one of the nation’s largest fashion apparel and home-furnishings retailers. From an $8,000 investment in a single store in Nashville (Howard County), Dillard, an Arkansas native, built a premier retail chain with a national presence of more than 300 stores in twenty-nine states. William T. Dillard was born on September 2, 1914, in Mineral Springs (Howard County), the only son of Thomas Dillard and Hattie Gibson Dillard, who were prominent farmers and merchants in the close-knit Mineral Springs community. Retailing excited Dillard from a very young age, and he spent many hours in his father’s store. Dillard attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he majored in …

Dixon, Martha

Martha Smith Dixon is an internationally recognized clothing designer and entrepreneur. Her designs of couture gowns worn by Hillary Clinton during Clinton’s husband’s 1987 gubernatorial inauguration and 1993 presidential inauguration helped launch her career in fashion design and sales. Dixon is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Martha Smith was born in Clark County on February 2, 1946, the seventeenth of twenty children of James G. Smith and Beatrice Cook Smith, impoverished cotton pickers and sharecroppers in the South Central community in Clark County. She attended public school in Gurdon (Clark County) when work allowed and graduated from Peake High School in Arkadelphia (Clark County) in 1965. The first in her family to attend college, she spent …

Drennen, John

John Drennen was a prominent businessman who is called the father of Van Buren (Crawford County). The home he built in Van Buren, now known as the Drennen-Scott House, serves as a museum interpreting local history and Drennen’s legacy. John Drennen was born to Thomas Drennen and Isabelle Moore Drennen on February 5, 1801, in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania. At a young age, he and his family moved to Potosi, Missouri. On March 21, 1826, in Potosi, he married Emily Rosanna Deaderick Stuart, widow of James Stuart; John and Emily Drennen had three daughters, one of whom died in childhood. Later in 1826, he moved to Tennessee and went into business with his brother-in-law David Thompson (the husband of Emily Drennen’s sister, …