Business Leaders

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Entries - Entry Category: Business Leaders - Starting with R

Remmel, Harmon Liveright

Harmon Liveright Remmel succeeded Powell Clayton as leader of Arkansas’s Republican Party in 1913. His tenure was plagued by an ongoing dispute between Lily White and African-American Republicans. His role in the movement remains a topic of debate among historians. Harmon Remmel was born on January 15, 1852, in Stratford, New York, to German immigrants Gottlieb Remmel and Henrietta Bever. Gottlieb Remmel was a tanner and a staunch Republican. Harmon Remmel, who had four brothers and two sisters, attended Fairfield Seminary in Fairfield, New York. He taught school for a year, and in 1871, he and his brother Augustus Caleb (A. C.) Remmel entered the lumber business in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1874, he returned to New York, and in …

Renfrow, William Cary

William Cary Renfrow was an influential political figure during the early territorial years of Oklahoma. A North Carolina native who moved to Arkansas following the Civil War, Renfrow moved to the growing Oklahoma Territory in the late 1880s, where he would play an important role in Oklahoma’s journey toward statehood. William Cary Renfrow was born on March 15, 1845, in Smithville, North Carolina, to Perry Renfrow and Lucinda Atkinson Renfrow. He got his early schooling there but stopped attending school at the age of sixteen to enlist in the Confederate army. He initially joined Company C in the Fiftieth North Carolina Regiment in February 1862, where he advanced to sergeant. As the war progressed, he transferred to Company F of …

Rice, J. Donald

J. Donald (Don) Rice Jr. is founder, president, and chief executive officer of Rice Financial Products Company in New York, the only minority-owned derivatives firm in the nation. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2003. James Donald Rice Jr. was born on August 22, 1958, to the Reverend James Donald Rice Sr. and Ellen Rice. He has an older sister, Donnellda. In 1962, his family moved from Kansas City, Missouri, to Hot Springs (Garland County). His father founded and served as the pastor of Roanoke Baptist Church and was president of the Hot Springs chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Ellen Rice funded and operated the first Head Start …

Riggs, John Andrew

John Andrew Riggs was a pioneer, politician, early aviator, patent medicine business proprietor, and father of women’s suffrage in Arkansas. Riggs’s Act 186 of 1917 allowed women to vote in the Democratic primary in Arkansas. This enfranchisement of women paved the way for Arkansas’s ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. John Riggs was born on November 5, 1867, in Shelby County, Illinois, the eldest of six children of Elbridge Marion Riggs and Sarah Ann Hubbartt. His parents were farmers and merchants. In 1877, the extended Riggs family moved to Sumner County, Kansas, the Southern border of which was Indian Territory. In 1889, Riggs was one of over 50,000 pioneers in a line stretching for 100 miles along …

Roberts, Roy

Roy Roberts, a native of Magnolia (Columbia County), rose through the ranks of the automotive industry from management trainee to vice president of General Motors Corporation (GM), only the second African American to hold such a high position in the corporation. He was a pioneer in the field, and by the end of his over twenty-year leadership career with GM, he was one of the most powerful executives in the automotive industry. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2000. Roy Stewart Roberts was born in Magnolia on March 26, 1939. He was one of ten children of Turner Ray Roberts and Erma Lee Livingston Roberts. His father worked at several jobs, and his mother was …

Rockefeller, Winthrop Paul

Winthrop Paul Rockefeller, known in his adopted state of Arkansas as Win (or Win Paul to differentiate him from his father, Winthrop Rockefeller), was a scion of Rockefeller family, which made its fortune with Standard Oil. Like his father, who was the first Republican to be elected governor of Arkansas since Reconstruction, Winthrop Paul Rockefeller abandoned his East Coast roots and established a life in the more rural environs of Arkansas before making a name for himself in Republican politics, eventually being elected lieutenant governor. However, his political career was cut short when, at the age of fifty-seven, he died of complications related to a rare blood disorder. Win Rockefeller was born on September 17, 1948, in New York, the …

Rodgers, James Ronald, Sr.

James Ronald Rodgers Sr. was the nation’s first African American to be appointed manager of a major commercial airport, the first black head of a major independent city agency in Little Rock (Pulaski County), and the state’s first black commercial loan officer. James Rodgers was born on March 15, 1947, in Little Rock to Homer and Ruth Rodgers. The fifth of six children, he spent his childhood in the Tuxedo Courts housing development south of Roosevelt Road. Rodgers grew up working with his mother, brothers, and sister for his father’s janitorial service. After graduating from Horace Mann High School in 1965, Rodgers attended Little Rock University—now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR)—for a year and a half. In …

Rooker, Oley Eldon

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 …

Roots, Logan Holt

Logan Holt Roots settled in Arkansas after serving the Union in the Civil War. He was a congressman, banker, and promoter of the state. Born at Locust Hill, near Tamaroa, Illinois, on March 26, 1841, Roots was the third of four children of Benajah Guernsey Roots, an educator, and Martha Sibley Holt. His early academic interest focused on mathematics, although he worked with an engineering corps engaged in railroad construction at fifteen, acquiring a lifetime interest in railroad development. He enrolled in Illinois State Normal University in 1857, taught for a year then returned and graduated valedictorian in 1862. After graduation, Roots enlisted in the Eighty-first Illinois Infantry, a volunteer regiment, and served in the Union Army until the Civil …

Rosewater, Benjamin J. (B. J.)

Modern Eureka Springs (Carroll County), including the historic Carnegie Library and Basin Spring Park, owes much of its development to early resident of the city Benjamin J. Rosewater. An energetic advocate of civic improvement and a business leader serving for several years as postmaster, the Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe left a lasting mark on the Ozarks mountain town where he lived for more than sixty years. Born in Hungary in 1857, B. J. Rosewater first came to the United States to visit family in Chicago, Illinois. After moving briefly to Cairo, Illinois, Rosewater visited Eureka Springs in August 1882 in an effort to improve his health. Rosewater quickly recovered from his illness, and he liked the chaotic frontier town …