Business Leaders

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Entries - Entry Category: Business Leaders - Starting with S

Sharp, Ephraim [of Fulton County]

Ephraim Sharp, nephew of the Ephraim Sharp after whom Sharp County was named, was an important early settler and mercantilist in neighboring Fulton County. He established a mill, and the community of Sharp’s Mill, now Saddle (Fulton County), grew up around it. His mercantile establishment helped to provide the goods that sustained the growth of the Mammoth Spring (Fulton County) area. Ephraim Sharp was born in Sandtown Township, Decatur County, Indiana, on June 23, 1833, to John Elston Sharp (called Jackson) and Susannah Armstrong Sharp. He was the fifth child and third son of this family of seven children. His mother died in 1841 when he was eight years old. His father married Sarah Armstrong, his mother’s sister. When Sarah …

Shaver, Dorothy

Dorothy Shaver was the first woman in the United States to head a multi-million dollar firm. She became president of the prestigious New York City Fifth Avenue firm of Lord & Taylor in 1945 and is credited with much of the company’s success. A trailblazer and a trend setter in her time, her legacy continues today. Dorothy Shaver was born on July 29, 1893, in Center Point (Howard County) to Sallie Borden and James Shaver. Her maternal grandfather was Benjamin Borden, editor of the Arkansas Gazette, and her paternal grandfather was Robert Glenn Shaver, a prominent Confederate officer who served with distinction during the Civil War. When Shaver was five years old, her family moved to Mena (Polk County), a …

Snyder, Harold

aka: Ralph Harold Snyder
Ralph Harold Snyder is the man most often credited with bringing the poultry industry to the Arkansas River Valley. In 1960, the company he founded, Arkansas Valley Industries, Inc. (AVI), became the first wholly integrated poultry business to make its stock available to the public. Harold Snyder was born on April 3, 1915, in Winfield, Kansas, to Roy C. and Mildred (Poland) Snyder. As a young boy, he moved with his parents and five siblings to Green Forest (Carroll County), where he was raised on a small hill farm. Snyder was valedictorian of his high school class, and he was elected state president of the Arkansas Future Farmers of America. Based on this record, he received a scholarship to the …

Southerland, Jerome Kee (J. K.)

Jerome Kee (J. K.) Southerland was a regionally important leader in the poultry business as it emerged as an important industry in the state during the post–World War II years. At one time, his poultry enterprise was the second largest in the state. J. K. Southerland was born on September 22, 1903, in Banner (Cleburne County) to James Walter Southerland and Maleta Kee Southerland. His mother died when he was about twelve, leaving his father with four sons and a daughter. After completing school at Banner, he enrolled in school at Sulphur Rock (Independence County) to get a teaching certificate. He then returned to farming and raising cattle in Banner and nearby Floral (Independence County). On June 2, 1928, Southerland …

Spencer, George Lloyd

George Lloyd Spencer, a Democrat, served as U.S. senator of Arkansas from April 1, 1941, to January 3, 1943, filling the vacancy left by the resignation of Senator John E. Miller. Spencer was not elected to a full term in office but served the remainder of Senator Miller’s term. Spencer also served in the U.S. Navy during both World War I and World War II. George Spencer was born on March 27, 1893, at Sarcoxie, Missouri, to George Spencer and Louella Riley Spencer. He moved to Okolona (Clark County) in 1902, where he attended public school. He also attended Peddie Institute at Highstown, New Jersey, and Henderson-Brown College in Arkadelphia (Clark County). In 1918, Spencer served as a seaman, second …

Spicer, William Leach

William Leach Spicer was a businessman and Republican Party activist. In the early 1960s, he oversaw the beginning stages of the party’s emergence as a competitive force against the long-dominant Democratic Party. In 1964, however, he lost a power struggle with fellow Republican Winthrop Rockefeller and resigned as state chairman. While Spicer played a substantive role in developing the state’s Republican Party, Rockefeller’s vision was ultimately vindicated by his own election as governor in 1966. William L. Spicer was born on October 12, 1918, in Yell County. He was the only child of William Jacob Spicer, who was a Methodist minister, and his wife, Ora Leach Spicer. As his father preached at various churches, Spicer grew up first in Woodruff …

Stephens, Jackson Thomas

Jackson Thomas Stephens was one of the most successful, high-profile business figures in Arkansas during the twentieth century, joining his older brother Wilton R. “Witt” Stephens in building Stephens, Inc. of Little Rock (Pulaski County) into one of the nation’s largest brokerage firms. Stephens also became a well-known philanthropist, supporting institutions ranging from the Arkansas Arts Center to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Jack Stephens was born on August 9, 1923, in Prattsville (Grant County), the youngest of the six children of A. J. Stephens and Ethel Pumphrey Stephens. A. J. Stephens was a farmer and a politician who served two terms in the state House of Representatives. …

Stephens, Witt

aka: Wilton Robert Stephens
Wilton Robert Stephens founded Stephens, Inc., which once was the largest brokerage firm off Wall Street. He was a prime mover in the development of the natural gas industry after World War II and exerted great influence on the political and economic fortunes of Arkansas during the second half of the twentieth century. Witt Stephens was born on September 14, 1907, in Prattsville (Grant County), the second of six children of A. J. “Jack” Stephens and Ethel Pumphrey Stephens. His father was a farmer and politician who served two terms in the state House of Representatives from Grant County, as would Witt thirty years later. The elder Stephens directly influenced his son’s early career moves. As a boy, Witt picked …

Stout, William C.

The clergyman William Cummins Stout was the master of two large antebellum plantations at the foot of Petit Jean Mountain in Conway County and the “first Arkansas man ordained to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church in Arkansas,” according to church records. William Stout was born in Greene County, Tennessee, on February 18, 1824. His parents, John G. Stout and Mary Kirby Stout, moved with their children to Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1830, where they continued their farming occupation. While a young man working in a store near the Indian Territory line, Stout attended meetings conducted by Bishop Leonidas Polk and discerned a religious calling. With Polk’s encouragement, Stout received his education at Kemper College in Missouri, then Nashotah House …

Sturgis, Walter Roy

Walter Roy Sturgis was a self-made multi-millionaire from southern Arkansas whose fortune continues to benefit the state and beyond through philanthropic organizations dedicated to managing the wealth amassed by Sturgis and his wife, Christine. Roy Sturgis was born in Cleveland County, Arkansas, between Kingsland and Hebron on March 6, 1901, to William A. Sturgis, who was a farmer, and Nancy Virginia Bingham Sturgis, a homemaker. Sturgis had nine siblings. Scarce biographical information exists about Sturgis, and some of what has been written appears not to be entirely accurate. For example, Sturgis reportedly dropped out of school after the tenth grade and served in the U.S. Navy during World War I. While Sturgis’s education at the Good Hope School (also known …