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Entries - Entry Category: Lawyers - Starting with B

Bates, James Woodson

James Woodson Bates was an early Arkansas settler who was elected as the first Arkansas territorial representative to the U.S. Congress. After leaving that office, he went on to help develop Arkansas’s legal system as a judge and lawyer. Batesville (Independence County) was named after him in 1824. James Bates was born on August 25, 1788, in Belmont, Virginia, to Thomas F. Bates and Caroline Woodson Bates. Little is known of his early life, but he attended Yale College (now Yale University). He eventually graduated from Princeton College (now Princeton University) in 1807 and began practicing law in Virginia. In 1816, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where his brother Frederick Bates had been appointed territorial secretary. In 1819, he, …

Bennett, Bruce

Bruce Bennett was Arkansas’s attorney general from 1957 to 1960 and from 1963 to 1966. As the state’s leading legal authority, he became known as much for flouting the law as for upholding it. In the wake of the Little Rock (Pulaski County) desegregation crisis, Bennett authored legislation to bypass federal desegregation orders, including acts “designed to harass” the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He gained further notoriety in asserting that communist influence underlay the racial unrest in Arkansas. Toward the end of his career, Bennett became infamous for his part in the securities fraud scandal involving the Arkansas Loan and Thrift. Bruce Bennett was born on October 31, 1917, to Oakley Adair Bennett and Anita …

Bethune, Edwin Ruthvin (Ed), Jr.

Edwin Ruthvin (Ed) Bethune Jr., a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington DC, served as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 to 1985 from the Second Congressional District of Arkansas. Ed Bethune was born on December 19, 1935, in Pocahontas (Randolph County) to Edwin Bethune Sr. and Delta Lewallen Bethune. He has one sister. Although he grew up in Pocahontas, Bethune spent one year in Little Rock (Pulaski County), attending Little Rock High School (later called Central High); Bethune graduated from Pocahontas High School in 1953. He attended one semester at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and followed that with four years in the U.S. Marine Corps (1954–1957), during which time he …

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 …

Branton, Wiley Austin, Sr.

Wiley Austin Branton was a civil rights leader in Arkansas who helped desegregate the University of Arkansas School of Law and later filed suit against the Little Rock School Board in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court as Cooper v. Aaron. His work to end legal segregation and inequality in Arkansas and the nation was well known in his time. Wiley Branton was born on December 13, 1923, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), the second child of Pauline Wiley and Leo Andrew Branton. His father and paternal grandfather owned and operated a taxicab business. His mother was a schoolteacher in the segregated public schools prior to her marriage. He had three brothers and a sister. Branton was …

Brundidge, Stephen, Jr.

Stephen Brundidge Jr. was a prosecuting attorney, a member of the Democratic State Central Committee, and a six-term U.S. Representative for the Sixth and Second Congressional districts. Born on January 1, 1857, in Searcy (White County), Brundidge was the fourth child of Stephen and Minerva Brundidge, who moved to Searcy from Mississippi in 1853. His father was a contractor who built the first brick buildings in Searcy, including the main section of the present White County Courthouse, built in 1869. Brundidge graduated with honors from the Searcy Male and Female Academy. He then read law in the offices of William R. Coody and Dandridge McRae and was admitted to the bar in 1879. He first practiced law in Jacksonport (Jackson …

Bryant, John Winston

John Winston Bryant is an Arkansas politician and attorney who held an array of high-level offices in state government. Beginning as a legislative assistant on Capitol Hill in Washington DC and serving for two decades in statewide offices, Bryant was an influential figure in Arkansas politics over the last quarter of the twentieth century. Winston Bryant was born on October 3, 1938, in Malvern (Hot Spring County) to Johnie Bryant and Hestie Killian Bryant. He graduated from Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) in Arkadelphia (Clark County) in 1960. He then earned a law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1963, and he earned a Masters of Law in administrative law from George Washington University in 1970. Bryant …

Butler, Richard Colburn, Sr.

Richard Colburn Butler Sr. was a lawyer, banker, real estate investor, philanthropist, and horticulturist who is best remembered for his wide variety of business developments and community activities. As the attorney for the Little Rock School Board, he played a major role in the 1957 Little Rock school desegregation crisis. Richard Butler, the fourth child of Edna M. Clok and Richard Colburn Butler Sr., was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on January 1, 1910. (Butler, technically “Richard Butler Jr.,” referred to himself as “senior” after his father passed away.) His father was a real estate developer. Butler attended public school in Little Rock and then graduated from Little Rock Junior College in 1929. He subsequently enrolled in the University …