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Champion of open government, Freedom of Information Act, McCord among notable 2013 Ark. deaths

Posted: December 31, 2013 - 6:07pm

A longtime journalist who championed open government and was a driving force behind Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act, a law he later spent decades defending, was among the notable Arkansans who died during 2013.

Robert “Bob” McCord died in April. He was 84.

Others who died during the year included George Frazier, an early supporter of then-future President Bill Clinton; longtime television executive Dale Nicholson; country music singer Mindy McCready; boxer Tommy Morrison; and Stephen LaFrance Sr., the founder of Pine Bluff-based USA Drug.

McCord worked as an editor at both the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette and for a decade owned the North Little Rock Times. He helped craft the state’s 1967 open records law and his name was at the top of a lawsuit that ended with the Arkansas Supreme Court upholding the law.

“Amazingly,” McCord later wrote, “the bill passed without a dissenting vote 91-0 in the House, 32-0 in the Senate.” Then-Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller signed the measure into law Feb. 14, 1967, and it took about two months for it to be challenged.

After a North Little Rock City Council meeting, the panel gathered in Mayor Casey Laman’s office to talk with the city attorney. Reporters from the Arkansas Gazette and from the North Little Rock Times objected, McCord recalled, and the matter landed in court. The case, Laman vs. McCord, went to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the journalists.

Frazier, 94, in 1977 introduced then-Attorney General Bill Clinton as a future governor and future president. Frazier also was an organizer in the effort to preserve the former president’s boyhood home in Hope and helped establish the Virginia Clinton Kelley Nursing Scholarship at the University of Arkansas in honor of Clinton’s mother.

Former lawmakers who died during the year include Jim Hill, who served in both the state House and the state Senate, and former Rep. Kenneth R. Camp. Sam Boyce Sr., an unsuccessful candidate for attorney general and governor during the 1960s, also died.

The entertainment industry lost longtime Little Rock television station KATV general manager Dale Nicholson; country music singer Mindy McCready; songwriter Claude King, a Louisiana native whose song “Wolverton Mountain” about a mountain in western Arkansas and mountain man Clifton Clowers was a country music hit; and former Little Rock radio personality Frank Page, who during the 1950s introduced Elvis Presley through the Louisiana Hayride.

McCready, 37, who hit the top of the charts before being sidetracked by personal issues, died in February at her home in Heber Springs, an apparent suicide that occurred a month after her longtime boyfriend and father of her youngest son also apparently killed himself at the same home.

Harold Bing, who for decades documented some of Arkansas’ coldest temperatures, died at age 85. Bing provided temperatures from Gilbert in the Buffalo River valley where only the months of June, July and August have not seen temperatures at or below freezing at some point.

“If my knees hurt, it’s going to be changing weather,” Bing said. “’’I’ve done it so many years I can guess it pretty close.”

Betty Ann Lowe, 79, who helped develop Arkansas Children’s Hospital into a nationally known, competitive hospital and was the pediatrician of Chelsea Clinton, died in March. Stephen LaFrance Sr., 71, the founder of Pine Bluff-based USA Drug died in June.

The former assistant publisher of The Jonesboro Sun, Ed Troutt, died in May.

The sports world saw the deaths of former professional golfer Miller Barber, 82, who played at the University of Arkansas; one-time heavyweight boxing champion Tommy Morrison, 44, who was born in Gravette; Arkansas Tech All-American football player and long-time coach Don Dempsey; in addition to longtime Arkansas high school coaches George David Williams and Bobby Watson.

And, Patsy Sutton, 74, the wife of former Arkansas basketball coach Eddie Sutton, died in January in Tulsa, Okla.

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