Editor's note: Updated with posting of the obituary notice at the end of the story.
Former Arkansas Sen. Bill Walters of Greenwood, who served in the Senate for 18 years, has died from complications related to his battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 69.
Sen. Bruce Holland, R-Greenwood, said Walters died in the early afternoon (Mar. 5) at his home in Greenwood. Holland also confirmed that the death was related to Walters’ struggle with cancer.
“He battled that cancer for more than a year, and today, the cancer won,” said an emotional Holland.
Holland said in March 2012 the cancer had shrunk to just one small tumor, and in May the scans came back clean. But a follow up check in August revealed another spot and a special chemo treatment was not effective, Holland explained.
Walters, who was born near Paris, Ark., had a successful career as an attorney and lived life to the fullest, Holland said. He was an airplane and helicopter pilot, drove a bulldozer, built much of a log cabin by himself, and was generous with his time and financial support. For example, he volunteered the use of his helicopter for First Tee of Fort Smith fundraisers.
“He was certainly a good friend to me. You know, there are just a few people who come into your life that have a big impact, and Bill was certainly one who came into my life like that,” Holland said.
In addition to serving in the Arkansas Senate, Walters’ public service included city attorney for Greenwood, a municipal judge and serving as a Justice of the Peace.
Walters also was an attorney for Juanita Broaddrick during the investigation into President Bill Clinton’s dealings in Arkansas that eventually resulted in his impeachment trial. According to a February 1999 report by the Washington Post, Walters helped facilitate in November 1997 an agreement between Broaddrick and Clinton lawyers in which she denied Clinton sexually assaulted her in April 1978. Broaddrick would later reverse her denial.
Holland said Walters’ true love was working with his hands and helping people, and not being involved high-profile politics.
“He helped a lot of people and he didn’t beat his chest about it. He would just help people and move on. … He didn’t want any glory for it, you know, that’s just the kind of guy he was.”
Continuing, Holland said: “There are so many good things I could say about my friend Bill, but the main thing is that he lived life to the fullest. … He was a successful attorney and could have been jetting off everywhere and living anywhere in the world, but Bill liked to work and get dirty. He would go get on his bulldozer and go fix a road or something.”
Holland said initial plans are for a visitation in Greenwood on Thursday evening, with a funeral service Friday afternoon at Christ the King in Fort Smith, followed by a burial at the Ratcliff cemetery.
BILL WALTERS OBITUARY
Bill Walters of Greenwood, Arkansas passed away on Tuesday March 5th in his home after a long battle with cancer.
He was born April 17, 1943, in Paris Arkansas. Bill graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Juris Doctorate degree and came to Greenwood as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in 1971. He began practicing law in Greenwood in 1972 as Walters Law Firm, now Walters, Gaston and Allison. He and his wife, Shirley, started SCATCO Abstract and Title Co. in 1980 and successfully ran it for 22 years. Bill ran for the Arkansas State Senate in 1983, and he served for 18 years. He was dedicated to the constituents he served and to the State.
He is survived by his wife Shirley, of Greenwood, three daughters, Jamie El-Erian and husband Mohamed of Laguna Beach, California, Sherry Marrier and husband Brian of Pasadena, California, and Sandra Dewey and husband Marshall of Hamilton, Missouri.
He is also survived by seven grandchildren: Samia El-Erian, William, Jacob, Hannah, Katie, Sarah and Emma Dewey, by four brothers Charles Walters and wife Nieki of Houston, Texas, Robert Walters and wife Beverly of Sixes, Oregon, Eddie Walters and wife Rosemary of Maryland and Jimmy Walters of Greenwood, and one sister Betty Beshoner of Diamondhead, Mississippi.
Pallbearers will be Paul Rush, Sen. Bruce Holland, John Paul Walker, Ed Beshoner, Troy Gaston, Derrick Allison. Honorary Pallbearers are Honey Graham, Wayland Parker, Robert Gage, Chris Young, Mac Jones and John Laborde.
As a lawyer, Bill loved the law and using it in ways that helped his clients. As a State Senator, Bill passed over 100 bills during his time in the legislature, serving as chair of many committees and working hard for his district and constituents. He passed legislation, such as the one that eliminated parole for 2nd offenders of murder and rape, one that set up a restitution and compensation for victims of crimes, and one that allowed for designation of organ donation on your drivers license. He passed the first concealed gun legislation for our state, a bill that made getting car tags easier, and many other pieces of legislation that made the lives of those in our state better. He was named one of the top 10 Arkansas legislators in 1995.
Bill served on many local clubs, boards and organizations. He was recently named to the South Sebastian County Boys and Girls Club Hall of Fame. He was three times President of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, a Greenwood Citizen of the Year, Who’s Who and many other honors. He flew Angel and organ donor flights, transporting patients and donor organs that saved many lives. He also did lost plane searches for the Civil Air Patrol. He was awarded the Silver Medal of Valor by the Civil Air Patrol for pulling an unconscious accident victim out of a burning vehicle.
Bill enjoyed helping people and spending time with family and friends. He loved flying a plane and helicopter and took many people up for fun rides and sightseeing. He loved his cabin, enjoyed hunting, working on the bulldozer and wood carving. Everyone enjoyed Bill’s stories, his humor and genuine friendship. He was a true friend to all.
Viewing will be at McConnell Funeral Home in Greenwood on Thursday evening from 5 pm to 7 with a rosary service at 7 in the McConnell Chapel. Funeral services will be at Christ the King Church in Fort Smith on Friday March 8th at 1 P.M. with burial at St. Anthony’s Cemetery in Ratcliff, Arkansas. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the South Sebastian County Youth Organization in Greenwood in Bill’s Honor.