Arkansas business, political leader Bill Bowen dies at age 91

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 252 views 

Little Rock banker, attorney veteran and political confidante William H. “Bill” Bowen has passed away at the age of 91.

Bowen was known as one of the most powerful men in Arkansas through his business and political connections.

Born in Altheimer, Arkansas (Jefferson County), Bowen was a World War II veteran of the U.S. Naval Reserve. He earned his law degree from New York University and eventually practiced law in Little Rock with what is now the Friday, Eldredge and Clark law firm.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock named its law school, the William H. Bowen School of Law, after him in 2000. He served as the law school’s dean in the 1990’s.
Bowen had a distinguished career in the banking arena, where he was lured away from his prestigious legal work. Bowen became president of Commercial National Bank and helped transform the financial institution into a major statewide operation known as First Commercial Bank. Eventually, the bank sold to Regions Corp.

Bowen was a 2008 inductee in the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.

With a knack for remembering people instantly and his business influence, Bowen was also active in politics. His name was frequently mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate, but as an ally to then Governors Dale Bumpers, David Pryor and Bill Clinton, Bowen never seemed to have the opening.

When Clinton ran for President in 1991-92, Bowen served as his chief of staff and kept state government running on schedule despite Clinton’s lengthy travels out-of-state on the campaign trail. Bowen also served a short stint as an appointee to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel released a statement on Thursday morning saying, “With the death of William H. Bowen, Arkansas has lost a man who was without equal in Arkansas in terms of his success, kindness and commitment to public service. Bill will be missed, but his legacy will live on forever, and through that legacy, Arkansas will be a better place.”

McDaniel added, “When I met Bill Bowen, I was a first-year law student, and he was the dean of the law school that now bears his name. I was inspired simply to be in his presence. In the years that followed, I learned more about his accomplishments and service to his state and nation, and was honored to build a friendship with him. I am a proud graduate of the William H. Bowen School of Law, and I am even more proud to have been able to call Bill my friend.”

Bowen is survived by his wife, Connie, three children, and 12 grandchildren.