William H. “Buddy” Sutton Passes Away

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 527 views 

Arkansas has lost another legal and civic legend.

Talk Business & Politics has confirmed that William H. “Buddy” Sutton, former managing partner with the Little Rock-based Friday Law Firm, has passed away after an extended illness.

He was 84 years old. Since his retirement as managing partner of the firm in 2005, Sutton had been serving in an Of Counsel role at the Friday firm.

“The Friday, Eldredge & Clark family is deeply saddened by the passing of Buddy Sutton and our prayers and deepest sympathies go out to his wonderful family,” said J. Shepard Russell, III, managing partner of Friday, Eldredge & Clark. “The impact he made not only on our firm but on countless lives through his service to his church, and civic and service organizations cannot be overstated. He leaves a legacy of influence that will be felt for generations to come,” Russell said.

Sutton was head of the Trial Department for many years, as well as Managing Partner of the Friday Law Firm, but his influence was far-reaching beyond that.

He served on the board of trustees for Baptist Health, Ouachita Baptist University (former chairman), Pulaski Technical College Foundation, and Dillard’s, Inc. at different points in his career. He was also a past president of the prestigious Fifty for the Future, Arkansas Baptist State Convention, chairman of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, and worked on the University of Arkansas 21st Century Campaign.

Sutton was instrumental in establishing the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, of which he was named an honorary member in 2003 for leading fundraising efforts and serving as chairman for the museum. He was also a longtime member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock where he has served for decades as a deacon and Sunday school teacher.

In college, he played football from 1950-52 and was a team captain and the school’s student body president as a senior. In 1952, Sutton led the Razorbacks in rushing with 448 yards and three touchdowns on 100 carries. He also returned five kicks for 143 yards that season.

Sutton was distinguished in his five-decade legal career. After graduating from the University of Arkansas with undergraduate and law degrees, he worked as an assistant prosecuting attorney before entering private practice. Sutton held a number of prestigious positions and earned numerous accolades. Among them:

  • Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers
  • Fellow, American Bar Foundation
  • Recipient, Arkansas Bar Association Lawyer of the Year Award, 1990
  • William Overton Inns of Court
  • Recipient, Arkansas Association of Defense Counsel Outstanding Defense Attorney Award, 1994
  • Selected by attorney peers for inclusion in Mid-South Super Lawyers, 2006 and 2007

In civic life, Sutton earned the following distinctions according to his biography on the Friday Law Firm web site:

  • Arkansas Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, Distinguished American Award, 1999
  • Recipient of the Arkansas Boys and Girls Sheriff’s Ranch Award, 1999
  • Recipient of the National Conference for Community and Justice of Arkansas, National Humanitarian Award, 2002
  • Easter Seals Arkansan of the Year, 2004
  • Recipient, Brooks Hays Award, 1990

The funeral is set for 3 p.m. on Monday at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock.

The UA Pryor Center for Oral and Visual History sat down with Sutton for an extended interview in 2010. You can access the interview here.

Talk Business & Politics will update this story later today.