Comments from Arkansas’ political circles were quick to follow the news Saturday (Jan. 2) of the passing of former Arkansas Governor and U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers. Dale Leon Bumpers, a four-term U.S. Senator and two-term governor, passed away at the age of 90 after a long illness.
Former President and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton provided this statement: “Dale Bumpers was a governor of profound historical importance, the most eloquent defender of our constitution in the Senate, a man who put his considerable gifts of wisdom, wit, and passion to work for the common good.
“For more than 40 years Hillary and I cherished his friendship. I am grateful that his advice made me a better governor and President, and that we laughed at each other’s jokes even when we’d heard them before. And I’m grateful that he welcomed Hillary to Arkansas and supported her in Washington.
“As governor, he gave us the revenue system that made modernization possible, especially in education. As Senator he had the courage to vote against both the tax cuts and spending increases that exploded our national debt, increased inequality, and slowed growth. He championed efforts to protect the environment throughout his career. And first, last, and always he defended the constitution – its rights, responsibilities, and rules. Thanks to Dale Bumpers and David Pryor I never felt far from home.
“I loved him. I loved learning from him and laughing with him. I will miss him very much. Our hearts go out to Betty, Brent, Bill, and Brooke, and all the Bumpers clan.”
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said Bumpers “took me to school on Arkansas politics” when Hutchinson first ran for the U.S. Senate seat.
Hutchinson noted in a statement: “The entire state mourns the loss of an Arkansas legend. In my first statewide race, Dale took me to school on Arkansas politics. He was a master storyteller, and his stump speaking was impossible to beat. From that first campaign in which we were competitors to the time we served together in Congress, I have admired Dale for his skill, heartfelt convictions and his sense of humor. After he retired, he continued to set an example of civic responsibility and good will during a time of increased partisanship in our nation. We will all miss Dale.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) said Bumpers had a way of finding common ground in the political arena.
“Dale Bumpers gave me my start in public service and remained my dear friend and mentor throughout the decades that followed. An elite public speaker, Dale’s passion for good policy and responsible government brought opponents to common ground and inspired the detached to become involved citizens,” Beebe said in a statement. “He paired his light-hearted swagger with his unabashed love for the Arkansans who carried him from a Charleston, Arkansas, law office to the halls of the U.S. Senate.”
Former U.S. District Judge Robert Dawson (Western District of Arkansas) said Bumpers was a “force for Arkansas,” and the state and nation will miss his leadership. Dawson was nominated to the federal post by then U.S. Sen. Bumpers. However, as lawyers Bumpers and Dawson tried cases together and sat across from each other on court cases.
“The thing I remember the most is that Dale Bumpers always took the high road, even when by far that was the most difficult choice. When faced with two alternatives, he would go with the alternative he thought best no matter what the political response might be,” Dawson said.
U.S. Reps. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, and Steve Womack, R-Rogers, also commented on Bumpers’ passing.
Westerman: ”My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Sen. Bumpers. He was a statesman who served Arkansas with distinction. His legacy is one of dedication to this state we all love.”
Womack: ”The passing of a legendary political figure is sad, but I will always remember him as one of our country’s great orators. His ability to communicate his message with passion and conviction was unmatched in our state. We are grateful for his service to Arkansas and our nation.”
From former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R):
“Janet and I were deeply saddened by the news of Senator Bumpers’ death. I first knew him as a political opponent and I must confess he beat me like a drum. Later, when I became Governor and he was the Senior Senator we worked very well together. Senator Bumpers was extremely helpful to the state and to me personally. His distinguished service to his country in the Marine Corps, to his state as a Governor and Senator is a legacy of which his family can be justly proud. Our political differences aside, he was a dedicated public servant who always reminded his audiences that ‘public service is a noble calling.’ His wife Betty is also a proud public servant who was a strong ally of Janet’s efforts to promote childhood immunizations and renovate the Governor’s mansion. Betty and the family are in our prayers.”
From U.S. Senator John Boozman (R):
“Dale Bumpers was a larger than life figure in Arkansas politics who was highly respected in Washington D.C. and here at home. His sincere dedication to the state of Arkansas was paired with exceptional oratory skills and a relentless commitment to every challenge he took on. Senator Bumpers leaves behind a legacy of public service, civic responsibility and accomplishments that has undoubtedly made our state a better place to live. I join with all Arkansans as we mourn his passing and keep his family and loved ones in our thoughts and prayers.”
From U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R):
“Today I join all Arkansans in mourning the death of Dale Bumpers — a true Arkansas public servant. As both Governor and Senator, Dale’s tireless dedication to our state spanned decades and his legacy will long outlive his time in office. We are forever grateful for his service and his commitment to Arkansas. My thoughts and prayers are with the Bumpers family.”
Vincent Insalaco, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, issued this statement: “The passing of Former U.S. Senator Dale Bumpers, a giant in Arkansas politics, has left me with a heavy heart. He was a dear friend, and I will miss him. Dale Bumpers’ accomplishments are too numerous to list here, but among the most significant were his work as an attorney to successfully, and peacefully desegregate the Charleston, Arkansas school district years before Central High became a national headline, his work as Governor to make kindergarten universally available to every child in Arkansas, as well as making textbooks free to Arkansas’s school children. In the United States Senate, he was a visionary on environmental issues. His oratory skills were nationally known, and he used them to bring people together in Washington.
“At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the Bumpers family. The Democratic Party of Arkansas offers our heartfelt sympathies for the loss of this transformative figure in our political history. His legacy has made a lasting impression – in Arkansas as governor, and nationally as U.S. Senator. His good works as a lawyer and public servant are innumerable.
“Today, Arkansas mourns the loss of a great man whose good deeds will forever continue to benefit us all.”