Four inducted into state’s business hall of fame

by Talk Business & Politics staff (staff2@talkbusiness.net) 877 views 

Claiborne Deming, from left, the late Joe Steele, Warren Stephens and the late John Tyson will be inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.

The Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas and the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame Board on Friday (Feb. 8) inducted the 2019 class for the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame. The annual event took place at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.

This year’s inductees include:

  • Claiborne P. Deming, retired president and chief executive officer and current chairman of the board, Murphy Oil Corp.;
  • The late Joe M. Steele, founder, Steele Canning Co. and the Springdale Canning Co.;
  • Warren A. Stephens, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Stephens Inc.; and
  • The late John W. Tyson, founder and former chief executive officer, Tyson Foods

They join 82 other members of the Hall of Fame.

Claiborne Deming
Deming was born in 1954 in Alexandria, Louisiana, to a doctor and a homemaker- John and Bertie Murphy Deming. His mother was the sister of Charles H. Murphy Jr., the long-time president and chairman of Murphy Oil Corporation. Their father Charles H. Murphy Sr., a South Arkansas banker, timberland owner and oilman, started Murphy Oil.

Deming graduated with honors from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1976 and earned a law degree from Tulane Law School in 1979. During his second year of law school, Claiborne met Elaine Robinson through a friend. They married and raised four children – Claiborne Jr., Katherine, Wilson and Jefferson.

Deming served in a variety of roles at Murphy Oil before becoming president and chief executive officer in October 1994. His tenure included expanding the company internationally, acquiring three oil concessions off the coast of Malaysia.

Restructuring the company in 1996, its Deltic Farm & Timber subsidiary was spun off to concentrate on its oil and gas assets. A business relationship was also begun with Walmart whereby Murphy built and owned gasoline stations and small convenience stores on Supercenter parking lots. The business grew quickly and is now a separate, publicly-traded company, Murphy USA, with over 1,400 sites across the South and Midwest.

On December 31, 2008, Deming retired and became chairman of the board and the executive committee for Murphy Oil Corporation.

Part of his legacy as CEO is his $50 million investment in the El Dorado Promise, a program that awards college funding to El Dorado residents. The El Dorado Promise awards all graduates of El Dorado High School – provided they have attended El Dorado schools since ninth grade – a scholarship equal to in-state tuition and mandatory fees for bachelor or associate college degrees.

Joe Steele (1905-1976)
Steele was born on April 1, 1905, to James Cooper and Sarah Anna Hudson Steele in Elm Springs, Arkansas. When he was four, the family moved to a farm south of Tontitown. He attended Springdale High School and set his sights on the University of Arkansas. Canning tomatoes to pay for his education, he studied engineering from 1924 to 1926 before leaving to devote more time to his business.

His first full-time canning operation – Steele Canning Company – was started near a large spring on the family farm. Starting with tomatoes, the operation soon expanded to include spinach, lima beans, green beans, field peas, and sweet potatoes. With the operations thriving, in the early 1930s, Steele Canning relocated to Springdale.

Steele and his cousin Luther Johnson bought the Springdale Canning Company in 1937. When Johnson passed away in 1954, the poultry division was sold to entrepreneur John W. Tyson. Steele retained the canning companies and purchased Johnson’s interest in First State Bank.

In 1927, Steele married Nancy “Nannie” Lee Webster, and they had two daughters – Nancy Jo and Marjorie Lee. The canned vegetable brands Nancy Jo and Marjorie Lee were created to honor them. In 1938, Steele married Gretchen Gilliland Broyles, who had a young son, Phillip Wayne.

Steele was instrumental in the formation of the Beaver Water District, which today helps supply the critical water needs of Northwest Arkansas.

Warren Stephens
Stephens was born in Little Rock in 1957 to Mary and Jack Stephens. After graduating from Trinity Presbyterian School in Montgomery, Alabama, he attended Washington and Lee University in Virginia, majoring in economics. He then earned an MBA at Wake Forest University in 1981. As a graduate student, he met his future wife, Harriet Calhoun, on a blind date. They made their home in Little Rock, raising their three children – Miles, John and Laura – all of whom work for Stephens Inc.

He wondered if starting his career with another firm would give him a useful perspective when he eventually joined the family business. But, his business school mentor, Dr. Thomas Goho, advised him there was no better place to learn than under the guidance of his father and uncle. Taking that advice in 1981, he joined Stephens Inc. in the Corporate Finance Department. By 1983, Stephens was senior vice president of the Capital Markets Group. He became president and CEO in 1986 when his father stepped down, while retaining the title of chairman. The third CEO to run the business, Stephens assumed the title of chairman upon his father’s death in 2005.

Stephens’ vision to grow Stephens Inc. beyond its public finance roots and add complementary divisions to its emergent investment banking practice started taking shape almost immediately. Today, the full-service financial services company and its affiliates focus on investment banking, research, public finance, institutional sales and trading, private wealth management, capital management, insurance and private equity. The company, which he acquired sole-ownership in 2006, is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ Stock Market and various other exchanges and associations.

When Stephens’ tenure as president and CEO began, he employed 100 workers and had one location in Little Rock. Over 30 years later, the company has more than 1,000 employees in 28 locations in the U.S. and offices in London and Frankfurt. Stephens’ private equity affiliate has investments in more than 30 companies, and the investment banking group has advised on over $180 billion in transactions since 2008.

Serving on corporate and nonprofit boards, Stephens is one of the state’s most prolific philanthropists. He has also invested heavily in education aimed at capitalism. Through “This is Capitalism,” a multimedia campaign aimed at educating about entrepreneurship, Stephens has helped capture the pursuit of many men and women who personify the American dream.

John W. Tyson (1905-1967)
Tyson was born on a small farm in Mound City, Missouri, to Isaac and Anna Tyson in 1905. Four years later, his family moved to Olathe, Kansas. When the Great Depression hit, he hauled and sold hay from his family’s farm, returning with a load of fruit to sell. When the fruit season ended, he hauled chickens. In 1931, with a battered truck, half a load of hay and a nickel in his pocket, John Tyson moved to Springdale, Arkansas, with his wife Mildred and one-year-old son Don. He bought a cup of coffee and then looked for work hauling produce, hay or chickens.

In the 1930s, most chickens were grown locally and hauled to nearby cities. Without federal highways and refrigeration, delivery was limited. By 1935, Tyson was making runs to Kansas City and St. Louis with live chickens. He stacked and nailed chicken coops onto a trailer and devised an in-transit feeding system to allow longer hauls. In 1936, reading that chicken prices were higher in Chicago, Tyson took a $1,000 loan and $800 of his own money to purchase 500 spring chickens. Using his in-transit feeding system, the 1,400-mile roundtrip to Chicago generated $235 profit. He was soon driving to Cincinnati, Detroit, Cleveland, Memphis and Houston.

Through the need for growth, Tyson innovated to serve his customers through growing his own chickens, to providing feed for his supply and others, and eventually expanding his trucking services in the poultry industry.

In 1943, Tyson bought 40 acres next to U.S. 71 in Springdale and purchased a few small broiler houses. In 1945, he transitioned to New Hampshire Red Cristy chickens, a meatier bird. Tyson Feed and Hatchery was incorporated in 1947, providing chicks, feed and trucking services for local poultry farms. The company was located in downtown Springdale, close to Armour, Swanson and Swift processing plants.

By the late 1940s, the invention of refrigerated trucks and more efficient production methods changed the poultry market. Tyson developed a vertically integrated business by contracting with local farmers to grow chicks, paying a fixed price based on weight gain. He would then market and sell the chicken. To complete the business model, he provided more services– marketing, sales, feed production and poultry processing.

Through the years, Tyson bought competitors to strengthen the company’s market share. Eventually, his son Don convinced him to get into the processing business.

In 1963, Tyson changed the name to Tyson’s Foods Inc. and took it public through an initial stock offering of 100,000 shares at $10.50 each. Expanding the product line with turkeys, Cornish hens and eggs set the stage for flexibility and growth.

On January 15, 1967, John and Helen Frances (Knoll) Tyson, whom he had married in 1941, were killed when their vehicle was broadsided by a train near Springdale. For a number of years, Helen had managed the bookkeeping for Tyson’s businesses. Don took over as chairman and CEO and ran the company during the next 30 years. His son John H. Tyson became chairman and CEO in the late 1990s and leads the company today as chairman of the board.

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