B.G. Hendrix, former Arkansas House Speaker from Fort Smith, dies

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 7,153 views 

B.G. Hendrix, a World War II veteran and former Arkansas Speaker of the House from Fort Smith who also established the first ambulance service in the city, has died. He was 97.

Following is the complete obit provided by his family.

B.G. Hendrix, 97 years old – Born December 16, 1922 in Jenny Lind, Arkansas. Passed away on March 21, 2020 at Pink Bud Nursing Home, Greenwood, AR. Raised in Sebastian County and graduated from Winslow High School, attended Tulsa University on a basketball scholarship.

Hendrix is a 33rd degree Mason and past Monarch of Amerita Grotto and a Shriner. A member of the Amvets Fort Smith Post, past Commander and State Surgeon General. Recognized in 2016 for 70 years of continuous membership in the American Legion Post 31.

Served in the United States Coast Guard in WWII aboard a destroyer escort. Was injured when his ship was struck by a torpedo and he remained in the Marine hospital in Maryland for 4 months recovering from injuries. He always said can you imagine the anxiety of my mother with her three sons serving the same time in the war, all three were injured.

Mr. Hendrix is a licensed funeral director, a consultant with the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District and licensed in real estate and insurance. He was volunteer chairman of the AARP legislative committee.

B.G. Hendrix probably spent more years in public service than anyone in Western Arkansas. Served two years on the Quorum Court, four years as county coroner, and six weeks as sheriff when the incumbent died. 34 years as a state representative and as Speaker of the House, 1989-90 in the 77th General Assembly. He served several days as Governor when both the Governor and Lt. Governor were out of the State. Was appointed Sheriff for six weeks following the death of the current Sheriff until a new one was appointed by the Governor. As Speaker of the House, he was chosen to represent other State Speakers in Taiwan at the Inauguration of the President of the Republic of China.

Mr. Hendrix became a member of the State House in 1963 and served as chairman of the House Transportation Committee, vice chair of the Select House Management Committee and Vice Chair of the Select Joint Budget Committee. Previously served as Speaker Pro Tem of the House. Former Chairman and long-term member of the Legislative Council. Also served on the Oil and Gas, Rivers and Harbors, Correction and Parole Institution, four years as majority leader. Hendrix served as State Chairman AARP Legislative committee, Vice Chairman House Management, House Insurance and Commerce Committee, Legislative Council Review Committee, Legislative Council Administrative Rules and Regulations Committee.

Served as member of the Environmental and Natural Resources Subcommittee of the Arkansas-Oklahoma River Compact Commission, Legislative member of the U.S. Department of Transportation Rural and Mass Transit Committee, Chairman National sub-Committee on Corrections, and Chairman Southern Transportation Committee. Former Sebastian County Civil Defense Coordinator and Advisory Committee to State Civil Defense.

Hendrix was active in regional and national legislative affairs and former chairman of the Southern Legislative Conference Transportation Committee. He was a charter commissioner of the Education Commission of the States and member of the Transportation and Communications Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures State-Federal Assembly. He also served on the six-member Council of State Governments Advisory Committee on Rural Public Transportation.

Sponsored legislation that gave the voters the right to levy a countywide sales tax to pay for city and county improvements.
Obtained property for the Boy Scout Camp in Booneville.
Secured funding for the State office building in Fort Smith, now the B.G. Hendrix building.
Secured appropriation for the Arkansas/Oklahoma State Fair.
Secured air conditioning for the Lincoln Day Care Center.
Authored law creating a prison industry program, saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
Secured a fire truck for a rural fire department.
Secured funding for a building on the UA Fort Smith campus.
Secured the first computer donated by the state for the UA Fort Smith campus.
Helped create the Arkansas Health Education Center to train doctors and provide medical services for the underserved.
Promoted adult education and the GED diploma for high school dropouts.
Secured Federal funding for the Lake Fort Smith State Park and Devils Den. Lake Fort Smith Park would not be what it is today had he not convinced the State to take it over and secure the funds.
Sponsored legislation to permit Whirlpool and Pernod Ricard USA to locate in Fort Smith bringing thousands of jobs and payrolls.
Sponsored legislation to develop a regional water supply.
Created the Silver Haired Legislature giving senior citizens a forum in Little Rock.
Sponsored the opening of the state worker’s compensation office in Fort Smith.
Sponsored legislation to allow UA Fort Smith to grant 4-year degrees.
Led the fight to establish the boot camp for first-time offenders.
Secured the start-up funding for the Fountain of Youth Day Care.
Secured $6 million for Scott County water supply development.
Secured funding for the golf course at Ben Geren Regional Park.
Sponsored legislation to have matching funds to promote tourism.
Sponsored funding which benefited county and municipal law enforcement.
Sponsored legislation to have the white stripe applied on the side of paved two-lane roads: saving many lives over the years.
Initiated the legislation to establish the oil and gas office in Fort Smith.

These are just a few of the programs and legislation initiated by B.G to assist the citizens and provide a better quality of life. You know he would never talk about these things and was never one to “toot his own horn.” He stated onetime “the best way to exercise your heart is to reach down and pick someone up.” This was his modus operandi throughout his many years of service. His hobby and passion were helping people throughout the state when they had nowhere else to turn for help. He wanted to make Arkansas a better more prosperous state for its citizens and was his lifelong work as he continued to have an office in downtown Fort Smith until his death. Many citizens continued to stop by his office to visit and even still asked for help.

Preceded in death by his wife Janis and brothers Dotson, PC and Jerry Hendrix and his parents Bert and Thelma Hendrix. Brothers and sisters in law Gene and Kitty Bookhammer and Bill and Kitty Williams. Survived by two children Dan Hendrix and wife Marilyn of Fayetteville, AR and Robin Von Hemel and husband Donnie of Piedmont OK. Five grandchildren, Danny Hendrix of Fayetteville, AR, Kristen Henbest and Husband Dr. Barry Henbest of Rogers, AR, Evan Hendrix of Fayetteville, AR, Ann Smith and Husband Eric Smith of Franklin, TN and Tess Von Hemel of Piedmont, OK. Seven great grandchildren and his friends the Hopkins family. Leaving behind Sister in law Barbara Hendrix and nieces and nephews in Arkansas and Delaware.

Lifelong member of First Methodist Church, Fort Smith.
Rodeo Fair Board emeritus member
Established the first ambulance service in Fort Smith, Twin City Ambulance Company
Member of Hope Center Board of Directors
Member Sebastian County Red Cross
Former Vice Chairman March of Dimes
Recipient of Fort Smith Superior Senior Citizen Award
Member Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce
Member Fort Smith Boy’s Club
Board member Good Samaritan Committee
Board member Project Compassion
Awarded President’s Volunteer Service Award
Awarded President’s Call to Service Award

In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to the Fort Smith Boys and Girls Clubs, Amvets Fort Smith Post or American Legion Post 31, or charity of your choice. In order to protect the health of his many friends and family during this health crises a memorial service will be announced at a later date.

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