Arkansas lost one of its greatest leaders with today's passing of former Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt. He died at age 92.
The Northwest Arkansas Council issued the following statement regarding Mr. Hammerschmidt:
"John Paul’s incredible, long-term contributions to Arkansas put him among a small group of individuals who we consider to be among the most important in our state history. There are many reasons his name is so recognized in every corner of this state, but especially in Northwest Arkansas where he played such an the critical role in designating the Buffalo National River. The Buffalo remains one of the most important, best known places in Arkansas, and it’s clear that protecting the river was incredibly important.
"After his 26 years in Congress, John Paul took over the top leadership position as chairman of the Northwest Arkansas Council. Our members were honored when he took that post, which he held for 13 years. He’s one of only three people in our organization’s history to be recognized as an honorary lifetime member. While working with the Council, he was particularly proud to see federal agencies, state government and local officials work together to open what’s now Interstate 49 from Alma to Fayetteville, the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport and the Benton Washington Regional Public Water Authority (Two-Ton).
"Our friend John Paul will be greatly missed. We join thousands of friends across the nation in celebrating his life’s accomplishments."
Some long-time Northwest Arkansas Council members earlier today indicated Mr. Hammerschmidt was an excellent advocate for the state and for Northwest Arkansas. Mr. Hammerschmidt, who lived in Harrison, would attend meetings in Little Rock and people from El Dorado, Dumas and other south Arkansas communities would thank Mr. Hammerschmidt for his help on a project. It made it clear that Mr. Hammerschmidt was willing to assist all Arkansans, and not just those who lived in his own 3rd Congressional District.
John Tyson, the chairman of the board at Tyson Foods and a founding member of the Council, called Mr. Hammerschmidt "a wonderful man." "Northwest Arkansas was lucky to have him on our side," he said.
Mark Simmons, chairman of Simmons Foods and a founding member of the Northwest Arkansas Council, said his father introduced him to Mr. Hammerschmidt when he was a youngster and that he was always treated with "kindness and respect" by Mr. Hammerschmidt. Simmons said Mr. Hammerschmidt and Col. Ray Reid, Mr. Hammerschmidt's chief of staff, "made a fantastic team representing Arkansas and the United States to the world."