Willis Ricketts

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Willis Harvey "Bubs" Ricketts​

(Arkansas pharmacist, businessman, and politician)


Born December 14, 1924
Bentonville, Benton County
Arkansas, USA
Died January 12, 2003 (aged 78)​
Benton, Saline County
Arkansas

Resting place:
Fairview Memorial Gardens in Fayetteville, Arkansas​

Political Party Republican gubernatorial nominee, 1962​
Spouse Divorced from LaEuna "Lee" Broyles Ricketts Patrick

Children:Janis Ricketts Volkamer
​ Glenn R. "Rick" Ricketts​

Willis Harvey Ricketts, known as Bubs Ricketts (December 14, 1924 – January 12, 2003), was the 1962 Republican gubernatorial nominee in the U.S. state of Arkansas, having been overwhelmingly defeated by the incumbent Democrat Orval Faubus.

Background

Ricketts was born to Glenn C. (1899–1982) and Jewell Ricketts (1902–1987) in Bentonville in Benton County in northwestern Arkansas. He graduated in 1942 from Fayetteville High Schoo]]. He then entered the United States Marines in which he served for thirty months during World War II, mostly as a medical field technologist in the South Pacific. On returning from the war, he studied pre-medicine at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. He graduated in 1950 from the School of Pharmacy at what is now the University of the Ozarks, a Christian institution in Clarksville, Arkansas, not to be confused with the College of the Ozarks in southwestern Missouri.[1]

Ricketts was a former president of the Arkansas Junior Chamber of Commerce, a national Jaycees director, and a member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce International. He was affiliated with the Fayetteville Exchange Club for Men, the Arkansas Pharmaceutical Association, and the Salvation Army.[1]

Political life

At the time of his gubernatorial bid, Ricketts, a 37-year-old pharmacist, operated with his father Ricketts Drug Store in Fayetteville] in Washington County in northwestern Arkansas.[2] Ricketts polled 82,349 votes (26.7 percent) to Faubus' 225,743 (73.3 percent). Faubus won all seventy-five counties; Ricketts ran best with 42 percent in Baxter County in the far northern part of the state.[3]

The 52-year-old Faubus interpreted his victory over Ricketts as "a slap in the face to Winthrop Rockefeller," a key GOP financier and later Faubus' successor as governor. Faubus alleged that GOP leaders were "not in tune with the people."[4] Rockefeller replied to Faubus, who had appointed him in 1955 to chair the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission, with a prediction that the GOP, which offered twenty-two legislative candidates in 1962, would "consolidate our gains. ... We made a lot of friends who want to join forces with the Republican Party to create a true two-party system in Arkansas."[4]

In the campaign, Ricketts questioned why Faubus, when he faced a Democratic intra-party challenge from former Governor Sidney Sanders "Sid" McMath (1912-2003) and then U.S. Representative Thomas Dale Alford, Sr. (1916-2000) of Arkansas' 5th congressional district, since disbanded because of population losses, had contacted welfare recipients by letter to petition for their support. Ricketts called Faubus' action a "form of intimidation" of the unfortunate.[5]

Running with Ricketts was the GOP senatorial nominee, Dr. Kenneth Jones of Little Rock, challenger to entrenched Democratic U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright, already a nationally known figure. Jones ran to the "right" of Fulbright and polled 31.3 percent of the vote, some 5 percentage points more than Ricketts, who ran to the "left" of Faubus.[6]

Later years

After his 1962 race, Ricketts worked in Rockefeller's losing gubernatorial campaign of 1964 and then Rockefeller's election in 1966. He served as secretary of the Arkansas GOP but never again sought office himself.

In 1967, Ricketts relocated to Benton in Saline County south of Little Rock (not to be confused with his birthplace of Bentonville), to become the administrator of the local Arkansas State Hospital, at which he earned the "Boss of the Year" award in 1968. Thereafter, from 1972 to 1973, he was the administrator of the Stella Manor Nursing Home in Russellville in Pope County, at which he was active in the Association of Mental Health Administrators. He was the executive vice president of the Saline County Chamber of Commerce from 1973 until his retirement in 1985.[1]

Ricketts, who was divorced from LaEuna "Lee" Broyles Ricketts Patrick (1925-2003), was survived by a daughter, Janis Ricketts Volkamer of Fayetteville; a son, Glenn R. "Rick" Ricketts and his wife, Cathy, of Benton; four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Services were held on January 15, 2003, at Ashby Funeral Home Chapel in Benton. Burial was at Fairview Memorial Gardens in Fayetteville.[1]


References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Ricketts obituary, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 14, 2003.
  2. The New York Times, November 3, 1962.
  3. Election Statistics, 1962, Little Rock: Secretary of State; Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, 1962 gubernatorial results.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Arkansas Gazette, November 8, 1962.
  5. Arkansas Gazette, November 6, 1962.
  6. Arkansas Gazette, November 4, 1962; Election Statistics, 1962, Little Rock: Secretary of State; Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, Senatorial returns, 1962.

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