Editor’s note: Bill Lawson left his mark on this paper and the state with a life well-lived.
We will miss Bill. His wit. His wisdom. And a gift with words that elevated simple stories into something that made you want to sit down and read to the end.
His writing ran the gamut from a well-struck editorial to beat coverage of city councils, school boards and county government.
It was award-winning for a reason.
After a decade writing for this paper and sister papers in Lonoke County, he grudgingly went into retirement but the words and the tips never stopped.
It was an endless delight to get a call or an e-mail or a message on Facebook.
“Hey man, did you hear about …”
I’ll miss that and I’ll miss Bill tremendously. Bill passed on July 27, 2017.
He was born on Oct. 4, 1948 and far too young to be gone so soon.
Visitation will be 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, Aug. 1, at Smith- North Little Rock Funeral Home, 1921 Main St. Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. on Wednesday at Park Hill Baptist Church. Burial with military honors will be 10 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 3 at Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock.
As long as our father has been on social media, whenever a friend or family member passed away, he would always write an eloquent post about that person’s life. These posts were always loved and appreciated by the families. His writings were so revered and well done that he even had friends request for him to write their obituary whenever they passed away. He was blessed with the gift of prose.
Unfortunately, the time has come for us to memorialize our Dad. We have been blessed to receive many messages and calls from his many friends. Many have shared stories about how he has impacted their lives. We have loved reading all of the messages and please, keep sharing those memories as it will help our family make it through the upcoming days, months, and years. However, we feel that it is only fitting that the man that honored the memory of many friends and family with his writings be honored in a similar style. It will fall way short of the expectation that he has created with his posts, but we know that he would be honored to have it written about him.
Not every superhero wears a cape and not every superhero comes from a faraway land. Our superhero was born to humble beginnings on a fall day in Memphis. He was the youngest of Jesse and Omega Lawson’s three kids and grew up in a farming community just south of Marked Tree. Jesse was a farmer who had just purchased a 1948 John Deere Model B tractor to help plow the rich Delta soil just a few months prior to Dad’s birth and was looking forward to using it the next spring. From the moment that he could crawl, Dad was in the cotton fields close by his mom and sister who would both watch over him while they were picking cotton by hand. As the years progressed, Dad would get out of having to pick cotton because he had to go to town for baseball practice.
It was the athletic field where dad was able to first show his superpowers. Whether it was throwing a wicked curve ball on the baseball diamond, showing off his lighting speed on the track, or making tackles as the “Monster” back on the football field, when the lights came on, it was his time to shine. Legend has it that he was being scouted by the St. Louis Cardinals, but that the semi-pro team that he was playing for in Memphis would not release him to go play in the Cardinals’ farm system. It was this love for sports that Dad would pass on to his three sons and allowed for many great and memorable bonding opportunities.
Dad graduated from Marked Tree High School in 1966 and would go on to earn a degree in Radio/TV from Arkansas State University in 1970. It was after graduation from ASU where Dad would receive his real superhero training. Dad was a member of the Army ROTC during his time at ASU and upon graduation, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant with orders to go to Fort Benning, Georgia, to begin training exercises for deployment to Vietnam. It was in the hot and humid forests of Georgia where dad would become, according to his words, “a well-trained fighting machine”.
In 1971, Dad received his orders to go to Vietnam. During this point of the Vietnam War, Lieutenants had a short life expectancy once they reached the battleground. Even with these grueling statistics, Dad faced this challenge with bravery and was willing to complete his commitment to his country. Thankfully, the Nixon Administration began scaling back on the troops in Vietnam that same year and Dad did not have to go to Vietnam.
Dad came back to Marked Tree, married the love of his life, and they moved to North Little Rock to lay the roots for what would become a family consisting of three boys, three daughters-in-law, and six grandchildren. It was during this time where his superpower of compassion would flourish. Early in his career, he was able to work on two major programs that would greatly impact all the citizens of Arkansas, the childhood immunization program started by Betty Bumpers, Every Child by ’74, and a statewide beautification program, Pick-Up Arkansas. For his work on the Every Child by ‘74, Dad was awarded the Silver Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of America for being one of the best public relations programs in the nation. His work on Pick-Up Arkansas would become the foundation for today’s Keep Arkansas Beautiful.
As life continued, Dad faced the hurdles of life with a positive attitude and always wanted to do what was best for his family. After retiring from Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Dad maintained that encouraging attitude and made sacrifices that would ensure that his boys had all of their wants and needs met. He even made sure that his sons were able to take advantage of any opportunities that were afforded to them, regardless the cost.
However, his life’s greatest battle would come in late 2000 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Even though he would go on to battle and beat cancer, the toll of that battle impacted his well-being. The effects of the radiation would lead to him having to have both hips totally replaced and lead to a lot of pain in his shoulders. Even through all of the pain, he still managed to keep an active lifestyle and was always available to visit with family and friends. One of the biggest joys of his life was being Pops to four little boys and two special girls. Although he was not able to get down on the floor and play with them as much as he would have liked, he always had an open lap and a welcoming place for them to lay their head.
On Thursday, July 27, our superhero faced his final battle. He knew that this final battle was quickly approaching, but he continued to display the stubbornness that let us know that he was not going to go out without a fight and it is this desire to continue fighting, even when the chips are down, that we will remember the most. We were blessed to have a superhero of a father and only hope that we can be half of the man that he was. We love you Dad! Thanks for believing in us and being our biggest supporter and confidant!
Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. on Wednesday at Park Hill Baptist Church in North Little Rock. Burial with military honors will be 10 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 3 at Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock.