Public Radio from UA Little Rock
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Long-serving Arkansas Treasurer Jimmie Lou Fisher dies at 80

2002-08-26-Jimmie_Lou_Fisher-Bill_Clinton-AP-1000.jpeg
Danny Johnston
/
AP
Former President Bill Clinton speaks with Democrat candidate for Arkansas governor Jimmie Lou Fisher, left, at a Democratic Party rally on Aug. 26, 2002, in West Memphis, Ark.

Jimmie Lou Fisher, one of the state’s longest serving constitutional officers and the first female major party nominee for Arkansas governor, has died, according to a Twitter statement from the Democratic Party of Arkansas. Additional sources have confirmed her passing.

Fisher, a resident of Paragould, was 80-years-old.

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas:

Fisher got her start in politics by being elected treasurer of Greene County in 1970, but her friendship and alliance with young Bill Clinton when he campaigned for Congress in 1974 launched her state political career.

Her final race came in 2002, when Democratic Party leaders persuaded her to run for governor against the popular Republican governor Mike Huckabee, who was running for his second full term. Though heavily outspent and suffering from a painful back ailment, Fisher nevertheless received 47% of the vote.

Fisher, a Democrat, was first elected county treasurer in Greene County, a post she held for eight years.

In 1979, Clinton, then governor, appointed her to state auditor to fill a vacancy. Two years later, she was elected state treasurer, an office she held for 22 years until term-limited.

Born in Delight (Pike County) in 1941, she was the oldest of five children. She was active in Democratic Party politics serving as vice-chair of the state party and was a delegate to the party’s national conventions in 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Funeral arrangements have not been released.

Former President Bill Clinton released this statement upon her passing:

“Hillary and I are deeply saddened about the loss of our dear friend, Jimmie Lou Fisher. Jimmy Lou led our campaign in the first congressional district when I ran for Governor in 1978. The next year I appointed her State Auditor, then she ran for Treasurer in 1980 and served until 2002, always elected without opposition.

“She loved Arkansas and Arkansas loved her back. And she did a fine job as State Treasurer.

“I will always remember that early October morning in 1991, when Jimmie Lou introduced me as I kicked off my presidential campaign on the steps of the Old State House. As always, she was enthusiastic, caring and kind, saying just the words we all needed to hear. I loved her and will always be grateful for her kind and giving heart.”

Former Gov. Mike Beebe, D-Ark., issued this statement regarding Fisher:

“Jimmie Lou Fisher, only the third woman ever to be elected to statewide office in Arkansas, went on to serve a total of 22 years as state treasurer, longer than any other treasurer in Arkansas history. Not only was she one of our state’s most devoted public servants, Jimmie Lou had a great love of life, an energetic spirit, and she was a staunch advocate for education and public service. For me personally, she was a loyal friend, a trusted advisor, and a dependable ally. Saying that she was one of a kind is not a cliché in Jimmie Lou’s case; it’s the truth and we will miss her.”

Other tributes came from leaders on both sides of the political aisle.

“Jimmie Lou Fisher never met a stranger, and she was a friend to so many in our state,” said former Little Rock Mayor and Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Lottie Shackelford. “She was a passionate and hardworking trailblazer who never stopped working for a better Arkansas. I will miss her kindness, guidance, and friendship. In so many ways she grounded me, our party, and our politics — and we are all better to have known her and benefited from her public service. I will miss hearing her say ‘Jimmie Lou Fisher from Greene County.’”

“Jimmie Lou Fisher broke barriers for women her whole life,” said former Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, D-Ark.. “She was a champion for equality, fairness, kindness and faith. She was a giant who built others up and gave more opportunities than she took for herself. I will always love her and be grateful for the love she gave to me and the example she set for all of us to follow.”

“I am saddened to hear of the passing of former State Treasurer Jimmie Lou Fisher this morning. Jimmie Lou was the longest-serving Treasurer of Arkansas, serving from 1981-2003. I had the pleasure of serving with Jimmie Lou on the board of directors for the Arkansas Rural Endowment Fund and always enjoyed her wit and charm. She had a graceful presence and truly cared about serving Arkansas,” said current State Treasurer Dennis Milligan, R-Ark.

“Last summer I invited her to come back to the treasury and share some of her best stories from her time in office. One of the memories I recall was hearing her discuss how the tradition began of allowing the public to come into the state’s vault and hold hundreds of thousands of dollars. She offered it to children who came to tour the treasury as a way to engage them and also to help explain how their tax dollars worked. She is the one responsible for implementing the tradition of touring the vault and getting your picture made holding the money. This and the many other stories she told during our visit last summer were like taking a walk back in time, and I am undoubtedly grateful for having the chance to visit with her about how the state treasury operated back then,” Milligan said. “Jimmie Lou had a long history in public service to our state and will forever be the state’s longest-serving treasurer. She was indeed a real Arkansas treasure. My wife, Tina, and I are praying for her family during their time of loss.”

This story comes from the staff of Talk Business & Politics, a content partner with KUAR News. You can hear the weekly program on Mondays at 6:06 p.m.