Erma Hendrix, a member of the Little Rock Board of Directors, died peacefully at her home on Wednesday, the city announced Thursday. She was 91.
Hendrix, who represented Ward 1, was first elected to the board in 1993 where she served one term. More than a decade later, Hendrix ran again, winning the election. She would then be reelected three times, serving from 2006 until her death.
Hendrix became widely known for her dedicated advocacy for her constituents throughout her 15 years of service.
Hendrix also served as a commissioner on the Arkansas Parole Board and as Community Development Block Grant Chair for the City of Little Rock. She was an active member of St. John Missionary Baptist Church and various community organizations, including the National Council of Negro Women. Hendrix was also a charter member of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, was part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Association and Martin Luther King Heritage Center, as well as serving as the president of the Arkansas Conference of Branches of the NAACP and served as Arkansas Youth Director of the NAACP.
Recently, Hendrix questioned the city’s proposed 1% sales tax increase that will be decided on Tuesday during a special election. She eventually said she would campaign against the proposal.
Hendrix left a lasting impression on her colleagues and those who worked with her. Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore said in an interview that he first met Hendrix while he was an intern at City Hall. He said he admired her passion and dedication to residents of Ward 1.
“[She was] just as feisty as ever,” Moore said. “She attended her last board meeting last month. She was a tremendous advocate for her community and her constituents, and she made sure that her colleagues on the city board and city staff knew that.”
Moore said Hendrix insisted that more, not equal, resources be allocated to Ward 1. He recalled working with Hendrix on how to use a grant from the state Department of Transportation to resurface Main Street.
The grant was intended to narrow the four lanes down to two lanes in order to slow traffic south of Interstate 630. The remodeling also included the addition of bike lanes, which Hendrix was against.
“She felt like people in her ward didn’t ride bikes that often and so she was really disappointed when we moved forward with that,” Moore said, “She cared a lot about the homeless and the less fortunate. She was a strong advocate to put in sidewalks.”
During the Little Rock Board of Directors previous sales tax campaign, Hendrix wanted more funds to repair and replace sidewalks in her ward. “She really cared about the elderly and the overall housing stock in Ward 1,” Moore added.
In a statement, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said, “I will always remember and be thankful for Director Hendrix's passion for equity and justice and her love for serving the residents of Ward 1 for 15 years. I know that it was a highlight of her life's work to be the voice for the residents of Little Rock.”
Before public service, Hendrix was a graduate of Little Rock public schools and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Arkansas Baptist College, then a master's degree in urban planning and development from St. Louis University. She worked as a psychiatric nurse at Fort Roots Veterans Hospital and was administrator of the Anti-Poverty Program at the Metropolitan Housing Alliance.
The city will fly a flag at half-staff in her honor. Funeral services for Hendrix are being planned.