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Louis L. Ramsay, Jr.'s name is synonymous with service and leadership in Arkansas.

Former Governor Bill Clinton once described Louis Ramsay as representing "everything that is good about our state."

Chairman of the Executive Committee, Simmons First National Corporation, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Louis L. Ramsay, Jr.'s name is synonymous with service and leadership in Arkansas. He is the only person in the state's history to serve as president of both the Arkansas State Bankers Association and the Arkansas Bar Association. As a warhero, lawyer, banker and trend-setter in the education and health fields, he has had a significant impact on the growth and development of the state of Arkansas. He learned a long time ago that a person does not have to be a public officer to make a difference to his community, state and nation. Former Governor Bill Clinton once described Ramsay as representing "everything that is good about our state."

Ramsay was born in Fordyce, Ark., in 1918. He attended public schools in Fordyce. While in junior high, he witnessed the fight between his fellow "Redbug" Paul "Bear" Bryant and a bear. Through a twist of fate, he attended the University of Arkansas -- nor Alabama where Bryant had tried to recruit him -- on an athletic scholarship. Nicknamed "Ramrod, he played quarterback on the Razorback football team, lettering in 1940-41.

He further developed his leadership skills on campus as president of Blue Key, president of the Interfraternity Council, president of the "A" Club, Razorback Annual 1942 "Who's Who", Kappa Sigma, and Delta Theta Phi law fraternity. His academic life was interrupted by World War II where, as a young Army Air Corps captain, he piloted a paratroop carrier in Europe. He participated in all air drops, including Bstogne and Arnheirn, and received combat air medals with four Oak Leaf Clusters.

He returned to school to gain a juris doctorate degree from the University's School of Law in 1947. He then joined the law firm of Coleman & Gantt in Pine Bluff where, in only one year, he became a partner. He continues today to serve as "Of Counsel" for the firm, which is now Ramsay, Bridgforth, Harrelson & Starling.

He had met Joy Bond at the University, and the couple was married in 1945. Joy had graduated from the College of Business Administration in 1943 with a BSBA. Following in the footsteps of their parents, the couple's children, Joy R. Blankenship, BA '78, and Richard L. Ramsay, BA '74, JD '77, graduated from the University of Arkansas. Ramsay's grandchildren include Drew Blankenship, BA '99; Ben Blankenship; Kate Blankenship; Jimbo Ramsay, BSBA '82; Liz Ramsay; Alex Graham, and Clancy Graham.

Ramsay was elected president of Simmons First National Bank in 1970 and was chairman and CEO from 1973 to 1983. He currently serves as chairman of the executive committee for the board of directors. In recognition of 50 years of service to Simmons First National Bank, it was announced at the April 23, 2002, shareholders' meeting that the bank's board room would be named the Louis L. Ramsay, Jr. Board Room.

He joined the board of directors of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield in 1985 and served as chairman until 1997. He remains chairman of the executive committee.

Ramsay began his leadership in the law profession as president of the Jefferson County Bar Association in 1958. In addition to serving as president of the Arkansas Bar Association in 1963-1964, he received its outstanding lawyer award in 1966 and its outstanding lawyer-citizen award in 1987. He served as commissioner to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws from 1961-1969. He was a member of the American Bar Association's House of Delegates from 1968 to 1972. Ramsay is a fellow in the American Bar Foundation, American College of Trial Lawyers and American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. He was listed in Best Lawyers in America for 1989-1990, 1991-1992, and 1993-1994.

In addition to his banking and legal endeavors, Ramsay is a champion of higher education, trying to ensure that the state's sons and daughters remain in Arkansas and become leaders in their communities and businesses. He served as member of the board of trustees of AM&N (University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) and on the board of visitors at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He served on the board of trustees for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, from 1971-1981 and as chairman from 1978-1981. He brought his banking skills to his position as chairman of the University of Arkansas Foundation from 1981 to 1988 and as president of the U of A Endowment Trust Fund. As a tribute to his work and vision, he received an honorary degree from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in 1988 and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in 1992. In addition, he was president of the Arkansas Alumni Association and cited as a distinguished alumnus.

Ramsay served as chairman of the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority where he encouraged the state to be more selective about industrial development. Governor Bill Clinton appointed him to lead the Arkansas Sesquicentennial Celebration in 1986. He traveled throughout the state that year promoting a positive image of the state, using the occasion as a "springboard for a new image for Arkansas."

In 1989, Louis L. Ramsay received the Public Relations Society of America - Arkansas Chapter's first Diamond Award, to recognize someone from outside the profession who has made outstanding contributions in the field.

Ramsay is literally "Mr. Southeast Arkansas." His leadership has made a significant economic impact on the Pine Bluff community and Southeast Arkansas. In 1986 poll conducted by the Pine Bluff Commercial, Pine Bluff residents elected Ramsay as the "City's Most Influential Citizen." He was honored at a $100 a plate dinner attended by over 600 people including the "Who's Who in Arkansas." As a permanent tribute, Simmons First National Bank, the Ramsay, Cox Law Firm and Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield jointly contributed $25,000 to establish the Louis L. Ramsay Education Fund. The proceeds of the endowment sponsor an annual educational project for youth at the Arts and Science Center.

Ramsay served as a member of the board of directors of Jefferson County Industrial Foundation and former board member of Arkansas Oak Flooring Company.

Among Ramsay's national recognitions are the "Distinguished American Award" from Arkansas Chapter of National Football Hall of Fame in 1987 and listings in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World and Oxford's Who's Who. He received the National Conference of Christians and Jews Humanitarian Award in 1990.

Ramsay's friend, Bradley D. Jesson, Hardin, Jesson & Terry, Ft. Smith, said, "Ramsay's accomplishments and personality have gained him entry and respect in the highest counsels of law, banking and business. While he is a friend of presidents, senators, governors and CEOs, he remains the same warm, caring person he was when he left Fordyce High School for the University of Arkansas, over 60 years ago."
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Comment:Louis L. Ramsay, Jr.'s name is synonymous with service and leadership in Arkansas.
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Jan 20, 2003
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