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A career of caring: Doug Brandon was more than a politician and businessman.

Business and politics were only two parts of Benton Douglas Brandon Jr.'s life.

The former state legislator and chairman of Brandon House Furniture Co., who died July 13 of cancer at age 59, was known for his conscientious approach to government and business.

But it was his work with Arkansas Children's Hospital at Little Rock that probably gave Brandon the most satisfaction.

As president of the ACH board from September 1988 until September 1991, Brandon oversaw the growth of an institution that many now consider among the finest pediatric facilities in the country.

"There is probably no way to measure the impact he had," says Larry Woodard, president of the Arkansas Children's Hospital Foundation Inc., the hospital's fund-raising arm. "Doug led this institution when it was changing from a very good children's hospital to a great children's hospital. He was someone who believed strongly in what we're doing."

Several innovations and acquisitions were made during Brandon's period of service. Most prominent among them was the construction of a bone marrow transplant unit and the establishment of an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation program, the only one of its kind in Arkansas. ECMO is a special heart-lung procedure performed on newborns with severe lung problems. ACH is one of nine facilities in the world that offer the procedure for both children and adults. About 120 of the high-tech procedures have been done at ACH.

Completion of the second phase of a construction project enabled Children's to become the sixth-largest pediatric hospital in the country with 280 beds.

"He believed in the staff, and he believed nothing should stand in the way of a child finding the best medical care possible," Woodard says of Brandon, who joined the hospital's board in 1980. "Doug was far more than a board member or a board president. He was a friend.

"His death has hit a lot of us very hard. Without question, he was someone who was deeply loved by the staff here."

Brandon was recognized for his efforts on Sept. 10 when the hospital named a wing after him, the B. Douglas Brandon Conference Center. The 10,000-SF facility includes a 124-seat auditorium and features video, slide projection and sound systems. There also are four classrooms that can be converted into two larger rooms capable of seating 240 people.

More than 250 people attended the presentation, including Brandon; his wife, Sissi; and members of the ACH board.

Lifelong Friends

Among the guest speakers at the ceremony was Bob Cress, the president of J.A. Riggs Tractor Co. of Little Rock and a longtime friend of Brandon's.

"Doug was a quality person in all aspects of his life," says Cress, 59.

Friends since elementary school, Brandon and Cress were married within a month of each other. Each participated in the other's wedding.

"Our families have grown up together," Cress says. "Doug was a devoted family person. He had the talent to blend a lot of interests together."

One of those interests was politics. Brandon first was elected to the Legislature in 1962, serving in the House from 1963-74, 1977-78 and 1981-82. He ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1974 and was the Democratic congressional nominee in 1978 in the 2nd District. Brandon lost to Republican Ed Bethune in the race to fill the seat being given up by now Lt. Gov. Jim Guy Tucker.

Brandon was elected to the state Senate in 1982. He was defeated in 1990 in the Democratic primary.

After spending 36 years with Brandon House, the state's largest independently owned furniture company, Brandon stepped down as president in February. He turned the company over to his son, Benton Douglas Brandon III.
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Title Annotation:Business Tributes; Benton Douglas Brandon, Jr., president of Arkansas Children's Hospital board
Author:Taylor, Tim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Biography
Date:Jul 20, 1992
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