Weather delays fete for retired politician, youth fundraiser

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published February 3, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 1, 2013 at 8:58 a.m.
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Wayne Bryan

Following a tornado-warning evacuation and an hour of roasting, Percy Malone of Arkadelphia thanks the more than 130 people who attended a Roast and Toast of the former state legislator, who served 17 years in the Arkansas House and Senate. During his remarks, Malone pledged $5,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Clark County and challenged the guests at the banquet to match the gift.

When a bunch of politicians gather, a bit of wind is expected, but it was the threat of a very big wind that will be recapped by those who attended a roast and toast Tuesday for former state Sen. Percy Malone of Arkadelphia.

Tornado warnings in Little Rock brought the event honoring Malone to a stop just as the guests to the $125-a-plate affair were taking their seats. The 140 attendees of the dinner and roast hurried from the glass-walled Great Hall of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center to a concrete corridor on the lower floor of the complex.

“We will always remember this night, I’m sure,” said Carrie Roberson, director of institutional advancement at Henderson State University, who coordinated the event.

During the 20 minutes or so the attendees were in the safe area, Malone talked about how he got involved with the event.

“When some people first came to me about having a roast and toast, I said I didn’t want to do it,” Malone told the Tri-Lakes Edition. “Then they convinced me that somebody would show up, and it would raise money for the Boys & Girls Club of Clark County, so I went along.”

The former state legislator said he was surprised so many people came to the event.

“I’m overwhelmed by the attendance,” he said. “So many of my friends from Arkadelphia and Clark County are here, along with people from across the state. It is very touching.”

Malone, an Arkadelphia pharmacist and businessman, served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1995 until 2001, then in the Arkansas Senate from 2001 until the state Legislature opened its 2013 session two weeks ago.

He is best known for championing the cause for abused and neglected children in the state and aiding the establishment of children’s advocacy centers in 14 Arkansas cities.

Malone said endangered children began as his first priority from his first day at the Capitol. He said he wanted to change the mission of the state’s child care agencies from working toward family reunification to doing what is best for an abused child.

After the tornado warning was over and the guests were making their way back to the hall, Malone smiled and said he hoped the delay would cause the speakers to “forget the roast and go straight to the toasts.”

The program began with remarks from Michael Barnes, president of the Boys & Girls Club of Clark County.

“Sen. Malone is a prime

example of the saying, ‘the power of one,’ by showing how one person can bring about so many changes,” Barnes said. “Sen. Malone is huge for us — he is our biggest donor, and this event will be very special for us. All [of the funds raised by the event] will go to the youth of Clark County.”

While several speakers told jokes about Malone’s wealth, ego and him being a politician, all praised the guest of honor.

Henderson State University President Glen Jones said he salutes Malone’s “goodness and leadership,” and read a letter sent to Malone from President Bill Clinton.

In the letter, the former Arkansas governor said, “You have always been a good friend of Hillary and me. You were a good legislator and a great advocate for the children of Arkansas.”

Another former Arkansas governor, Jim Guy Tucker, said he expects Malone to “continue your service to your community and your state.”

Gov. Mike Beebe sent a video message for the gathering. The governor praised Malone for his “endless service and years of dedication to the people of Arkansas.” But, with tongue in cheek, Beebe said he was tired of speaking and writing messages honoring Malone.

“I must have set a record for praising Percy Malone during the last year,” Beebe said. “If someone wants to honor you again, they can use this video.”

Malone took the roasting in stride and delivered some jabs of his own during his response. He said that any failings mentioned in the roast or tributes made in the toasts were the result of help from others.

“I feel like that picture I saw of a turtle sitting on top of a post,” Malone said. “The caption read, ‘I didn’t get here all by myself.’”

During his remarks, Malone announced his $5,000 donation to the Boys & Girls Club of Clark County and challenged the crowd to match the amount in pledges that evening. He then told the speakers and the guests that he loved them all.

The day after the event, Roberson reported that the roast raised more than $12,000 for the Boys & Girls Club of Clark County.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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