A Texarkana man who once served as speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives and later as an aide to Gov. Jim Guy Tucker died at home early Wednesday at age 84.
Hayes McClerkin spent decades involved in state government and politics, including running for governor.
The loss of his friend was a difficult one to bear, said Tucker, reached by telephone Wednesday night.
"He really loved Arkansas and cared deeply about public policy. He was just an absolutely fine man," Tucker said. "It's a horrible loss for his family, but he had a wonderful life."
McClerkin was born Dec. 16, 1931, in Texarkana. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington and Lee University in 1953. He spent several years in the U.S. Navy Reserve and earned his law degree at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1959.
He was first elected as a state representative in 1960 and served as speaker in 1969 and 1970.
In 1970, McClerkin was one of eight Democrats competing for the party's nomination to face Republican Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller. Dale Bumpers, who died Jan. 1, would go on to win the primary and the general election. Bumpers later became a U.S. senator.
Former state Rep. John Paul Capps of Searcy, who was first elected to office in 1962, said he and McClerkin quickly became friends during Capps' first term.
"He was a jovial, very intelligent, very dedicated to the work ... but he was always, I remember this, he always had a smile on his face," Capps said. "He always had a funny way of reacting to things but could be very serious and very concentrated on the issues we'd be facing."
Capps said that after McClerkin left the Legislature, his impact was still felt.
"He had a great way of getting along with people," Capps said. "When I was speaker ... Hayes was always the one I patterned things on. ... I would think back on the speakers under whom I'd been in the House chamber ... how they handled things. Hayes was one of those."
Tucker said he first met McClerkin while clerking for the House while in law school.
Once Tucker was elected governor in 1994, he knew he needed an expert to work with the Legislature. McClerkin was a shoo-in.
"He was always looking for a way, legislatively, in his service and as well as an adviser to me, to find a way to do something that produced a good result," Tucker said. "It might mean compromising in a number of ways, but the objective was to come together and pass something that would work."
A colleague of McClerkin under Tucker, Max Greenwood, said that McClerkin was a joy to work with but, more importantly, a joy to be around after the work was done.
"Not being from Arkansas originally, I didn't have any idea who this guy was, which was very short-lasting. Talk to enough people, [and you'll know] that Hayes was larger than life. It was just his personality," Greenwood said. "Hayes was what I consider the epitome of a Southern gentleman. With Hayes, you always knew what he meant. You always knew where he stood. He had a very genteel way of expressing himself."
McClerkin is survived by his wife and three daughters. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Metro on 01/07/2016
Print Headline: '69 House speaker, McClerkin, 84, dies