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Preston Bynum, who was once the only Republican in the Arkansas House of Representatives, died early Wednesday at his home in Lakeland, Fla. He was 79.

Bynum died of heart failure, said his wife, Ann Bailey Bynum. She said he had been "very ill" for the past two weeks.

Preston Conrad Bynum was born June 8, 1939, in Pryor, Okla., to Homer Franklin and Roma Bynum.

Preston Bynum grew up in Siloam Springs, where his father operated Bynum Motor Co. He was involved with the family business from 1960-85.

Preston Bynum served in the House from 1968-81, said his wife. When first elected, he was one of only four Republicans in the chamber. From 1973-74, he was the only Republican in the 100-member House.

There are now 75 Republicans in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

State Rep. Kim Hendren, R-Gravette, said he was in the Senate in 1979 when Bynum was serving in the House. But Hendren was still a Democrat then.

"Preston was one of the leadership vanguard of the Republican Party in Arkansas," Hendren said. "He helped build the Arkansas Republican Party."

Hendren, 80, said he remembered playing basketball against Bynum when they were in high school.

"He was a pretty big boy and a pretty good competitor," Hendren said. "He was pretty salty, a good ballplayer."

Bynum left the Legislature to serve as chief of staff for Gov. Frank White from 1981-83, said Ann Bynum.

From 1983-85, he worked for Stephens Inc., the Little Rock investment banking firm.

In 1995, after becoming a lobbyist, Bynum was sentenced in Pensacola, Fla., to two years in federal prison for bribing a government official to gain the inside track on underwriting contracts for Stephens Inc. Afterward, he was sentenced to two more years for lying to the grand jury that indicted him for bribery.

From 1997 to 2014, Bynum ran the Phoenix Investment Group.

From 1983-95, he was executive director of the International Advisory Board of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Photo by Democrat-Gazette file photo
Preston Bynum is shown in this file photo.

Metro on 11/01/2018

Print Headline: Bynum, former legislator who was once only Republican in Arkansas House, dies of heart failure

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