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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Publisher Walter E. Hussman Jr. speaks with members of the Pine Bluff Downtown Rotary Club at the Pine Bluff Country Club on Jan. 8, 2019. - Photo by Barry Arthur

Walter E. Hussman Jr., chairman of WEHCO Media, Inc., parent company of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, will be named the 2019 Arkansan of the Year, Easterseals Arkansas announced Friday.

The official announcement of Easterseals' annual award will take place at a news conference at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Easterseals headquarters, 3920 Woodland Heights Road, in Little Rock.

Hussman also will be honored for the achievement at a banquet May 9 at the Little Rock Marriott hotel. As this year's honoree, Hussman will participate in a tour of the Easterseals facilities Tuesday to be recorded in a video that will be shown during the May 9 banquet, Easterseals spokesman Jillian Jacuzzi said Friday.

A third-generation newspaperman, Hussman will be recognized for his leadership in the business community and many philanthropic endeavors, including his longtime support of Easterseals and his efforts to champion education in Little Rock and across the state, according to the news release.

"It's based on their leadership in business and community," Jacuzzi said of how the annual award's recipient is chosen. "Of course, the Democrat-Gazette has been especially good to us through the years."

Sheffield Nelson, chairman of the Arkansan of the Year event and a former honoree, said Friday that he recommended Hussman for the award, calling Hussman "the ideal person to give this honor to."

Nelson noted that Hussman, a longtime friend, "usually turns down things of this nature" while passing the credit for accomplishments to others. But Nelson said that when he asked Hussman to accept the honor, that he told him that he wanted to get him out from behind the scenes and personally take credit for all he's done for the state, "something I've wanted him to do for a long, long time."

Hussman accepted, and Nelson said Hussman later asked him to serve as the event's chairman.

"He's certainly done a large number of great things for the state of Arkansas and for Little Rock," said Nelson, a Little Rock attorney and member of the University of Arkansas board of trustees. "He's been a great contributor to many different causes. It's time that he be honored publicly."

Hussman grew up in Camden, where his father was publisher of the Camden News. His grandfather, C.E. Palmer, had been publisher of the Texarkana Gazette. The younger Hussman received a bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MBA from Columbia University in New York, then followed his father and grandfather into the family business at Palmer Newspapers in 1970.

In 1974, Palmer Newspapers bought the afternoon Arkansas Democrat in Little Rock. At age 27, Hussman moved to Little Rock to become publisher of the Arkansas Democrat. In an effort to reverse many years of declining market shares, Hussman switched the Democrat to being a morning newspaper in 1979, going head to head with its rival Arkansas Gazette.

In 1991, after a long newspaper war with the Gazette, by then part of the Gannett chain, Gannett closed the Gazette and Hussman bought its assets. The merged newspapers began publishing as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in October that year.

WEHCO Media also operates other daily newspapers, weekly newspapers and cable television companies in six states.

Hussman was named Publisher of the Year in 2008 by Editor and Publisher magazine and was a member of the board of directors of The Associated Press from 2000 to 2009 and C-Span from 1995 to 2003.

For more than 70 years, Easterseals Arkansas has been a resource for people with disabilities and their families, the news release said. The mission of Easterseals is to empower children and adults with disabilities to live, learn, work and play in their communities.

William T. "Bill" Dillard, chief officer of Dillard's Inc., received the 2018 award. Past Arkansans of the Year include Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones, Jerry Jones' son, who is chief operating officer and executive vice president of the Cowboys.

Walter Hussman

Metro on 03/09/2019

Print Headline: Easterseals to honor WEHCO's Hussman

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