Charlie Daniels, longtime state official, dies

Charlie Daniels remembered for public service career

Charlie Daniels, a veteran state official whose extended career in public service included terms as Arkansas' commissioner of state lands, secretary of state and state auditor, died Sunday.

Marsha Harbert, Daniels' daughter, confirmed her father passed away peacefully Sunday afternoon. He was 83 years old. The cause of Daniels' death has not been made public, Harbert said when reached by phone.

"He'll be missed by many," she said. "He was a wonderful servant for the state of Arkansas, but also a wonderful family man."

Following the news of Daniels' death, state officials and friends posted their condolences on social media.

"I'm saddened to hear of the passing of Charlie Daniels this afternoon," Secretary of State John Thurston said in a post on Facebook. "A long-time public servant, my predecessor as Commissioner of State Lands, and a distinguished Secretary of State, he was always very kind to me and everyone he met."

Thurston, a Republican, noted that Daniels, a Democrat, had a charisma that "won him friends across party lines."

"He will be dearly missed," Thurston said.

Lieutenant Governor Leslie Rutledge said, in a social media post, Daniels "was a genuine gentleman and longtime public servant -- he was a state treasure."

"I will cherish the memories of the many laughs I shared with my friend and I will always remember the last time I saw him and the incredible hug he gave me," said Rutledge. "I am blessed to have known Charlie."

"Tina and I are thinking of the family of Charlie Daniels," said Dennis Milligan, state auditor, in a social media post.

Milligan noted that as state auditor, Daniels initiated the first online filing system for holders of unclaimed property, creating the foundation for the system still used today by state officials.

Daniels was born in Parkers Chapel and grew up in El Dorado and began his political career when he was elected to the Parkers Chapel Board of Education in 1972, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Two years later, he was appointed director of the Arkansas Department of Labor by former Gov. David Pryor. Daniels continued to lead the department under former Gov. Bill Clinton.

Daniels also served as director of governmental affairs for the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Daniels was elected commissioner of state lands in 1984 and held the office for 18 years.

In 2002, he won the race for secretary of state, defeating then-first lady Janet Huckabee, who criticized Daniels' drunken-driving convictions. In 2006, he retained the seat, fending off a challenge from Jim Lagrone of Bryant.

Daniels was elected state auditor in 2010. He retired from public service in January 2015.

After announcing his plans to leave state government, Daniels told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2013 he had enjoyed his time in office.

"It takes a lot to serve 30 years and make the festivals and do the things that you should do and work in the office," Daniels said during a 2013 interview in his office on the second floor of the state Capitol.

"But I have enjoyed it and I feel like we made a lot of accomplishments," he said.

Daniels served in the U.S. Air Force after graduating from high school. Following his four years of active duty, he served 15 years in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. He attended Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He also worked for 13 years as an electrician with the Arkansas Power and Light Company, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Daniels married Patricia Burleson in 1958. She died in 2005, according to a written statement shared by Janet Harris, who worked with Daniels for 16 years and served as his deputy secretary of state.

Information about memorial services will be shared by Roller-Ballard Funeral Home in Bryant, the statement said.