Wynne part of Fordyce political dynasty

Justice Robin Wynne indicates where Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Kemp should autograph the group photo gifted to the Dallas County Museum when "Appeals on Wheels" visited the Fordyce Civic Center Sept. 22, 2016. (Special to The Commercial/Richard Ledbetter)

Born Feb. 13, 1953, Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Robin French Wynne, who died last week, was raised in a political family.

His grandfather, Thomas Duncan Wynne Sr., practiced law in Fordyce, served as Fordyce mayor and sat on the University of Arkansas board of directors before his death in 1934.

Robin Wynne's father, Thomas Wynne II, was law partner with his brother, Frank Wynne, and served as Fordyce mayor for 12 years as well as deputy prosecutor and circuit and district judge. Thomas Wynne II, who served as a B-17 bombardier on 28 missions over Europe, gained international fame as the judge who set bail for the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards and Ron Wood along with their companion Freddy Kessler when they were arrested in Fordyce, July 5, 1975.

Robin Wynne and his older brother, Tom Wynne III, joined the family firm after receiving their law degrees.

Wynne died Wednesday at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock surrounded by his family.

A lifelong Democrat, Wynne was elected state representative from 1985 to 1988 and served as Dallas County district judge from 2004 to 2010 followed by four years on the Court of Appeals. He came to the Supreme Court in 2014 and was reelected to a second eight-year term in November 2022.

A 1971 graduate of Fordyce High School, Wynne served in many roles throughout his attendance there. He played starting quarterback for the Redbug football team during his senior year and was a deadeye outside shooter as starting guard in basketball. He also acted as a leading member of the Fordyce golf team all four years.

Wynne attended Boys State, served on the High Times Journalistic staff and was president of the Thespian Club. Additionally, he was an elected member of the Student Council all four years and represented Arkansas on the National Association of Student Councils European tour from July 9 through Aug. 31, 1970.

Nicknamed "Hero" by Head Redbug Football Coach Jimmy Garrett, Wynne was also voted "Cutest" of his senior class along with Barbara Daniels Barnes.

High School classmate and Fordyce dentist Dr. Chuck Kauffman said of Wynne, "He was not afraid to come forward into a leadership position. He was a team leader from grammar school on. He was the youngest in a family of leaders and stepped into that position easily."

Current Fordyce Mayor John MacNichol said, "He was an outstanding asset to the city of Fordyce. He served as both city and county attorney. Robin always seemed glad to see you. Our kids grew up together and were constantly at each other's house. After he and Margo relocated to Little Rock, he would always ask me how things were in Fordyce. A couple of things we are very grateful for here is how highly instrumental he was in establishing the Fordyce Civic Center."

Wynne acted as founding father in concept, funding and construction of the Civic Center.

MacNichol continued, "He brought the Arkansas Supreme Court 'Appeals on Wheels' to the Civic Center on Sept. 22, 2016, and that would never have happened if not for Robin."

"Appeals on Wheels" is a program where the Supreme Court takes their show on the road and hears oral arguments at various venues around the state.

MacNichol concluded, "He told me that was one of his favorite things he ever did. He cared about this town much more than most people realize. I plan to hold a future memorial event at the Civic Center in Robin's honor."

A longtime friend, retired Entergy District Manager Mark Hunt, said, "We coached Little League baseball together for several years. He was the best coach ever and knew how to motivate kids. Nobody knew the rule book better than him."

Hunt elaborated on Wynne's generous spirit.

"When we were just 24 and 25 years old, both just starting out without a lot of money, I remember every Christmas he and Margo would seek out one or two families in need and make sure they had everything they needed to make it a good Christmas. Robin liked to have fun but he always knew where to draw the line. And when he saw a friend going down the wrong path he had a non-judgmental manner of counselling that person to do the right thing. No one has a clue all the people he helped both morally and financially. That came from his strong faith," Hunt said.

Wynne's aunt, Agnes Wynne Phillips, said, "I think of Robin every day when I walk the nature trail at our Civic Center with its beautiful hardwoods, winding stream and wide, safe sidewalks. He had four sons and saw the need for somewhere like that in our community for them to grow up."

Former Fordyce Mayor Tom Wynne III, current district judge for Dallas and Cleveland counties, said of his brother, "Robin was a wonderful brother, law partner, father and family man. Even though he was my little brother, I looked up to him in so many ways."

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church in Little Rock, according to the Roller-Chenal Funeral Home website.

  photo  Taken from the 1971 Redbug annual, the Fordyce golf team members were (from top) Paul Gray (left), Danny Dunn and Robin Wynne with Bobby Baker seated. (Special to The Commercial)
  photo  Barbara Daniels Barnes and Justice Robin Wynne were voted "Cutest" of the 1971 Fordyce High School graduating class. (Special to The Commercial)