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6 Arkansans gain entry into Black Hall of Fame

by Paige Eichkorn | September 6, 2023 at 2:06 a.m.
Charles Stewart, Chairman of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Foundation, announces the names of the 2023 Arkansas Black Hall of Fame inductees on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023, at the Robinson Center in Little Rock. The induction ceremony will take place on Oct. 14..(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

The names of the six Arkansans who will be formally inducted in the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame were announced on Tuesday.

The class of 2023 is:

Rev. Jerry Black, originally from Blytheville. Black is pastor of the Beulah Missionary Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga. In his teens, he served as Minister of Music at his home church, the West End Baptist Church in Blytheville. Later, he became pastor of the Greater Paradise Baptist Church in Little Rock for 15 years and increased its membership from 17 to 3,000.

Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman, also originally from Blytheville. She is professor and executive vice chair of the Department of Surgery, Division Chief of the Breast Surgical Oncology Division and a nationally and internationally renowned breast cancer surgeon at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. She has been recognized for her innovations and contributions in the field of breast cancer surgery.

Curtis Howse, originally from Little Rock. Howse is executive vice president and chief executive officer of Home and Auto at Synchrony, a consumer financial services company. In this role, Howse leads the Home and Auto business platform at Synchrony, where he is responsible for the origination and management of a portfolio of consumer loans across numerous industries.

The late James H. Leary, a Little Rock native. Leary was a jazz musician, arranger and composer. He played the bass, recording or performing with renowned jazz musicians such as Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Max Roach and Bobby Hutcherson.

Joyce Williams Warren, originally from Pine Bluff. She was the first Black law clerk for the Arkansas Supreme Court and the first Black, female judge in Arkansas, among other achievements.

Harvey P. Wiley Sr. from Little Rock. He is president, CEO and sole owner of MEGA-K Enterprises, a business management and consulting firm.

Charles Stewart, chairman of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, said that the organization's endeavor is to show the important contributions that Black Americans have made "in the building of America and culture in general."

Leary was one of the original musicians to take on the art form of jazz, Stewart said, much like Rosetta Tharpe, the "godmother of rock and roll," who is also in the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

Each year, the organization's board selects six nominated individuals out of hundreds submitted.

"We have a library of nominations cataloged," Stewart said. "So in any given year, we will go back through that library and look for a variety of different talents, certainly of gender and so forth ... to try to establish some balance, and we'll bring them in for [the board to consider]."

This year's class will bring many others who have contributed to the growth and change of Arkansas, he added.

"In one of our high-profile sections of the paper when we were featured, in one photograph, there were people from 28 different states or cities in that picture," Stewart recalled. "So it has become a national event, and we're just excited about the growth of it [and] about the acceptance of it.

The 29th annual ceremony will be on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Robinson Center Music Hall in Little Rock. Tickets to the cocktail hour and show are available at

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