Jackie Clifford Shewmaker

Photo of Jackie Clifford Shewmaker
Jackie Clifford (Jack C.) Shewmaker, a retailing legend and tireless advocate for higher education, died from a heart attack at his home in Bentonville, Ark., on Nov. 17, 2010, the same day he received a lifetime achievement award for his philanthropy. He was 72. Jack was born March 14, 1938, in Buffalo, Mo. The son of the late Clifford and Louise (Brackley) Shewmaker, Jack married his high school sweetheart, Melba Prosser. Together they built a life filled with love and laughter and were blessed with three children and 10 grandchildren. A consummate merchant and businessman, Jack was respected internationally for his contributions to the retailing industry, particularly his years of leadership and dedication to Walmart Stores, Inc. He joined the company in 1970 and served in a number of capacities including president and chief operating officer, vice chairman and chief financial officer. He was appointed to the Walmart board of directors in 1977 and also served on Walmart's executive committee. Although he retired in 1988, he remained active with the company as a member of the board of directors until July 2008. Walmart President and CEO Mike Duke called Jack "an extraordinarily gifted merchant" who was a mentor to many. "He loved this company and gave it his heart as well as his considerable talents," said Duke. "He was a dear personal friend and, though the company will benefit from his contributions for years to come, it is hard to imagine Walmart without Jack." After his retirement from Walmart, Jack went on to enjoy a thriving consulting business and traveled the world honoring speaking engagements. He was a frequent keynote speaker on the topics of business, retailing, technology and motivation. He served on several boards including: Lowe's Companies, Inc., board of directors (1984-1994) and was a consultant for the first seven of those years; Vons Company, Inc. (Safeway), board of directors (1988-1993); and Henkel, North America, advisory board member. He consulted for ALH Australia Limited; Repco and Pacific Dunlop Group in Melbourne, Australia; Edgars, Inc. in South Africa; Central Stores, Ltd. in Bangkok, Thailand; B & Q Stores in the United Kingdom, the largest home improvement chain in the UK; PepsiCo; Johnson & Johnson; Bristol-Meyers; and White Laboratories, Inc. Jack and his family also own and operate JAC's Ranch, one of the largest cattle operations in Northwest Arkansas, breeding and showing registered Black Angus. The JAC's Ranch program has produced national champions and sells product to national and international customers. Jack received numerous accolades for his extraordinary business accomplishments. He received many prestigious awards including; Discount Retailer of the Year (1981), Retailer of the Year by Mass Market Retailer (1985), and was voted among 30 Most Powerful Retailers by Discount Store News. In September 2007, he was inducted into the Retailing Today (formerly Discount Store News) magazine Retail Hall of Fame at the 30th Anniversary SPARC Awards. He also served the industry through leadership in the International Mass Retail Association and had several articles published by Mass Market Retailers magazine. He authored the cover story entitled, "Master Sellers" for the November 1988 issue of Nation's Business. While his career was remarkable, Jack was also a passionate philanthropist who worked on behalf of countless causes. He was generous with his time and was a strong financial supporter of organizations that championed the opportunities education and business offered. For several years he served as chairman of Students in Free Enterprise, Inc. (SIFE), an organization with global reach dedicated to helping students positively impact the world through business. Jack was a major donor and advocate for SIFE, which is based in Springfield, Mo., and was an executive board member until his death. In 1999, the organization honored Jack's years of service by building and dedicating The Jack Shewmaker SIFE World Headquarters. Jack found a way to help students locally through his support of the Northwest Arkansas Community College. NWACC President Becky Paneitz said, "Jack loved his community and he loved this college and our students. His mission was to make sure residents of this community could participate and benefit from the opportunities here in Northwest Arkansas, and his successes were immeasurable." Jack's impact on NWACC was significant. In September 2003, the Shewmaker Center for Workforce Technologies opened. Gifts from the Jack Shewmaker Family and Walmart ensured the timely construction of the college's Workforce Development Institute. In May 2007, the Jack Shewmaker Family donated additional funding for the construction of an entrepreneurial center and support for the college's nursing program. The Shewmaker Center for Global Business Development was completed and opened for classes this fall. In addition to his generosity, Jack was a great friend to the college and often spoke on campus and eagerly interacted with students, faculty and staff. In November 2008, he was recognized as an outstanding benefactor at the Council for Resource Development national conference in Washington D.C., for his outstanding contributions to NWACC. Jack also was a long-time supporter of Drury College in Springfield, Missouri. He was a member of the board of trustees since 1984, serving on their executive committee and other committees during that time. He received honorary degrees from Drury University, Southwest Baptist University, Northwest Arkansas Community College and Flagler College. He delivered several college and university commencement speeches. Jack was on the advisory board of the Westark Area Council, Boy Scouts of America. On May first, 2010, he was recognized with the ‘Silver Beaver Award' for his distinguished service to Scouting. Jack also had a passion for the arts, which led to his family joining with the Ferold Arend family, who were the lead donors, to fund The Arend Arts Center, which opened in 2003. The center is located at Bentonville High School. Throughout their lives, Jack and Melba Shewmaker remained true to their small-town values and embraced the role of servant leaders in all their endeavors. It was quite fitting that on the day Jack passed away, they were joint recipients of the Lifetime Philanthropic Achievement Award, which was presented to them by the Association of Fundraising Professionals at the Ninth Annual Northwest Arkansas National Philanthropy Day Luncheon. It was a celebration of his remarkable life, a time for him to reflect on his deep love for his family, and a moment for a community to honor a rare individual. Jack is survived by his wife, Melba Prosser Shewmaker of Bentonville; his sister Sherry Cross of Chattanooga, Tennessee; his sister Mary Lou Beckner and husband Jimmy of Buffalo, Missouri; his son Daniel Shewmaker and wife Dayle of Bentonville; his daughter Shari Steiger and husband Lamar of Bentonville; his daughter Emily Bremer and husband Keith of Centerton; his granddaughter Amy Benincosa and husband Casey of Springfield, Mo.; his grandson Mark Shewmaker and wife Jenny of Bentonville; his granddaughters Emily and Olivia Steiger of Bentonville; his grandson Eli Steiger of Bentonville; his granddaughters Danielle, Holly and Lisa Loyd of Centerton; his grandson Brady Bremer of Centerton; and his granddaughter Ashley Bremer of Centerton. Funeral services will be held at noon Monday, Nov. 22, at Fellowship Bible Church in Rogers. No visitation is planned. The family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to one of the following organizations: Students in Free Enterprise - Jack C. Shewmaker Memorial 1959 East Kerr, Springfield, Mo. 65803; Northwest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) Foundation - Jack Shewmaker Memorial One College Drive, Bentonville, Ark. 72712-5091; Westark Area Council, Boy Scouts of America - Jack Shewmaker Memorial 1401 Old Greenwood Road, Fort Smith, Ark. 72901. Arrangements are by Stockdale Funeral Services of Rogers. Online condolences may be made to

Published November 21, 2010

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