William Mayes Flanagan

Photo of William Mayes Flanagan
William Mayes Flanagan, 73, died Thursday, April 20, 2017, at Washington Regional Medical Center, Fayetteville, Ark. He was born on Oct. 21, 1943, in City Hospital, Fayetteville, to Edna Ruth Mayes Flanagan and Joseph Loren Flanagan. His birth name was William Martin Flanagan; his artist's name was William Mayes Flanagan. He spent his first two years on the farm in Spring Valley and grew up in Springdale, a working-class guy who worked in restaurants and poultry processing. He attended the University of Arkansas, majoring in political science and art, and was a founding member of Workers-Student Alliance. For 16 years, he lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and Pittsburgh, Pa., but his heart was always in Fayetteville. He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Barbara Jaquish; his sister, Joyce Ziegler Emery of Tulsa, Okla.; a host of much-loved nieces and nephews; and companion cat Reuben Roscoe. He is also survived by friends all over the world and by Fayetteville. He was preceded in death by his parents; his sister, Joan Flynn; and by feline familiar, Muffin Face. Flanagan lived a life of love for people, politics, and art. He was an old lefty, a true organizer, and a natural storyteller. He brought people together because he loved them and hated injustice, and because he loved telling a good story and making people laugh. During his years in California, Bill was a member of first the New Voice and then the League of Revolutionary Struggle. As an organizer for Local 2 of HERE (Hotel Employees Restaurant Employees), he spent many an hour on picket lines, including date nights with Barbara, and was a militant picket captain, who fought for the workers on the line and in court. So routinely was he arrested on the picket line and bailed out by the union that the San Francisco police referred to him as "in again, out again Flanagan." As shop steward, he gained substantial back pay for kitchen and wait staff in the Moscone Convention Center and saved the jobs of outspoken workers. He was a talented cook, a hard worker, and good-humored, which gained him the respect of workers and management. He was active in the campaign to establish a union in Watsonville, Calif., canneries. He used his cooking and organizing skills to support the Jesse Jackson primary bids in 1984 and 1988. He regularly contributed drawings and illustrations to the League's publication, Unity. He met Barbara when he gave her his first cartoon for Unity. She was impressed by his generosity and unusual lack of artistic ego when he showed her that the caption was on a tissue paper overlay so the editor could change it if need be. When Bill returned to Fayetteville, he worked for a time on the grounds crew at the University of Arkansas and helped revive the union there. Later he was custodian of the historic Evergreen Cemetery and joined its board of directors. At home in Fayetteville, he returned to painting in watercolor, making whatever available garage or attic into a studio. His art revealed the mystery and loveliness of the world and brought joy. His subjects were the city he loved, the night sky, the moon, barns, flying creatures, and introspective women, all rendered with attention and love. People now look up at night and say, "That's a Flanagan moon." He used his art to help save local landmarks by imagining them as they could be, including the Ozark Theater and Carnall Hall. His painting of Carnall Hall hangs in the renovated building today. He was a founding member of the original Fayetteville Underground, the revived Underground, and Fenix Fayetteville. His work was hanging in a Fenix show at Walker-Stone House when he died. He talked art, taught art, mentored young artists, and was a friend to all who entered his studio. His work was selected for a past Delta Show, appeared in the Delta des Refuses show, and is in the permanent collection of the Regional Art Museum in Fort Smith. His paintings hang and are treasured in homes around the world. The story of his life lives in the memories of the many people he touched. All are invited to a wake to share those memories on May 6, 2017, 3 p.m., St. Paul's Episcopal Church Parish Hall. Bring a potluck dish and/or beverage-beer and wine are welcome, but please no hard liquor. Most important: bring a Bill story to share. Bill was an organ donor through ARORA, Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency, In lieu of flowers, please contribute your time and money to bring people together to build a more just world, and do it with love and laughter. To sign the online guest book, visit

Published April 30, 2017