Frank Baucum Newell

Photo of Frank Baucum Newell
Frank Baucum Newell, a lawyer known as much for his wit and gentility as his brilliance, died suddenly of a heart attack at his home in Little Rock May 6. He was 76. Besides the private practice of law, Newell had performed many roles in government since the 1970s, particularly under two attorneys general who went on to hold higher offices: Jim Guy Tucker and Bill Clinton. Under their realms, Newell was a deputy prosecuting attorney, deputy attorney general, a member of the state Public Service Commission and an administrative law judge for the state Workers Compensation Commission. Newell did most of the drafting of the monumental revision of the state's criminal laws in the mid-1970s. He was born Sept. 22, 1944, at Little Rock, a son of Robert W. and Alice Henry Newell. He attended Little Rock public schools and at Hall High School he was a halfback for the football Warriors and a member of the track team. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in English at Columbia University in New York City and a law degree in 1969 from the Columbia University School of Law. He returned to Little Rock and got his first job with the Walker, Kaplan, Hollingsworth and Mays law firm, one of the first racially integrated firms in the state. When Tucker, a teammate of Newell at Hall High School, was elected prosecuting attorney in 1972, Newell joined his staff as deputy prosecutor. When Tucker was elected attorney general two years later, Newell became deputy attorney general, where he helped rewrite the criminal code under a commission created by the previous attorney general, Ray H. Thornton Jr. In 1976, he married Dee Ann Anthony. Newell stayed on in the attorney general's office under his successor, Bill Clinton. Clinton appointed Newell in 1977 to the state Public Service Commission. It was a period of immense controversy over utility regulation—particularly over rate increases and the approval of new coal-burning power plants. In 1981, lawmakers who owned utility interests and the new governor, Frank White, who had utility backing, sought to block Newell's confirmation in the state Senate, convinced, wrongly, that Newell would be too devoted to consumers and too hostile to utility interests to give them a fair shake. Newell simply resigned and went to work on Clinton's staff as a legal assistant reviewing legislation. The Worker's Compensation Commission hired him as an administrative law judge, adjudicating hundreds of worker injury claims a year for many years. He was the chief draftsman of the Revised Rules of Appellate Procedure in 1994-95. Eventually, he left the workers compensation office and joined the Laser Law Firm. He retired in 2019 from the Barber Law Firm. Newell, a fine golfer in his youth, was on the Columbia University golf team. After finishing at the top in one tournament in Little Rock, he counted the clubs in his bag and, realizing that he had one club too many, reported it to the sponsors and had himself disqualified. He soon gave up golf, but continued to love walking, poetry, thrillers and taking care of his family. He was the funniest person on Earth. Ask anyone. He is survived by his wife, Dee Ann; his children, Dr. John Buchanan and Anna Asa Newell; a brother, Henry Newell; and a sister, Leslie Peacock. Memorials may be made to Arkansas Children's Hospital. A remembrance will be held at 1 p.m. Friday May 14 at Ruebel Funeral Home.

Published May 12, 2021