Odell Pollard

Odell Pollard

Attorney Odell Pollard in undated photo
Arkansas Republican Party State Chairman
In office
December 10, 1966  December 1970
Preceded by John Paul Hammerschmidt
Succeeded by Charles T. Bernard
Republican National Committeeman from Arkansas
In office
February 1973  1976
Preceded by Winthrop Rockefeller
Succeeded by John Paul Hammerschmidt
Personal details
Born (1927-04-29)April 29, 1927
Union Hill
Independence County
Arkansas, USA
Died March 12, 2015(2015-03-12) (aged 87)
Searcy, White County
Resting place White County Memorial Gardens in Searcy

(1) Sammy Lane Lewis Pollard (died 1980)

(2) Imogene Stroud Huett (married 1990-2015, his death)

Laura P. Roussel
Paula P. Gray
Mark Odell Pollard
Jamie Huett
Tommy Huett

Mary Jane Norman
Parents Joseph Franklin and Beulah Scantlin Pollard
Residence Searcy, White County
Alma mater

Oil Trough (Arkansas) High School
University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
Mississippi College
Tulane University

University of Arkansas School of Law
Occupation Attorney
Religion United Methodist

(1) Pollard never sought elected office himself but was a guiding force of the Arkansas Republican Party during the gubernatorial years of Winthrop Rockefeller.

(2) Pollard’s former law partner, Edwin R. Bethune, was later a member of the United States House of Representatives and thereafter the chairman of the Arkansas GOP.

Odell Pollard (April 29, 1927 March 12, 2015) was an attorney in Searcy, the county seat of White County in central Arkansas, who was a pioneer in the revitalization of the Arkansas Republican Party.


Pollard was born in rural Union Hill in Independence County, Arkansas, to Joseph Franklin Pollard (1895–1981) and the former Beulah Scantlin (1893–1977).[1] He attended a one-room school and then graduated from Oil Trough High School in a community with the unlikely name of Oil Trough in Independence County. He attended two years of liberal arts instruction at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and then entered the United States Navy. While in the military, he studied engineering subjects at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. He also studied for a time at Tulane University in New Orleans but did not receive a bachelor’s degree. Instead he received a law degree in January 1950 from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville. On April 29, 1950, his 23rd birthday, he began a 55-year law practice in Searcy. In his later years, he specialized in estate planning,[2] insurance defense, and product failure issues.[3]

Pollard as a Democrat

Pollard was a Democrat until 1958, when he voted in his last primary of that party, the nomination of which was for more than a century the equivalent to election in Arkansas. His disillusionment with the Democratic Party began in 1951, when he attended the Young Democrats National Convention in St. Louis, Missouri. Having seen election corruption in Arkansas throughout the 1950s, he switched parties with the hope of bringing forth political competition. As free enterprises flourishes with many choices in the market, so could government, he reasoned.[3] In 1958, Pollard exposed a voter corruption case in Bald Knob, a small city near Searcy in White County. Election workers cast "absentee ballots" for some thirty pipeline construction workers and their spouses. However, these workers were outside of Arkansas at the time of the election, which included a prohibition measure on the ballot, and they did not cast absentee votes, according to their affidavits, presented by Pollard to the White County prosecutor, who declined to take action until after the statute of limitations had expired, at which time the charges were rendered moot.[3]

Pollard and Faubus

In 1954, as a Democrat, Pollard had supported the Republican gubernatorial nominee Pratt C. Remmel, then the mayor of Little Rock. Six years later, he supported Henry M. Britt, the Republican nominee for governor, later a judge in Garland County.[3]

Both Remmel and Britt waged their races against Democrat Orval E. Faubus. On one occasion, Pollard visited Faubus' home in Huntsville in Madison County in northwestern Arkansas, where he was shown Faubus’ impressive display of state newspapers touching on all aspects of the former governor’s political career. Pollard said that Faubus immediately found newspaper articles in which Pollard had criticized Faubus' policies and showed them to his guest in jest. Pollard said that he learned that Faubus had become disillusioned with some of his former political allies who defected in 1974 to David H. Pryor, Faubus's successful intraparty rival in the gubernatorial primary.[3]

By 1964, Pollard was active in the Winthrop Rockefeller campaign, but Rockefeller also lost that year to Faubus.[4]

State party chairmanship under Rockefeller

In 1966, Rockefeller rebounded to win the governorship, having defeated the Democrat James D. Johnson of Conway in Faulkner County, the first Arkansas Republican to hold the state's top executive position since Reconstruction. Pollard served as state party chairman from 1966 to 1970, corresponding with the Rockefeller gubernatorial years. Years later, he described Rockefeller as "a dedicated man who tried to do a lot of good for the state of Arkansas. He and I saw things exactly the same way."[3]

Because Arkansas state Republican chairman John Paul Hammerschmidt, a businessman from Harrison and a decorated World War II veteran, was elected to Congress in 1966, an election was held by state GOP committee members on December 10 of that year to choose a new party leader. Pollard, the party's general counsel, ran. So did the North Little Rock veterinarian Wayne H. Babbitt, the sitting vice chairman. Four days before the election, however, Babbitt withdrew in Pollard's favor but with a warning: "It saddens me greatly to witness the strife and controversy that has been created by the race for chairmanship of our party. ... We can ill afford the price of such unnecessary fighting among ourselves. It this doesn't cease at once, a sharp division in our ranks will be created that could last for years to come."[5]

There was no ideological split between Pollard and Babbitt. The Rockefeller aide, Everett Ham, said that Babbitt "rubbed Win {Rockefeller} the wrong way, and that's who got the election." The since defunct Arkansas Gazette called Pollard "the voice of compromise," who though allied with the more liberal side of the party had also worked well with the conservative faction.[6] As chairman, Pollard urged caution regarding Republican patronage: "Let us be sure that we do not ask the governor to appoint people who would not be good public servants," a position also held by Hammerschmidt.[6]

Pollard and the Republican State Committee instructed county chairmen to appoint special committees to handle recommendations for state job appointments at the county level. These committees were also told to consider Democratic and African-American input in the selections. In January 1967, Pollard rejected the composition of the special committee in Conway County, with the view that it did not reflect the campaign organization which worked for Rockefeller's election. Most of the state jobs were assigned to Democrats, a sore point with many Republican county chairmen.[7] One Republican county chairman, angered over a Rockefeller Democratic appointment to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, vowed in anger to work against the Republican Party in the next election.[7] It was reported in May 1970 that of 476 Rockefeller appointees to state boards and commission, only 86 had contributed money to the state Republican party.[8]

Pollard noted that Rockefeller appointed the first African Americans to many state and local offices, including the Arkansas Selective Service System boards. By 1967, Arkansas was second in the ratio of white-to-black draft board members. In Little Rock, 28 percent of the draft board consisted of blacks, and all were Rockefeller appointees.[9] Pollard also urged his party to be "flexible" to make it easier to elect the party's national ticket as well as Republicans in state races.[10]

Before he left the chairmanship, Pollard disclosed that Rockefeller was financing one third of the Republican state budget for 1968 and had given even more to the party committee in the past. But he did not reveal the exact extent of Rockefeller's financial aid. Rockefeller had also permitted the party to rent space at a vastly reduced rate in his Tower Building in Little Rock.[11]

Pollard was recommended for a vacant U.S. District Court judgeship in Little Rock, but the appointment from President Nixon went to G. Thomas Eisele, another Rockefeller partisan. State Court Judge Henry M. Britt had also been considered to fill the vacancy.[12]

Pollard was a delegate to the 1968 and, while no longer chairman, to the 1972 Republican national conventions in Miami Beach, Florida. In 1972, he was the Nixon finance chairman in Arkansas. In 1976, Pollard supported U.S. President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., in the Arkansas delegate primary against Ronald W. Reagan. Pollard was the co-chairman of the housing committee for the 1976 Republican National Convention held in Kansas City, Missouri. However, he did not attend the convention but instead sent his alternate delegate.[3]

In his capacity as state GOP chairman, Pollard often debated in public forums the staunch Democrat Perrin Jones, editor emeritus of the Searcy Daily Citizen newspaper and an ally of former Governor Faubus.[3]

Pollard left the chairmanship in December 1970, and the state executive committee chose Charles Taylor Bernard, a businessman engaged in dry cleaning from Earle in Cross County in eastern Arkansas. Bernard had been the unsuccessful GOP candidate in 1968 against Democratic U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright. When Rockefeller died in 1973, Pollard followed as Republican national committeeman, a post that Rockefeller had first filled in 1961, after the retirement of party veteran Wallace Townsend. Pollard was national committeeman until 1976, when U.S. Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt assumed the position while remaining a member of Congress. Coincidentally, Pollard died only three weeks prior to the passing of Hammerschmidt on April 1, 2015.

Managing the Coon campaign, 1974

In the 1974 gubernatorial election, Pollard was a campaign strategist for Republican nominee Ken Coon, later a psychologist in Little Rock, who challenged David Pryor. Pollard urged nursing home owners to support Coon because Pryor had earlier pressed successfully for greater state and national regulation of such facilities. "He demeaned the nursing homes just so he could get national publicity," Pollard said of Pryor.[13]

Pollard said he was grateful for each gain made by the Arkansas GOP though there was little success in many election cycles. "We didn't broaden the party as much as needed. We should have contested more county offices," he said, noting that his own White County, once fully Democratic, has become receptive to Republican candidates.[3]

Law partner Ed Bethune

Pollard is a former law partner of former U.S. Representative Edwin R. Bethune, who left the firm in 1972 to wage an unsuccessful bid for Arkansas attorney general against Jim Guy Tucker, later the state's Democratic governor from 1993-1996. In 1978, Bethune won Arkansas's 2nd congressional district seat based about Little Rock. Pollard was Bethune’s finance chairman.[3] Bethune left the House in 1984 to wage a losing bid for U.S. Senator against incumbent Democrat David Pryor, whose son, Mark Pryor, held the same seat from 2003 to 2015.

Supporting Mike Huckabee

In 2008, Pollard contributed to the Arkansas Republican Party and former Governor Mike Huckabee's unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination.[14]

In 2010, Searcy introduced nonpartisan ballots for municipal elections. Pollard voiced support for the change voted upon by the city council: "It is probably good for the city and for White County. It might weaken the Republican Party in Searcy, but not an appreciative amount."[15]

Family and retirement

Pollard was twice married. His first union to the former Sammie Lane Lewis (1930–1980) ended with her death. In 1990, after ten years as a widower, Pollard married a widow, Imogene Stroud Huett (born 1925). He has three children from his first marriage, Laura Lane Pollard Roussel (born 1956) and husband, Scott, Paula P. Gray and husband, Bill, and Mark Odell Pollard (born 1964), and wife, Dana. Mark is a captain for Continental Airlines based in Nashville, Tennessee. Pollard has three stepchildren from the second marriage, Jamie Huett and wife Pam, Tommy Huett and wife Becky, and Mary Jane Norman and husband, Tommy.[16]

Pollard died in Searcy at the age of eighty-seven. He is interred alongside his first wife at White County Memorial Gardens in Searcy.[16] His former law partner Ed Bethune paid tribute, accordingly:

Without his leadership in the 1960s, our state might still be in the wilderness. Against all odds, he stood firm for Governor Rockefeller and the need to develop a two-party system. Much of what has been accomplished in our state can be attributed to the work of Odell Pollard.[16]


  1. Social Security Death Index
  2. "State Lawyers: Odell Pollard". Michigan.statelawyers.com. Retrieved December 30, 2009.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Statement of Odell Pollard, December 30, 2009, and January 6, 2010
  4. "Billy Hathorn, "Friendly Rivalry: Winthrop Rockefeller Challenges Orval Faubus in 1964"". Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 4 (Winter 1994). Retrieved January 29, 2011.
  5. Cathy Kunzinger Urwin, Agenda for Reform: Winthrop Rockefeller as Governor of Arkansas, 1967-71 (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1991), p. 164, ISBN 1-55728-200-5
  6. 1 2 Urwin, Agenda for Reform, p. 164
  7. 1 2 Urwin, Agenda for Reform, p. 165
  8. Urwin, Agenda for Reform, pp. 166-167
  9. Jet Magazine, October 19, 1967, p. 8. books.google.com. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  10. Urwin, Agenda for Reform, p. 169
  11. Urwin, Agenda for Reform, pp. 169-170
  12. Urwin, Agenda for Reform, p. 170
  13. Arkansas Gazette, November 3, 6, 1974
  14. "Odell Pollard Campaign Contributions". fundrace.huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved December 30, 2009.
  15. "Janet Orgain, "Citizens vote using first nonpartisan ballot"". thelink.harding.edu. Retrieved January 30, 2011.
  16. 1 2 3 "Odell Pollard". tributes.com. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Paul Hammerschmidt
Arkansas Republican Party State Chairman

Odell Pollard

Succeeded by
Charles T. Bernard
Preceded by
Winthrop Rockefeller
Arkansas Republican Party National Committeeman

Odell Pollard

Succeeded by
John Paul Hammerschmidt
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