by Max Brantley
Bob Wheeler, who was Mister Hot Springs for decades, passed away this morning. He had been ill for several years.
Bob was the driving force behind so much of what is good about Hot Springs.
He served as a city director and an Advertising and Promotion Commission member. He was the active force in making Hot Springs the permanent home of the Miss Arkansas Pageant back in the late '50s or early '60s. He led the campaigns to expand the old Convention Auditorium into the biggest convention center in Arkansas -- including the addition of Summit Arena when the center expansion was completed. He led the campaign to renovate, expand and reopen Magic Springs. He helped found Oktoberfest. He was a tireless force for progressivism in Hot Springs. Without Bob, Hot Springs never would have emerged from the despond of the 1970s and 1980s into a pretty vibrant little city. It's impossible to drive any distance in Hot Springs and not see some evidence of Bob Wheeler's progressive vision for his city.