by Max Brantley
Friends report that former state legislator Jodie Mahony of El Dorado died last night of complications from his long bout with cancer. He was 70.
The family's obituary notice, on the jump, reports that a visitation will be held from 4 to 6 Tuesday at Young's Funeral Directors in El Dorado and a memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church in El Dorado.
Said Gov. Mike Beebe, who spent many years in the Senate with Mahony:
Jodie Mahony never quit. As a legislator, he fought until the end for causes important to him and to the betterment of Arkansans. When term limits dictated that he could no longer serve, Jodie joined the House staff and remained a key advisor on education issues. And when the doctors said that cancer had won, Jodie fought and stayed with us far longer than anyone expected. To his final days, you could find Jodie in the Capitol, still upbeat, still working the halls, and still fighting. Arkansas has lost an outstanding man who exemplifies public service in our State.
Much will be written about Mahony's storied legislative career, spanning 36 years as a senator and representative. A lawyer, Mahony had financial resources sufficient to devote nearly full-time to legislative duties. It showed in his mastery of any number of complex topics, most notably education. After term limits ended his legislative career, he joined the legislative staff as a valuable advisor.
Over the years, I've given many a talk in which I invoked Mahony as an example of the ills of term limits. He could, and did, devote the long years necessary to effect fundamental improvement in important areas of the law. In addition to education, and his passion for encouraging students to take more rigorous school courses, I think particularly of child support laws. Arkansas's joining in uniform practices in this area was a product, in part, of his long work.
The perpetually unloosened tie, the cardboard box in which he toted his work materials, his barking laugh, his shrewdness (yes, his coolness toward the FOI, particularly when it came to School Board business) -- all these are among the touchstones sure to be brought back to mind in days ahead.
The El Dorado News Times blog, which posted the Steve Keesee photo of Mahony at work above, is a good place to check for local reaction on death of a favorite son.
Read on for the family's prepared obituary. Then comes a note from a long-time admirer and colleague in legislative affairs.
Joseph Kirby Mahony, II, 70, died Dec. 5, 2009, He was the son of Mabel Farmer and Emon Mahony and the brother of Emon Armstrong Mahony, Jr., and the late Michael Farmer Mahony. Born in El Dorado, AR, on Sept. 12, 1939, he attended Washington and Lee University, the University of Arkansas, and Southern State; was in the United States Marine Corps; and received his law degree from the University of Arkansas.
He returned home and joined the Mahony and Yocum Law Firm. Members of his family practiced law continuously in El Dorado for over 100 years, and his grandfather, father, mother, and both brothers were lawyers.
Jodie was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1970 and took office in 1971; he spent his first twenty-four years of public service in the House, his next eight in the Senate, and his final four back in the House before term limits forced him to retire. After retirement, he continued to work on education legislation for the Speaker of the House.
During his time in the Legislature, he introduced over 1400 bills and resolutions, served on major state and national legislatives committees and regional boards, and won both state and national awards for legislation. His focus was on improving public education, strengthening child support enforcement, improving services for the developmentally disabled, conserving natural resources—particularly water, revising election laws, and making state government more efficient. He served with Governors Bumpers, Pryor, White, Clinton, Tucker, and Huckabee.
Jodie never sought a leadership position in the House or Senate nor did he consider seeking higher office as he felt he could accomplish most in the State Legislature, a job he loved for thirty-six years. He chaired the Joint Interim Oversight Committee on Education Reform and was a member of more than a dozen legislative committees of the General Assembly. In addition, he served on committees of the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Southern Regional Education Board, and numerous subcommittees and ad hoc committees. He received national awards from the Nature Conservancy and the National Child Support Enforcement Association, which selected him as Legislator of the Year in 1994.
Jodie valued the Legislative staff, counted them as friends, and constantly acknowledged their contribution to his work in the General Assembly. He loved quail hunting in South Texas; he enjoyed travel, reading mysteries, fishing, and thoroughbred racing, and, a fine athlete, he played tennis and participated in a number of mini-triathlons. He was also a member of the Southern Regional Education, Nature Conservancy, and Vera Lloyd Foundation boards.
He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Bettie Anne Humphreys Mahony; sons Joseph K. Mahony, III, of Little Rock and Michael Emon Mahony of New York; brother and sister-in-law Emon and Kay Mahony of El Dorado; sisters-in-law Alice Mahony of El Dorado and Kathryn Schopfer of Dallas; nieces Martha Mahony of San Francisco, Michelle Mahony of Houston, and Elizabeth Nevenhoven of Ft. Smith; nephew Emon Mahony of Little Rock; and three grandchildren, Jordan, Alexandra, and Joseph K. Mahony, IV.
Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Young’s Funeral Directors, 508 Champagnolle in El Dorado. The memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church, with a reception to follow in the Fellowship Hall.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Joseph K. Mahony II Scholarship Fund at the South Arkansas Community College Foundation, 300 South West Avenue, El Dorado, AR 71730, or the First Presbyterian Church of El Dorado, 300 East Main, 71730.
NOTE FROM FRIEND
Joseph K. Mahony II was a legend for more than a three decades in the Arkansas House and Senate. He has probably authored more legislation on public school education and higher education issues than any legislator in the State's history. Without question, he's been the most effective elected state legislator to serve from Union County since its formation in 1829.
He was consistently supported by the County's majority conservative voters, despite his passionate progressive-moderate legislative instincts. He turned the part-time job of an Arkansas legislator into a full-time profession. And Arkansas's education leaders and its public school students will continue to reap the benefits from his legislative stewardship for
decades yet to come.
What a trail-blazer you've been, Jodie! Rest in peace