by Max Brantley
Funeral service is 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Conway. An obituary is on the jump. As I was talking this morning about him with Ernie Dumas, Ernie commented of his service: "He was motivated by justice as well as the law."
Retired Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Steele Hays of Conway, 86, died June 22. Hays served 14 years on the court, from 1981 to 1994. He also served on the state Court of Appeals as one of the original members appointed by Gov. Bill Clinton when the court was first created. He also served as a Pulaski County circuit court judge in the 1960s, appointed by Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller.
Hays had a distinguished career as a lawyer in Little Rock before joining the bench, and served as secretary-treasurer of the Arkansas Bar Association.
Hays was a lifelong opponent of the death penalty, although he set those views aside in considering death cases on the Supreme Court. His rulings on the Supreme Court were motivated by justice as well as the law.
Hays also served as chancellor for the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas, and as president of the National Conference of Christians & Jews (Arkansas Chapter), Arkansas Lung Association, Youth Home Inc., Conway and Downtown Little Rock Kiwanis Clubs, as chairman of the Arkansas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and on numerous other charitable boards.
After retiring, Hays pursued his long-standing interest in Abraham Lincoln, researching and writing many essays on Lincoln and presenting them to scores of groups around the state.
Born in Little Rock, he was the son of the late U.S. Rep. Brooks Hays and Marion Prather Hays. Hays was a graduate of the University of Arkansas and George Washington University School of Law, and was honored as a “Significant Sig” by his Sigma Chi fraternity. He was a member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
He is survived by his wife, Peggy Wall Hays; three children and their spouses, Steele Hays of Roswell, Ga. (Melody), Melissa Licon of Reno, Nev. (Val) , and Sarah Facciobene of Potomac, Md. (Carmen); three stepchildren and families, Leonard Thompson of Little Rock (Wendy), Harry Thompson of Blue Ridge, Ga., and Lyde Thompson (Terry) of San Antonio, Tex; and nine grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister, Betty Brooks Bell of Sterling, Va.