by Max Brantley
Today I still consider it a distinct honor to claim John Norman Harkey as a close friend. Don’t forget about another good friend of mine, the late Don Smith of Stephens, AR, when remembering Harkey’s sanitization of the Arkansas insurance industry. Don was Rockefeller’s appointee as Securities Commissioner not long after Harkey burst forth as Insurance Commissioner. Don was as tough on the large nest of high-binder stock churners as Harkey was in the insurance venue. Together they popularized the phrase “gone to Texas.” It became a rote response to inquiries about the numerous insurance and securities crooks who moved on to friendlier confines once the word got around that there were new sheriffs in town.
Thanks to Ernie Dumas for reminding us of the carnage at The Vapors, which also reminds that John Norman and Don were cut from the same cloth in more ways than simply as regulators. Indeed, many times I enjoyed the educational privilege of accompanying the two of them on tours of the then relatively small circuit of Little Rock watering holes (e.g., Gar Hole, Grady Manning, Sam Peck, et al.)
When the Little Rock mess was cleaned up (i.e., when the fun was over), Don went on to the Arkansas Public Service Commission then to bigger things in D.C. in the energy arena, first as a regulator then as a mover-shaker lawyer/lobbyist. He died there several years ago.
The D.C. scene might’ve been bigger, but to Harkey it certainly wasn’t better. He never left the big bluff overlooking the White River. It might’ve been The Vapors, but I doubt it. More likely it was Red (Willa) and just loving that beautiful country and the hill people. Harkey, you were my hero. Rest in peace, Marine. We’re not likely to see your kind again.
... We have on many occasions spoken with Bruce Moore about the continuous loitering in front of package stores but it still continues to happen. We feel just like the River Market shooting. They had an active plan for this shooting within a week. Little Rock thus far has 30 homicides, we are on a record setting pace and no one has come up with a plan nor spoken out about it. If I was the City Manager or the Mayor of Little Rock, it would be an embarrassment to be ranked the most dangerous mid size city. ..