Bookout Memorialized Friday Morning in Jonesboro - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Jonesboro, AR - Diana Davis reports

Bookout Memorialized Friday Morning in Jonesboro

FEBRUARY 24, 2006 - Posted at 4:28 p.m. CST


JONESBORO, AR - People from all over Arkansas and even the nation's capitol made their way to a memorial service in Jonesboro this morning for state Senator Jerry Bookout.

A man who came from humble beginnings as the son of a sharecropper from Rector, the Jonesboro Democrat was remembered for his tireless work to promote education and create opportunity for his fellow Arkansans, especially those in northeast Arkansas.

"Jerry has left a legacy to this family, to this church, to this community, to this state, to this nation...of service," said Reverend Bruce Tippitt of the First Baptist Church, which hosted this morning's ceremony. 

It was a dedicated service that was remembered by colleagues from the Arkansas General Assembly.  Pew after pew filled with legislators, past and present, listened to the legacy of a man respected by his peers and loved by the community.  "He didn't speak to us...he spoke with us.  But above all, he cared about us," said former U.S. Senator David Pryor, one of the ceremony's featured speakers.  Fellow speaker and Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe added, "Jerry was one of those guys who proved that a strong voice could also be a quiet voice."

"Jerry liked big ideas," said ASU President Dr. Les Wyatt, who also addressed mourners at the service.  "He liked ideas that had importance...some of those ideas helped change our university."  One of those ideas was that Arkansas State College should be Arkansas State University.  And another involved a meeting place.  A large one that would accomodate thousands.  That idea eventually became the ASU Convocation Center.  At the Convocation Center and all over the state, Governor Mike Huckabee ordered that all flags today be flown at half-staff in honor of Bookout's memory.

And tributes are pouring in from around the nation.  Beebe read aloud from one card, "Hillary joins me in sending prayers and love to all.  Sincerely, Bill Clinton."

Bookout leaves behind a greiving family, including a son, Paul, that he served alongside in the Legislature.  His loss is also being felt by others as well.  "I've lost one of my best friends and Jonesboro has lost a friend of everybody here in Craighead County," said former state Representative Bobby Wood of Jonesboro.  Thoughts echoed by Represenative Dustin McDaniel, "I personally lost a friend and a mentor and someone I loved very, very much."

"He worked so hard for this community to make good things happen and his legacy is that he's shown us all how to do it," added 1st District Congressman Marion Berry.

Bookout battled non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for seven months before finally succumbing to the illness early Wednesday morning.  And while the disease claimed his life, his spirit lives on in northeast Arkansas.  "It takes a great man to accomplish great things," said Reverend Tippitt.  "But it takes a greater man to be handed personal adversity and find joy through it."

Jerry Bookout was 72.

(K8 News Assignment Manager Randy Myers contributed to this report.)

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