Len E. Blaylock

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Len E. Blaylock
BlaylockMcVay2.jpg
Blaylock (left) with Gene McVey in 1972.
U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Arkansas
In office
January 19, 1975 – February 26, 1978
Preceded by Lynn A. Davis
Succeeded by Charles H. Gray
Arkansas Republican State Chairman
In office
1985–1986
Preceded by William Thomas "Tom" Kelly, Jr.
Succeeded by Ed Bethune
Personal details
Born Len Everette Blaylock
(1918-12-08)December 8, 1918
Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, USA
Died March 25, 2012(2012-03-25) (aged 93)
Little Rock, Arkansas
Resting place Nimrod Cemetery in Perry County, Arkansas
Political party Republican gubernatorial nominee, 1972
Spouse(s) Melba Winona Wright Blaylock (married 1941-2012, his death)
Children David Robert Blaylock

Len Blaylock, Jr.
Melvin James Blaylock
Betty Louise Freeze
Dale Alan Blaylock
Nineteen grandchildren

Residence Nimrod in Perry County, Arkansas
Occupation Farmer and rancher
Educator and government employee

Businessman

Religion Southern Baptist
Military service
Service/branch United States Army Air Corps

United States Air Force
Strategic Air Command

Rank Major
Battles/wars World War II

Len Everette Blaylock, Sr. (December 8, 1918 – March 25, 2012),[1] was a farmer, educator, small businessman, and Republican politician from tiny Nimrod in Perry County in northwestern Arkansas. He was state welfare commissioner under Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, the GOP gubernatorial nominee (1972), the United States marshal for the Eastern District of Arkansas (1975–1978), the appointments secretary for Governor Frank D. White (1981–1983), and the chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party (1985–1986).

Early years, military, family life[edit]

Blaylock was born in Little Rock to David Penn Blaylock (1876–1927) and the former Minnie Bradford (1886–1937). Blaylock's father and mother died when he was seven and seventeen, respectively. To help support his family, he dropped out of school three times before he could obtain his diploma from North Little Rock High School. He served three stints in the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1936 and 1939, having been based in Idaho, Camp Joseph T. Robinson in Arkansas, and in Cody, Wyoming.[2] His life has been depicted as a Horatio Alger story in sharp contrast to his benefactor, Winthrop Rockefeller, the epitome of family wealth and power.[3] Blaylock entered the United States Army Air Corps, served in World War II, and completed twenty years of service in 1959. During part of the war, he was based in Great Britain with the Eighth Air Force. He was later with the Strategic Air Command. He was an enlisted man for the first ten years and then an Air Force officer, having reached the rank of major. At various times, he was stationed in Alaska, Spokane, Washington, Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and the Little Rock Air Force Base.[2] He is a charter member of the Air Force Memorial Foundation[4]

Blaylock, while working with Captain Bruce K. Holloway at Duncan Field in San Antonio, was introduced by Holloway to Melba Winona Wright of San Antonio. To their union in 1941 were born four sons and a daughter: David Robert Blaylock (born 1942) and wife Suzi of Coolidge, Arizona, Len Blaylock, Jr. (born 1944), and wife Luanne of Maumelle in Pulaski County, Melvin James Blaylock (born 1949) and wife Mary of London, Arkansas, Betty Louise Freeze and husband Mike of England, Arkansas, and Dale Alan Blaylock (born 1960) and wife Vickie Kirkland Blaylock of Greenbrier in Faulkner County.[1]

Len, Jr., served as the State Executive Director of the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency. Dale is a member of the security staff of the Arkansas governor's office. Len, III (born 1974), one of nineteen Blaylock grandchildren, is a United States Army officer who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.[2]

Blaylock began work on a college degree while he was in the military. Some coursework was taken at Baylor, but he finally obtained his bachelor's degree in 1962 from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. At times, Blaylock has been a storekeeper, a teacher, a principal, a cattleman, and a government administrator as well as a farmer and a politician.[1]

Working for Winthrop Rockefeller[edit]

In 1964, Blaylock ran unsuccessfully for the Arkansas House of Representatives as a Democrat. He was defeated in the primary—by the incumbent Democrat Paul Van Dalsem (1907–1983), an associate of Governor Orval Eugene Faubus, who won his sixth and final term as governor that year by defeating Rockefeller. Arkansas political reformers in both parties often cited Van Dalsem as an example of objectionable "machine" politics.[5] In time, Blaylock, who had originally been anti-Faubus, became personally close to Faubus, and the two frequently visited. It was Blaylock who recommend that Governor White in 1981 name Faubus to head the scandal-ridden Arkansas Veterans Affairs Department, much to the consternation of many earlier Rockefeller Republicans.[6]

In 1965, Blaylock became one of eight "field representatives" for Rockefeller at a salary of $300 per month. He handled the Arkansas River Valley region. In 1966, Rockefeller became the first Republican to have been elected governor since Reconstruction. He defeated Democrat (later Republican convert) James D. Johnson of Conway, the seat of Faulkner County near Little Rock.

Blaylock later became friends with Jim Johnson and Johnson's wife, Virginia Morris Johnson, though, as with Faubus, they were partisan rivals at the time. Rockefeller invited Blaylock into the new administration to reorganize and head the welfare department. At first the welfare board tried to block Blaylock from making appointments, but Attorney General Joe Purcell, a Democrat, issued a ruling that empowered Blaylock, as the department head, to make the personnel selections.[2]

As welfare commissioner, Blaylock reorganized the troubled state agency and garnered recognition from then Vice President Spiro T. Agnew for Arkansas having been the one state whose newly established Medicaid program had remained solvent.[1]

After Rockefeller's defeat for a third term in 1970, Blaylock was replaced as welfare administrator by the newly elected Governor Dale Bumpers. Technically, Republicans claimed that Blaylock resigned because of harassment from within the Bumpers administration.[7] Blaylock then challenged Bumpers for reelection to a second two-year term in 1972, a most formidable undertaking. He had planned to accept a well-compensated position with the former United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in Dallas, but Rockefeller instead encouraged Blaylock to run for governor.[2]

Gubernatorial campaign of 1972[edit]

Blaylock dubbed Bumpers "indecisive" and objected to (1) a tax increase which the governor had steered through the legislature in 1971 and (2) higher state expenditures. Though he had a reputation as an "exceptionally competent administrator" and a man of great loyalty to his supervisors, Blaylock was seen as a "poor campaigner".[8]

Arkansas political scientist and pollster Jim Ranchino of Arkadelphia declared that Blaylock was "not a legitimate candidate" in view of Bumpers' name recognition and general popularity.[9] Blaylock alleged that Bumpers espoused "widely varying philosophies, depending on the audience or the occasion."[10] Bumpers ignored Blaylock though at one point he told the media that because he was himself running for reelection as governor, he could not take an active part in U.S. Senator George McGovern's presidential campaign.[11] Bumpers also benefited from the tradition at the time that Arkansas governors usually were given at least a second two-year term to fulfil their promise. An exception to that tradition was former Governor Francis Cherry, who was unseated by Faubus in the 1954 Democratic primary.

The GOP stressed that Blaylock's career had been a success story despite his having dropped out of high school three times before graduating in order to support his family. Afterwards, he enlisted in the Army, made a military career, and began dabbling in Republican politics.[5]

The election results were no surprise: Bumpers defeated Blaylock by a 4–1 margin, the worst GOP showing in a decade in Arkansas. Bumpers won all seventy-five counties, 488,892 (75.4 percent) to Blaylock's 159,177 (24.6 percent). Blaylock fared no better than 42.5 percent in predominantly African American Lee County in the eastern part of the state, an area that had remained loyal to Blaylock's mentor, Rockefeller. Even in usually Republican Searcy County, Blaylock received only 40.9 percent of the vote. Bumpers outpolled U.S. President Richard M. Nixon in Arkansas by some 43,000 votes, and Blaylock trailed McGovern by nearly 38,000 ballots.[12]

Blaylock's ticket mates were all defeated too: the veterinarian Wayne H. Babbitt for the U.S. Senate, Ken Coon for lieutenant governor, future U.S. Representative Edwin R. Bethune for attorney general, and Jerry Climer for secretary of state.[12] Coon was Blaylock's successor as the gubernatorial nominee in 1974f, but he first had to dispose of the controversial Cave City newspaper editor Joseph H. Weston, whose work with the former Sharp Citizen led to a change in Arkansas libel law.[13]

U.S. Marshal Blaylock[edit]

In 1975, U.S. President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., named Blaylock the U.S. marshal position in Little Rock. He succeeded Lynn A. Davis, formerly Rockefeller's choice to head the state police. Davis' reappointment was opposed by outgoing Democratic U.S. Senator John McClellan.[14] Blaylock held the position until 1978, when President Jimmy Carter replaced him with Bumpers' cousin, the late Charles H. Gray.[15]

In 1981, White tried to return Blaylock to the federal marshal's position that Blaylock had held from 1975-1978. Blaylock was recommended for the position once again by the GOP patronage committee. However, U.S. Representative Ed Bethune, Blaylock's ticket-mate in 1972, objected to the replacement of Charles Gray on the grounds that Gray was "one of the top marshals in the country." GOP Chairman Harlan Holleman said that the reappointment of Gray "doesn't help us to build a party . . . My business is building the party, and building strength and patronage is one of the ways to do it."[16]

After his time as marshal, Blaylock served from 1979-1990 on the Perryville School Board, including a stint as chairman.

Governor White's appointments secretary[edit]

In 1981, Republican Governor Frank White called Blaylock back to state government to be his appointments secretary. Despite the term "appointments secretary", Blaylock was not responsible for scheduling the times for those desiring to meet with the governor, but instead he screened appointments to state office.[17]

Blaylock's recommendation of Orval Faubus to head veterans' affairs was opposed by such Republicans as former national committeewoman Leona Troxell, but favored by others, such as U.S. Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt of Harrison and former State Representative Danny L. Patrick of Huntsville. In retrospect, Blaylock told an interviewer that White's later hesitancy iregarding the appointment hurt him with long-time Faubus supporters. Blaylock said that the Faubus selection was appropriate because Faubus was exceptionally qualified to hold the position.[6]

Blaylock said that White made several errors in his unsuccessful reelection bid in 1982 against Bill Clinton. First, the appointment of a Little Rock physician to the Arkansas Racing Commission was unpopular because the nominee was perceived as "too close" to the racing industry. Secondly, White failed to explain how he had helped truckers with higher weight limits, a particular benefit to the timber industry but opposed by highway safety advocates.[2]

White had initially asked Blaylock to manage the 1980 campaign, but Blaylock declined on grounds that White needed a professional in the role. Instead, he agreed to become a campaign coordinator. The manager selected, Paula Unruh of Tulsa, was not retained in 1982, and her expertise was sorely missed, Blaylock said.[2]

Other political activities[edit]

In 1980, Blaylock had supported the presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee, who fared poorly in the struggle against Ronald W. Reagan but ran better in Arkansas than in most other states. At one point, Blaylock arranged to unite the Baker and Reagan forces to stop delegates from going to George Herbert Walker Bush of Texas.[18] In 2004, Blaylock donated to the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign and to the Arkansas state GOP organization.[19]

When William Thomas "Tom" Kelly, Jr. (1942-2011), of Little Rock resigned as party chairman after a short period of tenure in 1985, Blaylock as the first vice-chairman filled the remainder of the two-year term. The period was difficult because party coffers were empty, Blaylock recalled. It was during this time that Blaylock invited U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona to meet with Arkansas Republicans in Little Rock.[2] And 1986 was the year that one of the promising new Republican leaders, Asa Hutchinson of Fort Smith, later a member of the United States House of Representatives, was defeated in a bid for the U.S. Senate by a wide margin by the incumbent Dale Bumpers, who secured the third of his four terms. Bumpers had defeated Blaylock for governor in 1972. Hutchinson was subsequently crushed by the Democrat Mike Beebe in the 2006 gubernatorial race.

By 2010, at the end of his life, Blaylock had grown far more conservative than he had been at the beginning of his political career. He attended a Tea Party movement gathering and later hailed the election of the new U.S. Senator John Boozman over Democrat Blanche Lincoln, newly elected U.S. Representative Rick Crawford in normally Democratic eastern Arkansas, and a new state senator from his own Perry County, Jason Rapert. He even recalled Rockefeller as having been more conservative than perceived at the time: "I wouldn't say he was liberal. He certainly had some different ideas."[20]

Blaylock and his wife, Melba, previous victims of a house fire, resided in his later years on their vastly reduced 6-acre (24,000 m2) farm at Nimrod near Perryville, a part of the Little Rock Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area. Blaylock was Southern Baptist and attended the Nimrod Baptist Church.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Life Legacy: Len E. Blaylock". humphreyufunderal.com. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Statement of Len E. Blaylock, May 2007
  3. ^ Arkansas Outlook, Arkansas State Republican Party newsletter, March 1972
  4. ^ Air Force Memorial Foundation, List of Charter Members:http://www.airforcememorial.org/registry/index_results.asp?last_name=b&NAV=16
  5. ^ a b Arkansas Outlook, March 1972
  6. ^ a b Arkansas Gazette, August 5, 1981
  7. ^ Arkansas Outlook, May 1971
  8. ^ Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, October 7, 1972, p. 2488
  9. ^ The Camden News, Camden, Arkansas, September 2, 1972
  10. ^ Camden News, September 8, 1972
  11. ^ The New York Times, August 13, 1972
  12. ^ a b Arkansas Election Statistics, November 1972, Little Rock: Secretary of State
  13. ^ "Joseph H. Weston, Publisher of an Arkansas Newspaper". The New York Times, November 19, 1983. November 19, 1983. Retrieved May 11, 2010. 
  14. ^ Arkansas Outlook, February 1975; March 1975
  15. ^ List of U.S. marshals for Eastern District of Arkansas:http://www.usdoj.gov/marshals/district/ar-e/general/history.htm
  16. ^ Arkansas Gazette, October 23, 1981
  17. ^ Arkansas Gazette, July 11, 1981, August 4, 1981
  18. ^ Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, February 9, 1980, p. 353
  19. ^ Political Contributions by Individuals, Perryville, Arkansas:http://www.city-data.com/elec/elec-PERRYVILLE-AR.html
  20. ^ "Dough Smith, Yesterday's Republicans look at today's, January 19, 2011". Arkansas Times. Retrieved August 18, 2013. 
Party political offices
Preceded by
Winthrop Rockefeller
Republican nominee for Governor of Arkansas
1972
Succeeded by
Ken Coon
Preceded by
Lynn A. Davis
United States Marshal for the Eastern District of Arkansas

Len Everette Blaylock, Sr.
1975–1978

Succeeded by
Charles H. Gray
Preceded by
William Thomas "Tom" Kelly, Jr.
Arkansas Republican state chairman

Len Everette Blaylock, Sr.
1985–1986

Succeeded by
Edwin Bethune