State Chairman of the
Republican Party in Arkansas
December 10, 1966 – December 1970
|Preceded by||John Paul Hammerschmidt|
|Succeeded by||Charles T. Bernard|
Republican National Committeeman for Arkansas
February 1973 – 1976
|Preceded by||Winthrop Rockefeller|
|Succeeded by||John Paul Hammerschmidt|
|Born|| April 29, 1927|
Arkansas, United States
|Died|| March 12, 2015 (aged87)|
Searcy, White County, br>Arkansas
|Resting place||White County Memorial Gardens in Searcy|
|Spouse(s)|| (1) Sammy Lane Lewis Pollard (died 1980)
(2) Imogene Stroud Huett (married 1990-2015, his death)
|Children|| Laura P. Roussel|
Paula P. Gray
Mark Odell Pollard
|Residence||Searcy, White County, Arkansas|
|Alma mater|| Cedar Ridge High School (Oil Trough, Arkansas)|
University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
University of Arkansas School of Law
Odell Pollard (April 29, 1927 – March 12, 2015) was an attorney in Searcy in White County in central Arkansas, who was a pioneer in the revitalization of the Republican Party in his state during the 1960s and 1970s.
Pollard was born in rural Union Hill in Independence County, Arkansas, to Joseph Franklin Pollard (1895–1981) and the former Beulah Scantlin (1893–1977). He attended a one-room schoolhouse and then graduated from the former Cedar Ridge High School, since Oil Trough High School, located in a community with the unlikely name of Oil Trough in Independence County.
He attended two years of liberal arts instruction at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and then entered the United States Navy. While in the military, he studied engineering subjects at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. He also studied for a time at Tulane University in New Orleans but did not receive a bachelor’s degree. Instead, he received a law degree in January 1950 from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville. On April 29, 1950, his 23rd birthday, he began a 55-year law practice in Searcy. In his later years, he specialized in estate planning, insurance defense, and product failure issues.
Pollard was a Democrat until 1958. Until that year, the winner of the primary was tantamount to election for more than a century in Arkansas. His disillusionment with the Democratic Party began in 1951, when he attended the Young Democrats National Convention in St. Louis, Missouri. Having seen election corruption in Arkansas throughout the 1950s, he switched parties to bring forth political competition. He reasoned that as free enterprises flourishes with many choices in the market, so could government. In 1958, Pollard exposed a voter corruption case in Bald Knob, a small city near Searcy. Election workers cast "absentee ballots" for some thirty pipeline construction workers and their spouses. However, the workers were outside of Arkansas at the time of the election, which included a prohibition measure on the ballot. They did not cast absentee votes, according to their affidavits, which were presented by Pollard to the White County prosecutor, who declined to take action until after the statute of limitations had expired, when the charges were moot.
In 1954, as a Democrat, Pollard had supported the Republican gubernatorial nominee Pratt Remmel, then the mayor of Little Rock. Six years later, he supported as a Republican Henry M. Britt of Hot Springs for governor. Britt was later a judge in Garland County.
Relations with Orval Faubus
Both Remmel and Britt waged their races against Democrat Orval E. Faubus. On one occasion, Pollard visited Faubus's home in Huntsville in Madison County in northwestern Arkansas, at which he was shown Faubus's impressive display of state newspapers on all aspects of Faubus's political career. Pollard said that Faubus immediately found newspaper articles in which Pollard had criticized his policies and showed them to Pollard in jest. Pollard said that he learned that Faubus had become disillusioned with some of his former political allies who defected in 1974 to David Hampton Pryor, Faubus's successful party rival in the gubernatorial primary that year. By 1964, Pollard was active in the Winthrop Rockefeller campaign, but Rockefeller also lost that year to Faubus.
Party chairman under Governor Winthrop Rockefeller
In 1966, Rockefeller rebounded to win the governorship after he had defeated Democrat James D. Johnson of Conway in Faulkner County, the first Arkansas Republican to hold the state's top executive position since Reconstruction. Pollard served as state party chairman from 1966 to 1970, the same as the Rockefeller gubernatorial years. Years later, Pollard described Rockefeller as "a dedicated man who tried to do a lot of good for the state of Arkansas. He and I saw things exactly the same way."
Because Arkansas Republican chairman John Paul Hammerschmidt, a businessman from Harrison and a decorated World War II veteran, was elected to Congress in 1966, an election was held by state Republican committee members on December 10 of that year to choose a new party leader. Pollard, the party's general counsel, ran, as did the North Little Rock veterinarian Wayne Babbitt, the sitting vice chairman. Four days before the election, however, Babbitt withdrew in Pollard's favor but with a warning: "It saddens me greatly to witness the strife and controversy that has been created by the race for chairmanship of our party.... We can ill afford the price of such unnecessary fighting among ourselves. It this doesn't cease at once, a sharp division in our ranks will be created that could last for years to come."
There was no ideological split between Pollard and Babbitt. The Rockefeller aide, Everett Ham, said that Babbitt "rubbed Rockefeller the wrong way, and that's who got the election." The now-defunct Arkansas Gazette called Pollard "the voice of compromise," who was allied with the more liberal side of the party but had also worked well with the conservative faction. As chairman, Pollard urged caution regarding Republican patronage: "Let us be sure that we do not ask the governor to appoint people who would not be good public servants," a position also held by Hammerschmidt.
Pollard and the Republican State Committee instructed county chairmen to appoint special committees to handle recommendations for state job appointments at the county level. These committees were also told to consider Democratic and African-American input in the selections. In January 1967, Pollard rejected the composition of the special committee in Conway County, as he thought that it did not reflect the campaign organization that worked for Rockefeller's election. Most of the state jobs were still assigned to Democrats, which was a sore point with many Republican county chairmen.
One Republican county chairman, angered over a Rockefeller Democratic appointment to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, vowed in anger to work against the Republican Party in the next election. It was reported in May 1970 that of the 476 Rockefeller appointees to state boards and commission, only 86 had contributed money to the Arkansas Republican Party.
Pollard noted that Rockefeller appointed the first blacks to many state and local offices, including the Arkansas Selective Service System boards. By 1967, Arkansas was second in the ratio of white-to-black draft board members. In Little Rock, 28 percent of the draft board was black, all of them Rockefeller appointees. Pollard also urged his party to be "flexible" to make it easier to elect the party's national ticket as well as Republicans in state races. Before he left the chairmanship, Pollard disclosed that Rockefeller was financing a third of the Republican state budget for 1968 and had given even more to the party committee in the past. However, he did not reveal the exact extent of Rockefeller's financial aid. Rockefeller had also permitted the party to rent space at a vastly-reduced rate, in his Tower Building in Little Rock. Pollard was recommended for a vacant U.S. District Court judgeship in Little Rock, but the appointment from President Richard M. Nixon went to G. Thomas Eisele, another Rockefeller partisan. State Court Judge Britt had also been considered to fill that vacancy.
Pollard was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1968 and, while he was no longer chairman, to the party conclave in 1972 in Miami Beach, Florida. In 1972, he was the Nixon/Agnew finance chairman in Arkansas. In 1976, Pollard supported President Gerald Ford, in the Arkansas delegate primary against Ronald W. Reagan. Pollard was the co-chairman of the housing committee for the 1976 Republican National Convention held in Kansas City, Missouri. However, he did not attend the convention but sent his alternate delegate.
In his capacity as chairman, Pollard often debated in public forums the staunch Democrat Perrin Jones, editor emeritus of the The Searcy Daily Citizen newspaper and an ally of Governor Faubus.
Pollard vacated the chairmanship in December 1970, and the state executive committee chose Charles T. Bernard, then a businessman engaged in dry cleaning from the small city of Earle in Crittenden County in eastern Arkansas. Bernard had been the unsuccessful Republican candidate in 1968 against veteran Democratic U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright. When Rockefeller died in 1973, Pollard followed as Republican national committeeman, a post that Rockefeller had first filled in 1961, after the retirement of party veteran Wallace Townsend. Pollard was national committeeman until 1976, when U.S. Representative Hammerschmidt assumed the position while remaining a member of Congress. Coincidentally, Pollard died only three weeks prior to the passing of Hammerschmidt on April 1, 2015.
Campaign manager for Ken Coon, 1974
In the 1974 gubernatorial election, Pollard was a campaign strategist for Republican nominee Ken Coon, later a psychologist in Little Rock, who challenged Pryor. Pollard urged owners of nursing homes to support Coon because Pryor had earlier pressed successfully for greater state and national regulation of such facilities: "He demeaned the nursing homes just so he could get national publicity," Pollard said of Pryor.
Pollard said that he was grateful for each gain made by the Arkansas Republican Party but that there had been little success in many election cycles. "We didn't broaden the party as much as needed. We should have contested more county offices," he said. He noted that his own White County, once fully-Democratic, had become receptive to Republican candidates.
Other political activities
Pollard is a former law partner of former U.S. Representative Edwin Ruthvin Bethune, Jr., of Arkansas' 2nd congressional district]], who left the firm in 1972 to wage an unsuccessful bid for state attorney general against Jim Guy Tucker, subsequently the state's Democratic governor from 1993 to 1996. In 1978, Bethune won the Little Rock-based congressional seat. Pollard was Bethune’s finance chairman. Bethune left the House in 1984 to wage a losing bid for U. S. Senator against incumbent Democrat David Pryor, whose son, Mark Pryor, held the same seat from 2003 to 2015.
In 2008, Pollard contributed to the Arkansas Republican Party and former Governor Mike Huckabee's unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination. In 2010, the city council of Searcy introduced nonpartisan ballots for municipal elections. Pollard supported the change: "It is probably good for the city and for White County. It might weaken the Republican Party in Searcy, but not an appreciative amount."
Personal life and death
Pollard was twice married. His first union to the former Sammie Lane Lewis (1930–1980) ended with her death. In 1990, after ten years as a widower, Pollard married a widow, Imogene Stroud Huett (1925-2015), who died eight months after the passing of her husband.
Pollard had three children from his first marriage, Laura Lane Pollard Roussel (born 1956) and husband, Scott, Paula P. Gray and husband, Bill, and Mark Odell Pollard (born 1964), and wife, Dana. Mark has been a captain for Continental Airlines based in Nashville, Tennessee. Pollard has three stepchildren from the second marriage, Jamie Huett and wife Pam, Tommy Huett and wife Becky, and Mary Jane Norman and husband, Tommy. Pollard died in Searcy at the age of eighty-seven. He is interred along his first wife at White County Memorial Gardens in Searcy. His former law partner, Ed Bethune, paid tribute, accordingly:
Without his leadership in the 1960s, our state might still be in the wilderness. Against all odds, he stood firm for Governor Rockefeller and the need to develop a two-party system. Much of what has been accomplished in our state can be attributed to the work of Odell Pollard.
- Social Security Death Index, Ancestry.com (under pay wall)
- State Lawyers: Odell Pollard. Michigan.statelawyers.com. Retrieved on December 30, 2009.
- Statement of Odell Pollard, December 30, 2009, and January 6, 2010
- Billy Hathorn (1994). ""Friendly Rivalry: Winthrop Rockefeller Challenges Orval Faubus in 1964"". The Arkansas Historical Quarterly (Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 4 (Winter 1994)) 53 (4): 446–473. doi:10.2307/40030909.
- Cathy Kunzinger Urwin, Agenda for Reform: Winthrop Rockefeller as Governor of Arkansas, 1967-71 (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1991), p. 164, ISBN 1-55728-200-5.
- Urwin, Agenda for Reform, p. 164.
- Urwin, Agenda for Reform, p. 165.
- Urwin, Agenda for Reform, pp. 166-167.
- (1967-10-19) Jet Magazine, October 19, 1967, p. 8. Johnson Publishing Company. Retrieved on February 3, 2011.
- Urwin, Agenda for Reform, p. 169.
- Urwin, Agenda for Reform, pp. 169-170.
- Urwin, Agenda for Reform, p. 170.
- The Arkansas Gazette, November 3, 6, 1974.
- Odell Pollard Campaign Contributions. fundrace.huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved on December 30, 2009.
- Janet Orgain, "Citizens vote using first nonpartisan ballot". Thelink.harding.edu. Retrieved on January 30, 2011.
- Imogene Stroud Huett Pollard. Ancestry.com. Retrieved on June 15, 2019.
- Odell Pollard. tributes.com. Retrieved on March 30, 2015.
- Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture entry has a full biographical sketch of Pollard.