W. R. "Bud" Harper

January 6, 1931March 28, 2012

W. R. "Bud" Harper, 81, passed away at home in Fort Smith on Wednesday, March 28, 2012. He was born January 6, 1931 in Fort Smith to William Raymond Harper and Helen Olive Jones Harper. Harper is survived by his wife Jo Harper, his son Dr. Mitchell R. Harper and wife Robin of Fort Smith, his daughter Kimberly Jo White and husband Brad White of Fort Worth, Texas, a sister Betty Griggs, and grandchildren William Reynolds, Sarah Jo Reynolds, John Reynolds, Elizabeth Harper, Chandler Harper, Blake White and Sarah White, nephews Ross Griggs and wife Cindy, Dana Parker, and nieces Debbie Verdon and husband Stewart, Patti Steinmetz, and Peggy Duncan. He was preceded in death by his parents, two sisters, Helen O'Neal and Dorris Parker, and grandson Jeremy Harper. He was a multifaceted man of tremendous faith and deep love for his family. He loved his church, and he loved Fort Smith and his country. He was a man of great integrity and compassion, and he had a great sense of humor. When he walked into a room, the room became a little brighter. Also, he was an avid outdoorsman. He Loved. Harper was proud of his Fort Smith heritage. His great-grandfather moved to the city in 1851. His mother's family had several restaurants along Garrison Ave. in the early decades of the1900's. He graduated from Northside, earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Arkansas Tech University following four years in the United States MIlitary Band at West Point. '' After serving two terms on the Sebastian County Quorum Court, Harper was elected Sebastian County Judge in 1983. He served in this capacity for 16 years until he was appointed to Gov. Mike Huckabee's Cabinet as Director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management and served from 1997-2003. During this time he was the point man for Homeland Security in Arkansas. He was a lifelong member of St. Luke Lutheran Church where he was very active and served in many roles including several terms as Church Council President. He currently was serving on the Church Council. Recently he served as Chair of the Arkansas Tech University Board of Trustees, and was the 1999 recipient of "Outstanding Alumnus of Arkansas Tech University" Hall of Distinction. Harper was Past President of the National Council of Elected County Executives, National Association of Counties Board of Directors, Co-Chairman of NACO's Taxation and Finance Steering Committee, NACO Programs Committee, member of Anthony Commission Action Committee, NACO Ad Hoc Committee on Aging, and Regional Chairman for the National Organization on Disability. He served on the executive board and was past President of the Arkansas County Judge's Association, was past Vice President of the Association of Arkansas Counties Risk Management Fund Board of Directors, AAC Finance Committee and Resolutions Committee Chairman, Chairman of the Constitutional Amendment Committee, Arkansas Waterways Coalition Board of Directors. Harper was active in the community, civic and church work, including President of Noon Exchange Club Board of Control, Chairman of March of Dimes "Jail and Bail", American Heart Association, United Way "Committee of 21" Executive Committee, Past Chairman of the American Cancer Society Crusade, many leadership areas of Boy Scouts of America, Commissary Kiwanis Board, Past President of the Fort Smith Council of Lutheran Churches, Congressional Past President of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Belle Point Masonic Lodge No. 20, Honorary 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, Knights Commandery Court of of Honor, Fort Smith Shrine Club; Scimitar Temple, American Legion Post 31, 1984-85 recipient of the Jaycees "Boss of The Year Award", Fraternal Order of Eagles "Home Town Builders" award, King Solomon Baptist Church 1989 "Hero Award". Harper was selected as an honored member of Who's Who in U.S. Executives, and was named the 1996 recipient of "Arkansas Outstanding Community Conservationist of the Year" by the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts. As chairman of the "Committee to Keep Fort Chaffee Active", Judge Harper addressed the Base Realignment and Closure Committee in Dallas, Texas in 1995 and was instrumental in negotiating conversion of Fort Chaffee to a National Guard Training Base. He was invited by the Sister Cities International to address the United National on Worldwide Military Base Closures and Conversions, representing United States Local Government in Kaiserslautern, Germany, in October 1996. He addressed members of the Organization of American States regarding "Regional International Consortium" in Mendoza, Argentina in April 2001 and was the Presenter of Papers at the 2007 "China-U.S. Conference on Emergency Management" in Beijing. Harper was Past Chairman of Central United States Earthquake Consortium, Past President of the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District Executive Board, President of Comprehensive Juvenile Service Executive Committee, Chairman of Sebastian County Jail Committee, Chairman of the of the 9-1-1 Board of Directors, and serves on the Board of Directors of Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Area Agency on Aging, Arkoma Regional Planning Commission, Head-Start Child and Family Services, Crawford-Sebastian Community Development Council, Sebastian County Fair Association, Arkansas-Oklahoma Rodeo/Fair Board of Directors, Gateway Board of Directors, Harbor House Board of Directors, Fort Smith Historical Society, Westark Community College Continuing Education Advisory Council, Public Awareness Committee Vice President, Chairman of Regional Solid Waste Committee and a member of Solid Waste Task Force, LEAC, Environmental Steering Committee, and Charter Chair of Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority. Funeral service will be 10:00 A.M. Saturday, March 31, 2012, at St. Luke Lutheran Church under the direction of Edwards Funeral Home. Burial will be in Roselawn Cemetery with military honors. Pallbearers will be: Chandler Harper, William Reynolds, John Harper Reynolds, Brad White, Sandy Sanders, Bill Vines, Bill Kirk, and Bill Dooley. Visitation will Friday, March 30, 2012, from 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Edwards Funeral Home. Memorials may be sent to: St. Luke Lutheran Church, 5401 Free Ferry Rd., Fort Smith, AR 72903, or to Arkansas Tech University, 1509 Boulder Ave., Room 210, Russellville, AR 72801. Online condolences may be sent to



  • Funeral Service Saturday, March 31, 2012
  • Visitation Friday, March 30, 2012


  • Burial

W. R. "Bud" Harper

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April 29, 2012

So sorry to hear of your loss. I just found out. What a great father and husband. Patti McCutchen

Tim and Diane Smith

April 27, 2012

We were so sorry to hear of Bud's passing. Your family is a large part of our memories of our brief time in Fort Smith and at St. Luke's. Our prayers are with your family during this difficult time.

Brad Cason

April 26, 2012

Dear Harper family,

My sympathy to you. When I worked in radio news I contacted and interviewed many people over many years. Judge Harper was one of the friendliest, most cooperative, and sincere. He made my job a lot easier. Judge Harper was a credit to the county, state and nation. I am glad I got to know him. God bless.

Kathy Flanders

April 13, 2012

Dearest Kim, Mitch, Mrs Harper and family,

I was so truly saddened to hear of Bud's passing!! I have so many great, fun memories of spending time with all of you growing up! He was such an awesome man, loving, giving, so sweet and funny, always had a smile! He gave so much to so many and will be sorely missed by all of the lives he touched,including mine. You are all in my thoughts and prayers. Love you all! God Bless!

All my love,

Kathy Flanders

Carla Hathorn

April 10, 2012

I have been unable to find your address but wanted you to know how sorry Herb and I were to hear of Bud's death on the news. Although it has been a long time since we have seen you and Bud we have many good memories of the years he and Herb were county judges. I always thought you and he were such a nice couple, his eyes sparkled when he looked at you. Such a wonderful and rare thing to see after years of marriage. i wish we had stayed in touch with you all as well as other judges and wives around the state but we seem to get busy and let time get away. We will always have fond memories of Bud. May God be with you and your family and your memories get you past the sorrow. If you ever get up to Madison county we would love to see you, sincerely, Herb and Carla Hathorn

Charlene Day

April 10, 2012

Mr. Harper was the officiant when my husband and I married. We had had some very difficult times in our marriage and this was actually our second ceremony with each other after being separated for a year. Mr. Bud prayed with us so sweetly it made us both weep. It is one of the most precious memories from our early years. David and I have been married 27 years this year.

Trina Sheets

April 4, 2012

On behalf of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), I would like to convey our heartfelt condolences on the loss of Bud. He was beloved by his emergency management peers from around the nation and his leadership enhanced the values and principles of our association. His humor and laughter were contagious and always lit up the room. He'll be missed.

Ruby & Everett Tolton

April 3, 2012

Jo and Family: We are truly sorry for your loss. Bud was my boss and also a friend. He always saw the bright side of things. He brightened the mood of everyone he encountered. He will be greatly missed.

Peggy Young

April 2, 2012

Jo and family:
We were so saddened to hear of Bud's passing. He was just a wonderful person and could tell some many great stories. Please know that you are inour prayers.
Peggy Young, and staff- Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium-Memphis,Tn

Shelia Magness

April 2, 2012

I was very saddened to hear of Mr. Bud's passing. It was an honor to know and work with him. He was a wonderful person who will be missed by all. God bless your family.