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W. E. Ayres, is a Pine Bluff, Arkansas, banker and civic leader. He was a Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Port Authority Director, Treasurer, and twice Chairman of the Arkansas Waterways Commission.
During his service with the Port Authority, he worked toward economic development and international trade utilizing the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System and inter-modal transportation at the Port of Pine Bluff.
As Chairman, the Port Authority was successful in attracting Century Tube Corporation, a subsidiary of Daiwa Steel Tube Industries of Osaka, Japan. Century Tube is the first Japanese company to make an investment in new manufacturing facilities in Arkansas and the first Japanese steel-tube mill in the United States. Today, the initial 65,000 square foot facility with a 10 million dollar investment and 35 employees attracted in 1979 has grown to a 600,000 square foot industrial complex employing over 300 persons. The company has regularly used the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System for inbound raw materials and for shipping finished products out.
As Commissioner of the Arkansas Waterways Commission, W. E. Ayres was involved in protecting, promoting and developing the McClellan-Kerr and the four other navigable waterways in the state of Arkansas. A special concern and effort was securing adequate federal funding for operations and maintenance, as well as the continuing development of the waterway, including the need for tow-haulage equipment.
Ayres served as a director and officer of the Jefferson County Industrial Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation working toward expansion of existing industry and attraction of new industry to the Pine Bluff Metropolitan Area. The Industrial Foundation worked jointly with the Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Port Authority in development of Pine Bluff's Harbor Industrial District on the McClellan-Kerr. Today the 372-acre Harbor Industrial District houses a dozen water transport oriented facilities employing some 500 persons.
Charles T. Meyer of Little Rock, was a prominent bakery executive and longtime river enthusiast. He generated early and widespread attention to the $1.2 billion McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation Project. In early March 1971, Gov. Dale Bumpers, who charged the gregarious businessman and river lover with organizing and leading pleasure boats of all sizes upstream to Catoosa, commissioned Meyer as "Commodore of the Arkansas Flotilla".
During the first week of June 1971, Meyer led the "Arkansas Flotilla" an armada of pleasure boats of all sizes, up the new waterway from Central Arkansas to the Tulsa Port of Catoosa. The Flotilla Was organized through the offices of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce that provided staff support and publicity for the history-making journey by water. Meyer organized the Flotilla into two basic groups, slower and smaller craft, among them l6-foot runabouts along with large ocean-going cruisers, paced by the 57-foot-long Chris-Craft Brown 'n Surf.
The Flotilla, at times numbering around 60 vessels, arrived at Catoosa on the evening prior to President Richard Nixon dedicating the waterway on June 5, 1971
Twenty-five years later, Meyer, aboard a newer Brown 'n Surf, along with 27 other vessels, set sail on June 29, 1996, from the Port of Catoosa. They came upstream to mark a quarter-century of the river's operation for both commercial tows and pleasure craft.
The gathering in mid-1996 was "a re-enactment of a similar voyage that 25 years ago marked the opening of this waterway," Michael Ridgeway of the Tulsa World wrote, "But more than that, it is a celebration of the river system that pumped life into the economies of Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Charlie Meyer was a longtime member of the River and Port Development Committee of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, in an era when the dream of navigation in the Arkansas River valley was becoming a reality. He also served as a member of the board of directors of the Arkansas River Development Corp., a two-state cooperative effort with the Federal government to promote the total development and the maximum use of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.
Meyer's father, Charles T. Meyer Sr., "crossed the Arkansas River in 1900 by covered wagon as a farm lad of 13."
Charles E. Norman was the City Attorney at the time of the Tulsa's Bond Issue for the construction of the Tulsa Port of Catoosa. He was a great supporter of the project. This 19.5 million dollar bond issue was vital for the construction of a Port facility at the head of the navigation system. After the successful passage of the bond issue, he negotiated an agreement with Rogers County for Port governance. He also was in charge of land purchases and other details involved.
Mr. Norman also helped organize the original framework for the organization of the Port including the procedure of leasing instead of selling Port land. He knows more about the original organizational structure of the Tulsa Port of Catoosa than any other individual. Norman has always been an ardent supporter of the Port and waterway. He was relied upon to assist as its attorney until the Port was in operation and had its own lawyer.
Charles E. Norman, is founding member of Norman Wohlgemuth Chandler & Dowdell. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1951 and graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1953. He was City Attorney for the City of Tulsa from 1959 through 1968. His practice is concentrated in the areas of business and corporate law, telecommunications, and commercial real estate, including municipal and zoning law.
Mr. Norman has been active in a variety of community activities and is a member of numerous governing boards of private companies and public institutions. These include Tulsa Speech & Hearing Association, The Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa, The Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust and most recently serving as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The University of Tulsa.
Paul R. Pixley, was a well-recognized business and civic leader in Chelsea and Rogers County for more than forty years.
He served on the Chelsea City Council and was instrumental in the formation of the Chelsea Gas Authority. He served as a member and as vice-chairman of the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority from January 1963 until September 1971. We was a longtime member of the Arkansas River Historical Society, a member of the Masonic Lodge, the American Legion, the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, the Board of the Tulsa Philharmonic, and as an Elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Chelsea.
Pixley attended Oklahoma A&M College in Stillwater (now Oklahoma State University), and began his career with the Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company in western Kansas. At the beginning of World War II, he joined the United States Navy Air Corp and attained the rank of lieutenant (j.g.). He flew amphibious patrol aircraft, and flew missions in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
Paul Pixley was instrumental in convincing Rogers County to join with the City of Tulsa in jointly forming the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority in 1963. Rogers County had originally formed their own Port Authority and had appointed Paul as one of the members. Paul understood that the preferred site for a Port was in Rogers County and that it would need the financial resources of the City of Tulsa to make it happen.
While easy to understand, it took an incredible amount of convincing to sell this concept. Many citizens of Rogers County viewed the City of Tulsa as stealing "their port". These views were so strong in some circles that, according to Jacques Cunningham, the first Chairman of the Authority, threats were made to reportedly burn his house down.
Only through his strong conviction and bravery did this project become a reality.
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