Click on a photo to see a larger version
Fred I. Brown, Jr., Little Rock, Arkansas, attended Little Rock Public Schools, graduating from Little Rock High School in 1940. He earned his B.S. degree in Mathematics at the University of Arizona in 1943. From 1943 to 1946 he was on active duty as a Naval Liaison Officer and Communications Officer with the U. S. Navy. After his honorable discharge, he eared a Bachelor of Science degree in Metallurgy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1949.
Commercial navigation on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System was nearly a decade away in 1960 when, as a prominent industrialist, the city's Board of Directors named Mr. Brown to the fledgling Little Rock Port Authority. Five years later, he was named the authority's chairman. The Port Authority's years of hard work started to pay dividends on a cold Saturday, Jan. 4, 1969, when the Union Barge Lines towboat" Arkansas Traveler" chugged into port with the first two barges, loaded with steel, including a shipment for Brown's business, AFCO Steel. The approximately 1,500-acre port facility, located southeast of Little Rock's downtown, was up and running if not completely finished. The original port Terminal Building beside the river was completed in early 1969 and, with Brown chairing, the Port Authority held its first meeting there on March 17. In the 1970s, the Port Authority offices moved from the dockside transit building to a handsome new structure at 7500 Lindsey Road.
Over the years, industries and businesses today number around 50 and account for approximately 1,500 jobs of all kinds. As the 1970s arrived, so did the first performance numbers of the new McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. The waterway, completed to Little Rock from the Mississippi River on Dec. 31, 1968, handled more than 1.26 million tons of cargo through Sept. 30, 1969, according to estimates by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Early products included rock, bauxite, grain, iron and steel, chemicals, salt, lumber and paper and local movements of sand and gravel.
A slack water harbor, just off the main river channel and a longtime goal of the port authority, was built in the late 1980s and dedicated on Sept. 26, 1987. It bears the name "Fred I Brown Jr. Industrial Harbor." Construction was financed with a $2.5 million tax-supported bond issue, approved by Little Rock voters, and grants and other aid from the Corps of Engineers. More recently, the 4,500 foot long harbor saw completion of a $1.6 million dock and related necessary infrastructure.
Other noteworthy events at the port in the 1970s and 1980s included location nearby of the Interstate 440 highway and bridge; completion of a new air terminal and numerous other improvements at nearby Little Rock National Airport, Adams Field, and the evolving of major railroads Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe to complement the Little Rock Port Authority Railroad.
Jim Walden (1919-1997) was a river-industry leader, innovator and pioneer towboat operator on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System in the early 1970s. He was born in Memphis, TN, and graduated from Messick High School. After working various jobs in the Memphis area, Walden in the mid-1940s signed on with Pure Oil Co., and began working on one of their towboats. As a result of this experience he a change needed to be made in the towboat business on the river.
He came up with a new idea - mid-stream refueling and supplying, or taking provisions to boats out on the river, instead of them having to lose time by putting into a dock for provisions and fuel. He established Waterways Oil Co. in 1952 at Memphis with one small boat and a lot of salesmanship on Walden's part. "We sold 350,000 gallons of diesel fuel in the first month, I was surprised," Walden recalled. So innovative was his mid-stream supply concept that "Popular Science" magazine did a story about it in the 1950s.
Walden sold that business and eventually moved down the river to Helena where he established Helena Marine Service Inc. From there, his boats operated on both the Mississippi and the newly-opened McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. Walden established a fuel and harbor service on the upper end at Muskogee, Okla., and a fleeting area for barges on the lower end around Pendleton.
Jim Walden was an active member of the National Waterways Conference, the American Waterways Operators and various Propeller Clubs. Also in Arkansas, he was a founder and first director of the National River Academy, located for a while south of Helena in an area near Phillips County's slack water harbor, a project that Walden also championed. Walden was a Charter member of the Arkansas Waterways Commission, serving for 29 years, including three terms as chairman, before stepping aside in 1996.
On Sept. 18, 1997, the National Rivers Hall of Fame in Dubuque, Iowa, presented its Achievement Award to Walden. The presentation was made at the National Waterways Conference meeting in Houston, with Jane Russell, Walden's longtime business associate, accepting on behalf of Walden, who was unable to attend.
At the time of his death, two former executive directors of the Arkansas Waterways Commission reflected on the veteran river man who left his wake on the navigable waterways of Arkansas. "Walden was able to convince people to do something that was good for the industry," said Paul Revis of Conway. "He could be crusty in his comments but was always generous once you met him." Walden was "very outspoken," said Jim Phillips of Fordyce. "The waterways of the nation have lost a tremendous supporter." The remarks of Revis and Phillips were contained in an obituaryfor Walden published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Charles G. Meckfessel is president and director of American Bank and Trust Company in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has been the Secretary-Treasurer for the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority since November 1977. As such, he is responsible for overseeing the fiscal matters of the Port Authority. Prior to each monthly meeting, he looks over claims submitted for payment to insure they are consistent with the Authority's current Budget prior to having them ratified at the meeting. He also assists the staff in the preparation of the annual budget and also reviews the draft audit reports of the Port Authority's financial books prepared by an outside professional accounting firm. No other person in the history of the Port Authority has contributed over 28 years of their professional life as a volunteer on the Port Authority Board.
In 1978, the Port had about 10 industrial and/or waterfront facilities in place and handled less then a million tons per year of waterborne commerce. Over 50 industrial facilities have since been constructed within the Port employing over 4,000 people. These facilities represent a private investment of about $800 million dollars. These, in turn, resulted from the $60 million in public infrastructure investments carefully monitored by Chuck.
Meckfessel graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Fort Hayes Kansas State University in 1969, and earned his CPA in the State of Oklahoma in 1969. From 1966 to 1972, he worked for Price Waterhouse Company where he was Manager of Taxation. In 1972 he continued his career as Senior Vice President and Controller of Fourth National Bank, Fourth National Corporation and Diversified Mortgage and Investment Company. In 1978 he became Executive Vice President at Fourth National and in 1981 he was named a bank director. While at Fourth National Bank, he was a member of the Trust Committee, Senior Management Committee, Investment Committee, Senior Loan Committee, and Executive Committee.
In addition to his tenure with the Tulsa Port of Catoosa Port Authority, he is a prominent civic leader. He is a director of the Junior Achievement of Greater Tulsa, Inc., Tulsa Opera, Inc., and the YMCA of Greater Tulsa. He is a member of the Downtown Kiwanis Club, Oklahoma Bankers Association, Oklahoma State Board of Public Accountancy, Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants, and Financial Executives Institute, National Association of Accountants. Currently, he serves on the Board of Directors of Christ the Redeemer Lutheran Church.
James C. Leake (1915-2001) was born on a farm near Chandler, Oklahoma, homesteaded by his grandfather in 1891 when the Federal Government opened the Pottawatomie, Sac and Fox lands to white settlement. Upon graduation from Chandler High School, he entered the University of Oklahoma, where he met and later married Marjory Griffin. After a period of time in Dallas, Texas, where Leake oversaw Griffin Food Company's Texas operations, he and Marjorie moved back to Muskogee, where Mr. Leake lived all of his life.
Mr. Leake's business career spanned 60 years in the wholesale grocery business, peanut-manufacturing business, and as owner and operator of various radio and television broadcast properties, antique car museums, antique furniture galleries, restaurant operations, airport operations and collector car auctions. His business ventures took him all over the world and he made the most of every opportunity to promote his native state and its bountiful resources.
Mr. Leake's honors and appointments are too numerous to recite but include the following: Chairman Director Emeritus, Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, Tulsa, OK; Chairman, Will Rogers Memorial Commission, Claremore, OK; Chairman and Founder, Green Country, OK; and Recipient, Distinguished Service to State Government Award by the National Governor's Association
Mr. Leake was instrumental in the development and promotion of Oklahoma's water resources including the McClellan Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. As the owner of radio and television broadcast operations, which included KTUL in Tulsa, KWTV in Oklahoma City and KRTV in Little Rock, Leake played a key role in the passage of bond issues that financed the construction of the Port of Muskogee and the Tulsa Port of Catoosa. Mr. Leake and Arkansas Governor Rockefeller flew over the waterway and produced a promotional film which was used to document and promote the transformation of Oklahoma from a dust bowl state to what it is today - the state with more shoreline than any other in the nation.
Mr. Leake's strong beliefs, determination, and unselfish contributions as Chairman of the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce and later Chairman of the Muskogee City-County Port Authority were important in the development and success of the Port of Muskogee. If Mr. Leake were alive today, it's a safe bet that he would take great pleasure in seeing one of his dreams, a recreational development on the Arkansas River at Muskogee (Three Forks Harbor) finally become reality.
As the logos above indicate, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was formed by the merging of these two great Arkansas Newspapers-the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette-that became official on October 19, 1991. While historically, these newspapers were rivals, they both supported development of the Arkansas River. It was only natural that after they were joined as one publication they would support river development as a key to economic growth in the region.
Complexity of the project, its sheer magnitude, its many faceted impacts on a multi-state region and the newness of this type development to the area called for responsible, thoughtful, accurate, and in-depth reporting. Translation of the technical aspects of the project and its potential benefits to the public at-large, local communities, and business investors was essential if the purposes and goals of the project were to be achieved. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette excelled in this challenge. The newspaper and its reporters gained the trust and respect of Corps of Engineers representatives, members of Congress and their staffs, state and local leaders, and the larger business community. Articles were printed that enabled individuals to grasp the vision defined by the project originators, to understand the technical engineering complexities of the project, and to appreciate the importance of the transportation opportunities to regional businesses.
The Democrat-Gazette was known for consistent accurate reporting of the facts. This was achieved by having reporters on the scene of projects, enabling them to relate to readers information unrecorded by others as a result of first hand observation and exclusive interviews.
The Tulsa World, through its editorial support and news coverage, has been and continues to be a strong proponent for furthering the development of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System for the benefit of the entire Arkansas River Basin Area. By supporting initial bond issues and highlighting the benefits of water transportation, the Tulsa World has helped attract both shippers and new and expanding industry to the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and Northeast Oklahoma. None of this would have been possible if the owners and publishers did not personally believe in the Waterway and its economic potential. Bob Lorton, former Publisher, President and CEO of The Tulsa World and its printing arm, The Newspaper Printing Corporation, and now chairman, is clearly a strong waterway advocate. During his tenure on the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority, including three years as chairman, Bob's visionary leadership resulted in the Port's acquisition of 265 acres of land adjacent to the Port and the subsequent development thereon of the Port owned Riverview Business Park whose industrial facilities currently employ more than 300 people. He also led the way in constructing a river channel at the North end of the Port extending from the Verdigris River to the Port's navigation channel to provide a source of fresh water to the channel. Bob also led the initiative to design and acquire a new 700 horsepower towboat in 1997 to be named the Colonel Babe Wilson replacing the Charley Border, a soon to be public exhibit on land adjacent to the Port Authority's administrative office building.
His newspaper the Tulsa World has been an indispensable water and waterway advocate for Oklahoma.
Return to Hall of Fame Index