The passing of former State Senator Jim Hill, D-Nashville, has left a void in the civic and legislative service of Southwest Arkansas in the loss of a man characterized as a true friend of Hempstead County.
“Jim Hill taught me and many others in the legislature that you always keep your word and try to work with everybody,” former State Representative David “Bubba” Powers, of Hope, said this morning. “That's easily said; but when Jim Hill said it, you know he had done it. He was a great friend of Hempstead County and UACCH.”
Hill died of respiratory complications early Wednesday at his home in Nashville. Funeral visitation is set for Friday from 6-8 p.m. at Latimer Funeral Home in Nashville, with funeral services to be conducted Saturday at 1 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Nashville. Burial will follow in Nashville Cemetery, under direction of Latimer Funeral Home in Nashville.
Hill's successor in the Arkansas Senate remembers him as a people person.
“I just loved him,” Senator Larry Teague, D-Nashville, said this morning. “He was my friend; he was a good man who cared about people and he cared about Arkansas.”
Teague said Hill was among the last of the true statesmen in Arkansas politics.
“He became a statesman as he matured in his role, and there aren't many statesmen left up there,” he said.
Hill was known statewide for his dry humor, which often cut to the point of an important question. Teague said he also used that humor to keep from embarrassing others, as he recounted a speech Hill gave to a meeting of county judges.
“Well, after his speech, he called for questions, and somebody in the audience asked a really stupid question,” Teague said. “Senator Hill just looked at him and said, 'That is the stupidest question I've ever heard, and I'm not even going to answer it.' Well, that just got the crowd and they came unglued.”
The expression most widely used to describe Hill was “gentleman.”
“Jim Hill was a true gentleman in every sense of the word,” Powers noted. “He was a great patriot to his county and state, serving honorably in the Marine Corps along with his honorable service in the state legislature.”
He said Hill was a mentor to young legislators who cared about the manner in which they served the state.
“It was an honor to serve with him,” Powers said. “The state and country needs more Jim Hills. We are all going to miss him dearly.”
Hill was a staunch ally of the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope, and was responsible for important funding at critical junctures in the college's growth in recent years, Powers said. He served as a member of the UACCH Board of Visitors at the time of his death.
Page 2 of 2 - UACCH Chancellor Chris Thomason was not available for comment at press time today.
Hope Mayor Dennis Ramsey also recalled Hill as a “true friend of Hope and Hempstead County.”
“Senator Hill was on of those unique Southern politicians who could get along with anyone,” Ramsey said. “He had wide support in Hempstead County and carried the county in every election.”
Ramsey said Hill was an accessible figure despite his growing stature in legislative service.
“He was always accessible, even when he was President Pro Tem of the Senate,” Ramsey said. “He would return your phone calls. And, he was very valuable to the growth of UACCH. He was so important that when he left the Senate he was placed on the board.”
Despite a dry, sometimes biting, sense of humor, Ramsey said Hill was kind.
“He was one of those unique individuals of a generation who were very respectful of people,” Ramsey added.
Hempstead County Judge Wallace Martin remembered Hill as a keen legislative intellect.
“He was very knowledgeable in what he was doing and was a very good senator,” Martin said. “There has been so much that he was involved in; he always tried to help you out.”