Leroy French, 85, dies

Leroy French, 85, formerly of Fort Smith, died Nov. 22, in Burleson, Texas. He was born Sept. 17, 1929, in Okemah, Okla., to Tommy Otis and Julia Naomi (Blevins) French. He was a builder and an architect and built the Bible Chapel at Ouachita Baptist University. He attended Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia  and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He pastored numerous churches in Arkansas and was a member and associate pastor of Bluff Avenue Baptist Church, Fort Smith. He also made 13 mission trips to the Philippines and two to South Korea. He was preceded in death by a son. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Helen, one daughter, six grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, six sisters and a brother. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Nov. 26 at Bluff Avenue Baptist Church with burial at 2 p.m. at Bowers Cemetery in Eufaula, Okla.


Rick Norris named director of campus safety at Williams Baptist College  

NorrisWALNUT RIDGE – Williams Baptist College (WBC) recently hired Rick Norris as its new director of campus safety. Norris and his family moved to Walnut Ridge from the Hot Springs area in late October, and since then he has been quickly acclimating to life and work at WBC.

Norris, who has 26 years of law enforcement experience, served in various public service outlets over the course of his career.  In his hometown of Junction City, Ark., he was a volunteer fire chief, emergency medical technician and eventually a police officer. 

“I have always felt a sense of service to others,” said Norris. “After being in public service, along with being an EMT and a volunteer firefighter, I felt the best way to help the most people was in law enforcement.”

After deciding law enforcement was the career he needed to pursue, Norris made his way to the El Dorado Police Department where he worked patrol, then narcotics.  Ultimately, he received the chance to work in Hot Springs as an undercover narcotics detective before advancing to coordinator of the Drug Task Force.

Norris remained in narcotics until being promoted to lieutenant. He served in the Criminal Investigation Division and made the rank of captain before retiring in 2012.  He still serves as a law enforcement instructor for the University of Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute.

Recently, Norris found his way to WBC when his daughter came to tryout for the Lady Eagles softball team.

“I fell in love with Williams on our very first visit. The feeling you get while walking on campus along with the friendly atmosphere you sense when meeting staff, faculty and students makes it feel like home. You can really feel God’s presence and sense his working here. When the chance to come work at the college arose, I felt the pull and responded,” noted Norris.

“We are fortunate to have someone of Mr. Norris’s level of experience join our staff,” added Dr. Tom Jones, WBC’s president.  “His expertise will help us to continue the college’s commitment to provide the highest quality and safest environment for our students.” 

In his free time, Norris enjoys woodworking, fishing with his wife, Melanie, and their young son, Cody, and any other activity they can do together as a family.

– From a Williams Bapist College news release


Brotherhood Mutual presents ABCHomes with $65,000

David Perry of ABCHomes (left) with Jeff Brantly of James Green & Associates.
LITTLE ROCK – Christmas came a little early this year at the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries (ABCHomes) on Nov. 19.

Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, represented by James Greene & Associates of Sherwood, presented ABCHomes Executive Director David Perry with an early “Christmas gift” – a dividend check in the amount of $65,113.

“What a blessing,” shared Perry. “We’re grateful for the tremendous insurance and service provided by Brotherhood Mutual and the James Greene agency. Topping that off with this huge dividend check is overwhelming. We’re also grateful to our many churches and Arkansas Baptist entities that are members of our insurance group. What a great day!”

During the presentation, Kurt Hetherington, vice president of sales and marketing at James Greene & Associates, said his team is honored to have a “small” part in helping change the lives of children and teens in crisis. “I can’t imagine another place where we can serve the way we do,” said Hetherington.

Brotherhood Mutual makes these type gifts during years when members’ claims are low. Local churches that choose Brotherhood Mutual for insurance coverage – and then have low-claim or claim-free years – can know that their insurance coverage is helping ABCHomes. James Greene & Associates is a representative of the Guidestone Financial Services’ alliance with the Brotherhood Mutual group.

To date, Brotherhood Mutual has donated more than $142,000 in dividend checks to ABCHomes. 


Hardy Bell, 72, of Sherwood, dies

Hardy Bell, 72, of Sherwood, died Nov. 16. He was associate pastor at Sylvan Hills First Baptist Church, Sherwood, for 35 years. He also served on the executive committee of Abundant Life Ministries of Honduras. He is preceded in death by his sister Brenda Bell Freeman and nephew Michael Bell. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Nina Webb Bell, brother William Bell and sister Gale Bell, nieces Jenny Kubacak, Emily Freeman and Angie Bell. Funeral services were held Nov. 20 at Sylvan Hills First Baptist Church. Burial followed at Sardis Cemetery in Sparkman.





Williams Baptist College ranked third on lowest debt burden list

WALNUT RIDGE – A newly published list says Williams Baptist College (WBC) has one of the lowest student debt burdens of any Christian college in the country. Christian Universities Online recently published the national rankings, placing WBC third on the list.

Christian Universities Online is an online resource for prospective students and their families who are interested in Christian higher education. The list aims to highlight Christian colleges that excel in keeping the debt burden of their graduates as low as possible and includes institutions from across the U.S..

“This list affirms that Williams Baptist College is an incredible value in Christian higher education,” said WBC President Tom Jones. “Our low overall debt burden is just another way we assist our graduates in engaging local and global cultures through a Christ-centered worldview.” 

The list was calculated based on data from U.S. News & World Report, which has placed Williams in the top tier of southern colleges for five years in a row.

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