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Photo of UA Fort Smith's First Computer Surfaces

Photo of UA Fort Smith's First Computer Surfaces(Posted: March 16, 2010)

Former state representative B.G. Hendrix of Fort Smith came upon an old photo that he delivered to UA Fort Smith, but in doing that, he also delivered a bit of history.

Hendrix, who served in the state legislature up until about 12 years ago for more than 30 years, was involved in acquiring the first computer for the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith when it was Westark Junior College. As the story goes, Hendrix was acquainted with Jake Barrow of Strauss Distributors Inc. in Little Rock. The company was acquiring a new computer, and Hendrix talked Barrow into donating the old one to Westark.

"I called Shelby Breedlove, who was president at that time, and he said he'd get a pick-up truck from Randall Ford," said Hendrix. "We went and picked it up. It took both of us to load it."

The photo shows Hendrix, Barrow and Breedlove standing behind the elements of the computer. The photo was apparently taken in a Strauss warehouse.

Hendrix brought the photograph, only five by seven inches and in black-and-white, and gave it to Dr. Paul B. Beran, UA Fort Smith chancellor, and Kyle Parker, UA Fort Smith's vice chancellor for planning and technology.

"I just ran across it and thought it was something you should have," Hendrix told the two administrators.

Hendrix admitted that the computer, probably from the late 1960s, was huge by today's standards, but he was glad to get it for his local college.

"I've always been so proud of this place," said Hendrix, who was known to take up a fight or two on the university's behalf while he was in the state legislature. Hendrix was involved in acquiring funds to help construct the Gardner Building, which was completed in 1972. He also brought the Legislative Council to the campus while he chaired the group.

"They came out here, and people were really impressed then," said Hendrix, "and they would really be impressed now."

Dr. Beran related to Hendrix some thoughts about renovating the Gardner Building.

"We're looking at Gardner," said Beran, "looking at the open space in the front of the building and how to possibly layer some classrooms. We still think that it's a possibility."

Hendrix was also active, along with a group of other area legislators, in getting the act passed that established a University Center at Westark, which allowed the institution to bring in four-year universities to offer the junior- and senior-level classes on top of the freshman and sophomore classes, which made it possible for a student to receive a bachelor's degree without leaving Fort Smith. That bill passed in 1989.

He is proud of his legislative record, both with the laws he had a part in but also in his own actions during that time.

"I never once misused anything," Hendrix said, relating how he had a car as Speaker of the House but even parked it and wouldn't drive it to his farm in Greenwood.

"I feel good about myself. I don't have to look back with regret."

Parker and Beran visited with Hendrix about some of the progress that has taken place on campus in recent times and how various programs have evolved. Parker then extolled the past, but pointed to the present under Beran's leadership.

"It's just amazing to see the transformation here," said Parker. "Joel Stubblefield did us a great service, no question about that, but what is happening here now and the growth is absolutely phenomenal."

Hendrix then turned to Beran, saying, "You're doing an outstanding job. I get good reports."

Hendrix, now 87, was active in a number of other legislative issues that benefited the Fort Smith region. Among his memorabilia is a gold brick that he tossed through the old J.C. Penney building's window on Garrison Avenue to start of construction for the State Office Building, which he had a hand in making happen. He also worked behind the scenes with issues related to local business and industry, including bringing the Hiram Walker plant here.

He does still have some opinions legislatively and will share them when asked. He is extremely active in the community, but in what he calls "non-paying jobs," serving on several committees, boards and commissions in the state as well as taking personal interest in helping individuals in the community.

Hendrix said he had a nickname of sorts while in the legislature – Beagle.

"I wouldn't turn things loose," he said with a laugh, given his current list of volunteer involvements, the nickname might just still fit.

Article by: Sondra LaMar, Director of Public Relations

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