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John Vines (J. V.) Satterfield (1902–1966)

John Vines Satterfield Jr. was elected mayor of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1939 and oversaw, during his one term, substantial improvement in the city’s critical financial condition. He served in the Army at the Pentagon during World War II. He was later appointed the state director of the Federal Housing Administration and then was elected president of the Peoples National Bank.

J. V. Satterfield Jr. was born on May 14, 1902, in Marion (Crittenden County), the oldest of six children of Dr. John Vines Satterfield and Mary Lena Marshall Satterfield. In 1904, they moved to nearby Earle (Crittenden County), where Satterfield grew up. In high school, he played baseball, was captain of the undefeated football team, and worked in the post office to supplement the family income. He graduated from high school in 1920.

He intended to study journalism at the University of Missouri and had a football scholarship, but his father became ill and suspended his medical practice. Satterfield stayed home to help support his parents and five younger siblings. He was hired to fill the football coach vacancy at the high school, but after one season, seeking more income, he moved to Paragould (Greene County) and sold cars. He soon relocated to Little Rock and worked for an insurance agency. He married his high school sweetheart, Thelma Holt, in 1928. They had three sons: John Vines III, William Walter, and Hammond Holt.

He worked in the securities department of the Bankers Trust Co., which closed during the Great Depression of the early 1930s. Satterfield was appointed as manager of the Arkansas Municipal Bond Bureau formed by institutional investors to address the problem of municipal bond defaults. He later formed his own firm specializing in municipal finance, helping cities and school districts avoid or cure defaults.

In 1938, some businessmen persuaded him to run for mayor, as the City of Little Rock had financial problems. It was unable to pay its bills on time and possibly faced bankruptcy. In the April 1939 municipal election, he was elected mayor at age thirty-six. In addition to the city’s operating cash problems, there was not enough money to finish construction of the new Robinson Auditorium. With Satterfield as mayor, funding for completion of the auditorium was secured. The first convention held at Robinson Auditorium, in 1940, was for movie theater owners. A movie ball was held, and Hollywood stars were present. Photographs show the smiling young mayor escorting the primary star, Maureen O’Hara.

During his one term as mayor, a central purchasing office was created, the city began to discount bills for prompt payment, a cash surplus was generated, the city health department was established, and the garbage collection fee was reduced from $6.00 per family per year to $4.00. In addition, the first board of commissioners of Little Rock Housing Authority was appointed and a new City Hospital lease with the University of Arkansas (UA) was negotiated, saving the city $1,000,000 over the lease term. Satterfield was also elected president of the Arkansas Municipal League, which comprised cities throughout the state.

The city provided water to North Little Rock (Pulaski County) and thus the U.S. Army’s Camp Joseph T. Robinson. Mayor Satterfield arranged for a new pipeline to provide increased water supply and prevent the closing of the camp. The commanding general was impressed with the young mayor, and when World War II started in December 1941, suggested that Satterfield enlist and join his staff. Satterfield enlisted, but before he could be processed and commissioned as a major, the general was transferred, and Satterfield was assigned elsewhere. Before World War II, Satterfield was the chairman of Draft Board C and had been appointed by Governor Homer Adkins to the National Defense Council of Arkansas.

After Satterfield spent a year in the Army Air Corps in North Carolina, his commanding general there was transferred to the Pentagon as Air Inspector General and brought Satterfield (then a lieutenant colonel) along. He served the duration of the war there and was discharged in September 1945 as a full colonel after receiving three commendations and the Legion of Merit.

Returning to civilian life, he re-entered the securities business. In 1947, he was appointed state director of the Federal Housing Administration. In January 1949, he was made president of the small Peoples National Bank. He was credited by many for changing banking in the state. When he had first come to Little Rock in the 1920s, he was shocked when a bank would not open a checking account for him because he did not have enough money. As a banker, he began a campaign to solicit business from everyone, not just large accounts. His first advertising slogan was “The Friendliest Bank in Town.” He removed the traditional metal cages that separated tellers from customers. The name of the bank was changed to First National Bank. The assets of the bank increased from $16 million in 1949 to more than $80 million in 1965.

Satterfield served on the Board of Deacons at First Presbyterian Church, was president of the Pulaski Heights Lions Club, served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and as chairman of the Community Chest, and was co-founder of the Arkansas Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation.

At age fifty, Satterfield was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis. He took early retirement from the bank in 1964 because of various health problems. Editorials in local newspapers noted his death on March 7, 1966, in Little Rock, and praised his contributions to the community.

For additional information:
“Former Mayor, Banker Dies.” Arkansas Gazette, March 8, 1966, pp. 1A, 2A.

“J. V. Satterfield, Tomorrow a Brand New Name.” Arkansas Gazette, November 1, 1953, p. 5F.

“J. V. Satterfield Jr.” Arkansas Gazette, March 9, 1966, p. 6A.

W. W. Satterfield
Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated 6/6/2017

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