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Sam Bratton was an influential figure in both the Arkansas government and the state’s Democratic Party for over three decades in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. A skilled lawyer and policy maker, he was particularly well respected for his expertise in the area of education law and policy.
Samuel Isaac Bratton was born on January 28, 1945, in Montgomery, Alabama, to Samuel Isaac Bratton Sr. and Pauline Kilgore Bratton. The family later moved to Arkansas, and Bratton graduated from Earle High School, where he had played basketball. Majoring in history and political science, Bratton received his bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College in 1967. He then taught and coached basketball in Turrell (Crittenden County) and Gosnell (Crittenden County). Bratton earned his law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1973. A member of the Arkansas Law Review, he clerked for Justice John Fogelman of the Arkansas Supreme Court following graduation.
Bratton began his governmental service working as an assistant state attorney general, first under Attorney General Jim Guy Tucker and then under his successor, Bill Clinton. When Clinton was elected governor in 1978, Bratton followed him to the statehouse, serving as liaison for education in Clinton’s first term and then again after Clinton returned to office in 1983. He was instrumental in securing passage of many of Clinton’s policy initiatives. Clinton gave Bratton much of the credit for the passage of the major education reform package that the administration saw enacted in 1983. Drawing upon Bratton’s knowledge of Arkansas education law, Clinton appointed him to the group that designed the settlement in the controversial Pulaski County School District case.
Bratton served as chief counsel for legal and financial policy, becoming the governor’s “go to guy” on legislative matters. His fine sense of humor balanced his sometimes intimidating intellect. In 1989, the governor appointed him chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission. He was chairman until 1997 and continued to serve as a commissioner until 2001. From 2001 to 2003, he served as counsel to the commission. He was also president of both the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and Mid-Regulatory Commissioners.
Bratton died on June 5, 2014. He is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock (Pulaski County).
For additional information:
Roberts, Jeannie. “Ex-Aide a Key Cog in Clinton’s Office.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 7, 2014, p. 6B.
“Samuel Isaac Bratton.” Ruebel Funeral Home. http://www.ruebelfuneralhome.com/obituaryindividual.php?id=1625 (accessed November 17, 2017).
William H. Pruden III
Last Updated 11/22/2017
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