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Myra Jones was a political activist and governmental official as well as an entrepreneur in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the latter part of the twentieth century. Throughout two decades in elective office, Jones made a substantive impact on the direction of both Little Rock and the state, becoming the first woman elected to the Little Rock Board of Directors and later serving from 1985 through 1998 in the Arkansas General Assembly.
Myra Lee Gutsche was born on March 8, 1936, near Belle Fourche, South Dakota, to Ernest and Edith Gutsche. She was raised on a ranch in Belle Fourche, which was north of Rapid City. She learned to drive a tractor at an early age and was active in the local 4-H group. She was also passionate about music, earning a music degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio. After graduation, she taught music in the Des Moines, Iowa, public schools, while also earning a master’s degree in music education from Drake University. Seeking to spread the reach of music education, she served as a consultant for a program that taught music on television.
She married Robert Jones, and the couple had a son and a daughter. The couple later divorced.
The family moved to Little Rock around 1966, and from 1970 to 1973, Jones was a co-owner and manager of Dairy Queen restaurants in both Little Rock and Jacksonville (Pulaski County). Her experience as president of the local Pleasant Valley Property Owners Association sparked her interest in local government, and in 1976 she became the first woman elected to a full term on the Little Rock City Board of Directors. She served on the board from 1977 to 1984, including four years as vice mayor. She left the board to serve in the Arkansas House of Representatives after winning election as a Democrat in 1984. Jones served in that body from 1985 through 1998. During that time, she chaired the City, County and Local Government Committee. As a legislator, she introduced and supported bills relating to education, small businesses, and utilities. Jones also served on the board of directors of the National League of Cities, and she was the chair of the Commerce and Communications Committee of the National Conference of States Legislatures. Active in both Bill and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns, Jones was a member of the platform committee at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.
Following her time in the legislature, she owned her own business, The Hinter, and became a licensed Realtor. She also served as a lobbyist for the Little Rock Realtors Association. Jones served on the board of Noram Energy for seventeen years, making her one of the first women in the state to serve on the board of a Fortune 500 company. She also served on the board of the State Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Foundation Fund, and the Quapaw Area Boy Scouts Council, among others. Her awards and honors included the Little Rock Rotary Club naming her Rotarian of the Year for 2002–2003, and the Arkansas Municipal League named her its Person of the Year in 1989 and Representative of the Year in 1997. She was also selected on four occasions as one of the “Top 100 Women in Arkansas” by the Arkansas Business Publishing Group.
Jones returned annually each summer to South Dakota to play clarinet in the Cowboy Band, a group that had been a central part of her high school years and that had been resurrected in the later part of the 1990s. The band played at rodeos and other events.
Jones died on February 20, 2012, in Little Rock. Her ashes are buried alongside her parents’ graves at Pine Slope Cemetery in Butte County, South Dakota.
For additional information:
Myra Jones Papers. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas. Finding aid online at http://archives.arkansas.gov/research/browse-archival-collections.aspx?id=2181 (accessed April 2, 2018).
Peacock, Leslie Newell. “Myra Jones.” Arkansas Blog, February 20, 2012. https://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2012/02/20/myra-jones-75-dies (accessed April 2, 2018).
Smith, Doug. “Female LR City Director Manages to Keep Busy.” Arkansas Gazette, June 29, 1977, p. 2B.
William H. Pruden III
Last Updated 4/6/2018
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