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Edwin Alderson Jr. became a prominent lawyer, jurist, and businessman in Arkansas in the late twentieth century. A lifelong booster of his hometown of El Dorado (Union County), he was also an entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Edwin Boyd Alderson Jr. was born on May 16, 1940, to Edwin Boyd Alderson and Jewell Sample Murphy Alderson. The couple’s oldest son, he was a sixth-generation resident of Union County. After graduating from El Dorado High School in 1958, Alderson earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, in 1962. He did postgraduate study in philosophy for a year at the University of Georgia before moving to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he earned his law degree in 1966. Returning to El Dorado, he joined the firm of Crumpler, O’Connor, Wynne and Mays. He later worked for the Murphy Oil Corporation.
In 1969, Alderson and William C. Nolan formed the law partnership of Nolan and Alderson as well as a business venture, the Nolan Investment Company, one of whose earliest acquisitions was a group of radio stations in 1970. That purchase represented the beginning of the Noalmark Broadcasting Corporation, which eventually grew to more than twenty radio stations spread across three states. Alderson had a longtime interest in rock and roll music, collecting 45 RPM records—many of which he later donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—and participating in a radio show on KELD in El Dorado called The Sharps and Flats.
Alderson’s wide-ranging business career also included a lengthy stint as a board member (and also chairman) of the First Financial Bank, a one-time savings and loan that grew from fifteen employees into a national lending operation that employed almost 300 workers.
Alderson also made his mark on the state’s judicial system as well. Beginning with his work as a municipal judge, a post he assumed in 1972 and held for two decades, he earned a reputation for fair and thoughtful judgments. He made a major contribution to the Arkansas judicial system with the introduction of a proposal that would ultimately streamline procedures for the state’s municipal and district courts. In 1991, Alderson was appointed to serve as special chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Among his many positions, he served two six-year terms on the state Board of Law Examiners and was a lifetime member of the Arkansas District Judges Council. He served on the Arkansas Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee beginning at its creation in 1991 and was chairman at the time of his death.
Alderson also served as chairman of the Arkansas State Health Planning Council from 1974 to 1976, overseeing many changes in the state’s health systems. He also served as president of the South Arkansas Regional Health Center during its early days. He was the founder and president of El Dorado Fifty for the Future, which helped foster the city’s business development. He was also an influential figure in the establishment of the town’s many festivals and civic events.
Alderson was an outstanding horseman, and that skill, coupled with a deep interest in history, led him to be a part of many trail rides in New Mexico and Arizona. He once participated in a reenactment of the last ride of Billy the Kid. He was also a director and president of Chuck Wagon Trail Riders. Alderson was active in the El Dorado First Baptist Church and was a regular supporter of the Democratic Party.
Alderson and his wife, Diane Gunn Nolan Alderson, had a son and daughter together, and she had three children from a previous relationship. He died of cancer on October 5, 2017.
For additional information:
“Judge Edward Alderson.” Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. http://www.accessarkansas.org/jeac/biojud.html (accessed January 12, 2019).
Lyons, Tia. “A Life of Legacy—Remembering Edwin Alderson.” El Dorado News, October 8, 2017. Online at http://www.eldoradonews.com/news/2017/oct/08/life-legacy-remembering-edwin-alderson/ (accessed January 12, 2019).
Obituary of Judge Edwin Boyd Alderson Jr. https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/el-dorado-ar/edwin-alderson-7589914 (accessed January 12, 2019).
Roberts, Jeannie. “Ed Dorado Backer, Renaissance Man.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 8, 2017, p. 4B.
William H. Pruden III
Last Updated 1/17/2019
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