Throughout a distinguished career that spanned six decades, first as an advocate and later as judge, Richard Mobley devoted his life to respect for the rule of law, the impartial administration of justice, and a career in public service marked by honesty, integrity, and tireless effort. On July 4, 2008, Judge Mobley passed away peacefully in his home. He was 91.
Although Judge Mobley retired more than 18 years ago, attorneys who practiced in his courtroom still vividly recall his time on the bench. One lawyer remarked that before Judge Mobley began his tenure, decisions in equity and probate matters had been unpredictable in that jurisdiction. Judge Mobley’s court soon became recognized as a forum where the litigants would receive swift, impartial, and consistent justice.
He expected attorneys to be well prepared before coming into the courtroom. Those who arrived with law books in arm, perhaps hoping to learn the law while they pled their cases, sometimes received a reprimand and a stern lesson concerning their duty to their clients and their responsibility to the court. Judge Mobley worked to get ready for each trial, he had reviewed the pleadings and the applicable law, and he expected as much from those who tried their cases before his court.
When he first came to the bench, he found an accumulation of continued cases waiting for him. To eliminate this backlog, and to stay ahead of the growing volume of domestic relations matters, he routinely listened to the testimony in a case, allowed brief arguments, posed a few questions from the bench, and then made a decision the same day.
Throughout his career, Judge Mobley was known for a dry sense of humor and a healthy skepticism toward the perspectives of witnesses who testified in his court. More than once he remarked that each time a witness happened to tell the whole truth in court, the concrete eagle outside at the top of the courthouse would flap its wings!
Richard Mobley was born on a farm in Grenada County, Mississippi. His father, Sion Fielding Mobley, worked in a factory while his mother, the former Margaret Clifford, raised her boys and worked in the fields. When he was ten, Judge Mobley’s family moved to Helena, Arkansas where he entered the fourth grade on the eve of the Great Depression. After finishing high school, he worked for two years at a flower shop in Helena to help support his mother and younger brothers and to save enough so that one day he could go to college.
He enrolled at the University of Arkansas in 1937. Judge Mobley was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity and Omicron Delta Kappa, a national collegiate honor society. He served as editor of the 1940 University of Arkansas yearbook, The Razorback. At the University of Arkansas Law School, he was a member of the Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity, and in his second year there, he married Louise Caudle of Russellville.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, a number of law students took the bar examination early so that they could enlist upon graduation. Judge Mobley was among them. Upon completing the Army’s Officers Candidate School, he received a commission as a 2nd Lt. In the Field Artillery. He then went to Ft. Sill for artillery training, to Ft. Campbell where he was assigned to the 98th Infantry Division, and then to the Pacific theater. Major Mobley completed his military obligation serving with the occupation forces in Japan.
After the war was over, Judge Mobley came to Russellville and joined his father-in-law Reece Caudle in his private law practice with Bob White. During the early 1950’s, he completed an unexpired term as chancery and probate judge, and then in 1962, he ran for a full term as chancellor of what was then the Ninth Judicial Circuit (Pope, Johnson, Conway and Faulkner Counties). After state-wide redistricting in 1979, Judge Mobley became chancellor for the Fifth Judicial Circuit (Pope, Johnson, and Franklin Counties) where he served until his retirement in 1990.
Judge Mobley’s contributions to Arkansas law were significant. He was a pioneer in Arkansas domestic relations law, introducing a uniform schedule of child support payments, the basis for the family support formulas used by judges today. His court took an active interest in the welfare of the children of divorce. Parents who ignored or fell behind in their support obligations soon learned the error of their ways and either promptly paid or were sent to jail for contempt. Again, justice in his court was swift, impartial, and consistent.
Judge Mobley also presided over a number of high profile cases involving oil and gas law as it evolved in Northwest Arkansas. One ruling, affirmed on appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court, marked a departure from existing practice by allowing a class action lawsuit on behalf of mineral interest owners. In another case, Judge Mobley established a precedent by using current market value to set the amount of royalty payments. Because of his reputation and acknowledged expertise in this specialized area of law, he was invited to speak at the Natural Resources Law Institute in 1984 and again in 1987.
Over the course of his career, Judge Mobley received numerous awards in recognition of his significant contributions to the Arkansas legal system and to the community. In 1971, he was honored as the first chairman of the Family Law Section of the Arkansas Bar Association. In 1974 and 1975, he served as the chairman of the editorial review committee for the first Arkansas Domestic Relations Manual. For this leadership, he received the Golden Gavel Award from the Arkansas Bar Association. In 1975 and 1976, he served as president of the Arkansas Judicial Council, and he also served as a faculty advisor to the National College of State Trial Judges. In October, 1990, the Pope County Bar Association honored Judge Mobley for more than 28 years of continuous service as chancery and probate judge. Upon his retirement, he donated a large part of his legal research materials to the Pope County Law Library. Over the next three years, he went on to serve as a special master over protracted sales tax reimbursement proceedings in Washington and Saline Counties.
His memberships in local civic and fraternal organizations spanned more than fifty years. He belonged to the Shriners, Masonic Lodge No. 274, American Legion Post 20, and the Rotary Club in Russellville. In 1986, the Arkansas Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks recognized him as “Citizen of the Year” for his service to youth and families.
Outside of the courtroom and the practice of law, Judge Mobley’s passions included horticulture, genealogy, and teaching Sunday School, all of which he pursued for many years. His love and appreciation of flowers dated back to his employment in flower shops in Helena and Fayetteville. He cultivated and gave away numerous hibiscus, bromeliads, hydrangeas, and orchids. His interest in his family’s roots led him into many hundreds of hours of research as he traced his ancestry all the way back to a small village in 14th century Cheshire, England. Judge Mobley and his wife visited Mobberley, England in 1986.
Throughout his adult life, his chief recreational interest was fishing. He spent many hours on Lakes Nimrod, Atkins, and later, Dardanelle. He made his own fishing lures and gave hundreds to friends and associates. Each lure was guaranteed to catch fish.
Judge Mobley and his wife, Louise, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary several months before her death in 2002. He is also predeceased by his four brothers, Ralph, Prentis, Samuel, and Hammons Mobley. He is survived by his daughter, Margaret Mobley Burgess, of Loveland, Colorado, his son, Richard Reece Mobley and daughter-in-law Nancy R. Mobley, of Westwood, Massachusetts, grandsons Benjamin C. Dorries and Ryan E. Mobley, granddaughters Sarah and Elizabeth Clabby, and several nieces and nephews. He also leaves behind his dear and close friends for many years, Representative George Overbey, Jr. and his wife Betty, of Lamar.
Friends and family are invited to attend a memorial service at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 9, at All Saints Episcopal Church, 501 South Phoenix, Russellville. Throughout his life, Judge Mobley lived his core belief that with education and hard work, one would find opportunity and success. In keeping with his wishes, and in lieu of flowers, the family invites a contribution in Judge Mobley’s memory to the Division of Advancement, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701 or to an educational institution or charitable organization of the donor’s choice.
Arrangements are by Shinn Funeral Service. The online obituary and guestbook are available at www.shinnfuneral.com.
Clara Eden Freeman, 92, of Hartman died Tuesday, July 1, 2008, at Johnson Regional Medical Center.
She was a native of Perryville, daughter of the late Tom and Clarisa Avance Jones, widow of Sam E. Freeman, Sunday school teacher for many years, and was preceded in death by one daughter, Barbara Faye Freeman; three sons, Billy Ray Freeman, Clarence Ray Freeman, and Gene Edward Freeman; two sisters; and three brothers.
She is survived by seven daughters, Elizabeth Richey and husband, Robert, of Oregon, Janette Scarberry and companion, Lee Betnar, of Knoxville, Ann Freeman of Hartman, Patsy Harmon and husband, Troy, of Lake Village, Sheila Taylor and Goldie Sandlin, both of Ozark, and Charlotte Wilder and husband, J. D., of Oark; three sons, Norman Freeman and wife, Shirley, of Mingus, Texas, Frank Freeman and wife, Sandra, of Lake Village, and Charles Freeman and wife, Nancy, of Hartman; one sister, Geneva McMillian of Little Rock; 50 grandchildren; 60 great-grandchildren; and 60 great-great-grandchildren.
Funeral was at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 5, at the Coal Hill Assembly of God Church with Rev. Gerald Morris officiating.
Burial was in Hartman Cemetery under the direction of Roller-Cox Funeral Home.
Active pallbearers were Franklin Milholland, Travis Freeman, Bill Scarberry, Roy Lancaster, Josh Freeman, and John Freeman.
Honorary pallbearers were Zackery Sandlin, Crandeal Freeman, Wayne Richey, Frank Freeman, Norman Freeman, Charles Freeman, David Gilmer, Jeremy Parker, Zack Freeman, Charles I. Freeman, Ronnie Scarberry, and Donnie Scarberry.
Clara G. Wilson, 76, of Lamar died Sunday, June 29, 2008, at her home.
She was a daughter of the late Clint and Mary Sams Palmer, native of Texas, member of Holman Freewill Baptist Church, and was preceded in death by one daughter, Brinda Wilson; one sister, Patsy Palmer; and two brothers, Henry and Warren Palmer.
Survivors include her husband, Chester Wilson; three daughters, Connie Butler and husband, Bill, of Knoxville, Carol Otwell and husband, Blake, of Clarksville, and Christine Carter and husband, Todd, of Lamar; one son, Carl Wilson and wife, Lesa, of Lamar; five sisters, Maude Holman of Clarksville; Mary Hale of Hartman, and Alice Harmon, Hannah Hutchinson and Joyce Palmer, all of Lamar; three brothers, George Palmer, William Palmer, and David Palmer, all of Lamar; 11 grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.
Funeral was at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 3, at the Holman Freewill Baptist Church with Rev. Geno Johnston and Rev. Donnie Marvel officiating.
Burial was in Holman Cemetery under the direction of Hardwicke Funeral Home.
Active pallbearers were Donald L. Wilson, Gene Duis, Rick Radcliff, Michael Palmer, Darren Harmon and Steve Hale.
Honorary pallbearers were Jamie Palmer, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
James “Ralph” Broomfield, 68, of Fort Smith died Thursday, July 3, 2008, at his home.
He was a native of the Spadra Community, son of the late James and Inice Duke, retired supervisor for Whirlpool after 32 years of service, Army veteran, member of Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Barling, and was preceded in death by one brother, Charles.
Survivors include his wife, Patsy Broomfield; one son, Justin Broomfield of Fort Smith; one daughter, Misty Finney of Fort Smith; three sisters, Mildred Levell and Micky Russell, both of Clarksville, and Doris Wood of Bloomer; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Rosary was at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 6, at Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Barling. Mass was at 11 a.m. Monday, July 7, at Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic Church followed by burial in Coal Hill Cemetery. Arrangements were under the direction of Lewis Funeral Chapel, Inc., in Fort Smith.
Memorials may be made to Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 1301 Frank Street, Barling, AR 72933.
Ancil D. Williams, 78, of Clarksville died Sunday, July 6, 2008, at Johnson Regional Medical Center.
He was a native of Clarksville, son of the late John Luster and Pearl Richardson Williams, graduate of Hartman High School, member of Woodland Baptist Church, Army veteran of the Korean War, retired factory employee and school bus driver, and was preceded in death by his wife, Tessie Garland Williams, and twin brother, Hansel Williams.
Survivors include two sons, Darrell Williams and wife, Debbie, and Donald Williams and wife, Cindy, all of Clarksville; grandchildren, Nathan Williams and wife, Randa, of Mayflower, Kaitlyn Williams, Bradley Williams and Megan Campbell, all of Clarksville, and Jeremy Williams of Fort Smith; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, Walter and Willive Nowotny, Al and Linda Tillman, Bob Garland and Lillie Mae Dixon of Clarksville; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Funeral will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 9, at Woodland Baptist Church with Rev. Bill Milam officiating.
Burial will be in Union Grove Cemetery under the direction of Hardwicke Funeral Home.
Pallbearers will be Nathan Williams, Kaitlyn Williams, Jeremy Williams, Bradley Williams, Jerrod Cowell, Megan Campbell, Mark Nowotny and Jeff Mize.
Memorials may be made to Woodland Baptist Church, P. O. Box 1009, Clarksville, AR 72830.
George W. Bradley Sr., 84, of Clarksville died Friday, July 4, 2008, at Clarksville Convalescent Home.
He was a World War II veteran, truck driver, son of the late Fred and Mattie Rogers Bradley, native of Lamar, and was preceded in death by two daughters, Karan Bradley and Carolyn Bradley; one grandson, Joseph Bradley; four brothers, Elbert, Fred, John and James Bradley; and four sisters, Kathren, Pauline, Marie and Betty.
Survivors include his wife, Donnie Clayborn Bradley; two daughters, Teena Tunnell and husband, Jim, of Crooked River Ranch, Ore., and Teresa Fimple and husband, Marty, of Clarksville; four sons, Kenneth Bradley and wife, Mary Lu, of Colfax, Calif., and Weldon Bradley and wife, Angela, Steven Bradley and wife, Angela, and Jerry Bradley and wife, Kristi, all of Clarksville; 14 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
Graveside services and burial were at 3 p.m. Tuesday, July 8, at Rosetta Cemetery with Rev. Amos Pledger officiating. Arrangements were under the direction of Roller-Cox Funeral Home.
Memorials may be made to Arkansas Hospice.
Johnny Ray Hill, 37, of Clarksville died Thursday, July 3, 2008.
Survivors include his parents, Leon and Verdell Stepp Hill of Clarksville; grandparent, Hazel Stepp of Clarksville; one sister, Susan Rainey of Coal Hill; one brother, Frankie Stepp of Clarksville, niece, Vicki Bowman of Clarksville; nephew, William Ray Bowman of Coal Hill; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
Funeral was at 2 p.m. Monday, July 7, at Roller-Cox Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Amos Pledger officiating. Burial was in Holman Cemetery.
Active pallbearers were Rusty Harris, William Bates, Tony Marvel, Keith Mathis, Eugene Hill and Sammy Stokes.
Honorary pallbearers were Ronnie Joe Henery, Alan Hill, Casey Cummins, and Tommy Daniels.
Kizzie Kennedy Head, 100, of Clarksville died Friday, July 4, 2008, at her home.
She was a native of Fort Douglas, daughter of the late James Erving and Missouri Tennessee Dillon Felkins, Baptist, and was preceded in death by her husband, Robert Kennedy; three daughters, one son; two brothers; and three sisters.
Survivors include three daughters, Ione Valdovines and Loretta Everhart, both of Liberty, Mo., and Merle Acord of Clarksville; two sons, John Kennedy of Lost Creek, Ky., and Tom Kennedy of Kansas City, Mo.; 18 grandchildren; 31 great-grandchildren; seven great-great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Funeral was at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 8, at Roller-Cox Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Richard Snyder officiating. Burial was in Oark Cemetery.
Pallbearers were grandsons, Mark Acord, Travis Acord, Jeremy Karr, Greg Ritter, Kindle Kennedy, Kenneth Kennedy, Colin Payton, Fred Payton, Chris Payton, Keith Kennedy, Richard Vanover, Phillip Vanover, and Larry Vanover.
Mary Maude Gallagher, 84, of Coal Hill died Friday, July 4, 2008, at Ozark Nursing Home.
She was born at Coal Hill, daughter of the late Christopher and Ola Smith Gallagher, retired school teacher, and member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church at Altus.
She is survived by several cousins.
Rosary was at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 6, at Hardwicke Funeral Home Chapel. Funeral was at 10 a.m. Monday, July 7, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church with Father Hillary Filatreau officiating.
Burial was in Coal Hill Cemetery under the direction of Hardwicke Funeral Home.
Active pallbearers were Harry Smith, Patrick Smith, Carl Smith, Allen Bryant, Keith Morrow, and James Hurst.
Honorary pallbearers were Jack Phillips, Gene Raible and Lance Spanke.
Naomi Coleman Griffith, 62, of Clarksville died Thursday, July 3, 2008, at her home.
She was a native of Brunswick, Ga., daughter of the late Thomas Watson Coleman and Edith Endola Delk, member of East Mt. Zion Trinity Baptist Church where she was involved in the choir, Sunday school teaching and youth group, oil painting artist, and was preceded in death by one brother, Merrin Coleman; and one sister, Mary Woods.
Survivors include her husband, Robert L. Griffith; one daughter, Caroline Griffith of Roswell, Ga.; two sons, Glenn Griffith of Marietta, Ga., and Greg Griffith of Hagarville; two sisters, Margie Cothran of Brunswick, Ga., and Gwen Powell of Nowata, Okla.; and three brothers, Marvin (Bud) Coleman of Brunswick, Ga., Thomas (Red) Coleman of Odum, Ga., and Raliegh Coleman of Jesup, Ga.
Funeral was at 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 8, at Union Chapel Methodist Church in Eatonton, Ga., with Rev. Don Patterson officiating.
Burial was in Union Chapel Cemetery in Eatonton, Ga. Local arrangements were under the direction of Roller-Cox Funeral Home.
Rachel Lucinda Harness, 66, of Clarksville died Saturday, July 5, 2008, in Conway Regional Hospital.
She was a native of Jetmore, Kan., daughter of the late Fred Oscar and Nellie Lucille Stockwell Demoret, and was preceded in death by one son, Ricky Barbee; and two brothers, David and Paul Demoret.
Survivors include her husband, Thurman Harness of Leslie; one daughter, Jennifer Harkreader of Hartman; six sons, Jerry Barbee of California, Johnny Robertson and Stephen Robertson, both of Virginia, and Danny White, Phillip White and Tracy White, all of Oklahoma; one sister, Ruth Uzzel of Oklahoma; two brothers, Phillip Demoret and Stephen Demoret, both of Oklahoma; 10 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Funeral was at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 8, at Hedgeway Church with Rev. Don Alexander officiating.
Burial was in Union Grove Cemetery under the direction of Hardwicke Funeral Home.
Sons, grandsons and brothers served as active pallbearers.
Honorary pallbearers were Larry Jones, Billy Jones, and Donnie Harkreader.