Weekly Columns

Arkansas recently lost a leader. John Paul Hammerschmidt, a man who dramatically reshaped Arkansas in his twenty-six years of service as a Congressman from the 3rd District, passed away.

John Paul led a life dedicated to public service, serving as a decorated combat pilot during WWII. Once he returned home to Harrison, Arkansas he ran the family lumber business while spearheading efforts to create a two party political system in the state.

John Paul helped mold the political landscape of Arkansas and he never lost site of the reason why he worked so vigorously to provide political options and that reason was the people of Arkansas.

By the time he was elected to Congress in 1966 as the first member of his party to represent Arkansas in Congress since Reconstruction, John Paul had a reputation of working to help others. He did that for 26 years as a Member of Congress. By the time he retired, he was the Ranking Member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

He served in Congress with the same enthusiasm that propelled him into office and was well respected by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle for his strong work ethic, approach to getting things done and his responsiveness to constituent service.

You would have been hard-pressed to find a kinder, gentler man than John Paul. As a mentor and friend, his wisdom and counsel has shaped my time in Washington more than anyone else.

It was John Paul who taught me that after the election is over, there are no more Republicans, no more Democrats, only the people of Arkansas. His dedication to his constituents during his career in public service was unmatched and is a marker we should all strive to meet.

His words ring just as true today. John Paul’s efforts to work with his colleagues in both political parties benefited Arkansas and showed what it truly means to be bipartisan. Despite being in the House minority, he was able to achieve much success in Congress because he recognized that the key to good governing and good public service is that you treat everyone fairly and set political differences aside.

This ideology allowed him to be influential in a variety of areas. He is credited with securing improvements for roads and infrastructure projects including Interstate-540 and the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, protecting the Buffalo River under the designation as a National River, and setting the example of exemplary constituent service that we strive to continue today.

I fondly recall the first time I came to Washington in 2001 to be sworn in as the Congressman from the 3rd District of Arkansas. John Paul took my brother and me to the Members Dining Room in the Capitol. I have always appreciated his hospitality, advice and friendship. John Paul is able to leave his fingerprints on projects important to Arkansas through his hard work, dedication and commitment. He never forgot about the people he was sent to Washington to represent and we are grateful for his tireless efforts to help Arkansas.

John Paul was the embodiment of a true public servant. His legacy will live on as a testament to the way those serving in Washington should operate.