WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of World War II veteran and entrepreneur Harry Hastings, Jr. in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
He was born in Little Rock on May 24, 1927 and continues to call the city home. Hastings was struck with grief at an early age when he experienced the loss of his older sister Marie, but this tragedy strengthened the lifelong bond he had with his dad.
“I was just a daddy’s boy and I was with him all of the time,” Hastings said. “He taught me everything I know.”
Following his father’s positive example, he achieved great success in his endeavors including military service, business and family.
As typical with young men of his age during the 1940s, Hastings served in the military. While a student at Catholic High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force. “We had no choice. Either be drafted or join,” Hastings recalled. “I turned 18 on May 24, I graduated on June 1 and I went to Camp Chaffee in Fort Smith on June 20 and off to service.”
Hastings underwent basic training at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. While there, Japan surrendered and ended the war. He was sent to New York and shipped to Germany to replace American soldiers headed home.
Hastings was stationed in Munich where he oversaw Army supplies stored at a BMW plant. “I had the only keys other than the CO.” Hastings was able to put to use the skills he learned at the warehouse of his father’s liquor distributor business teaching fellow troops how to drive a forklift. “These guys would run into a post with the forklift,” Hasting said. “A German lady who was working as a secretary and keeping books would dive underneath the desk thinking it was a bomb going off.”
While avoiding seasickness on his return home, Hastings’s employed hijinks to convince others they might be failing ill. “We would go through the chow line and there’d be a guy up there ahead of us and we’d say ‘Hey you look bad right there. Are you getting sick? You know you really look bad. Maybe you need to go?’ So he would leave and we’d get his dessert,” he laughed.
Once he returned to Arkansas, Hastings took over his father’s real estate portfolio. He started building warehouses and recognized the local need for bolts and bearings which led him to launch the Arkansas Bolt Company.
Hastings’ strong entrepreneurial spirit became further evident when he applied for a bank charter for the First State Bank of Sherwood in 1964. The institution became Eagle Bank and Trust Company more than two decades later.
He enjoyed thrill-seeking for much of his life, including by racing boats and piloting airplanes. Hastings has been married to the love of his life, Rosalyn for 69 years. The couple has three children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The younger generations of the Hastings family continue to operate the family businesses.
“When I turned 65 I turned all the businesses over to the children and I said ‘If you can run them fine. I’m going to sell them before they go broke.’ They’re still running,” Hastings said proudly.
“I’m grateful for Harry’s service to our nation. We can be proud of his accomplishments in uniform and for all he has achieved in the business world. His hard work and ingenuity led to fruitful business ventures that continue to be successful and serve as an inspiration to entrepreneurs aiming to develop their own ideas and grow their enterprises. I’m pleased to help capture and preserve his memories,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Hastings’ entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.