Wife of late Dillard's founder dies at 96

Posted: February 20, 2013 at 4:31 p.m.

Alexa Latimer Dillard, wife of the late founder of Dillard's Inc., died Tuesday night. She was 96.

Dillard's Inc. spokesman Julie Johnson Bull confirmed that Dillard died in her home, although the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette could not confirm that address. Her children declined to comment after their mother’s death, saying she was a “very private” person.

Alexa Latimer was born in Nashville, Ark., on Oct. 30, 1916, according to a news release from Dillard's Inc. Before marrying into the Dillard family, she worked for her father, the late J.I. Latimer, who was a well-respected merchant in Nashville for more than 40 years.

Alexa, known to her friends as Lexa, met William T. Dillard in 1935 at a Legion Hut dance in Nashville while he was home from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. In 1938, at age 23, William Dillard opened the first Dillard's store across the street from J.I. Latimer’s hardware, furniture and mortuary business.

Alexa and William married on June 9, 1940 in the Methodist church in Nashville.

Alexa Dillard left her father's business to work in her husband's store and remained by his side for 61 years — until his death at age 87 in February 2002 — as he grew the 2,500-square-foot store with three employees into a multi-billion dollar retail empire.

The couple had five children — Drue Corbusier, Denise Mehaffy, William “Bill” Dillard II and Alex and Mike Dillard — and 12 grandchildren.

Funeral services are being arranged by Ruebel Funeral Home in Little Rock, the release states.

Biographical information for this story was provided by Alexa Latimer Dillard in a mid-2000s interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.