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McClinton praised for helping community grow

by Tom Sissom | March 19, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- David Clark McClinton was remembered by those who knew and worked with him as a man who used his life's experience to build a vision for the future.

McClinton, 82, died Sunday at his home in Fayetteville.

Steve Clark, president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, knew McClinton for many years. He said he was always active and involved with the community and working to make Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas a better place. McClinton was elected president of the chamber in 1988, Clark said, and helped the city and region grow.

"He did a wonderful job," Clark said. "He was president at a time when we were changing, just beginning to grow into a region. You had Tyson, Walmart and J.B. Hunt and others which were growing into not just national but international businesses. His leadership was important because he understood what that meant. He understood it was not just the number of jobs they were creating, it was all the ways they were impacting the community."

McClinton, a Fayetteville native, was an alumnus of Jefferson and Washington elementary schools and a Fayetteville High School Class of '56 Purple Dog graduate. He attended the University of Arkansas, where he was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, and he was a lifelong Razorback fan.

McClinton began his working life at age 14, paving roads as part of the road crew of McClinton Brothers Construction. He became a highway contractor and later served as president of McClinton-Anchor Division of APAC-Arkansas Inc. It is believed McClinton Anchor Construction at one time had paved or overlaid every road in Washington County and most in Benton County.

Throughout his life, McClinton worked on numerous projects to improve the community and support the University of Arkansas' education and athletic endeavors. He was one of the founders of The Bank of Fayetteville, serving as chairman of the board on several occasions.

He was a founding member and past president of Northwest Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute. McClinton served on the boards of Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Arkansas Board of Corrections, the Arkansas Institute of Theology, Ventures for Christ, the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, the Associated General Contractors of Arkansas, and Arkansas Athletes Outreach. He was also a member of the University of Arkansas National Development Council.

Mark Power, vice chancellor for university advancement, said McClinton was a valued member of the university community.

"David was a great advocate of the University of Arkansas and provided tremendous support for a number of efforts across campus and beyond," Power said. "He was so well known in the community and known for giving back and supporting so many causes. He will be missed."

While a member of the Washington Regional Board of Directors for 24 years, he served as board chair four times. His drive and determination are often credited with helping to make the dream of building the state-of-the-art medical center at North Hills a reality in 2002. In 2010, he was a proud recipient of the Washington Regional Foundation Eagle Award.

Larry Shackelford, president of Washington Regional Medical Center, said McClinton's own health issues -- he had tuberculosis as a teenager and was treated for lymphoma in the 1990s -- gave him a lifelong interest in health care.

"He had health issues as a child and overcame them," Shackelford said. "He was such an advocate for health care and health care access."

Shackelford said McClinton's interest in keeping health care accessible was one reason he drove the effort to find a new home for the hospital.

"At the old location on College Avenue and North Street we were landlocked," Shackelford said. "We had issues with parking. We had employees and patients having to walk across College Avenue and North Street to get into the hospital.

"David had the vision to see the North Hills area and what it could become," Shackelford said. "The campus here is 25 acres and we have almost double the square-footage of the old hospital. It's hard to overstate the significance and the impact Mr. McClinton had on health care in Northwest Arkansas. He was board chairman at a time when health care was changing greatly. He led the effort to move Washington Regional and gave us the room and ability to grow with Northwest Arkansas."

McClinton was not just a businessman, though he was admired for his business acumen. Larry Bittle, a longtime Fayetteville resident and owner of Bittle State Farm Insurance, said he viewed McClinton as both a friend and a mentor.

"His word was his bond and he ran his businesses that way," Bittle said. "He always tried to live by the Golden Rule of treating others as you would want to be treated, which endeared him to a lot of people. I know he was well thought of by people and I would certainly aspire to be thought of in the same way."

Bittle also said McClinton was a joy to be around.

"He was always a gentleman, but he also had a little twinkle in his eye," Bittle said. "I always enjoyed conversations with him because he was very knowledgeable, but he also very much had a sense of humor. He loved to tease and he could take it as well as dish it out."

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