Influential Arkansas legislator Jodie Mahony dies (Updated)

Jodie Mahony, who served many successful years as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives and Arkansas Senate, has died after a long bout with cancer.

Mahony, who represented the El Dorado area, was always a key figure in championing progressive changes in the state, especially in the area of public education. Mahony was the brother of Emon A. Mahony Jr., a long-time Fort Smith resident — now living in El Dorado — who served as president of Fort Smith-based Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corp..

Gov. Mike Beebe issued the following statement: "Jodie Mahony never quit. As a legislator, he fought until the end for causes important to him and to the betterment of Arkansans. When term limits dictated that he could no longer serve, Jodie joined the House staff and remained a key advisor on education issues. And when the doctors said that cancer had won, Jodie fought and stayed with us far longer than anyone expected. To his final days, you could find Jodie in the Capitol, still upbeat, still working the halls, and still fighting. Arkansas has lost an outstanding man who exemplifies public service in our State."

Updated info: Jake Files, a former member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from Fort Smith who served with Mahony, provided the following statement to The City Wire: “I respected and admired Jodie’s knowledge and ability to get things done. He was a very effective leader for his district and the state, and someone of his caliber is not easily replaced. I wish his family and friends the best during this difficult time.”

Rep. Rick Green, R-Van Buren, said Mahony’s passing is a real loss for Arkansas’ political system.

“I certainly considered him a friend and he’ll be someone who will be sorely missed. The thing that struck me the most about him was that he was a no-frills legislator. He never sought to be a committee chairman or sought to be recognized by other members. He carried his bills around in a cardboard box. ... He was just a basic person, but he was extremely effective. ... I’d have to say he was the most effective (legislator), without question, that I’ve seen.”

Green said Mahony was “very even tempered,” but would become agitated when a fellow legislator or member of the press didn’t follow the rules.

“Jodie was very particular about protocol. That speaks to the fact that he was very respectful of the institution,” Green explained.

More important to Green was that Jodie never once mentioned or complained about his illness.

“He put all that aside and kept doing his job,” Green said. “This is a real loss for us all.”

OBITUARY
Joseph Kirby Mahony, II, 70, died Dec. 5, 2009, He was the son of Mabel Farmer and Emon Mahony and the brother of Emon Armstrong Mahony, Jr.,  and the late Michael Farmer Mahony.

Born in El Dorado, AR, on Sept. 12, 1939, he attended Washington and Lee University, the University of Arkansas, and Southern State; was in the United States Marine Corps; and received his law degree from the University of Arkansas.

He returned home and joined the Mahony and Yocum Law Firm. Members of his family practiced law continuously in El Dorado for over 100 years, and his grandfather, father, mother, and both brothers  were lawyers.

Jodie was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1970 and took office in 1971; he spent his first twenty-four years of public service in the House, his next eight in the Senate, and his final four back in the House before term limits forced him to retire.  After retirement, he continued to work on education legislation for the Speaker of the House.

During his time in the Legislature, he introduced over 1400 bills and resolutions, served on major state and national legislatives committees and regional boards, and won both state and national awards for legislation. His focus was on improving public education, strengthening child support enforcement, improving services for the developmentally disabled, conserving natural resources — particularly water, revising election laws, and making state government more efficient. He served with Governors Bumpers, Pryor, White, Clinton, Tucker, and Huckabee.

Jodie never sought a leadership position in the House or Senate nor did he consider seeking higher office as he felt he could accomplish most in the State Legislature, a job he loved for thirty-six years.  He chaired the Joint Interim Oversight Committee on Education Reform and was a member of more than a dozen legislative committees of the General Assembly. In addition, he served on committees of the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Southern Regional Education Board, and numerous subcommittees and ad hoc committees. He received national awards from the Nature Conservancy and the National Child Support Enforcement Association, which selected him as Legislator of the Year in 1994.

Jodie valued the Legislative staff, counted them as friends, and constantly acknowledged their contribution to his work in the General Assembly. He loved quail hunting in South Texas; he enjoyed travel, reading mysteries, fishing, and thoroughbred racing, and, a fine athlete, he played tennis and participated in a number of mini-triathlons. He was also a member of the Southern Regional Education, Nature Conservancy, and Vera Lloyd Foundation boards.

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He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Bettie Anne Humphreys Mahony; sons Joseph K. Mahony, III, of Little Rock and Michael Emon Mahony of New York; brother and sister-in-law Emon and Kay Mahony of El Dorado; sisters-in-law Alice Mahony of El Dorado and Kathryn Schopfer of Dallas; nieces Martha Mahony of San Francisco, Michelle Mahony of Houston, and Elizabeth Nevenhoven of Ft. Smith; nephew Emon Mahony of Little Rock; and three grandchildren, Jordan, Alexandra, and Joseph K. Mahony, IV.

Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Young’s Funeral Directors, 508 Champagnolle in El Dorado. The memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church, with a reception to follow in the Fellowship Hall.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Joseph K. Mahony II Scholarship Fund at the South Arkansas Community College Foundation, 300 South West Avenue, El Dorado, AR 71730, or the First Presbyterian Church of El Dorado, 300 East Main, 71730.

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