Serving is Second Nature
Butterfield resident Roy Clinton has been involved his entire career with finding ways to serve others and the community.
For 25 years, Roy served on the Washington Regional Medical Center System Board, helping steer the course for the region’s only not-for-profit, locally-governed community hospital during a time of explosive growth.
Roy helped restore growth in downtown Fayetteville when business began to leave and head north to the Northwest Arkansas Mall. He came out of retirement 20 years later to provide a steady hand at the helm for a benefactor’s struggling Springdale development.
From Fayetteville, north to Springdale, and frankly in every major city across Northwest Arkansas, Roy Clinton’s subtle leadership and sense of civic duty have paid off in a big way for the region. Ask Roy about these endeavors and he’ll likely downplay his own role, but make no mistake, he is proud of his community.
“I’m a shameless promoter of Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas,” Roy said recently from his Butterfield home. “Northwest Arkansas has been an incredible engine of growth over the past 40 years and Fayetteville is a microcosm of that. I’m so proud of what they’ve done and of the legacy that is being provided for future generations.”
Roy and his late wife, Butch, moved to Butterfield Trail Village in March 2017. Although Butch’s vision loss brought them to Butterfield, the couple came sharing the vivid joys of having children, family, close friends and 65 years of memories together.
Throughout their time, Roy and Butch shared a love of nature and the outdoors. They traveled and hiked all over the country, but their greatest love was the Buffalo National River area and surrounding Newton County.
“Magical, mystical Newton County,” Roy calls it.
With Butch now gone since September, Roy remembers the kind, gentle and resilient person she was – wife, mother and tireless community volunteer. For 40-plus years, Butch volunteered at Washington Regional Medical Center, lovingly serving others, whether they were coming for surgery or emergency room care, or she was making holiday tray favors to cheer hospital patients.
Butch preferred to volunteer quietly, but her special touch was noticed and appreciated in Northwest Arkansas. In 2007, the Clintons were honored together by Washington Regional with the Eagle Award for Outstanding Health Leadership. The Eagle Award is given to individuals or organizations that make outstanding contributions to the improvement of healthcare in Northwest Arkansas.
“Butch was a presence everywhere she went,” Roy said. “She was the most complete person I’ve ever known.”
SPA CITY USA
Roy Clinton grew up in Hot Springs, Ark., in its heyday when casinos, bootlegging and even gangsters were a way of life. To young Roy, Arkansas’ well-known Spa City was a rascally, rough-and-tumble atmosphere, full of lots of wonderful people.
After high school, Roy left Hot Springs to attend the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where he earned a degree in Business Administration. At the U of A, Roy met the love of his life, Hattie Marie Lilly, a freshman from Memphis, Tenn., who went by her childhood nickname, Butch.
Roy first noticed Butch on campus in 1955 when he and his SAE fraternity brothers were “serenading” freshmen women at Holcomb Hall. On their first date, he took her to a swimming hole on the White River – the start of a lifetime of enjoying nature together as a couple.
They began dating seriously in the fall of 1955. Butch pledged Phi Beta Phi, and Roy convinced her they should go steady.
“I was not going to let her get away,” Roy said. “Lucky for me, she went along with it.”
Butch and Roy were married in Memphis on November 30, 1957.
Roy put himself through college working at Campbell-Bell, a well-known department store on the Fayetteville square. It was the late ‘50s, and the square was bustling. Campbell-Bell and Lewis Brothers Hardware occupied the west side of the square, along with J.C. Penney, Woolworths Five-and-Dime and other stores around the square. The old post office stood right in the middle.
“Working at Campbell-Bell gave me a unique perspective most college kids didn’t have,” Roy said. “I got to know who the leading people in the area were and what they were doing. It gave me a better understanding of Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas.”
In 1958, Roy was critically injured in a car accident that left him recovering at what was then Washington County Hospital. Pregnant with their first child, Marie, Butch was ever-present at Roy’s bedside. Not only did she comfort her husband through a long, painful recovery, she began volunteering her time to visit and bring cheer to others who were hospitalized.
Over the next 40 years, Butch developed a special passion for hospice care, not only as a volunteer but as a board member for Washington Regional’s hospice program.
In the late 1970s, Roy served on the Fayetteville Planning Commission and the Fayetteville Housing Authority. The city was doing a massive rewrite of building and zoning codes. The town and gown aspects were always a challenge – a unique part of a college town that will never change, he said.
In 1980, he moved on from Campbell-Bell and Lewis Brothers Hardware and began concentrating on developing real estate projects, including a shopping center in Rogers and residential subdivisions in Fayetteville.
Shortly after, good friend John Lewis asked Roy to see what could be done about a stalled project on the south side of the downtown Fayetteville square. McIlroy Bank (now Arvest Bank) was established on the north side, and Lewis had developed the east side with First National Bank. But there was a glaring space on south side.
Roy created a business district and a limited partnership was formed that provided financing for the development of buildings that were completed and leased. Today, the buildings are owned and operated by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce in what Roy called a “very farsighted move.”
“The chamber is using the space to bring new and innovative ideas that are beneficial to the entire Northwest Arkansas community,” Roy said.
From 1984 to 2009, Roy served on the Washington Regional Medical Foundation Board of Directors and was heavily involved in the financing and site selection for what is now Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville. He helped the hospital system open a number of clinics in the region, including locations in Bella Vista and Eureka Springs.
From 1999 to 2000, Roy also served on the Fayetteville Public Library Foundation Board of Directors.
Today, he points to Washington Regional Medical Center and the Fayetteville Public Library, which both opened in 2004, as testaments to the city’s success. The Fayetteville library just completed a major expansion in January and Washington Regional expanded in 2019.
“It’s no small coincidence that these two city institutions, both some of the best in the country, have doubled in size and recently completed major expansions,” Roy said. “It speaks volumes to the success of Fayetteville and the entire Northwest Arkansas region.”
Roy came out of retirement in 1998 to help the Jones Family Trust manage and develop trust benefactor Bernice Jones’ Har-Ber Meadows community in Springdale. The Har-Ber Meadows planned neighborhood development was struggling and needed a fresh approach.
During what was a time of financial uncertainty, Roy stepped in, reorganized and took over operations of Har-Ber Meadows and brought the development to full occupancy, where it continues thriving today.
MAGICAL, MYSTICAL NEWTON COUNTY
Roy has long been intrigued by Newton County in the Buffalo National River Wilderness area – one of the state’s most isolated and scenic places. After reading the classic “Buffalo River Country” guide by Kenneth L. Smith, his affinity only deepened.
“That book really made me want to get out and see what Newton County was about,” Roy said. “For the next 20 years, Butch and I roamed every nook and cranny. I took her on some great hikes and I took her on some tough hikes and she enjoyed them all. She used to tell people, ‘If we’re missing, don’t look for us on a paved road.’”
When their children — Marie, Roy III and Theresa — were young, the family would pack up the car and join friends and relatives for wonderful times hiking, canoeing and camping in tents and cabins. All along, Roy knew one day he wanted a place of his own in magical, mystical Newton County.
In 1980, the dream came true when Roy, Butch and two other couples purchased a historic property in Ponca, the former Lost Valley Lodge, and remodeled it into a retreat for the three families. Now, 40 years later, the three families still have the lodge.
“We’ve taken so many people to the lodge over the years and created so many memories there,” Roy said. “Friends, family, people in the area – the area itself. It’s all part of the mystique. I remember telling Butch the first time we drove to Newton County and were coming over the mountain, ‘Why haven’t we been here before?’”
Since Butch’s passing, Roy is staying connected to his daughters Marie Bruno and Theresa Clinton and son Roy Clinton III, his five grandsons, two great grandchildren and many friends.
If one of his friends calls and invites him, or whenever he has the chance, Roy will slip on his favorite Chaco hiking sandals and head to Newton County.