When Margaret Whillock was growing up in the River Valley, her parents owned and operated drug stores, and as a child she saw first-hand their dedicated work ethic, the humility they applied to situations, and the exemplary service they extended to others.
“My father would always greet every customer the same, including the workers from the local migrant camp,” Margaret, a Butterfield resident, said. “He would shake each customer’s hand and ask, ‘How can I help?’ From watching my parents, I learned to treat everyone with respect, show optimism and accept people as they were.”
Margaret’s upbringing set the foundation for her long-tenured career in civic service, fundraising and philanthropy. Through years of tireless service and volunteerism, she has made a lasting impact on her community, the state of Arkansas, and her alma mater, the University of Arkansas. As a fundraising professional, she served organizations such as the North Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas today), the Arkansas Arts Center, and the Baptist Health Foundation, among others. Undoubtedly, the highlight of her career was her time in Washington, D.C., serving as Deputy Director of the White House Visitors Office.
Over the years, she’s served on dozens of boards and associations. At the UA alone, she served on the UA’s National Development Council, Board of Advisors, Campaign Arkansas Steering Committee, Campaign for the 21st Century, and the Fulbright College Advisory Board. She is a founding member of the UA Women’s Giving Circle, a member of the Chancellor’s Society and the Towers of Old Main.
Her honors include being named to the Top 100 Women in Arkansas, induction into the Fayetteville Public Education Foundation Hall of Honor, and receiving the coveted University of Arkansas Chancellor’s Medal in 2017.
Margaret Moore was born in Altus, Ark., attended school in the River Valley and graduated from Fayetteville High school. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from the UA. Even though as an adult she lived in Jonesboro and spent a total of 37 years between Little Rock and Washington, D.C., she always kept Fayetteville close to her heart.
“I’ve always thought of Fayetteville as home in my heart,” Margaret said, adding that is one reason her induction into the Fayetteville Public Education Foundation’s Hall of Honor in 2000 was so meaningful.
After college, she taught school in Rogers and Springdale for several years before eventually transitioning to fundraising work.
While working in education, Margaret, a single mother of six, met Carl Whillock, an attorney from a well-known Van Buren County family, who at the time was in administration at the UA.
“I was well suited to have six children because I truly enjoyed them,” Margaret said. “When they were growing up, I made it a point of including my children in my career, when suitable. They sold tickets at fundraisers, served Cokes, helped decorate and whatever needed to be done. I encouraged my children to be self-reliant and to succeed on their own terms – and they have. In turn, I supported them as a home room mother for 14 years in Fayetteville Public Schools and have been active with Girl Scouts, baseball teams and PTA, etc.”
In 1973, Margaret accepted a position as Director of the North Arkansas Symphony Orchestra where she remained until Carl was named President of Arkansas State University and the family relocated to Jonesboro.
Little Rock was the next stop when Carl was named President and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation. Margaret’s career was thriving, too, in her new roles as Director of Development for the Arkansas Arts Center, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and later Executive Director for the Baptist Health Foundation.
“Carl was very supportive, and he brought out the best in me,” Margaret said of her late husband, who died in 2005. “He always believed in me, and he made me a better person. Carl had a brilliant mind and was a remarkable man. I greatly miss our talks and his perspective. He was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
WHITE HOUSE YEARS
While the Whillocks were living near the UA campus, Margaret’s brother Rudy Moore Jr. brought a Rhodes Scholar who was teaching at the law school to meet them. It was Bill Clinton, and he and the Whillocks became friends. In 1974, Clinton’s girlfriend, Hillary Rodham, was coming to Fayetteville to teach at the law school. He specifically asked Margaret to help Hillary feel welcome. So she did. On her second day at the law school, Margaret asked Hillary to lunch. Even though the two women came from different backgrounds, they had many of the same ideas and values in common. They bonded and formed a strong friendship.
In Little Rock, the Whillocks were among the many supporters who campaigned for Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election. They belonged to the Arkansas Travelers who campaigned in states like New Hampshire, Iowa and New York and went door-to-door. Many of Margaret’s Butterfield neighbors today were counted among this highly motivated group.
In 1997, President Clinton appointed Carl as special liaison between the Agriculture Department and the White House. The Whillocks and their granddaughter, Caroline, 7, who lived with them at the time, relocated to Washington, D.C. In 1998, Margaret received a call, and the First Lady offered her the position of Deputy Director of the White House Visitors Office.
In her role, Margaret helped facilitate 1.5 million visitors to the White House each year, ranging from diplomats and heads of state to Hollywood celebrities, including Ricky Martin, Julie Andrews and Sammy Sosa. Many people from Arkansas visited the White House and had the opportunity to take personal tours and attend events during Clinton’s presidency.
Margaret helped oversee annual events, like the Easter Egg Roll, the National Christmas Tree Lighting, the Fourth of July celebration and welcoming arrival ceremonies for diplomats and heads of state.
The White House staff worked together seamlessly and Margaret could count on friends and colleagues if she needed occasional help with Caroline. She had been taught to give White House tours from the Secret Service. They would last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and 20 minutes per tour.
“Once one of my tours ran late, and some of the Secret Service members looked after Caroline for me,” Margaret remembers with a laugh. “When I caught up with them, Caroline was at the Old Ebbitt Grill across the street eating pancakes with about eight Secret Service men.”
Margaret saw the First Lady make it a priority to ensure all visitors felt welcome.
“She asked me to attend forums, receptions, conferences and even state dinners and to pick out the person in the room with no one to talk to and make them feel welcome – and be sure they left feeling good about having been at the White House.”
“Working at the White House was an honor and privilege and an exhilarating experience for which I’ll be forever grateful.”
Margaret worked for three women who greatly impacted her life and career. All three were intelligent and had a drive to help others less fortunate then themselves.
Betty Bumpers, former Arkansas first lady and wife of U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, was an advocate for world denuclearization, which Margaret supported in her role as State Director of Peace Links Worldwide, Inc.
Jo Luck was CEO of Little Rock-based Heifer International, where Margaret served as Vice President of the organization’s capital campaign. Luck started the wildly successful Heifer worldwide Gift Catalog program.
Hillary Clinton provided Margaret with the job of lifetime and has been a loyal friend for more than 40 years.
Margaret continues to travel and visit her large and growing family. Her children, 14 grandchildren and four great grandchildren are a cherished part of her life. Daughter Sallie C. Overbey, an architect, and sons Larry B. Carter, Managing Director of a private equity firm, Brennan M. Carter, an Insurance Specialist, and Benjamin K. Carter, a Senior Director of Development at UA, all live in Arkansas. Daughter Jenny C. Dakil is a Foundation Executive Director with the Norman, Okla., Public Schools, and Melissa C. McKenney is a Group and Events Manager who lives in Jasper, Alberta, Canada.
As a Butterfield resident, Margaret has eased into a comfortable rhythm of active retirement, spending time with love ones, and keeping a pulse on causes that are important to her.