Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Fletcher banks on Hogs winning SEC game
Frank Fletcher poses for a 2012 portrait.
In the heat of August, during a live broadcast of a radio show at one of his car dealerships, Frank Fletcher said if the Arkansas Razorbacks didn’t win an SEC game that he would give away a car every month in 2014.
Tommy Smith, David Bazzel and Roger Scott, hosts of The Show With No Name on KABZ-FM, 103.7, The Buzz, kidded and chided him. They also gave him every opportunity to say he was just kidding, but Fletcher, as usual, stuck to his word.
Everyone knows the Hogs are 0-5 and have games remaining at Ole Miss and LSU and play Mississippi State in their home away from home, War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
“It’s getting serious now,” Fletcher said Tuesday. “I made the deal, and I intend to live up to it.”
Fletcher owns 20 businesses, including several car dealerships, and he has decided that if it happens he will give away six Kias and six Dodge, Chrysler or Jeep automobiles.
“And it will be six new cars, not used ones,” he said.
Fletcher said Tuesday that he hasn’t given up on the Razorbacks.
“I went to see them Saturday, and I still think they’ll win a game,” he said. “They are getting better. They played hard.”
Fletcher graduated from the UA and has long been a big supporter of Razorbacks athletics, the Sam. M. Walton College of Business, UALR, Easter Seals and numerous other organizations. He is also a determined man. Some might say a bit stubborn, but it’s helped him succeed.
He is known in the world of perspiring arts as an owner of thoroughbred horses whose names always include “Rocket” in them in honor of his dog, and his lifetime dream in that endeavor is to win the Arkansas Derby. He has spent a lot of money on horses that looked like sure winners as yearlings only to come up injured or not developed, but he isn’t giving up.
Fletcher is basically a self made multimillionaire who after graduation from the UA worked nights at the old Shakey’s Pizza Parlor and at Worthen Bank during the day. His wife, Judy, was captain of the cheerleading squad when they were at Pine Bluff High, where Fletcher was a basketball star, and taught 12th grade at North Little Rock High.
He landed a job with Du-Pont Paint and got a contract with Wal-Mart through Sam Walton. The story goes that Walton caught him putting the paint in front of a competitor’s brand and was so impressed that he hired Fletcher as a rep. The story also goes that Fletcher always kept a banged-up old car in the area to drive when he was calling on Walton after he left and started Cheyenne/Silverwood Industries.
That company sold lamps, framed art and mirrors to Wal-Mart and several other national chains. It became the largest lamp dealer in the United States.
Fletcher, who was adopted and grew up in Tamo, which is near Pine Bluff, has never considered living anywhere but Arkansas. He sold Cheyenne/Silverwood Industries, which was doing more than $100 million annually, in December 2010.
Fletcher had already expanded into automobiles, a hotel and several restaurants, including Riverfront Steak House (my personal favorite) and Rocket 21 in Hillcrest as well as Benihana.
Fletcher was not the happiest person in the state when Bobby Petrino got himself fired as Arkansas’ football coach. They had become personal friends and even went deep sea fishing together.
However, Fletcher is always loyal to the program and will be. He’s met Bret Bielema and likes him. He also thinks Bielema will get it done at Arkansas but that the fans need to be patient.
The fact that he is a Bielemer was obvious last August when he made the promise to give away a new car every month for a year if the Razorbacks don’t win a conference game this season.
“That’s about $200,000 worth of vehicles,” he said. “And my word is good.”
Sports, Pages 19 on 11/06/2013