Jerry P. Bookout, 72, well-known Jonesboro resident died Feb. 22, 2006. He was born Nov. 2, 1933, in Rector, the son of the late Paul Otis and Mary Bookout. Bookout is remembered for his commitment to his family and his lifelong dedication to public service as he served his community, his state and his nation. As a civic leader, he was active in the Elks Lodge, the American Legion, the Masonic Lodge, Retired Officers Association, and the Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce. He served as chair of the AHEC Advisory Committee for Northeast Arkansas and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro. Jerry also served on the Baptist Health Board of Trustee for 20 years.
As a member of both the Arkansas House of Representatives and the Senate, he served his district and state for 34 years and was elected President Pro Tempore of the Arkansas Senate by his colleagues in 1991. His legislative work focused on issues involving health, education, prisons and the military. Early in his legislative career, he sponsored legislation that elevated his alma mater, Arkansas State College, to university status in 1967. In addition, his work led to the establishment of the doctoral and physical therapy programs at ASU. He was instrumental in securing funding for the ASU Convocation Center, which continues to be a great asset to the community and Northeast Arkansas. Jerry coordinated the effort to raise funds to provide furnishings for the ASU Student Union. In 1997, he was honored as a distinguished Alumnus of ASU. In recognition of the lifetime support of the Bookout family, the south portal of ASU was named Bookout Plaza. Dr. Les Wyatt, ASU President remarked, "Jerry Bookout never, ever wavered in his support of ASU -- he was our Senator."
Senator Bookout throughout his legislative career in the House and Senate sponsored or co-sponsored over 600 pieces of legislation. Dr. Harry Ward, former Chancellor of UAMS, stated "He was a thoughtful, gifted leader for all of Arkansas. He had a special interest in our Area Health Education Centers and was major supporter of science and agriculture in our state." In the area of education, he supported legislation which created kindergartens in public school, provided free textbooks and improved working conditions for teachers. He was the sole sponsor of the bill that created the Arkansas State Academic Challenge Scholarship, which has provided over $94,879,297 to 39,120 Arkansas students to date. He authored legislation to modernize and revitalize public retirement systems for state employees, university faculty and staff and local police and fire departments. As co-chairman of the Correction Subcommittee of the Legislative Council, he became one of the most knowledgeable senators on issues affecting state prisons and the rehabilitation and housing of inmates. He authored legislation creating the successful Boot Camp program for young offenders. While in the Senate, he and his son, Rep. Paul Bookout, became the first father and son to serve concurrent terms in the Arkansas General Assembly. He made many long, lasting friendships in his legislative career. "Jerry Bookout saw something good in everyone he me. I cherish every moment I was privileged to serve with him; his son Paul is cut form the same cloth. I have lost a dear friend and the people of Arkansas have lost a true public servant," said friend and legislative colleague Jay Bradford.
Bookout served his nation through military service beginning with the ROTC program at Arkansas State College and three years of active duty followed by a long career in the Arkansas National Guard. After 30 years, he retired from the guard, receiving the Arkansas Distinguished Service Medal, The U.S. Legion of Merit Award and the General C.C. Andrews Freedom Award, retiring with the rank of Colonel.
In 1955, he graduated from Arkansas State College with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Political Science. Following graduation and three years of active duty, he returned to Jonesboro to become involved in all aspects of the community and began a long career as a funeral home director.
Family and home played a central role in his life. One of his favorite pastimes was landscaping and "sitting in his backyard." He had a passion for planting trees, especially in the schools that his grandchildren attended. His children and grandchildren were told by Jerry, "each of us needs to pay back to our community and we should always try to make a difference for those in need." This philosophy is his lasting legacy to his family. To those who were fortunate enough to know him, and to many who may have never met him, Jerry Bookout's life made a difference in this world.
Survivors include his wife of 49 years, Loretta Langford Bookout; a son, Paul Bookout, and wife, Sherry; a daughter, Jill Rogers, and husband, Bryan; and three grandchildren, Morgan and P.J. Bookout and Rachel Rogers, all of Jonesboro; a sister, Carolyn Hilburn of Kennett.
A memorial service was held at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 24, at the First Baptist Church in Jonesboro with Rev. Bruce Tippitt officiating. Private interment was held with military honors.
Honorary pallbearers were the First Baptist Church adult Men's 6 Sunday School Class; past and present Arkansas legislators; municipal and county officials; retired military officers and NEA Clinic physicians. Burial arrangements were by Langford-Bookout Funeral Home of Jonesboro.
Memorials may be made to the UAMS Arkansas Cancer Research Center Foundation; Hope Circle; First Baptist Church Care Center; Jonesboro Church Health Center; Arkansas State University Alumni Foundation or St. Bernard's Hospice.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.langfordbookoutfuneralhome.com.