MARIANNA, Ark. – One of two Black lawyers in Lee County, Roy C. “Bill” Lewellen was a strong advocate for equal representation and treatment in his community, serving as a Marianna city councilman before election to the state Senate in 1990. He served for 10 years in the Senate and was the second Black person to serve in the Arkansas Senate in the twentieth century. He was the sponsor of the law that created the Minority Health Commission in Arkansas.
In 1992, after his first session in the Senate, he served as an attorney for the Lake View School District in their historic fight for an equitable and efficient public school system.
After leaving the Senate, Lewellen continued to advocate for small rural school districts facing consolidation and inequitable treatment.
“Bill Lewellen was a friend and mentor from my earliest days as a reporter covering the State Capitol,” said Democratic Party of Arkansas Chair Grant Tennille. “If I was confused over the true motivations behind any piece of legislation, Senator Lewellen was the one who set me straight. At the same time, Bill was reliably hilarious, often at my expense, and I will miss his laughter most of all.”
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