William Lee Barbour, Jr. passed away peacefully on Thursday, May 19, 2016, a few months shy of his 96th birthday. He was born to William Lee Barbour and Beulah Blankenship in Lauderdale County, Tennessee on July 11, 1920. He was preceded in death by his parents, his only brother Lloyd and his wife Lucille Kelley Barbour.
Bill grew up on a small farm outside Ripley, Tennessee in area known as Curve Central.
He joined the Army in August of 1942, and served as a Medical Technician to the 835th Aviation Battalion. He circled the globe with the 835th as they went to New Zealand, Australia, India, Europe and Africa carving out airfields for U.S. planes.
On December, 2nd 1943, he was an eyewitness to the second greatest U.S. naval disaster of World War II as he arrived at Bari, Italy.
After World War II, he attended both the University of Tennessee and the University of Virginia. Bill returned to Ripley and was employed by Farmers Union Bank. In 1947, he joined the Federal Deposit Insurance Company and examined banks in five Mid-South states. He married Lucille Kelley on April 10, 1949 and were blessed with a daughter Diane in 1953. In July of 1954, he became president and chief executive officer of Merchants & Planters Bank, which later converted to First National Bank in West Memphis, Arkansas. Bill partially retired in May of 1996, but took full retirement in July of 2000.
Family was a passion for Bill, followed closely by his church and love of community. He was a community leader and felt it important to give back to place he called home. He was an elder at First Presbyterian Church in West Memphis, past president of the Rotary Club where he became a Paul Harris Fellow, and a past president of the West Memphis Chamber of Commerce. In February of 2007, Bill was honored by the West Memphis Chamber of Commerce with a Lifetime Achievement Award. He was a past chairman of the Mid-South Community College Foundation (now ASU Mid-South). In November of 2007, a courtyard and sundial on the campus was dedicated in his honor for his leadership and support of the College.
Bill was a past president of the West Memphis Boys Club, past chairman of the Board of Governors of Crittenden Regional Hospital, and a longtime member of the West Memphis Public Facilities Board. In December of 1996, he was honored by the Crittenden County Chapter of the American Heart Association as Honoree of the Year.
Mr. Barbour is survived by his only daughter Diane, and her husband William C.
(Bubba) Ayres of West Memphis, two grandchildren Lauren Britton of Denver, Colorado and Catherine (Cissy) Wilmoth and her husband Wade Wilmoth of Fayetteville; and one great grandchild Addie Lynn Wilmoth also of Fayetteville.
He also leaves two nieces (Montie Leigh and Barbara Ann) and two nephews (Robert and Thorne). The family expresses deep and special thanks to the caregivers, Judy James, Thelma Switzer, Essie White, Nettie Flowers, Ann Jones, Jewel Collins and Joy Abram who provided such compassion and loving care to Bill at the end of his life.
Services will be held at First Presbyterian Church, West Memphis, on Tuesday, May 24th beginning with visitation in the Activity Center/Family Life Center at 1:30 p.m., followed by the service in the Sanctuary at 3 p.m. Roller Citizens Funeral Home has charge of arrangements. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to First Presbyterian Church, 315 North Missouri, West Memphis, or the charity of the donor’s choice. Burial will be Wednesday, May 25th at 11 a.m. in Grace Cemetery in Ripley, Tennessee. On-line guestbook at www.rollerfuneralhomes. com
William Lee Barbour Jr.