by Wooten Epes

I never expected that a few phone calls from a bright, energetic young lady on Bill Clinton’s first gubernatorial campaign would lead to a friendship unlike any other I’ve had. In 1978, B.A. was responsible for cajoling 75 county campaign coordinators—myself included—into performing tasks the campaign needed to happen in each county. Usually, this meant the unglamorous task of grassroot organizing, but B.A. and I were great believers of its importance in campaigns. She engaged with those she met and forged friendships with those of us she needed to rely on during the campaign. She was inquisitive and managed to ask enough questions about me to learn that my wife was her high school church camp counselor. That’s just one example of how she always found a way to add a personal touch to work. She was full of energy and humor, and would make boring tasks feel like an adventure.

In 1980, Bill Clinton lost the governor’s race and B.A. was looking for work. My office had received a grant for a complex project and I hired her to manage the project. I was fortunate to not only hire a good friend, but also the perfect person for the job. With confidence, intellect, and ingenuity, B.A. marshaled her team to develop a creative project, despite the tight budget and deadlines. I know it would have been much harder without her quick wit.

Through those years, our mutual respect and similar values grew into a very strong friendship. Hers was unconditional; B.A. was loyal perhaps to a fault. I relied on her for insightful advice when I needed someone to listen. She became the younger sister I never had. She cared not only for her friends but their families, particularly their children. Her kindred spirit won them over.

I was sad when B.A. moved to DC but I knew the larger and more competitive environment was a good fit for her. Fortunately, we kept in touch thanks to long phone calls and a few short visits a year.

When I visited her, I noticed the very interesting group of friends she accumulated in DC. She shared basic values with each of them but there was a diversity of interests and intellect. Conversations would be an adventure because I never knew what we would discuss. Over time, I realized the kaleidoscope of her friends reflected her multifaceted personality—continually changing while retaining its core.

I was not the only guest B.A. hosted over the years, quite the opposite. Her house was home to so many visitors from Arkansas and elsewhere, often to her friends’ children who moved to DC for internships or their first jobs. She made them—including my daughter—feel special and well entertained. Trademarks of B.A.’s hostessing included impromptu gatherings in the backyard or at the dinner table. She simply enjoyed interacting with people. And if you were lucky enough to be in DC in early February, you’d see her break out her tiara. So today, think about B.A. and lead from her example: surround yourself with diverse people, be loyal and kind, and celebrate life wearing a tiara.

About the author:

Wooten Epes is a semi-retired lawyer living in Little Rock, AR.  He began his career in his hometown, Helena, AR, where he practiced until 1980 when he moved to Little Rock.  He worked at the University of AR at Little Rock and in 1983 was appointed by the governor as president of the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA) where he served until 1989.  He was elected to the board of the National Council of State Housing Agencies and as vice president of the Council of Industrial Development Agencies while at ADFA.  In 1989, he opened a Little Rock office for the law firm, Kutak Rock PA, and practiced as a municipal bond lawyer until his retirement from the practice in 2004.  He then started a low-income housing apartment development business, Edgewater Affordable Housing, L.P., with a partner.  Edgewater currently operates several low-income apartment communities in Texas.

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  • bob j nash says:

    BA was my friend and confidant. She was friend to so many of us liberals. When I moved to wash dc to work for Bill Clinton, she found me a place to stay free of charge. The landlord was a Federal government deep state person who was very nice.

    BA would cook and have me and others over to her house so many times, it felt like my home away from home. She was always working to help those who needed help and others she knew who thought like she did. As White House personnel director, BA would recommend people for me to hire and I hired a lot of them because they were good and competent.

    I was the resident BBQ cook for many of her back yard parties. We had so many great discussions about the country and the world. I wish I had written down some of those great times.

    BA loved her back yard. I once bought her some bark for her flowerbeds from Home Depot. She told me to take it back because she did not shop with conservative Republicans. So I did and bought new bark from good Democrats.

    I am happy that she left resources for the Foundation in her name. She loved to help women who were trying to make a difference in this world. Low income, people of color, and political activists were all a part of her interest and passion.

    I miss her a lot and will always remember the impact she had on this world. She lives on through her Foundation and the dedicated young people who are in charge.

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