Dr. William D. Downs Jr. will long be remembered by AETN and across Arkansas for his dedication to public service and quality journalism. Downs — who served on the AETN Commission Board from 1998-2014 — peacefully passed away Saturday, April 20, 2019, in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
During his 16 years of service to the AETN Commission Board, Downs was elected to three consecutive terms as AETN Commission chair, in addition to serving in a variety of other roles. First appointed by Gov. Mike Huckabee and reappointed by Gov. Mike Beebe, Dr. Downs was deeply respected by his colleagues and the staff of AETN.
Dr. Downs with fellow board members at his 2014 AETN Commission Board retirement celebration.
In addition to his extraordinary service to AETN, Downs was also a respected fixture at the Ouachita Baptist University Mass Communications Department for more than 40 years. From 1966 to 2010, Downs guided the mass communications department from courses focused on print media to a diversified program that now includes journalism, advertising, public relations, telecommunications and new media, with a heavy emphasis on writing skills. Downs was a noted national expert on the subject of scholastic journalism and served for 26 years as executive director of the Arkansas High School Press Association.
Downs’ honors included being named the 1996 Distinguished Educator of the Year by the Arkansas Advertising Federation; being named Outstanding Faculty Member by the Ouachita Student Senate twice; receiving the Journalism Educator Award from the Arkansas Press Association; and receiving several awards from Columbia Scholastic Press Association in New York City, including the Gold Key award, Gold and Silver Crown awards as the former adviser of the Ouachitonian yearbook and the James Frederick Paschal Award.
Dr. Downs at his desk, Ouachita Baptist University, courtesy of the Downs family.
Downs, who was a 1949 graduate of Batesville High School, held a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and held a master’s and doctorate of philosophy from the University of Missouri at Columbia. He was also author of books: “The Fighting Tigers: the Untold Stories Behind the Names on the Ouachita Baptist University WWII Memorial” and “Stories of Survival: Arkansas Farmers During the Great Depression,” funded by the Arkansas Humanities Council (University of Arkansas Press/Phoenix International, 2004 and 2011).
The Downs family asks that memorials be made to the William D. Downs Endowed Scholarship at Ouachita Baptist University at obu.edu/development/give/ or 401 Ouachita Street, Arkadelphia, AR 71998.
Downs’ inspiring presence and spirit of excellence will be greatly missed. We invite you to share your memories and condolences for his family in the comment section below.