Former Congressman Jay Dickey dies at the age of 77

Jay Woodson Dickey, Jr., the former Fourth District Congressman from south Arkansas, has passed away from complications with Parkinson’s disease, (Photo: Talk Business & Politics)

Jay Woodson Dickey, Jr., the former Fourth District Congressman from south Arkansas, has passed away from complications with Parkinson’s disease, Talk Business & Politics has learned. His son Ted Dickey confirmed the news early Friday morning.

Dickey, 77, served in Congress from 1993 to 2001. His upset election over Democrat Bill McCuen in 1992 – a year where Arkansas voters went overwhelmingly for native son Bill Clinton for President – made Dickey the first Republican to hold the south Arkansas seat since Reconstruction.

Known for his colorful storytelling and, at times, unconventional political style, Dickey remained in the headlines throughout his time in Congress. A staunch conservative, Dickey was strong on fiscal matters and an unwavering pro-life advocate. He slept in his office instead of renting a Washington, D.C. flat and returned home nearly every weekend to work his expansive district and connect with constituents.

A businessman and attorney, Dickey was born December 14, 1939 in Pine Bluff and graduated from the town’s high school. He attended Hendrix College and received his B.A. from University of Arkansas in 1961 and his J.D. from the university in 1963.

While Dickey’s upset win in ’92 over McCuen launched his near decade in Congress, he survived a number of Democratic challengers every two years winning three re-election bids. He narrowly defeated then-State Sen. Jay Bradford in 1994, thumped long-shot challenger Vincent Tolliver in 1996, and comfortably eclipsed then-State Rep. Judy Smith in 1998.

Eventually, Dickey was beaten by a workhorse Democrat, then-State Sen. Mike Ross in 2000. The race was roughly 51-49% in Ross’ favor. Dickey would challenge Ross two years later but lost by a much larger margin.

In his post-Congressional years, he went back to his business and legal interests, eventually lobbying on federal issues.


Current Fourth District Cong. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, issued a statement on Dickey’s passing:

“Jay Dickey was a trailblazer in Arkansas politics, becoming the first Republican elected to represent the Fourth Congressional District. During his four terms in Congress, Jay advocated for the people of Arkansas as a member of the Appropriations Committee and stood for small town values during his time in Washington.

“Jay was more than a congressman. He was a dedicated public servant for decades before running for the Fourth District seat, holding the positions of Pine Bluff city attorney and justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court. But above all, he was devoted to his family and was a man of faith.

“I mourn Jay’s passing and will keep his family in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” Westerman said.

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton also issued a statement saying:

“Jay became a good friend and a trusted source of counsel during my first campaign for his old congressional district. He was a good man and a man of deep faith. Jay was one of a kind and we're richer as individuals and as a state for having had him in our lives. My thoughts and prayers are with Jay’s family and friends.”

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge added to those statements:

“It would be hard to find a kinder man who enjoyed nothing more than traveling the Fourth Congressional District, telling stories and visiting with the people he represented than Jay Dickey. No matter the job he held or where it took him, Jay never forgot his south Arkansas roots. During his time in Congress, he worked tirelessly to help the Fourth Congressional District grow and prosper and to help solve any challenge facing his constituents. Jay was a man of deep faith, and I know he met his Lord and Savior when he left us on this earth. May God bring comfort and peace to Jay’s family and friends and all those across Arkansas who loved and knew him.”

U.S. Senator John Boozman then issued this statement:

“Congressman Jay Dickey was a devoted public servant who dedicated himself to the people of Arkansas. He loved his state and was an unapologetic statesman who worked for its betterment. Jay was very helpful and kind to me in many ways when I became a congressman. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. Jay left a legacy of faith and example that they can be proud of.”

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