The Honorable Stephen M. Reasoner
Stephen M. Reasoner, who has been a United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas for Sixteen years, died August 14, 2004 after a long illness. He was 60 years old.
Judge Reasoner was born in Houston, Texas, and held a B.A. in economics and a J.D. (with honors) from the University of Arkansas. He was editor-in-chief of the Arkansas Law Review. Following graduation from law school in 1969, Judge Reasoner practiced law until 1988 with the firm of Barrett, Wheatley, Smith and Deacon in Jonesboro, Arkansas, until his appointment to United States District Judge by President Ronald Reagan. He served his court with distinction as chief judge for seven years. Although he had taken senior status last year because of his illness, he kept up a significant docket until very recently.
Judge Reasoner revered the law and loved being a judge. He was a favorite of the Arkansas Bar. He won the Arkansas Bar Association Golden Gavel Award in 1999. He presided over his courtroom with courtesy, firmness and dispatch. Judge Reasoner brought a keen energy to all he did. He was mindful of the biblical injunction, "Whatsoever thy hand finds to do, do it with all thy might"
Honor and duty were very important to him and like his heroes, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, he fought for causes dear to his heart. Those causes have always been family, his friends, the church and the law. Once he saw his duty clearly, he gave his heart fully no matter the obstacles. He fought valiantly until the end.
Judge Reasoner was a devoted Anglican. He was a mainstay at St Mark's Episcopal Church in Jonesboro for years, serving on the vestry and as senior warden, and became an active member of the Episcopal Church in Little Rock. He was an unabashed traditionalist. In a newspaper interview some years ago, he stated that he was "Very old-fashioned", and said that "People should conduct themselves as ladies and gentlemen in my court". He was a life-long Republican and, before his appointment to the bench, was active in party affairs on a local and state level. Some years back, while driving to court, he devised what he called the Federal Judge's Prayer. "Dear Lord", it begins, "Please make the decision I have to make today as obvious and clear as everybody else thinks it is".
Judge Reasoner is survived by Susan, his wife of 36 years, (a Little Rock psychotherapist), his son Brian, a Captain in the U.S. Army who served in Iraq, and his brother, Dr. Melton Reasoner, Jr. of Willow Point Lodge, Canada; nephews, Dr. Colin Reasoner of San Diego, California, Carl Fulton, Jr. and Joshua Fulton both of Quinlan, Texas; and nieces Darcie Reasoner Gorman, M.D. of Salt Lake City, Utah, Stephanie Beaver of Richardson, Texas, and Rebecca Fulton of Quinlan, Texas. His Godchildren are David Jones and Michelle Jones Kooi of Colorado, Megan Henry of Fayetteville, Precious Ugwu of Austin, Texas and Laura Grafton of Little Rock;
Funeral services will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 18 at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock. Visitation will be from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, Aug 17 at Ruebel Funeral Home in Little Rock. He will be interred with his grandparents, mother and brother at the family gravesite at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Dickinson, Texas.
His pallbearers are Robert Jones III of Ft. Smith, Elwood "Woody" Freeman Jr, The Honorable David Laser, John V. Phelps, Troy Henry & Bobby McDaniel of Jonesboro, AR, P. Mark Ledbetter of Memphis, Robert Cearley Jr, W. Dent Gitchell, and the Hon. Morris S. Arnold of Little Rock.
Donations in the honor of his memory may be made to University of Arkansas Law School scholarship fund, the Arkansas Bar Association, the memorial funds at Trinity Cathedral, St Thomas Reformed Episcopal Church, or St Andrews Anglican Church.