Reeves Estes Ritchie
Reeves Estes Ritchie, age 90, of Little Rock, died Wednesday, August 4th, 2004. He was born in Amarillo, Texas graduating later from high school in Pine Bluff. He attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, school of business administration, before attending Washington University in St. Louis. During an electric utility industry career that spanned more than 50 years of continuous service, Reeves steered Arkansas Power and Light Company to a position of "energy independence" based on a combination of domestic nuclear and coal fuels that could not be disrupted by the ups and downs of international petroleum politics and recurring world crisis. Ritchie retired active company service on August 1, 1997, but continued to serve on the AP&L Advisory Board until May, 1994. Achieving energy independence for the company during this critical time was a major goal for AP&L's president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the board. It was just one of many challenges in a long and productive career that began somewhat by chance. Ritchie had accepted a temporary job with AP&L in 1936 as a machinist's helper at the old Little Rock Power Plant. Newly married to former Gladys Cook of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Ritchie needed to earn a dependable income while waiting for a "banking job" to open up at Pine Bluff. Ritchie, who loved working with his hands, quickly became fascinated with power plants and electric energy and within six years had risen to the position of assistant plant superintendent. The bank in Pine Bluff never called and Ritchie was now working his life's work. Working with people in something Ritchie enjoys as much as he enjoyed working with tools, so when an opportunity arose to become personnel counselor, at Pine Bluff in 1945, he took it. He was promoted in 1951 assistant to the division manager. In 1958 he was elevated to personnel director, vice-president two years later and soon after to executive vice-president. In 1962, at age 48, he became the fifth man in AP&L history to serve as company president, working for 17 years at the helm of AP&L. During Ritchie's career, AP&L was an operating company of Middle South Utilities, Inc., now Entergy Corporation. AP&L is now Entergy Arkansas. He was proud of the AP&L team effort that made his dream of "energy independence" for the company a realization. Ritchie had announced plans for the construction of AP&L's two-unit Arkansas Nuclear One (ANO) power plant on the Arkansas River near Russellville in 1967. It was the first nuclear station in the Southwest. In June of 1973, during the oil embargo, he announced the construction of another power plant near Redfield on the Arkansas River that would burn a fuel AP&L had not used for many years, coal. These nuclear and coal units assured that AP&L and its customers would never again be caught in a foreign oil trap. In recognition of his insistence that Arkansas achieve electric energy independence through reliance on domestic fuel sources, friends of Ritchie from throughout the country gathered at Arkansas Nuclear One Steam Electric Station in Pope County on December 11, 1979, dedicating the modern new training facility at the station in his honor as the "Reeves E. Ritchie Nuclear Training Center." Ritchie was active in a broad range of civic and industry activities throughout his long career. Prior to moving to Little Rock in 1961, he was a member of the Pine Bluff Rotary Club and served as a director of the Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce for nine years. Ritchie was president of the Pine Bluff Boys Club for two years and served as a director of the organization for six years. He also served as president of the Pine Bluff Junior Chamber of Commerce, and was elected outstanding man of the year in 1950 by that organization. He also served as a national director of the Junior Chamber of Commerce and as president of the Arkansas State Junior Chamber of Commerce. He was a director in the Jefferson County Tuberculosis Association and participated in numerous Jefferson County Community Chest fund drives during his time in Pine Bluff. Ritchie was Deacon and Elder in the First Christian Church of Pine Bluff, where he served as chairman of the Building and Grounds Committee. After resettling in Little Rock, Ritchie was called upon to serve in a variety of leadership positions for various public service projects, including: president of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce; a director of the United Way of Pulaski County and the Urban Progress Association; board chairman of the Arkansas State Council on Economic Education; and as member and chairman of the board of the Little Rock Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Ritchie also served on the boards of the Arkansas Arts Center, Ozark Folk Cultural Center, Little Rock's fifty for the Future, the Committee of 100 for Pulaski County; and many others. He served as a member of the Dean's Business Advisory Committee, College of Business Administration, University of Arkansas. A Rotarian, he was elected to an honorary membership in the Rotary Club of Little Rock in 1991. Governor Orval Faubus appointed him to the Arkansas Educational Television Commission, and Governor Rockefeller appointed him to the Executive Committee of the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Governor. He was on the board of directors and served as president of the Southwestern Electric Exchange; Southwest Power Pool; National Association of Electric Companies; National Association of Manufacturers; and the Edison Electric Institute. He was an honorary member of Beta Gamma Sigma, the professional fraternity of commerce. He was an enthusiastic duck hunter and fisherman, though he admits to slowing up some in recent years. He was a Master Mason, Little Rock Consistory; Knight Commander of the Court of Honor; and a 33rd Degree Mason. He was a past potentate of the Sahara Shrine Temple at Pine Bluff. After his retirement, Ritchie devoted considerable time to service on the Civil Service Commission at Little Rock (1983-91). He also found a way to practice his skills with hand tools again. Long member of First Christian Church, and a member of the official board, Ritchie also served as Chairman of the Property Committee, where he was responsible for the maintenance of church properties. "Basically, I kept the congregation warm in the winter and cool in the summer," he explained.
He is survived by his wife, Gladys Cook Ritchie of Little Rock, one son Robert Estes Ritchie and wife Dana of Little Rock, a daughter Nancy M. Ritchie who died in 1989, 4 grandchildren; John A. Ritchie of Seattle, Washington, Pamela Wilson and husband Greg of Abilene, Texas, Robin McNight and husband Allen of Woodlands, Texas, Susan Ritchie of Little Rock, and three great-grandchildren; Sarah of Abilene, Texas, and Rebecca and Kathryn of Woodlands, Texas.
There will a visitation Monday evening from 6 to 8pm at First Christian Church (corner of Evergreen and Mississippi Avenue) followed by a memorial service at 1pm Tuesday at the church.
Arrangements are under the direction of Ruebel Funeral Home, www.ruebelfuneralhome.com.
In lieu of flowers memorials should be made to the First Christian Church Endowment Fund, 1500 North Mississippi Avenue, Little Rock 72205.