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.
Doyle Webb, chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas, released this statement. “Congressman Dickey was a man of great faith in God and his personal savior Jesus Christ. He worked tirelessly for the betterment of the people of the 4th Congressional District in Arkansas. He was a friend to many and his leadership will be missed by all who knew him.”