James Robert Rhodes, III

I, James Robert Rhodes, III of DeValls Bluff, Arkansas died on February 17, 2020 from Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.  I was born April 9, 1940, the son of James Robert (JR), Jr. and Regina Rhodes of DeValls Bluff.

I was educated in the DeValls Bluff Schools, graduating in 1958.  I continued my education by going to University of Arkansas and getting my accounting degree in 1962.  I then entered law school graduating in January of 1965.  While at the University, I was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon social fraternity, where I met many of my life-long friends.

While in college, I was a member of Schola Cantorum, a choir of 40 people, 36 of them music majors, for four years.  In 1962, we were invited to compete in the world’s Polifonic Acapella Choir competition held every 10 years, in Arrezzo, Italy and were the only choir invited from the United States.  We won and returned to the United States and sang for President John F. Kennedy at the White House and sang on television’s “Today Show” program from New York.

I was in the Army Reserves for 6 years being a JAG Captain when I resigned.

I practiced law in Little Rock for 37 years with different law firms including Moses, McClellan, Arnold, Owens, and McDermott and my own firm of Ward, Rhodes, Hickey and Garrett from 1976 to 1986.  I was assistant U.S. Attorney from 1968 to 1972 and retired in 2002 after serving “of counsel” with Dover and Dixon Law Firm for 16 years and one year with Darren O’Quinn.

I was licensed to practice in all Federal and State Courts, was appointed to serve as Special Justice on Supreme Court of Arkansas by Governor David Pryor.  I was President of Arkansas Trial Lawyers for one year and had the pleasure of being in Pulaski County Bar Association “Grid Iron” show from 1966 to 1992, a musical satire, playing many roles including Ed Wright, Judge Bill Kirby, Gary Hart, Fannie Fox, and Jackie Kennedy.

After returning to Prairie County in 2002, I served as District Court Judge for Southern District of Prairie County from 2005 to 2017 with the help of Annette Felts, my chief clerk and a very special person whose friendship I cherished very much.

My hobbies included hunting, fishing, and traveling.  I have been fortunate to travel with my wife, Lonna to all seven continents.  We hunted and fished on four continents, including safaris to Africa, fishing the jungles of the Amazon, the Artic, and many other places.  I met many interesting people, saw many beautiful places, and enjoyed the company of good friends, but nothing was better than hunting ducks in Cache River Bottoms with my friend, Hank Browne and the White River Bottoms with my old friend, Clifton Robinson, now deceased.

I have had many friends in my lifetime and I won’t try to name them all, but Randy McNulty and Gus Vratsinas are special.  I also loved the people of Prairie County.  If Lonna or I had a problem, there was always someone to help us, such as Freddie and Darlene Rogers, and Chris Cook, and many more.

I am survived by my wife, Lonna, my partner, soul-mate and the love of my life; my son, James Robert Rhodes, IV, of North Little Rock, Arkansas; my daughter, Jennifer Jane Rhodes, her husband, Gus Costantino of San Francisco, California; grandson, James Robert Rhodes, V, of Little Rock, Arkansas and many cousins and nieces.  I am predeceased by my parents, J.R. and Regina Rhodes and Paul Jacob Rhodes, my brother.

“I had a real good time.”

The Rhodes family would like to thank Arkansas Hospice and specifically nurse Emily White for providing excellent support and care.

Arrangements by Westbrook Funeral Home, Hazen, Arkansas.  Celebration of Life Service to be held at 10:00 a.m., Friday, February 21, 2020, at the Hazen Community Center, 906 East Front Street, Hazen, Arkansas.

15 thoughts on “James Robert Rhodes, III”

  1. Eldon Dickey Cooley

    Martha Dale and I send our sincerest condolences to Jim’s entire family. We loved Jim and all the people whose life Jim touched. We became friends at the University of Arkansas and our friendship continued to grow through weddings and the births of our children. There could be no finer friend than Jim. Jim’s story telling and zest for life will be missed.

  2. Janis M. Kovalscik

    It was my pleasure to be among the cast of Gridiron with Jim. His golden voice and bigger than life personality will be remembered fondly by all of us who were lucky enough to share the stage with him. My deepest sympathy to his family and friends. Rest In Peace Catfish.

  3. John Oliver Buckley

    A renaissance man from DeValls Bluff High –

    (the pride of every boy and girl)

    There will never be another like him.

  4. Beth Taylor, Cottagemall in Brinkley

    Well, Mr. Rhodes, you passed away on what would have been my mother’s 81st birthday, had she lived a few more months. I have always enjoyed yours and Lonna’s visits to Cottagemall & Cafe and have prayed for you for the past several months, knowing your situation. I admired your courage to live lift on your own terms, not spending the last part of your life traveling back and forth to the dr. or in the hospital. When you called me a few weeks ago asking if I had chicken enchiladas, you sounded so good! My deepest condolonces to your sweet wife who loved you so Rest in Peace, Judge.

  5. There was absolutley no one like Jimmy my wonderful cousin (more like a big brother). He was truly bigger than life, and the best story teller ever. To have been so accomplished, well traveled, and talented;,he was not arrogant as his obituary noted when he said …..he was fortunate enough…. He was always there for me in good times and bad. We have hilarious adventures when we were kids and as adults. He had a big heart and a real appetite for living. Heartfelt sympathy to Lonna, Jennifer/Gus, Jay and Jacob.

  6. I was fortunate to get to know Jim in the Green Room, during our last Gridiron play. He and his buddies would get to talkin’ and, it was just as entertaining as anything happening on stage.
    I could tell Jim was a wonderful person, and, was looking forward to seeing him again. He was especially kind to everyone. His beautiful voice will be sorely missed.
    Condolences to his family, his many friends, and, to the whole DeValls Bluff community.
    Nancy and Jennifer

  7. Janice W. Vaughn

    Jim was the greatest. I will never forget his coming to New Orleans and taking Scott & me to dinner when our newborn child, Emily, was fighting for her life in the hospital there. I remember him calling some of the partners at our firm “biscuit asses” for not visiting us during that time, as all three of us were partners in the same firm. Yet, Jim was the only one who bothered to visit us. He obviously had a way with words! Lonna, he adored you. I am so sorry you are having to go thru this but I have no doubt that my Emily and Scott will be greeting Jim in heaven with warm arms and open hearts. He was a great and kind man. We were all lucky to have been a part of his life, no matter how large or small a part we played. Love, Janice Vaughn

  8. So sorry to hear of Jim’s death. I. Knew hm growing up in DVB, but only talked with him on the phone in recent years.
    My condolences to the family.
    Bruce Schratz

  9. I’m so sorry to hear this. I was his secretary for a short time at Dover Dixon Horne. Jim, you will be missed. Lonna, prayers for you and the family at this time. Anne

  10. I’m so sorry for your loss. I first met Catfish when he was working with Jack Lassiter on some cases. Talking with him was such a delight. I mourn with you during this difficult time.

  11. I was in the Gridiron with Jim. He portrayed Senator Gary Hart in the 80s and was so funny to be around. He was a great trial attorney! He had a great singing voice ! He was a member of the great Schola Cantorum at the U of A. God Speed Jim !

  12. Billy and Gail Booth

    The tributes to Judge Rhodes speak well of his many diverse and remarkable accomplishments and talents. I was acquainted with him, though not well. I had the privilege of teaching at DeValls Bluff High School for six years in a classroom that was next to Mrs. Regina Rhodes’ classroom and she often shared many stories about her illustrious son long before I ever had the honor of meeting him in person. As world travelers, he and Lonna could have chosen to retire anywhere, but they chose to retire back home in Prairie County to be among home folks and we were the better for it. Our community was blessed to have them. With the heart of a servant and the wisdom of many years of legal experience, Judge Rhodes presided fairly and firmly over many court cases for the Southern District of Prairie County. I have witnessed how he compassionately worked with some people even after he had found them guilty and had assessed their punishments. Judge Rhodes was highly respected and his legacy will be long remembered. He will be missed greatly. Our prayers and sympathy continue for his family.

  13. Dr. Stephen Caldwell

    On behalf of the University of Arkansas Schola Cantorum, rest in peace dear Scholan.

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