Ben Burton, long time resident of Hot Springs and former football coach, Legislator, Weyerhaeuser Company executive and popular after dinner entertainer, died on December 2, 2018. Ben is preceded in death by his parents, three brothers (including his twin, Len Samuel Burton), two sisters, his beloved first-born, daughter Boni Catherine Burton, and his great granddaughter, Ella Jane Fullenwider.
Ben is survived by his wife, partner and encourager of 67 years, LaVerne Bolding Burton and by his children, Bruce Bolding Burton (Patti) of Tulsa, Brooks Franklin Burton (Susan) of Hot Springs, and Dr. Bevalee Vitali (Michael) of Memphis, by 6 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.
An all-state football player in high school and a scholarship athlete and all-conference player in college, Ben earned an Associate Degree at Southern Arkansas University (SAU), a Bachelors degree at University of Central Arkansas (UCA) and a Masters at the University of Arkansas. SAU honored Ben with the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1998 and he served two seven-year terms on the Board of Trustees at UCA.
A lifetime Methodist, Ben taught Sunday School most of his adult life and served two congregations as Board Chairman.
Ben’s first career and calling was as a high school football coach. After fifteen years of success (including 8 district and 2 state championships and coach of the 1954 and 1964 Arkansas High School All-Star games), Ben joined Dierks Forests, Inc. (later acquired by Weyerhaeuser Company) in training, education, public & governmental relationships assignments. In 1986, Ben took early retirement from Weyerhaeuser to pursue his third successful career, public speaking. He was the first Arkansas Speaker to be awarded the CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) designation by the National Speakers Association. Ben was also elected and served one term as State Representative (District 86) in the Arkansas Legislature.
Ben cherished his time fishing, playing his guitar, singing, and writing. Ben’s passion for writing led to many published articles, a column syndicated for several state newspapers, and three books. His most acclaimed story, “The Martyrdom of Andy” has won several awards, been featured in two movies, published in three nationwide church magazines, and in several anthologies including Chicken Soup for the Soul.
A celebration of Ben Burton’s life and loves will be held at First United Methodist Church in Hot Springs on Saturday, December 8 at 1:30 pm. with Reverend David Moseley officiating.
Cremation arrangements are under the direction of Davis-Smith Funeral Home, Hot Springs.