A.W. Nelson Jr. put his signature on Pine Bluff, Jefferson County and Southeast Arkansas for nearly 40 years as an architect, developer and community partner.
His touch will likely continue to be felt for decades to come.
“His achievements and contributions were so significant that they will be influencing our lives for generations,” Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said of Nelson, a former Pine Bluff resident who died Wednesday, Jan. 22, at his Little Rock home. “I’ve lost a personal friend, as has our city and county. He was a true friend to everyone. He was just one of those special people who always positively influenced others and energized any endeavor in which he was involved.
“He was a church leader who put Christian principles to work in all aspects of his life,” Hollingsworth said. “I know he loved his family and friends. He possessed a powerful professional presence. He earned respect with his unquestionable knowledge and authority. Whether he was building one of the many landmarks for which he was responsible or lending his skills to Habitat for Humanity or another effort to serve others, his word was his seal. He’s already missed.”
Nelson initiated a local chapter of Habitat for Humanity in 1992 and served as its first president. He also aided in a number of other charitable efforts and was a member of Pine Bluff First United Methodist Church’s administrative board. He was also a board member of numerous businesses and community organizations.
In 1976, he founded the A.W. Nelson Jr. Architect PA firm, which later became Nelson Architectural Group. He and his associates were responsible for construction, renovations and additions to scores of landmark sites, including the Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce, several city fire stations, the county’s Dub Brassell Adult Detention Facility, The Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, Simmons First National Bank and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Nelson Architectural Group Vice President Dave Sadler, who knew and worked with Nelson since 1981, had difficulty expressing himself late Wednesday as he recollected his professional and personal relationships with Nelson. Other employees of the company were too distraught to speak.
“We’ve lost a family member,” Sadler said. “He was a kind and caring person who valued his employees and co-workers and treated them like family, and that’s why we consider ourselves to be a work family today. He was always supportive and we carry on that tradition with one another.”
Sadler said Nelson had remarkable vision and could analyze potential problems and quickly devise solutions.
“He influenced us in so many ways, including always being mindful of what was best for the community and our clients,” Sadler said of Nelson. “One of the lessons he imparted was, ‘Creating exceptional value for our clients is at the very core of providing services that make their products successful.’ He helped us to be successful by sharing his wisdom and experiences with us and giving us opportunities as our mentor, and he also gave his time to working with students interested in our field.
“He was a disciplined person who liked organization and routine,” Sadler said. “And he was never satisfied with being complacent in business or life. He was always looking for a way to improve and make things better for others in the process. I don’t think there’s a way that anyone could have been around him and not be motivated to do the same.”
Sadler said Nelson also had a passion for continuously increasing his own knowledge.
“He was always trying to learn and grow as a person, and applied that philosophy to his business as well,” Sadler said.
Funeral services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at First United Methodist Church. Arrangements are by Ralph Robinson and Son Funeral Directors.