Benny Hatcher was a man who did what he could to bring happiness to others whenever he had the opportunity, according to loved ones and close friends.
Hatcher, who died Tuesday at the age of 89, was a native of Rison but had called Pine Bluff his home since his return from military service in Panama during World War II.
Hatcher went on to found a construction business that was responsible for many local landmarks.
Hatcher Construction Company and its successor companies Acme Construction and Select Constructors managed the construction of First Presbyterian Church, where Hatcher was a member, the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, the Reynolds Center, and the Jefferson Regional Medical Center Professional Building among numerous others.
Hatcher’s widow, Scarlette Gibson Hatcher, was able to capture who her husband was in words cut short by emotion.
“He was a very amazing person, a very kind person,” Scarlette Hatcher said.
Harley Cox was a friend of Hatcher’s for 50 years and a business partner for 15.
“Benny was a very unusual man,” Cox said. “He was a unique person. He had a difficult early life but in spite of that he became a successful contractor. He was always a very generous and helpful person to all of those who he had contact with. He was a very worthy and constructive citizen.”
Cox said the two met when Cox arrived in Pine Bluff in 1956 to practice law.
When asked to describe Hatcher, Cox had this to say: “Some people you can put in a Garden of Eden and they make it a desert. Then there are some who you can put in a desert and they make it a Garden of Eden; Benny was one of those.”
Sandra Breshears was a long-time friend.
“He was just an amazing man,” Breshears said of Hatcher. “He was a genius at what he did. Many years ago in 1961 when my husband was finishing medical school Benny built my husband’s clinic. He built my church, First Presbyterian, and many other things. He always had a smile and was kind to everyone. I considered him my friend. He was really remarkable.”
Tena Rodgers knew Hatcher for 30 years.
“He was a wonderful man,” Rodgers said. “He was a good Christian man. He tried to stay healthy. We walked at the mall together. I saw him every day. Everybody at the mall was familiar with Benny. He would do two trips around the mall and I would do four trips around with his wife, Scarlette.”
Rodgers said that Hatcher would sit down and chat with people while waiting for his wife and Rodgers to finish their exercise.
“He was just concerned about everyone and everybody,” Rodgers said. “He was especially concerned about the less fortunate. He would always pick out the person that you or I would ignore and he would acknowledge them and he was kind to them. Anyone who was crippled or addicted to something, he did what he could to help and he did it without talking to others about it.”
Hatcher’s commitment to young people was evidenced by his efforts on behalf of Little League Baseball with the home ballpark of Western Little League, Benny Hatcher Field, named for him.
Hatcher outlived most if not all of the men who worked with him in youth baseball.
“Pretty much everybody who Benny worked with in the Little League program is dead now,” Cox said when asked if he could suggest people to speak with about that aspect of Hatcher’s life.
“Ed Brown, Stuart Sanders,” Cox said as he thought of some of the men who had gone before Hatcher.
Hatcher is survived by his wife, Scarlette Gibson Hatcher; his son Benny F. Hatcher Jr. of Searcy, Ark.; daughter Linda Pratt of Colorado Springs, Colo.; stepson Gene Sellers of Pine Bluff; granddaughters Ashley Goode and Clara Lynn Ryan; stepgrandson Vince Sellers of Pine Bluff; and great-granddaughters Gracie and Grayson Goode and Windsor Gail Ryan.
Funeral services are at 11 a.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church with Reverend Lance Clemmons officiating.