Ratliff remembered as city booster, true friend


Pine Bluff’s Joe Ratliff was remembered Friday as a business and civic leader who epitomized loyalty as a friend.

“I knew him since we were in high school together here and he was always a good guy,” George Talbot of Talbot Capital Management Inc. said of Ratliff, who died Tuesday at the age of 69. “He was always unpretentious and ready to help others. He was a successful businessman as an adult and had a great appreciation for people who ran successful businesses. I always appreciated him as a genuine friend, and I’ll miss him.”

Ratliff came out of retirement as a certified public accountant to take the position of executive director at Davis Life Care Center, where he worked until his death. But many remember him best from his time as a partner with the accounting firm of Baird, Kurtz and Dobson (BKD).

“He was a very astute businessman who had unbelievable abilities when it came to working with numbers,” said Mayor Debe Hollingsworth. “He was just a natural. He was obviously skilled as a businessman, but I appreciated him, too, for his volunteerism and civic work. He was a man of many talents and put them all to work to benefit others, both as a businessman and community servant. He was a people person who made a positive difference among those fortunate enough to cross paths with him.”

Ratliff served on a number of boards, including those of Jefferson Regional Medical Center, the Economic Development Alliance and Jefferson County Industrial Foundation.

“JRMC benefited greatly from Joe’s contributions as a member of the board of directors, not only through his expertise as a CPA, but as a life-long resident,” said JRMC President and Chief Executive Officer Walter Johnson. “He was elected to our board in 2004 and served until 2010, participating in a number of board committees, including finance, building and equipment, and patient care/quality.”

Johnson added that Ratliff “continued to enhance the services of the South Arkansas medical community” during his tenure at Davis Life Care Center.

“Even knowing that Joe Ratliff had been battling a health crisis, I was still caught off guard by his passing,” said Lou Ann Nisbett, president and CEO of The Alliance. “Joe was one of the very first Pine Bluff residents I met since he actually chaired the Alliance committee that hired me in 2006.

“Joe was obviously enthusiastic about his community when we first met,” she said. “And through his work on the Alliance and Jefferson County Industrial Foundation boards, he demonstrated that enthusiasm through the years by dedicating considerable time and energy to making it better, especially his efforts that resulted in passage of the three-eighths cent county sales tax for economic development.”

Nisbett said Ratliff’s death is both a public and personal setback.

“We’ve certainly lost a great community asset,” she said, “and I’ve lost a good friend and encourager.”

Funeral services for Ratliff will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Grace Episcopal Church. Burial will be at Graceland Cemetery with Father Greg Fry officiating. A reception will follow at the church.

In lieu of flowers. memorial donations may be made to Grace Episcopal Church, 401 South Hazel Street, Pine Bluff, Ark. 71603.