Our Honorees

Some of the country's greatest inventors, doctors, authors, and performers are African American, and several of them have ties to Arkansas. For 27 years, the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame has recognized many of these outstanding individuals. Our inductees have distinguished themselves in their chosen fields of endeavor, and we are proud to acknowledge them and their contributions to African-American culture, the state of Arkansas and the nation.

Class of 2022

Join us in celebrating the 2022 class of Arkansas Black Hall of Fame inductees!

  • Sherman Banks
  • Joe L. Hargrove, MD, FACC
  • Gertrude Newsome-Jackson
  • James F. Thrower
  • Hattie Hill
  • Ketty Lester
  • Sherman Banks

    International Citizen Diplomat, Honorary Consul General to Ghana, Arts Education Patron

    Class of 2022

    Sherman Banks, a decorated and honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran, is founder and CEO of Banks International, LLC. He serves as President Emeritus of Sister Cities International and as Honorary Consul to Arkansas and the Delta Region USA for the Republic of Ghana, where he was also coronated as the Kente Chief of Diaspora Agotime, the Volta Region, Ghana. He has over 35 years of experience in International Economic and Tourism Development to help bridge educational and cultural divides among nations.

    Banks is a charter member of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and is an active member of the American Legion, The Human Rights Campaign, and the Little Rock Air Force Community Council, as well as the past Honorary Commander of the 34th Combat Training Squadron.

    Fluent in English and Italian, Banks has been invited to numerous foreign countries and to various educational, civic, and government organizations across the United States. He has authored educational programs for and hosted world leaders from many exotic places such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Russia, and China; in addition to nations in the Middle East, South America, Europe, and African nations including Egypt and Morocco.

    Over the years, Banks has been appointed to various positions and served on numerous boards. His vast civic appointments include the Arkansas Prison Study Commission; the National and International Board of the American Library Board; and the Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Defense and approved by then President Bill Clinton; and Liaison on the Little Rock Sister City Commission and became the first African American to have been elected president of Sister Cities International. In Ghana, he helped organize the Global Sister Cities Foundation to reduce poverty, the spread of HIV/AIDS, and promote universal primary education. Banks has received a plethora of prestigious honors and awards for his works.

    Banks has served on the Humanities Committee and the International Visitors Program at the University 0f Arkansas at Little Rock. In 1992, he served as president of the West Little Rock Rotary Club; and since 1989, he has served as chairman of the organization’s International Committee. He also served as International Tourism Director at Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Special Assistant to then Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Jocelyn Elders.

    Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Banks was reared by his paternal grandfather, Albert House Phillips, and his wife, Almeda Owens Phillips. He graduated from high school in Los Angeles and attended LA City College. He arrived in Arkansas in 1975 as a musician and small business owner; he also attended Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.

    Banks has made Little Rock his home.

    Photo of Banks
  • Joe L. Hargrove, MD, FACC

    Cardiologist

    Class of 2022

    Joe L. Hargrove, a native of Grady, Arkansas, is the first African American Cardiologist to practice in Arkansas and is in private practice in Little Rock with CHI St. Vincent Heart Clinic Cardiology and Medicine Clinic; he specializes in cardiovascular diseases. Prior to entering private practice, Dr. Hargrove served as an Assistant Professor and Director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), where he is the first African American trained in cardiovascular diseases.

    Hargrove received his undergraduate degree from AM&N College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff-UAPB); a graduate degree from Tuskegee Institute; and did graduate studies at Harvard University, Cornell University, and the University of Akron. He served on the Science Department faculty at AM&N College from 1967-1971. Hargrove received his medical degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and graduated with honors. He completed his Internal Medicine Residency at the Metropolitan General Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, and at UAMS. He completed fellowship training in cardiology at UAMS.

    He is a member of several national and local professional societies including: American Medical Association, National Medical Association, American Heart Association, Arkansas Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association (AMDPA); and he is past Chairman of the Board of the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC).

    Additionally, Hargrove has extensive civic involvement and has served on many boards and in civic organizations, including the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas, the Governor’s Task Force on Health Care Reform, a member of the founding Board of Directors for the Chenal Country Club, and the Arkansas Heart Hospital Foundation Board, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, and is a life member of both the NAACP and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated. He is chairman of The Senior Leadership Council (members of the ABC) to recruit minority physicians and medical professionals to meet the needs of our diverse communities.

    Hargrove has received multiple honors and awards, including having been inducted into the UAPB/AM&N Hall of Fame, a recipient of the NAACP Black Corporate Executive Award, and the National Medical Fellowship (NMF) Lifetime Achievement Award.

    Hargrove has served on the Dean’s Advisory Committee at UAMS; and he serves as a mentor to high school, college, and post-graduate students. He has established numerous scholarship awards and a fellowship. He lectures locally and on the national level in the fields of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and lipid disorders, and is involved in clinical research.

    Dr. Hargrove is married to Frances R. Harris, M.D., and is the father of six children.

    Photo of Hargrove, MD, FACC
  • Gertrude Newsome-Jackson

    Community Activist

    Class of 2022

    The late Gertrude Newsome-Jackson was born November 7, 1923, in Madison, Illinois, to Rev. Mitchell Newsome and Lillie Reed Newsome. When she was only seven years old, her family moved to Gum Bottom, an area near the Turner community in Phillips County, Arkansas, where her father returned to assist his mother with the small family farm after his father’s death. She walked nine miles each day to attend a one-room segregated school through the eighth grade after which she attended the all-black Marvell High School that only went up to the tenth grade. In 1944, she married Earlis Jackson. The couple ran a small farm near her family’s homestead and reared their eleven children, two of whom preceded her in death.

    Jackson became a community activist. In 1965, her community service intensified after numerous futile attempts were made to push the Marvell School Board to rectify plumbing problems at the segregated school in Turner, after which her husband organized the Black residents to boycott the school. News of the action hit the state newspapers and drew the attention of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The group descended upon Jonesridge, Arkansas, and helped to orchestrate a grassroots civil rights movement to desegregate the Marvell School District. The six-week boycott of the Marvell School District was successful.

    Of course, the Jacksons’ efforts were met with retaliation. They were subjected to an onslaught of organized intimidation and harassment efforts, some also life-threatening when shots were fired at Jackson from a passerby. Instead of thwarting the Jacksons’ efforts, they became more determined to demonstrate their angst with the system by organizing successful boycotts of the County Fair and the local Greyhound Bus Station, a strategy of “Hit them where it hurts.”

    Jackson worked for Mid-Delta Community Service, Inc., an educational and charitable non-profit organization established in 1966. She served Monroe and Phillips counties as a home start and later a head start teacher.

    The Jacksons initiated a series of lawsuits against the Marvell School District No. 22, and the final ruling by the United States Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit ordered the school district “to fully and effectively desegregate not only all facilities but the faculty and classes effective at the beginning of the 1970-71 school year.”

    In 1978, Jackson partnered with other community leaders to establish the Boys, Girls, Adults Community Development Center (BGACDC). Their mission was to develop the full potential of all poor children of every race and their families by addressing the social, educational, housing, health, and economic needs of low-income youth and families in Phillips County. Well into her eighties, Jackson served as a BGACDC ambassador and acquired grants from Kellogg, the Rockefeller Foundation, and countless donations from benevolent givers.

    Jackson’s honors and recognitions include a panel lecture with the Little Rock Nine; a Smithsonian Institute video interview now archived in the U.S. Library of Congress and the National Museum of African American History & Culture; an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from UA Little Rock; letters from former Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, U.S. presidents Clinton and Obama; a feature in an issue of National Geographic Magazine; and a feature in Sowing Seeds of Justice, a book of interviews and photographs of ten African American Arkansas women.

    Photo of Newsome-Jackson
  • James F. Thrower

    President and CEO of Jamjomar, Inc.

    Class of 2022

    For the past 32 years, James F. “Thrower” Thrower has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Jamjomar, Inc., the operating company for thirty McDonald’s restaurants in Detroit, Michigan, New Orleans, Louisiana, and their respective surrounding metropolitan areas. His entire life has been about serving others. Reared in Camden, Arkansas, Thrower had the perfect role-models at home. His father was a mechanic and gas station owner; and his mother owned a snack shop. He learned and understood the value of entrepreneurship, his earliest lesson, and the importance of giving back to his community.

    Before Thrower became a McDonald’s franchisee, he held many different roles. In the 1970s, he played professional football as a defensive back for the Detroit Lions and the Philadelphia Eagles. He served as loan executive and executive liaison to the board chairman of the NAACP in New York City, as Director of Community Affairs at Stroh’s Brewery, and finally as Regional Manager of Public Issues and Planning at Michigan Consolidated Gas Company.

    In 1989, Thrower and his wife, Marla, were blessed to open their first McDonald’s restaurant at the corner of Mack Avenue and Interstate 75 in Detroit, Michigan. Since becoming a McDonald’s owner 32 years ago, he has left an indelible mark on both the local and national McDonald’s communities. He is extremely proud that all four of his children are McDonald’s owner-operators. He has taught them the importance of treating everyone with respect and living a humble and appreciative life.

    In October 2010, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame at his alma mater, Texas A&M University – Commerce (TAMU), for excellence in track and field, basketball, and football. Also in 1989, Thrower was the recipient of the most prestigious award for McDonald’s franchisees, the Ronald Award.

    In October 2013, TAMU officially opened the doors to the Thrower Student Athlete Success Center on its campus to provide a home for academic services and development for student athletes.

    In 2017, Thrower was the sole inductee into the Lone Star Conference Hall of Honor, which recognizes individuals who have brought pride and honor to the conference through their contributions as athletes.

    In 2019, Thrower was named the National Urban League’s Distinguished Warrior Honoree and the EMG Foundation Man of the Year. In prior years, he was presented with the Business of the Year Award by the Michigan Chronicle Newspaper at its annual Legacy in Motion Newsmakers Gala. He was also awarded the Michigan Chronicle’s Men of Excellence Award and the Brown Bomber Jacket Award, an award that commemorates Joe Louis’s knockout of Max Schmeling and celebrates individuals who have made a positive impact on the life of young people in the community.

    Thrower is actively involved in his community and supports numerous charities, such as the Ronald McDonald House Charities, United Negro College Fund, and Horatio Williams Foundation to name a few. He is a Golden Heritage Member of the NAACP and previously served as both chair and co-chair of the NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner. Thrower has been a member of Oak Grove African Methodist Episcopal Church for over 40 years and currently serves as a steward. He is a lifetime member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and has been married to his wife Marla for 44 years. His formula for success in life is simple – “When you get knocked down, get up, look up, and never give up!”

    Photo of Thrower
  • Hattie Hill

    Business Leader

    Class of 2022

    Hattie Hill, as a pioneering business leader and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) consultant, is a senior executive and transformational leader with more than thirty years of experience in diversity and inclusion strategy, board governance, profit and loss management, and risk mitigation for multinational industries.

    Born and reared in Moro, Arkansas, Hill grew up on a farm with her mother, Carrie Flowers, and five sisters. She credits her solid Arkansas upbringing with helping to build character at an early age and instilling virtues of hard work and respect for others—traits that have served her well throughout her career. Hill is a graduate of Arkansas State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s in rehabilitation psychology.

    As Founder and CEO of Hattie Hill Enterprises, Hill serves as a strategy growth and development consultant for many of the world’s largest multinational companies such as IBM, McDonald’s and Southwest Airlines, among others. Her influential work spans across more than 70 countries worldwide.

    Currently, Hill serves as the President & CEO of the T.D. Jakes Foundation. Launched in January 2020, the foundation provides the skills, education, and training to lift communities; increase diversity, inclusion, and gender equity; and to power the modern global economy through science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) jobs. She is leading those efforts through a $100 million fundraising campaign while utilizing her experience as a connector of people and opportunity to focus the foundation’s strategy on bridging the gap between human potential and companies seeking talent.

    Previously, Hill was President & CEO of Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF), the premier leadership development organization for the food service industry responsible for accelerating the advancement of women and gender equity. After taking the helm at the ailing organization in 2013, she set a new strategic direction focusing on stronger overall organizational performance. She is credited with driving up WFF’s revenue by 25 percent, increasing its membership by 20 percent, and growing attendance for the organization’s flagship events by 20 percent.

    In 2017, Hill helped leading food service companies around the world—representing both billions of dollars in revenue and millions of women employees—by spearheading a first-of-its-kind partnership between WFF and the gold-standard Women in the Workplace Study conducted by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org. This unprecedented collaboration resulted in cutting-edge research and solutions essential to retaining top talent, gaining targeted consumer insights and increasing profits by empowering women.

    Hill is a celebrated author and highly sought-after speaker who is often quoted in top-tier media outlets such as Oprah, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. In addition, Hill is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including being named to Forbes’ Top Texas Women in Business, selected as EY’s Inclusiveness Champion of the Year and featured on National Restaurant News’ 2018 Power List, as well as receiving Dallas Business Journal’s Minority Business Leader Award, the Dallas Women’s Foundation’s Maura Award and Working Woman’s Working Woman Entrepreneurial Excellence Award.

    Photo of Hill
  • Ketty Lester

    Singer and Actress

    Class of 2022

    Ketty Lester is a Grammy-nominated singer and actress best known for her chart-topping single “Love Letters,” as well as for her appearance in the cult classic film Blacula in 1972. Lester was a regular on an iconic daytime drama and was especially known for her long-running role on a hit primetime television series.

    Ketty Lester was born Revoyda Frierson August 16, 1934, in Hope, Arkansas, one of fifteen children born to a farm family. An avid music enthusiast, she delighted at singing in the church and school choirs. Her talent won her a scholarship to San Francisco City College in California, where she studied music.

    She sang professionally at the renowned Purple Onion Night Club in San Francisco under the stage name Ketty Lester. She headlined the opening of the Purple Onion in Hollywood and appeared at clubs such as the Village Vanguard in New York City. She sang in East Coast clubs from Boston to Baltimore. She also toured Europe as a singer with the Cab Calloway orchestra.

    In 1957, Lester appeared as a contestant on the popular television program You Bet Your Life, hosted by comedian Groucho Marx. He commented on her striking beauty and asked her to sing a song with the show’s musicians. She performed “You Do Something to Me” that ended with a standing ovation. Marx predicted then that she would soon become a top singing sensation.”

    At the Hollywood Purple Onion, Lester met several record producers. After her first single, “Queen for a Day,” Era Records released her recording of “I’m a Fool to Want You,” with “Love Letters” on the B-side; however, it was “Love Letters” that launched her to stardom when it rose to number five on the charts in 1962. Also in 1962, she toured with the Everly Brothers. In 1963, she was nominated for a Grammy as Best Female Pop Vocalist, in a field with Lena Horne, Peggy Lee, and winner Ella Fitzgerald.

    Lester later signed with RCA Records and continued to record throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Her 1966 single “When a Woman Loves a Man” was a response to the Percy Sledge hit “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Her albums include Love Letters, The Soul of Me, Where Is Love?, When a Woman Loves a Man, and Ketty Lester in Concert. She released a Christian music album in 1984.

    In college, Lester was associated with a theatrical group at the neighboring University of California, Berkeley; and in 1964, she appeared off-Broadway in Cabin in the Sky and won a Theatre World Award for her role. She has appeared in such feature films as Up Tight, Uptown Saturday Night, and Prisoner of Second Avenue. Her movie roles continued into the 1990s.

    In addition to movies, Lester enjoyed prominent television roles in network shows, including That Girl, Julia, Sanford and Son, Love American Style, Marcus Welby M.D., Streets of San Francisco, The Waltons, Lou Grant, Happy Days, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, In the Heat of the Night, and L.A. Law. Her television movies include Louis Armstrong: Chicago Style, It’s Good to be Alive, and The Roy Campanella Story. From 1975-1977, she portrayed Helen Grant on the daytime drama Days of Our Lives. She was especially known for her role as a regular on Little House on the Prairie from 1978-1983 in the role of Hester-Sue Terhune, the teacher at the blind school.

    Ketty Lester has made her home in Los Angeles, California.

    Photo of Lester

Make a Nomination

Without nominations, we would not be able to recognize the great Arkansans. If you know someone who is worthy of being inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, please consider nominating them. Nominees must have Arkansas roots (birthplace or place of residence) and have significantly contributed to African-American culture, the state of Arkansas, and/or the nation. Nominations are open year round, so submit your completed form for consideration today.

Nomination submissions must include:

A letter explaining why the nominees should be inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

Any supporting materials, i.e. articles featuring or about the nominee.

You can submit a nomination form below or print a copy and mail a completed packet to:

ABHOF Nominations Committee PO Box 1042 Little Rock, AR 72223

**Note: Mailed material will NOT be returned. Please do not send original copies.**

Nomination is not paramount to selection. Nominees will be placed in a pool for consideration by the Nominations Committee. If you have questions about how to submit your nomination form, please contact us at arkansasblackhalloffame@gmail.com.

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