We are proud of our long history and tradition of service to our clients and community.
ROOTS OF IRON
Friday, Eldredge & Clark traces its history to December 1, 1871, when attorneys George E. Dodge and Benjamin S. Johnson formed a partnership for the practice of law, representing what was then known as the St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern Railroad, one of Arkansas’s first major legal clients. In 1982, Union Pacific Railroad Company acquired Missouri Pacific Railroad, and the firm continues to represent the dominant railroad in Arkansas. Though the railroad’s name and ours have changed throughout the years, our consistent focus on clients has never varied. For 50 years, we have been the state’s largest law firm, serving clients in virtually every industry.
Pat Mehaffy, son of Judge Tom Mehaffy, joined Henry Donham and Martin Fulk as a law partner at the beginning of 1941, to help serve the Missouri Pacific Railroad, as well as People’s Bank (later the First National Bank), and to assist with a thriving insurance company practice, among others. From 1942 through 1952 other lawyers joined the Donham, Fulk and Mehaffy firm in their quarters in the Boyle Building in downtown Little Rock. After Henry Donham died in 1951, Pat Mehaffy organized the Mehaffy, Smith & Williams firm on June 1, 1952. William J. Smith, a native of Texarkana, had been an associate with Donham, Fulk and Mehaffy since 1946. An active Democrat, Smith served Governors Homer Adkins, Ben Laney, Francis Cherry, and Orval Faubus as a legislative advisor. John T. Williams had worked in the prosecuting attorney’s office under Mehaffy and was in private practice in Marianna, Arkansas. Associates in the Mehaffy, Smith & Williams firm were Ben Allen and Herschel Friday. Friday had served as a clerk for a federal district judge in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and immediately began working on municipal bond issues. After completing their military service, William A. Eldredge Jr., and Bill S. Clark joined the firm in 1953. Eldredge developed a specialty in trial work and railroad representation, and Clark eventually devoted most of his practice to labor relations. In 1954, William H. Bowen, an Altheimer, Arkansas, native, was hired from the Tax Division of the Justice Department and became one of the first lawyers in Arkansas to devote his practice solely to taxes. William L. Terry, son of former Congressman David D. Terry, with whom Mehaffy had shared an office in 1927, joined in 1954, developing a specialty in real estate. When Robert V. Light was hired in 1955, the firm had doubled in size in three years.
Mehaffy, Smith & Williams was the first law firm in the state to develop several departments of two or more attorneys, devoting the bulk of their time to a particular area of the law. Over time, the firm established departments focused on taxation, bonds, securities, trial work, commercial law, and labor law. In 1960, the firm became Mehaffy, Smith, Williams, Friday & Bowen. Then in 1963, Mehaffy accepted an appointment by President John F. Kennedy to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Bowen left in 1971 to become president of Commercial National Bank, N.A., where he served as chairman of the board and chief executive officer. With Bowen’s departure and Smith and Williams retiring in 1974, the firm became known as it is today–Friday, Eldredge & Clark.
Continuing Our Tradition
When William J. Smith retired in 1974, leadership of the firm passed to Herschel H. Friday who guided it during 20 years of steady growth. After Friday’s untimely death in a 1994 plane crash, Vice Chairman William H. Sutton succeeded him as Chairman of the Management Committee, and Byron Eiseman, architect of the firm’s taxation section, became Vice Chairman. The firm continued its growth during their tenure, including the addition of two offices in Northwest Arkansas. In July of 2005, William H. Sutton, the firm’s chairman and managing partner since the 1994 death of Herschel Friday, announced his retirement. Byron Eiseman, the firm’s Vice Chairman and head of its Tax and Business Department, became the fifth managing partner of the firm, continuing in the footsteps of Mehaffy, Smith, Friday, and Sutton. J. Shepherd Russell, head of the firm’s Public Finance Department, became Vice Chairman. Eiseman stepped down as Managing Partner in January 2012 so he could focus solely on his tax law practice. He was succeeded by Russell, who also continues his role as head of the Public Finance Department. Price C. Gardner, head of the firm’s Health Care group, was named Vice Chairman.The firm is proud of its tradition of excellence and continues its service to business, non-profit, governmental, and individual clients in Arkansas and throughout the United States.