The life and legacy of a Crawford County World War II veteran and decades long civic leader who died March 9 are remembered by those who knew him well.
Warren D. Blaylock, 96, was a life-long resident of Crawford County and spent most of his life serving his country and community.
Former legislator and civic leader Ed Thicksten attended Alma United Methodist Church with Blaylock and often worked with him in a number of civic groups.
“Warren was a giant around here,” Thicksten said. “He stayed active, very active into his 90s. That in itself is remarkable.”
Blaylock served in the Van Buren Rotary Club and later the Fort Smith Rotary Club for a legendary 54 years of perfect attendance. He served on the Crawford County Senior Citizens Board for 20 years.
Blaylock also served on the Methodist Health and Rehabilitation Board for 41 years, Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Board for 35 years, and multiple years on various other school and civic group boards.
“He literally was active for 60 or 70 years in some of these groups,” Thicksten said. “Anything I can think of, he was involved with it.”
Blaylock was inducted into the Arkansas Senior Hall of Fame in 2013, received the initial Alma Distinguished Alumni Award, the Kathleen Peek Community Service and Advocacy Life Achievement Award for his contributions to the field of behavioral healthcare, and the Friends of Senior Citizens Award.
Blaylock also was known for his activity as an auctioneer, in which he aided countless charity auctions and events.
He had a collection of canes he would use for showmanship at auctions, and he enjoyed being called colonel - an honorary title often bestowed upon auctioneers, Thicksten said
“The first auction I ever went to, Warren was the auctioneer,” Thicksten said. “He had one of those voices that really rang out and people listened to him.”
Thicksten called Blaylock a “rock in the community.”
“He’s the standard that the community is judged by because he represented us on so many different facets,” Thicksten said.
Widders, who met Blaylock about 20 years ago when he began attending Alma United Methodist Church, called Blaylock a “mentor and friend.” Blaylock was respected throughout the area for his civic work and was a “good Christian man,” he said.
“I think the people in this county thought of Warren as a resource - someone they could go to to bounce ideas off of,” Widders said. “If anyone wanted to do anything or even thought about doing something, they sought out Warren Blaylock to get his advice on it.”
Blaylock grew grew up just north of Alma and graduated from Alma High School. He joined the during WWII where he served in the 67th Evacuation Hospital, which landed on Normandy days after D-Day and trailed allied forces throughout Europe.
Blaylock was awarded two Bronze Stars, the Superior Unit Award and the Combat Medical Badge for his service. He often told stories of his time in the military.
“Him being a veteran was very important to him. He took that seriously,” Thicksten said.
Widders called Blaylock, who was one of the few WWII veterans left in Alma, a “true patriot.”
“I’ve listened to his stories about his time in the military over and over, and every time I learned something new,” Widders said. “He was just a joy to listen to.”
Blaylock was inducted into the Arkansas Military Hall of Fame in 2015 as one of five inductees selected on the basis of honorable military service and exceptional state and community service. He was recognized in the U.S. Congressional Record in 2009 and noted as a Hometown Hero in Van Buren in 2016.
After his time in the service, Blaylock returned to Arkansas where he graduated from the University of Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in business. He became vice president and general manager of the Derrel Thomas Company in Van Buren.
“He was remarkable and I don’t think any one person can fill his place completely,” Thicksten said.
Blaylock’s funeral service was March 14 at Edwards Van-Alma Funeral Home Chapel followed by interment at Gracelawn Cemetery with military honors.
Pallbearers were Widders, Robin Kuykendall, Claude Blount, Larry Womack, Tony James and Alma Mayor Keith Greene. To place an online tribute, go to www.edwardsvan-alma.com.