James Robert "Jim" Hannah

  • BORN: December 26, 1944
  • DIED: January 14, 2016
  • LOCATION: Searcy, Arkansas

James Robert "Jim" Hannah, recently retired Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, died on January 14, 2016, at Unity Health White County Medical Center in Searcy, Arkansas. He was born December 26, 1944, in the Naval Hospital in Long Beach, California, where his father was stationed during World War II. He was the son of Frank Alvin Hannah and Virginia Marie (Stine) Hannah.

He is survived by his wife, Pat Johnson Hannah, who was his rock and soul mate; five children, Jayme Hannah of Cabot, Judge Craig Hannah and his wife Mitzi (Paul) of Searcy, Dr. Todd Hannah and his wife Wendy (Johnston) of Bentonville, Judge Mark Pate and his wife Julie (Jones) of Searcy, and Kelli (Pate) and her husband Mike McNeill of Searcy; thirteen grandchildren, Gabby, Adrian, Ethan, Jackson, and Gracen Hannah; Derek Covington (Jessica); Tyler and Mason Parr; Jacob Corpier; Ian McNeill, Emily, Sam, and Will Pate; and one great-grandchild, Bryson Covington. He is survived by his sister Sara Bowen and her husband Early, of Cypress, Texas; his niece Danielle Bowen and his nephew Marcus Bowen. He is also survived by cousins, Linda Rice of Springfield, Missouri; Margaret Moore of Nixa, Missouri; Paul Hannah of Nixa, Missouri; and Peggy McDaniel of Ozark, Missouri.

While his father was in the Navy, Jim lived in California and Miami, Florida. His family moved back to Ozark, Missouri, where his parents and uncle and aunt, Lawrence and Bonnie Hannah, opened Hannah's Cleaners in 1945. Jim lived in Ozark, Missouri, until 1960 when his family moved to Harrison, Arkansas, where they owned and operated a soft-drink bottling company with Jim's uncle Walter E. Jones and his aunt Mary Francis (Stine) Jones.

The family's move to Harrison in Jim's junior year of high school was at first difficult for him because in Ozark, he was a popular student and had played on the undefeated basketball team. However, he quickly became a Golden Goblin at Harrison High School, and during his two years there, he excelled as a student-athlete, playing on two basketball teams under Hall of Fame Coach Bob Denniston, and playing on the baseball team.

After high school, he attended Drury in Springfield, Missouri, on a basketball scholarship with plans of becoming a teacher and a coach. He transferred to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he received both law and accounting degrees in 1968. He was admitted to the Bar of Arkansas that same year. Although he had an offer to work in St. Louis with a national accounting firm, he decided to join the private law firm, Lightle, Tedder, Hannah, & Beebe, in Searcy, Arkansas.

Jim Hannah was a tireless worker for the betterment of the Arkansas judicial system. Between 1969 and 1978, he was city attorney for Searcy, Augusta, Bradford, Des Arc, Garner, Kensett, and Rosebud; deputy prosecuting attorney for Woodruff County; city judge for Kensett and Rosebud; and juvenile judge for White County.

Jim particularly loved his time on the bench. In 1978, he was elected Chancery and Probate Judge for the 17th Judicial District, a position he held for the next 22 years. In 2000, he was elected Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Arkansas, where he served until 2005, when he was elected Chief Justice. He led the court until his early retirement on September 1, 2015.

In addition to his many judicial responsibilities, he made time to contribute to and lead a variety of committees and organizations, improving our system of justice. While on the bench, he chaired the Arkansas Judicial Council's Judicial Resources Assessment, Legislative, and Retirement committees; served on the Arkansas Supreme Court committees for Access to Justice, Client Security Fund, Technology, Child Support, and District Court Resources Board; and chaired the Drug Court Advisory Committee. Additionally, he served on the board and as president of the Arkansas Judicial Council and as a member of the Arkansas Board of Certified Court Reporter Examiners.

He served and led national committees as well. President Barack Obama appointed Jim to the State Justice Institute Board of Directors, where he served as chairman. Chief Justice John Roberts appointed him to the Committee on Federal-State Jurisdiction of the Judicial Conference of the United States. In 2014, Jim was named chair of the Board of Directors of the National Center for State Courts and president of the Conference of Chief Justices.

Throughout his legal career, Jim was involved on a state and national level as an advocate for judicial independence, civics education, and public outreach to increase awareness of our judicial system. During his tenure as chief justice, the court established Appeals on Wheels, a leader education outreach program for students. Under Jim's leadership, Arkansas became the first state in nation to publish and distribute the official report of its appellate decisions electronically. Jim also worked with the Arkansas Bar Association to institute an annual "State of the Judiciary" address, which he delivered each year at the joint meeting of the bench and bar.

Among his many other accomplishments, he established and implemented the White County Juvenile Court and Juvenile Probation Office; was an instructor at Harding University; was a faculty advisor for the National Judicial College; was appointed by then Governor Dale Bumpers and later Governor David Pryor to the Arkansas Board of Pardons and Paroles, where he served as secretary from 1972-79; was a legislative assistant to Governor Dale Bumpers; was a member of the Court Leadership Symposium and Innovations in Governance at Harvard University; received the Ozark Ambassador Award from the North Arkansas College Foundation; served as a member American Judges Association; was past president, treasurer, and secretary of the White County Bar Association; was a former member of the Searcy Chamber of Commerce; was past chairman of the Board of Advisors of the Wilbur Mills Alcoholism Treatment Center. He has been involved in leadership roles with Searcy's Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis Club, including coach, co-founder, and chairman of Little League Basketball and Little League Baseball. He was also


  • January 18, 2016
    6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
  • First Presbyterian Church
  • 400 W Arch
  • Searcy, AR 72143
  • (501) 268-2212
  • Get Directions
Funeral Service
  • January 19, 2016
    2:30 PM
  • First Presbyterian Church
  • 400 W Arch
  • Searcy, AR 72143
  • (501) 268-2212
  • Get Directions
  • Tuesday January 19 2016
  • Velvet Ridge Cemetery
  • 650 Honey Holler Road
  • Bald Knob, AR 72010
  • Get Directions


“ I just learned to Jim's death. To Sarah Beth - my childhood best friend, I'm so sorry. you are in my thoughts today. Mary (Farthing) Adams ”

Posted by: Mary Farthing Adams - Ozark, MT

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