Monday, January 28, 2019

Storm Onus Whaley (1882-1933)

From the Gentry Journal Advance, November 3, 1927.

  We continue our stay in Arkansas to highlight the life of another oddly named state legislator, Storm Onus Whaley of Benton County. A leading banker and Mason in that state, Whaley was a former president of the Arkansas Bankers Association and in the mid-1920s was selected as Grand Master of Masons of Arkansas. Whaley entered politics with his service as a delegate to the 1924 Democratic National Convention and in 1930 was elected to the Arkansas State Senate, serving in that body until his death in a car accident in June 1933. A native of Missouri, Storm Onus Whaley was born in the town of Mount Vernon on May 31, 1882, the son of John L. Whaley and the former Mary Virginia Crawford.
  Little information exists on Whaley's early life in the state of his birth or his education, and in 1910 married in that state to Mabel Etta Prater (1886-1980). The couple later had one son, Storm Hammond Whaley (1916-2011), who would go on to prominence of his own, being the acting director of the University of Arkansas from 1959-60 and from 1970-92 served as the communications director for the National Institutes of Health. 
  Shortly after his marriage Whaley and his wife removed to Sulphur Springs, Arkansas, where he first entered into banking. Accepting the post of bank teller at the Bank of Sulphur Springs, Whaley later became the bank's cashier, holding that post until at least 1927. During his time as the cashier at Sulphur Springs, Whaley and his bank were robbed four times in five years, and in 1926 he authored "The Thrills and Chills of a Much Robbed Banker" for the American Banker's Journal, detailing his experiences of being held at gunpoint and described advice for how to best conduct oneself in the event of a robbery. 
   In 1924 Whaley entered Arkansas politics for the first time when he was selected as part of the Arkansas delegation to the 1924 Democratic National Convention in New York City that nominated former U.S. Solicitor General John W. Davis for the presidency. An active Mason for years prior to his service as a delegate, Whaley was elected as Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Free and Accepted Masons of Arkansas in 1925 for a one-year term.
  Active in other areas of public service in his state, Storm O. Whaley was for six years (1927-1933) treasurer of the Ozark Playgrounds Association, an organization established in 1919 to promote tourism throughout Northwestern Arkansas and parts of Missouri and Oklahoma. In this post, Whaley was responsible for originating the Ozark Smile Girl contest and the Flaming Fall Revue, and during this time earned a reputation as a leading orator in his state, "with heavy demands made on his time by calls from many places." In November 1927 Whaley was invited to broadcast from the University of Arkansas' radio station KUOA, and his address, titled The Ozarks and Opportunity, touched on business, agriculture, and tourism opportunities for the area. In the address, Whaley related that:
"The steady growth, evidenced during the last few years, is largely a direct result of the effort made by the Ozark Playgrounds Association to sell not only the visitor the wealth and beauty of this region, but in making the resident cognizent of Ozark possibilities."
From the Gentry Journal Advance, November 3, 1927.

     A founding organizer of the Bank of Bentonville in the early 1930s, Storm Whaley would serve as that bank's cashier until his death and in February 1930 announced that he'd be seeking a seat in the Arkansas Senate. He would win the election that November and at the start of the 1931-35 session was named to the following committees: Claims, Confederate Pensions, Finance, Public Service Corporations, Mines and Mining, Revenue and Taxation, Roads and Highways. He would also hold the chairmanship of the Banking, Building, and Loan Committee. 
   Elected for a four-year term that was to conclude in 1935, Storm O. Whaley died in office on June 16, 1933, having succumbed to injuries he received in a car accident the day prior. On the day of the accident, Whaley and several other men had traveled to Mena, Arkansas to attend a Highway 71 convention. On the return trip the driver of the vehicle, D.W. Peel Jr., swerved to avoid a truck parked partially on the roadway, and in the course of doing so caused the vehicle to go off the pavement and over a steep embankment. The force of the accident caused Whaley and others to be thrown "through the top of the car", with Whaley himself sustaining shock, a broken leg, and hip. He died at an Arkansas hospital on June 16, 1933, aged 51. Memorialized as a leading banker and public figure in newspapers of the time, Whaley's funeral was attended by many noted political figures including Lieutenant Governor Lee Cazort and state bank commissioner Marion Wasson. Following funeral services, Whaley was interred at the Hillcrest Cemetery in Gravette

From the Gentry Journal Advance, June 22, 1933.

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