Wiley Lee Lawson

July 31, 1927 - May 6, 2014

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Wiley Lee Lawson, age 86 and longtime resident of the Roe community died Tuesday, May 6, 2014. A son of Luther and Myrtle(Melton)Lawson, he was born July 31, 1927, at Haynes, Arkansas. A child of the Great Depression, he knew from an early age about hard work and poverty. During the days of food lines and destitution, he worked in the cotton fields, often enduring splitting headaches caused by an unsheathed nerve in his neck. Life was hard and no one was exempt, not even small boys.

During the 1930’s, Wiley had a vision to work hard and earn success. At age 15, he moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he lived with his cousins. He made his way by working construction and helped in the building of Clinton Laboratories, a significant aspect of the Manhattan Project. The United States entered World War II, an economic recovery had begun, and jobs were opening up. In February of 1945, Wiley, age 17, joined the Navy. He wanted to help with the war effort and be a part of that great nationalism that had swept the United States since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He only served a short time when the war ended; however he was proud to have served such a great cause. His naval career also included an expedition in 1946, with Admiral Richard Byrd, to Antarctica called “Operation Highjump”. He received an honorable discharge in October of 1947and returned to Arkansas. Upon his return, Wiley admirably returned to high school. He graduated from Forrest City High School in 1949 and then attended college at Memphis State. However, college wasn’t a fit, so he soon left and took a job with Garrison Ready Mix in West Memphis.

Lois Porter, one of his teachers at Forrest City, introduced him to Jo Trotter, a young schoolteacher at Blytheville. They were married April 5, 1951 in Hernando, Mississippi and lived a short time in West Memphis. Before long the young couple yearned to return to the farm, a setting they knew so well. They moved to Roe, and Wiley began farming for his dad and Jo was hired by Arkansas Rice Growers (Riceland Foods). Later she taught History, Spanish, and French in the Clarendon public school system and later in Stuttgart. In 1958 Wiley received an Congressional appointment to be Postmaster at the Roe post office, where he remained until November of 1985. During those days he also ran a part time insurance business and upon retirement from the post office expanded it to full time.

Throughout the years, the farm was an ingrained part of life. Wiley and Jo bought out the family cattle business and enjoyed operating it for many years. Being a family enterprise, everyone (including the children) spent time feeding, watering and moving the cattle between pastures. In winter the ice had to be broken and in summer the pasture mowed. In 1998, Wiley retired from his insurance business and returned his focus to the farm, where he enjoyed planting and cutting trees, studying farm conservation, and hunting quail.

No one wished for hard times and poverty, but Wiley worked hard and pulled himself up by the bootstraps. His roots from the Depression gave him a generosity toward others. He loved to help people get ahead and improve their lot in life. He did this over and over again throughout the course of his life, from helping family and friends to helping others he barely knew. Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Today’s dream seems to be winning the lottery; Wiley lived the true American dream of 40 acres and a mule. He made the most of opportunity and gave his family the rich heritage to do the same. Now he has moved on to a perfect life in a better place.

Wiley is survived by his wife Jo Trotter Lawson, his daughters; Melinda (Willie) Hoover, Sarah (Burton) Moore, Carey (Wink) Weaver, and daughter-in-law Cindy Lawson, grandchildren; Mallory, Gavin, and Madison Lawson; Kam (Jeremy) Skinner, Lily (Paul) Shanks, John (Kirstin) Moore, Jeremiah Moore; Bruce Winfrey and Seth Halley; great grandchildren Maylen Lawson; Jessica, Valen, Sarah Jane, Katie, and Whit Caldwell and Jack and Rosalee Moore; and Lawson Winfrey; brother Ralph (Carolyn)Lawson; sisters Glenda (James) Redmond and Joyce (Murphy) Scheuer.

Wiley is preceded in death by his parents Luther Lawson and Myrtle Melton Lawson; son David Lawson; grandson Daniel Cone; brothers Wayne, Charles, and Leon Lawson.

The family will receive friends at the
Visitation: 10:00 AM Friday, May 9
Grand Prairie Church, 1104 E. 21st in Stuttgart
Services : 11:00 AM at the church
Burial: Lone Tree Cemetery in Stuttgart with US Navy military honors.