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David Pryor
David Pryor 1974.jpg
Pryor in 1974
Chair of the Arkansas Democratic Party
In office
September 5, 2008 – January 28, 2009
Preceded by Bill Gwatney
Succeeded by Todd Turner
Secretary of the Senate Democratic Caucus
In office
January 3, 1989 – January 3, 1995
Leader George J. Mitchell
Preceded by Daniel Inouye
Succeeded by Barbara Mikulski
Chair of the Senate Aging Committee
In office
January 3, 1989 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by John Melcher
Succeeded by William Cohen
United States Senator
from Arkansas
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1997
Preceded by Kaneaster Hodges Jr.
Succeeded by Tim Hutchinson
39th Governor of Arkansas
In office
January 14, 1975 – January 3, 1979
Lieutenant Joe Purcell
Preceded by Bob Riley (acting)
Succeeded by Joe Purcell (acting)
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 4th district
In office
November 8, 1966 – January 3, 1973
Preceded by Oren Harris
Succeeded by Ray Thornton
Member of the Arkansas House of Representatives
from the Ouachita County district
In office
January 9, 1961 – January 9, 1967
Preceded by William S. Andrews
Succeeded by None - Redistricted
Personal details
David Hampton Pryor

(1934-08-29)August 29, 1934
Camden, Arkansas, U.S.
Died April 20, 2024(2024-04-20) (aged 89)
Little Rock, Arkansas
Political party Democratic
Barbara Lunsford
(m. 1957)
Children Mark Pryor
Education Henderson State University (BA)
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (LLB)

David Hampton Pryor (August 29, 1934 – April 20, 2024) was an American politician and Democratic United States Representative and United States Senator from the State of Arkansas. Pryor also served as the 39th Governor of Arkansas from 1975 to 1979 and was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1960 to 1966. He served as the interim chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party from 2008 to 2009, following Bill Gwatney's assassination.

Early life

Pryor was born in Camden, the seat of Ouachita County in southern Arkansas, to William Edgar Pryor and the former Susan Pryor (née Newton). Both had deep roots in Arkansas; the marriage 'united two of the pioneer families of Arkansas'. William Pryor moved to Camden from Holly Springs in 1923 and started selling cars. By 1933, he had bought the partners out of the business and become sole owner of Edgar Pryor Inc, a well-known Chevrolet dealership in the area. The family was also involved in the civic, religious and political life of Camden, with W.E. serving as Ouachita County Sheriff from 1939 to 1942.

Pryor was a third generation Ouachita County resident. He attended public schools in Camden, attended Henderson State Teacher's College in Arkadelphia, and graduated from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 1957. Pryor was founder and publisher of the Ouachita Citizen from 1957 to 1960. He graduated from law school at the University of Arkansas in 1964 and was admitted to the bar that same year.

Political career

Pryor first won elected office representing Ouachita County in the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1960. Seated as a member of the 63rd Arkansas General Assembly, Pryor would win reelection to the seat in 1962 and 1964.

He was elected to Congress in 1966 following a vacancy that year after U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed fellow Democrat Oren Harris to a federal judgeship. He was not a candidate for reelection in 1972.

David Pryor (AR)
Pryor as governor.

U.S. Senate

Pryor served as chairman of the Committee on Aging. Pryor was known for his advocacy for the aged and for promoting taxpayer rights. During his tenure, he was secretary of the Democratic Conference, third in the Senate Democratic Leadership.

In 2000 Pryor became Director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He served as dean of the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock from 2004 to 2006. In June 2006, President George W. Bush nominated Pryor to the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and in September of that year he was confirmed by the Senate for a six-year term. As he had done occasionally in the past, Pryor taught a political science course at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville during the Fall 2008 term.

Post-Senate career

His son is former United States Senator Mark Pryor, a Democrat who held the same seat that his father vacated in 1997.

In 2004, Pryor was one of the five-member board of directors of the Clinton Foundation.

Pryor had quadruple bypass surgery performed by Dr. Tamim Antaki at UAMS on October 11, 2006. He had suffered a heart attack the previous day. His recovery was satisfactory and he was released from the hospital on October 17, 2006. [1]

Pryor briefly returned to politics, when he served as an interim chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party and played an important role in Arkansas Democratic politics.

Personal life

In 1957, Pryor married Barbara Jean Lunsford, who at the time was a 19 year old freshman at the University of Arkansas. Unable to tolerate the stresses of public life, she briefly lived away from her family from 1975 to 1977, while her husband was governor. During that time, she took various university courses and had trouble finding a job, and she eventually moved back into the governor's mansion after completing her rest.

On July 13, 2020, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced at a press briefing about the COVID-19 pandemic in the state that Pryor and his wife Barbara tested positive for the disease with Pryor hospitalized at UAMS in Little Rock and his wife under home quarantine.

Pryor died on April 20, 2024, at the age of 89.

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