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Up In Your Business Home PageAbout Kerry McCoy

Kerry interviews Rex Nelson, author and speaker

Listen to Learn:
  • How Rex got his start as a writer 
  • What he loves about Arkansas
  • His work in politics but always coming back to writing 
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Rex Nelson is one of the most high-profile writers and speakers in the state. As senior editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, he writes three columns a week and essays for the cover of the newspaper's Sunday Perspective section. He's the author of three books -- the first full-length biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton, a biography of Arkansas educator Ben Elrod and a collection of his essays on Arkansas. He's also the author of a popular blog known as Rex Nelson's Southern Fried and makes regular television and radio appearances.

Nelson served for almost a decade as the policy and communications director for Gov. Mike Huckabee and then served for four years in the administration of President George W. Bush as one of the president's two appointees to the Delta Regional Authority. He has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame. In 2016, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Rural Development Commission named Nelson as its Rural Advocate of the Year for the state of Arkansas. 

Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com

Behind The Scenes


Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com



[00:00:09] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners an insider’s view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk taking. Connect with Kerry through her candid, often funny, and always informative weekly blog. There, you’ll read, learn, and make comments about her life as a 21st century wife, mother, daughter and entrepreneur. Now, it’s time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.




[00:00:41] KM: Thank you, son. Joining me today is the Uber creative author, blogger, editor, local celeb and speaker, Mr. Rex Nelson. I knew I like this guy when I heard him say in his oration, I am paraphrasing, but I'm going to say what you sort of said which is, “I know a little bit about a lot of stuff. I'm about two miles wide and one inch deep.”


[00:01:06] RN: Perfect. That's exactly what I said.


[00:01:08] KM: That is a great metaphor. I can just completely understand. I think a lot of us are that way, actually. My guest today, Mr. Rex Nelson is one of the most high-profile writers and speakers in the state of Arkansas. Chances are you read some of his columns or essays in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. He is the author of three books. The first full length biography ever written about Hillary Rodham Clinton, another biography of Arkansas educator Ben L. Rod, past president of Washington Baptist University in Arkadelphia, and Rex's alma mater, and last a book with a collection of his essays on Arkansas, which I'm better funny, even though I haven't read them, but I bet they are, aren't they? Yes, he's nodding his head.


He's also the author of a popular blog, rexnelsonsouthernfried.com, which is really fun to read, and I recommend it to everyone. That's ricknelsonsouthernfried.com. Some interesting history about Rex. He's the past Policy and Communications directors for Governor Mike Huckabee. He was one of two appointees by President George W. Bush to the Delta Regional Authority. He has been inducted into the Arkansas sportscaster and sports writer Hall of Fame. And more recently, Governor Asa Hutchinson named Rex as Rural Advocate of the Year for the State of Arkansas. I don't know what that is, but we'll find out. It is a pleasure and an honor to welcome to the table the super interesting, Mr. Rex Nelson.


[00:02:31] RN: Kerry, thanks for having me. This will be fun.


[00:02:34] KM: You've got a lot of radio experience. You know how to like get up and switch chairs.


[00:02:38] RN: I'll let you host. I'll let you host. But I did start at a very young age. I always loved radio.


[00:02:44] KM: I know. What did you tell Tim when we came on? He said –


[00:02:46] RN: I was 13.


[00:02:48] KM: 13 years old?


[00:02:49] RN: Yeah, I grew up in Arkadelphia, and the campus station at Henderson State University, one of these two watch stations, only get around about half the town. But the station manager there was good friends with the mother of one of my best friends. And we were always acting like we're on the radio and recording shows. So, she talked him into giving us a show that we did every Friday afternoon, just like this, on Friday afternoons for two hours. And then within a couple of years, I had actually graduated to the commercial stations there in Arkadelphia, and worked there all the way through high school and all the way through college.


[00:03:28] KM: There's something to be said for growing up in a small town. Where else do you get to go on the radio at 13 and did a two-hour radio show with your best friend?


[00:03:36] RN: Absolutely. Small towns are great. When I was in college, I was – the opportunities it gives you. I was not only the sports director of KPRC KDL, which were the commercial stations there. FM, but I was the sports editor of the newspaper, The Daily Shiftings Herald. I remember one of my friends from out of state came in and they said, “Oh wait, let me get this right. If I go to an Arkadelphia high school football game, you're calling the game on the radio?” And I said, “Yeah.” Said, “If I pick up the paper, then it's your story about the game also.” And I said. “Yeah.” He said, “You don't get much buried opinion on sports in this town.” My opinion is the only one you need anyway.


[00:04:16] KM: And that still goes today. So, how old were you when you were doing that, 18?


[00:04:19] RN: Yeah. I started as a freshman. It was interesting, and that I had already gotten the job as sports editor of the paper, and I was going to be a color analyst for both the high school broadcast and the Ouachita broadcast as a college freshman. About two weeks before the season, the guy that I was going to do the game, the high school games with had a falling out with his stepmom –


[00:04:50] KM: On the radio station?


[00:04:51] RN: On the station, yeah. That the dad sided with his wife rather than his son and because he had to go home every night.


[00:04:58] KM: Right, good father, good husband.


[00:05:01] RN: The son left, and so the owner of the station called me in and said, “I want you to do play by play.” I said, “I'd love to.”


[00:05:08] KM: What game is this? Basketball?


[00:05:10] RN: This was football, high school football. I had actually been playing the year before. So, I went literally from having played the previous fall to doing the play by play. I did start the season on the college games doing color. And then my phone rang one day and a guy from Conway named Glenn Hoggard was doing the play by play, and the phone was kind of scratchy and I said, “Where are you Hoggard?” And he said, “I'm in Saudi Arabia.” And I said, “Saudi Arabia?” He was working for the Ward Bus company, you remember the old Ward Bus company?


[00:05:42] KM: Yeah, in Conway, Arkansas.


[00:05:45] RN: Ward had gotten a huge contract to sell buses to the Saudi government. This is still interesting to me, to take pilgrims to Mecca.


[00:05:54] KM: No way. Conway, Arkansas Ward bus –


[00:05:58] RN: The Saudi government was buying buses from them, the whole pilgrims. They have thousands and thousands of, obviously, Muslim pilgrims go into Mecca. So, he said, “I'm in Saudi Arabia, I'm going to miss the game today, you're going to have to play by play. In fact, I'm probably going to be spending most of the rest of the fall in Saudi Arabia, because this is a big account for us. So, you're going to have to end up doing the play by play.”


[00:06:18] KM: So, you were older when that happened? I mean, obviously, he's –


[00:06:20] RN: I was a freshman in college when that happened. He was older. This was another friend that I'd started with years before. But Glenn was older. And so, he was out of college. He was working full time, but was still going to do the play by play. But I ended up picking it up as a freshman and have done it, the years I'm in Arkansas ever since now. It's not continuous, because I live in Washington DC for part of the 1980s. But I have done it a total of 35 seasons. I've been the Ouachita play by play –


[00:06:53] KM: You still are?


[00:06:55] RN: Mm-hmm. This next season will make season number 36, good Lord, willing.


[00:07:00] KM: Aren’t they lucky to have you.


[00:07:01] RN: I enjoy it. It's fun. My wife knows that I'm going to be gone 11 weekends in the fall and she just expects it. I tell people, some people golf, some people play tennis, some people fish. I just have a weirder hobby. I do football games on the radio. I've gone for 11 consecutive weekends.


[00:07:20] KM: So, when you were 13 though, I got to find out what two 13-year-olds talk for two hours on the radio?


[00:07:24] RN: We played music too.


[00:07:29] KM: So, you went to OBU. You wrote a biography about a guy from OBU. Didn't you write a biography, your second one –


[00:07:37] RN: Who was a neighbor when he was the vice president of the school. And the school asked me to get involved in writing a story. And he's such a great leader in Arkansas history that ended up doing a story on Dr. Elrod, but that was a labor of love a few years.


[00:07:51] KM: Dr. Ben Elrod. What did you find interesting about him? He became a minister –


[00:07:57] RN: Absolutely. Just a great leader. He came back to Ouachita. He had gone and he'd been president of other schools. But he came back to Ouachita when Dan Grant who had been the president, when I was in school, retired and Dr. Elrod comes back and it was really kind of an uncertain time, because there was a big knock to get all often to that. But you may remember, there was kind of a big war inside the Arkansas Baptist state convention, and more moderates and Ouachita got caught in the middle of that. It took a man like Ben Elrod to really guide the school through that. And he was just the right man at the right time. One of the true mentors in my life, somebody I look up to.


[00:08:43] KM: That's a question I always ask people is who would you say was the most influential person in your life? Did you say it was Ben?


[00:08:50] RN: He's up there. There are others. I was really lucky and I've written about this to grow up in a college town. Arkadelphia, of course, has both Ouachita Baptist University and Henderson State University. And I realize you take it for granted when you're a kid. But I realize now that because it was a college town, I was exposed to things and we lived in a neighborhood. My dad was a businessman. He was not a faculty member at one of the schools, but most of the people in our neighborhood were.


So, if I had grown up, you know, up the road, one way in Malvern or down the road the other way, in Hope, for instance, I wouldn't have had this. But I grew up in a neighborhood with a well-known playwright, a theologian, a composer, then Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas, Bob Riley, who was a political science professor at Ouachita, a famous basketball coach that's now in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. I’ll around the neighborhood thinking of this and it was just this rich opportunity of all of these very bright people who are college professors and administrators –


[00:09:55] KM: Is Arkadelphia still like that?


[00:09:58] RN: To a large extent, yeah. I mean, it's a town with only 11,000 full time residents, but it's got 5,000 college students there. So, the colleges do dominate the economy there.


[00:10:10] KM: Yes. Your father was a small business owner, he had a sporting goods store. I guess this is why you love maybe your – maybe this is why you love sports, because he was – tell us what your father’s business was?


[00:10:26] RN: It was Southwest Sporting Goods still in business. We don't have any family ownership of it now, the Spites family owns that business. But my dad and my uncle had started that business back in the early 1950s. Basically, built it through the years, kind of like you built your business, Kerry. They became the top supplier to high schools and colleges around the state of athletic goods and that's still what they do. Now, they had a retail portion there that you could go into, but I would say probably 80% of the business was actually selling directly to schools, uniforms, balls, you name it.


[00:11:02] KM: That was a great place for him to live also, because you had two great customers right there.


[00:11:07] RN: Yeah. But he traveled the whole state. He and my uncle.


[00:11:10] KM: Did he travel with you?


[00:11:11] RN: Yeah, took a whole year, actually, and I think that's when I gained my love of traveling Arkansas. My birthday is September 2, and rather with school starting right then, rather being than being the youngest one in my first-grade class. My dad wanted me to be a little older, and so I tell people, I flunked kindergarten and had to go a second year. But rather than go into much kindergarten, and we had private kindergartens back then, Mrs. Butler for me, but rather than going to another year of kindergarten, actually traveled the state most of that year with him, and we'd go out on the road sometimes –


[00:11:11] KM: You were what? Five or six?


[00:11:51] RN: I was six.


[00:11:53] KM: What did you learn while you were traveling?


[00:11:55] RN: I just learned so much. I mean, early in the school year and late in the school year when it was warm enough, we'd stay at a Holiday Inn and a small-town boy, that’s a big deal. He'd let me swim in the pool, or we'd get out and we'd wait in the Caddo river. Caddo Gap, he’d stop along the way. How much better can you have than traveling with your dad around the state at that age?


[00:12:19] KM: Yeah, that is where you fell in love with Arkansas, probably.


[00:12:22] RN: Yeah. He went to every little school. A lot of them don't even exist anymore.


[00:12:26] KM: I think this is a great place to take a break. When we come back. We'll continue our conversation with Rex Nelson and I don't know what we're going to talk about because his knowledge is two miles wide and like he says, it's one inch deep. But we're going to talk on every kind of subject he loves, sports, barbecue, blues, politics, crop efficient horse racing, boxing, the Delta backroads and much, much more.




[00:12:51] ANNOUNCER: For decades, Kerry’s guest, Rex Nelson has been the play by play man for Ouachita Baptist football. And we thought since maybe you've never heard his play by play, and you've only heard him interviewed here and there, you'd like to hear a little of him calling the action.


[00:13:08] RN: Two wideouts to the right side, Spencer Knight goes in motion. Gab Kinner, big home for him, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25, 20, 15. So long! See you later Bulldog! Brought out over the 10, out over the 15, watch out, running room, 30, 35 hits the sideline, 40. It's going to go all the way if you didn’t stop the man. 20, 15, 10, 5, finally pull down at the one-yard line. Go back to the ground. They will, coming left and just walking into the endzone for the touchdown. On the yard line for Ouachita on second down, back to Kinner. Kinner rolls up and attacked on the 20. He's to the 15, he cuts the outside to the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Promise land!


[00:13:52] ANNOUNCER: We'll be back to the interview on today's Up In Your Business program in just a minute.


You're listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com.

Over 40 years ago, with only $400, Kerry founded Arkansas FlagandBanner. During the last four decades, the business has grown and changed starting with door to door sales, then telemarketing, to mail order and catalog sales. And now, flagandbanner.com relies heavily on the internet and live chats with customers all over the world.


Over this time, Kerry’s business and leadership knowledge has grown as early. As 2004, she began sharing her knowledge in her weekly blog. In 2009, she founded the nonprofit Friends of Dreamland Ballroom, and in 2014 Brave Magazine, a biannual publication. Today, she has branched out into podcasts, Facebook Live Stream, and YouTube videos of this radio show.


Each week, you'll hear candid conversations between her and her guests about real-world experiences on a variety of businesses and topics that we hope you'll find interesting and inspiring. Stay up to date by joining flagandbanner.com’s mailing list. You'll receive our water cooler weekly e-blast that notifies you of our upcoming guests, happenings at Dreamland Ballroom, sales at flagandbanner.com, access to Brave Magazine articles, and Kerry's current blog post. All that in one weekly email. Or you may simply like flagandbanner.com’s Facebook page for timely notifications, telling American made stories, selling American made flags, the flagandbanner.com. Back to you, Kerry.




[00:15:24] KM: You're listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with blogger, Mr. Rex Nelson, writer of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, and many, many more. We were talking about hives on the radio and before we jump into all the other things he loves, you are on the radio when the Miracle on Ice one.


[00:15:40] RN: Yeah.


[00:15:40] KM:  I just read that in your blog.


[00:15:43] RN: Yeah. And I had written my Democrat Gazette column about it a couple of Sundays ago. One of the most highly recruited high school basketball players ever to come out of Arkansas was a guy named Ricky Norton who ended up playing at the University of Arkansas. Ricky was from this tiny little Class B School Okolona High School. There is no longer an Okolona High School. There's no longer a Class B even in Arkansas classifications, but Ricky, senior year he is the first player in a long time, at least at the University of Kentucky, for instance, came in Arkansas went really hard afterward after.


So, we decided to do all of their postseason games, district tournament, regional tournament, state tournament, Okolona, the Arkadelphia stations because we were the closest town of any size, and I was going to do the play by play. So, I'm in an old WPA type gym down in Emmet Arkansas near Hope, and doing an Okolona basketball game in 1980. I can remember the guy back on the board and Arkadelphia was a guy named LD Hoover, and I'm sitting there and I got my headsets on and I hear LD break in. And he says, “Rex, I can remember this like it was yesterday.” He says, “There's probably never been a hockey score.” Because that one real big in Arkadelphia. He said, “There's probably never been a hockey score given on KVRC, but you might be interested in knowing that the United States just defeated the Soviet Union in hockey.”


[00:17:12] KM: Miracle on Ice.


[00:17:14] RN: Yeah, and that was the Miracle on Ice. I was doing basketball game in Emmet Arkansas that day.


[00:17:19] KM: Announcing the Miracle on Ice winning score. That's pretty cool. I think that's great. So, what subjects you want to talk about? Barbecue, politics? You know a lot about politics.


[00:17:27] RN: Wherever you want to go.


[00:17:29] KM: You are currently the senior editor for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Tell us about that and your favorite topic to write about. Obviously, you'd like writing about horse racing.


[00:17:40] RN: Yeah, you know, I'd work full time for the Democrat Gazette and the old Arkansas Democrat back when we both had a Democrat and a Gazette. My first job out of college –


[00:17:47] KM: You’re working for the Gazette or for the –


[00:17:49] RN: I’m the Democrat guy. I came and I was sports writer at the Democrat. I was later the assistant sports editor there and then they sent me to Washington, DC, and I was their Washington correspondent.


[00:17:59] KM: For sports?


[00:18:00] RN: No. I had made the switch from sports to politics.


[00:18:04] KM: Which do you like better?


[00:18:06] RN: I like both. I like both.


[00:18:08] KM: You like everything.


[00:18:10] RN: That's what my wife said. She says, “You would be an awful movie reviewer or restaurant reviewer because you just like too much.” I just know how to choose the good ones.


[00:18:23] KM: So, if people want to read your column in the Gazette. Where do they read it?


[00:18:25] RN: It appears every Wednesday on the voices page, which is opposite the editorial page. That's what we call our op ed page, the voices page. Every Wednesday, every Saturday and then on the editorial page, I’m the the lead columnist on Sundays on the editorial page.


[00:18:40] KM: That’s a lot of writing.


[00:18:40] RN: Three columns a week. I was just freelancing one column a week, but I'm doing three columns a week now. So, every Wednesday, every Saturday, and every Sunday, and then once a month, I do a longer essay that is the cover of the perspective section on Sundays.


[00:18:57] KM: Do they limit you to how many words you can write?


[00:18:57] RN: Yeah, you've got to you've got to length columns around 900 words or so. We go by inch counts in the newspaper business rather than word counts, which is about I have about 29 inches, column inches.


[00:19:10] KM: So, how many inches do you write a week?


[00:19:13] RN: Well, 29, 29 I got about 32 on Sunday, so about 90.


[00:19:19] KM: Does that take all week long to do?


[00:19:23] RN: This may have come from having started in sports. We had to write really fast because you're covering night events in your own deadline. I've always been a fast writer. So, I mean, what takes time and that's the fun part is going out in the state because I don't just sit and pontificate. I don't believe in doing that kind of column. That's just not me. So, going out in the state, gathering material, talking to people, that's what takes the time. The actual writing, I can write a column and write at two hours that's writing and editing.


[00:19:55] KM: But it’s the research and experience. Where do you decide to go and what do you decide to write on? Are you limited? Do they say you're only going to write about this. But it doesn't sound like. It sounds like you've got free rein to do what you want.


[00:20:07] RN: That’s the great thing about it, and I realize how lucky I am. I can write about anything I want to. When I was a political editor at the Democrat Gazette, when Mike Huckabee took office in ‘96, and I joined him over in the governor's office. And I thought it would be a short detour into government. And it ended up a couple years, go back to the newspaper business, see how that side works, ended up being 13 years. I worked in the governor's office for more than 9 years, then I worked in the Bush administration for 4 years. So, I was in government for 13 years. When I came out of government after 13 years, I thought I'd love to write again.


So, I called Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor at the Democrat Gazette at the time, said, “Paul, would you be open to having a weekly columnist?” And I guarantee you, having worked as their political editor, and then having worked in the governor's office, and then having worked in a presidential administration, they figured I'd write about politics. But I got to looking at that page, and there was so much dad gum politics on that page, I just thought I'd be another voice and maybe at least some of us as we get a little more, a little older, a little more experienced, maybe we get a little more humble. Because I was really thinking who really cares what I think about health care reform or anything else.


So, just kind of by osmosis, my niche kind of became Arkansas, for lack of a better term. I mean, I could write about national politics if I wanted to. They don't tell me what to write but I rather write about Arkansas, people, colorful characters, colorful places, Arkansas food, Arkansas music, Arkansas history, those tend to be what my columns are about.


[00:21:54] KM: I love how you're the top of your rexnelsonsouthernfried.com page talks about exactly all those things. It’s just a string and all those things you'd like to talk about. What's your favorite place in Arkansas?


[00:22:11] RN: My favorite place in Arkansas. Do I have to pick just one?


[00:22:16] KM: Isn’t Arkansas divided into – don't you think Arkansas has two completely different cultures?


[00:22:21] RN: Yeah. I think it probably has more than that. If I had to pick one place in Arkansas, because I so love those Saturday afternoons and I grew up a block from there.


[00:22:34] KM: Where?


[00:22:36] RN: It would be it would be the football field at Ouachita. Because I just so enjoy broadcasting college football games on Saturday afternoons.


[00:22:42] KM: That makes sense. Arkadelphia would be your favorite place. You love that down.


[00:22:46] RN: Yeah. So, I have let my two boys come and hopefully we're a long way off from that. But, you know, kind of my trademark is I described being a Baptist School. It's kind of a field. I described the endzone a lot of times to the Promised Land on play by play call. End of the promise land. So, I have been for my son's when my day comes, that's where I want my ashes scattered, in the end zone.


[00:23:11] KM: In the promise land.


[00:23:13] RN: At the Ouachita football field. You guys need sneak into the football field to scatter my ashes in the end zone.


[00:23:17] KM: I was going to say, there's rules against that. You can't just go spreading out your remains all over the place.


[00:23:22] RN: They know how to get in.


[00:23:24] KM: They know how to sneak and they know the back door. I mean, there is two different – there’s like the mountains of Arkansas.


[00:23:32] RN: But I would tell you that the Ouchita culture is very different than the Ozark culture even. So, we've got two mountain ranges in the state. I think those are different cultures, you’ll find.


[00:23:43] KM: Is Ouachita mountain range, is it true that it's the only mountain range that goes east to west?


[00:23:48] RN: It's one of the few. Yeah, one of the few.


[00:23:50] KM: So, tell our listeners what I'm talking about.


[00:23:53] RN: Well, I mean, mountain ranges, it can traditionally up north and south or east or west. Ozarks and Ouachitas are different in that sense. But I think, I can't really put a finger on it. But the people are different. The cultures different, from southwest Arkansas to Northwest Arkansas. On the mountain side of the state. Of course, you get over the Delta and it's really different. But you got Crowley's Ridge, this hill country running through the middle of the Delta, and it's a little different. So, I think we've got at least five or six cultures in Arkansas.


[00:24:27] KM: So, right now, what are you researching that you're thinking about writing about?


[00:24:30] RN: Well, I can tell you some I've already written because I try to stay about a week ahead, trying to revitalize Capitol Avenue in downtown Little Rock. Arkansas posts making about getting out in the state way down and Southeast Arkansas.


[00:24:45] KM: What's Arkansas post?


[00:24:46] RN: Arkansas post was the original territorial capital. It was the first settlement that the French settled in Arkansas when Arkansas became a territory in 1819. It was the territorial capital. The Arkansas Gazette was founded there. Oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi in 1819. And then the Capitol moved to Little Rock in 1821 and the Gazette moved with it to Little Rock in 1821. I always love the fact that when we had a separate Arkansas Gazette, their P O Box, was P O Box 1821. The year that it moved to Little Rock. I always just thought that was a nice touch.


[00:25:26] KM: You're just like a man of trivia.


[00:25:29] RN: Trivia. Yeah, it's I've got all kinds, nothing important. Just all kinds of worthless information floating.


[00:25:33] KM: Are you traveling right now in the backroads of Arkansas to somewhere?


[00:25:35] RN: Yeah, I was in Klamath down in the lower White River Country, which I love. I've never had been to the Lone Oak County Museum in Lone Oak, believe it or not, so I went to, poked around, had a barbecue sandwich at Craig’s in De Valls Bluff, my favorite barbecue place in the state.


[00:25:50] KM: So, there's another barbecue place that won the James Beard Award?


[00:25:57] RN: Jones, in Marianna.


[00:25:58] KM: You prefer Craig's over Jones?


[00:26:01] RN: I probably do and I'll admit my bias. Craig's as in Prairie County. My mother was from Prairie County. My grandparents, I’d spend large parts of the summers with them and we'd often road trip down De Valls Bluff and pick up barbecue. So, I was kind of raised on Craig's barbecue. But Mr. Jones puts out a mighty fine barbecue sandwich, too.


[00:26:22] KM: Well, he just puts it on white bread, on that square white bread.


[00:26:25] RN: You better get there early now, because after he won that Beard award, when he's out, he's out.


[00:26:30] KM: So, being a business woman, I went down there and sat in his parking lot after he won that a Beard award and went in there and got a barbecue and came out and sat in his parking lot and did the math on how many people went through there the day and how much his overhead was, and I figure he's got money buried all over the place. There's no way he's got an overhead at all.


[00:26:47] RN: No overhead. It's an old house. It's in a residential neighborhood.


[00:26:54] KM: What is he doing with all that money?


[00:26:57] RN: You need to ask him. Mr. Jones is man a few words, but he’s always been good to me.


[00:27:03] KM: Alright, it's time for us to take another break. We're at the bottom of the hour. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with super interesting and observant Rex Nelson. We'll hear more stories and get his opinion on more stuff. Maybe we'll talk about blues and politics and crappie fishing. We got lots of things we left off.




[00:27:20] AM: Arkansas FlagandBanner is proud to underwrite Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. McCoy began this broadcast with the intention of offering a mentoring platform for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. Through candid conversation and interesting interviews with business and community minded Arkansans, listeners gain insight into starting and running a business, the ups and downs of risk taking, and the commonalities of successful people.


Kerry McCoy, founder and president of Arkansas FlagandBanner, believes in paying knowledge and experience forward and developed this radio show as a means of doing so. The biographies, life experiences and wisdom of her guests would likely go unheard if not for this venue. Rarely do people open up for an hour to an audience about their life, mistakes, triumphs and pitfalls. This unique radio show allows the listener intimate access into the stories of prominent leaders in our state.


I am Adrienne McNally, manager at the Arkansas FlagandBanner showroom and gift shop located on the first floor of the historic Taborian Hall on the corner of 9th and State Streets in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. In business for 43 years, we offer an old school shopping experience with front door parking, clerks to help you, and department store variety, open to the public Monday through Friday, 8:00 to 5:30, and Saturday, 10:00 to 4:00.


[00:28:46] ANNOUNCER: On today's program, you've heard Kerry refer to Rex Nelson's sense of humor. Well, here's a little bit of it on display. This was at a roast of another guest on this program. David Bazzel as Rex Nelson introduces Governor Asa Hutchinson and others.


[00:29:04] RN: Governor, thank you for being with us tonight and the little class of this table. We needed that. We are proud to have you as our governor and we're delighted that you were elected to statewide office on only your 17th trial. Congratulations. It is really special up here tonight. Think about it, tonight on this one table, you get to see the handiwork of two of the great artisans in our state. The person who whitens David Bazzel’s teeth and the person who dyes Bill Vickery’s hair, all at the same table.


Oh, here's my old friend Keith Jackson. He deserts us for the University of Oklahoma and then we making the Razorback color analyst. Go figure. I can say one thing, however, Keith, Sooners and Razorbacks have one thing in common. We both hate taxes. So, we got that. I used to have one of those bumper stickers in my room when I was a kid. Remember those, “No Fruit sucks like the big orange of Texas.” And speaking of Razorbacks, there's big Joe from Slater Mo. I see Joe Klein these days, and I automatically think of barbecue. In fact, I think about favorite barbecue in Little Rock, Sam's.


[00:30:22] ANNOUNCER: Now back to Kerry McCoy on Up In Your Business.




[00:30:24] KM: You're listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with the blogger, Rex Nelson, writer for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. I never interviewed anybody that don't learn something from.


[00:30:34] RN: Interviewing is fun. I love interviewing people.


[00:30:36] KM: I love it. I'm an experiential learner. I don't like to read to learn, unlike you, you're a reader, reader reader. So, every time I have to interview somebody, I just learned all kinds of interesting stuff. You are an appointee by President George W. Bush to the Delta Regional Authority. What did you do? What does that mean? And what did you do?


[00:30:55] RN: The Delta Regional Authority –


[00:30:56] KM: And is it bigger than Arkansas?


[00:30:57] RN: It was one of the last bills – yes, it's parts of eight states. And it was one of the last bills that Bill Clinton signed before he left the White House in like 2000. He signed the bill creating the Delta Regional Authority. It's a federal state partnership, parts of eight states, including a large part of Arkansas. The governor's worked closely with two presidential appointees to kind of spur economic development in rural areas of those states that tend to have high poverty rates, that being most of eastern Arkansas.


[00:31:33] KM: Were you successful?


[00:31:35] RN: You never have enough money to do what you need to. I mean, we had some successes, but you're constantly frustrated because the needs are just so great, and the money so limited.


[00:31:44] KM: Why do people stay there?


[00:31:46] RN: Because it's home, because it's home, and they love it. I love the Arkansas Delta. It may come from the fact that my mother is from East Arkansas even though I grew up in southwest Arkansas. I mean, it's really an interesting area. But I think there's some potential for some good things to happen.


[00:32:03] KM: What does the past Policy and Communications Director for Governor Mike Huckabee do? Because you were also that. What do you do?


[00:32:11] RN: Well, I ran our communications operation, our policy shops. I had a number of people in the governor's office that reported to me. I was also one of the lead spokesmen for him to the media. So, I spent a lot of time dealing with the media.


[00:32:28] KM: You did press conferences?


[00:32:31] RN: Well, I mean, I returned a lot of phone calls and returned a lot of emails. I didn't do press – we don't do a press briefing, as such in a small state like Arkansas, like the White House does. I mean, people expect to be able to reach the governor personally in Arkansas.


[00:32:45] KM: How old was the current press secretary?


[00:32:49] RN: Sarah? She was 13 years old when I went to work for governor.


[00:32:54] KM: She's was going to grow up to be such a powerhouse.


[00:32:57] RN: She's always been smart.


[00:32:58] KM: So, she was bossing you around?


[00:33:01] RN: Maybe she learned a little bit from me, I don't know. You’d have to ask her that.


[00:33:05] KM: Oh, that's nice.


[00:33:07] RN: Her teenage years, but I work for dad, from when she was 13 to, I guess, she was 22.


[00:33:13] KM: Some interesting trivia about you. You were inducted into the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame, and you should be. But how did that come about?


[00:33:25] RN: They they called and said that they do a vote among their membership. And somehow, they had voted me in. I mean, they've got some big names through the years that have gone in there. But I guess, I got lucky. This thing's based in Conway, and Conway was what I refer to as an old AIC town. AICB in the old Arkansas, Intercollegiate Conference, which Ouachita on Henderson, in my hometown was in, and UCA and Hendricks used to be in the AIC.


So, I grew up writing about that conference a lot in broadcasting games in that conference. That probably gave me a little, among the people who are voting, gave me a little bit of an advantage.


[00:34:12] KM: Well, you deserve that. If you do anything long enough, somebody is going to recognize you someday.


[00:34:15] RN: You’re just staying around. You got to outlive them. You know the old saying.


[00:34:20] KM: Chris Rock said that he was a successful rock star just because all of his other friends that were on touring and playing music just decided that they were going to quit and go get a job and he said I just never did. I just kept going and kept going to finally one day I became a rock star. I just tried it so hard.


[00:34:31] RN: Just keep going and everybody else gives it up or dies or goes on to something else, staying with it long enough.


[00:34:39] KM: Hang with it long enough. More recently, Governor Asa Hutchinson named you the Rural Advocate of the Year for the State of Arkansas.


[00:34:50] RN: Well, I write about Rural Arkansas a lot. I talk about Rural Arkansas a lot. I travel Rural Arkansas a lot.


[00:34:57] KM: You love Rural Arkansas.


[00:34:58] RN: Absolutely. I was thinking yesterday afternoon, as I was driving again over in the Clarendon area how much fun I was having. I mean, that's listening to NCAA basketball on the radio, it was a beautiful day, couldn't have been prettier. Driving through that area of Arkansas Delta. My mind, they have a good time.


[00:35:17] KM: So, we've talked about where your favorite places which is naturally Arkadelphia and we've talked about your favorite hamburger, but he wouldn't commit, would he, Tim?


[00:35:27] T: Nope. I’m going to check out the sports page though.


[00:35:30] RN: Yeah, it's good. It's good.


[00:35:32] T: I've been to Buffalo grill. It's good.


[00:35:36] KM: Craig's barbecue, he liked for barbecue. Have you thought about fried chicken?


[00:35:44] RN: I think our strongest barbecue area is definitely East Arkansas. Our strongest fried chicken area is northwest Arkansas. I probably wouldn't surprise you. So, the old original AQ they're in Spring Hill, I still like it very much. One of our inductees into the Arkansas food hall of fame, the Venetian Inn out in Tante Town, their signature dish is fried chicken and spaghetti. It kind of mixes their Italian heritage with their Arkansas heritage, which is a great dish. So, I love Venetian Inn. And then there's an all you can eat fried chicken place out near Beaver Lake called the Monte Ne Inn and outside of Rogers. And so, my three favorite fried chicken places are probably up in that corner.


[00:36:31] KM: Do you write often about food?


[00:36:34] RN: I write about food, some.


[00:36:35] KM: You should be writing about food. You know a lot about it. You've been writing about the Riverfront Park or just about the revitalization of downtown Little Rock. It’s doing some fabulous things.


[00:36:46] RN: Well, thanks to people like you who've hung in there when the going was tough. And I mean that sincerely. And you're going to talk about your grant, right?


[00:36:54] KM: Yes, let's talk about it.


[00:36:57] RN: Go ahead. I'll interview you.


[00:36:59] KM: So, my son comes running down the hall at Arkansas FlagandBanner. This is the son I was pregnant with when I bought the Taborian Hall for $20,000. But honey, it was falling to the ground. Everybody said you're going to lose your money. My mother loaned me the money. My father handed it to me with a disgusted look on his face and said, “I'll never see that again.” And I thought, “Yes, you will. I'm going to play every dime of that back.” So, have you all ever noticed how these millennials are so socially conscious? They're like the greatest generation. I love them.


He wrote for a grant. And just no news, no news, no news. Well, finally he comes running down the hall. He's running in there and he's got something on his phone and he's trying to pull it up. And he's trying to put it on speakerphone and he's got a message. Somebody left him a voicemail. And I'm like, “What is wrong with him?” Finally, it comes on and it says, “This is the National Park Service calling to tell you, the Dreamland Ballroom has just received a $499,000 grant for an elevator.”


[00:38:01] RN: Wow.


[00:38:02] KM: It was shocking. They just left it on his phone, on his voicemail. French called me. He was out of town and he called me. He said that's just a perfect example of you just keep at it and work hard, and someday it will pay off, and that's just like you get in that Sports Hall of Fame Award. I mean, you just work. Everybody always asked what's the key to success and I'm like, “Don't ever quit.”


[00:38:26] RN: Just keep plugging.


[00:38:30] KM: We're going to take a call here. Hello, caller. You're listening Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. You're on the air.


[00:38:33] AR: Hey, Kerry McCoy. My name is Anne Rhodes. I am certainly enjoying your show today. I just wondered if you might ask your guest if Huffy had any influence with his great career?


[00:38:53] RN: My cousin, trying to put me on the spot. My dear cousin and she's trying to put me on the spot on the radio.


[00:38:59] AR: I didn't mention the matches, just Huffy.


[00:39:03] KM: Thank you, Anne.


[00:39:04] RN: We used to spend a lot of time together as kids.


[00:39:06] AR: Yes. He had a radio show, Kerry, back when he was probably about five or six.


[00:39:11] RN: An imaginary radio show.


[00:39:13] AR: We would get in trouble because we would hear his mother's heels digging in the hallway. Because we were supposed to be asleep, but I really think Huffy gave his career a boost.


[00:39:25] KM: What does Huffy mean?


[00:39:25] RN: It was an imaginary character. You know how you have imaginary characters.


[00:39:32] AR: I'll let you all get back to it.


[00:39:33] RN: Thanks Anne. Hope you all have a good weekend.


[00:39:35] AR: All right. Thank you. Bye-bye.


[00:39:37] KM: So, you were play, pretend playing at six years old to be on the radio?


[00:39:41] RN: Yeah.


[00:39:41] KM: You do love it. Why don't you call people like that, audio files?


[00:39:45] T: That's one of them, radio file.


[00:39:48] RN: I always love newspapers, too. I collected newspapers as a kid. So, my parents’ attic was the biggest firetrap in the south half of the state. I remember my dad saying, “Why can't you collect coins or stamps like other people because they're small. Newspapers are heavy.” Again, they became a big firetrap.


[00:40:06] KM: Do you still have them?


[00:40:08] RN: Actually, when my parents passed away, I thought about keeping that house. It took us forever. We had 50 years’ worth of stuff in there. My sister did yeoman's work of cleaning it out, and I ended up donating that newspaper collection to Ouachita. Basically, just because they were willing to come pick it up. You know how archivists are, “Don't throw away anything.” I thought, “Well, great.” And my wife gives me a hard time. She said, “Most people have to either throw stuff, or they have to rent a storage shed and pay for it out of their pocket. You somehow pawn your stuff off on your alma mater’s papers. They’d come and pick it up.” But I knew the head of the archives there.


[00:40:54] KM: I bet your house is like that too. Is it wall to wall with stuff you collect?


[00:40:56] RN: Ive got a lot of books, a lot of magazines, a lot of newspapers in the house too. Many, according to my wife.


[00:41:01] KM: So, before we went on, I asked you if you could not, not write.


[00:41:04] RN: No. And that's one reason I went back to full time writing. I had a very good job and left on good terms at Simmons bank. But I had this opportunity to become a full-time columnist and do three columns a week instead of one. I jumped at it. There are too many stories I want to tell around Arkansas and I was frayed. I'm careful how I say this. This almost sounds egotistical. But there are a lot of stories out there. If I didn't tell them, they weren't going to get told because other people –


[00:41:33] KM: That's exactly right.


[00:41:34] RN: Other people were writing about other things. I wanted those stories told.


[00:41:38] KM: That's exactly right. Yeah, I'm going to tell everybody we're listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I'm speaking today with author and blogger, Rex Nelson, writer of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. When he was talking earlier about when you left Simmons bank, you used to also be the Simmons first National Director of Communications, but you're not doing that anymore. You wrote the very first full-length biography on Hillary Rodham Clinton called The Hillary Factor. Talk about that.


[00:42:05] RN: Well, this is almost embarrassing too, because I remember. I'll tell you, I remember going to one of these writers’ conferences and all of these people who'd written you know, what they thought was the great American novel, and some of them had written nonfiction. So, they were all saying, “How do you get published? I've been turned down by 20 publishers. I've got this manuscript, I keep getting turned down.” And I almost felt embarrassed to tell them the truth. The truth was, I had a publisher, beg me to write something that I really didn't have time to do and didn't want to do and turned him down three times, and he kept calling, because I was political editor.


The Democrat is –Bill Clinton had just been elected, we were going from one full time person to three full time people in DC. I had to supervise all of them, help them get a new bureau set up, I was just busy. And this guy said, “Well, I was given your name.” And what he was looking for was a very fast biography. It's not anything, it's going to win a National Book Award. But a very fast biography of the new First Lady. Other people had done plenty on Bill, but they wanted something on Hillary.


So, I didn't even start till after the inauguration. I started the book in late January. I had to have 100,000 words to them, by the Fourth of July, or about July 1, I think –


[00:43:27] KM: In addition to your job.


[00:43:28] RN: In addition to my real job, and our first son was born during that time too, who I never saw. So, I would do the book. I was doing it from the newspaper office, because that's where all the files were. But I was doing the book late at night and on weekends, and I would go in about 7 every Sunday morning, working seven days a week, and work all day on Sunday, writing on this book. I can remember one Sunday, I was like this little kid that didn't want to go to schools, like I'm tired. I'll stay and watch football today. I can't go and my wife just pushed me out the door. She said, “You got to. You got to July 1st deadline. You got to have this thing done.” I think she'd probably already spent the advance any, so I did have to turn it in. I've gotten an advance and so that had probably already been spent. Anyway, somehow, I got it in by July 1st.


[00:44:23] KM: So, you like the book? Or you feel like it's thrown together and you'd like to redo it?


[00:44:28] RN: It was quickie. I mean, it was basically a straight – it didn't take. It's not pro Hillary. It's not anti-Hillary. It’s just a story of her life. Actually, one of my colleagues at the newspaper and again a colleague now that I've gone back full time again, after 21 years away. Philip Martin, who's an outstanding writer. Philip actually edited the book and wrote a great introduction to it. So, he was a great help on that, too.


[00:44:55] KM: Are you and the Clintons friends?


[00:44:56] RN: I wouldn't use the word friends, like everybody else. I know Bill better than I know Hillary because I covered him so much through the years.


[00:45:08] KM: You've also written collection of essays. I want to ask you in your book about Hillary, did you put anything in there about her mother haven't been made? You know that story. Very few people know this about Hillary Clinton’s mother.


[00:45:25] RN: No, I don't remember anything about Hillary –


[00:45:25] KM: Hillary Clinton’s mother was very poor. So, she was at around 14 or 15. She was a housemaid for a rich lady and the lady realized how smart she was and said, “If you can get all your housework done, I'll let you go to high school.” She let her go to high school. And then she graduated and did so good she ended up getting a scholarship and going to college. I've always wondered why Hillary has this unbelievable work ethic. I kind of think if you grew up with a mother, who was a housemaid, that got her work done and then went to high school and lived in a rich lady's home that your perception of life is maybe just a little bit different than the average American. Because I would never work as hard as these politicians work. Would you?


[00:46:18] RN: Exactly. No.


[00:46:20] KM: I don't understand them.


[00:46:20] RN: I do remember my two best interviews for that book. And because I had to do it so quickly, these were usually by telephone. But my two best interviews and the names escaping me right now. But it like the assistant pastor at the Methodist Church. She grew up in up in the Chicago suburbs, and he was the youth director. He was just wonderful. And then Vic Nicks and [inaudible 00:46:41] married Bill and Hillary and and still had vivid memories of all of that. He was great, too. So, interestingly enough, two pastors, two preachers were my two best interviews.


[00:46:53] KM: Well, I saw on your book cover, it said interviews with people that knew her and I figured that's what it’s mostly about, is just kind of reciting what other people told you in the interviews.


[00:47:03] RN: Absolutely.


[00:47:04] KM: That's pretty interesting.


[00:47:05] RN: Again, it was the first book about her. They've since been a bunch of hard covers –


[00:47:09] KM: That’s a big claim to fame.


[00:47:10] RN: But it was the first full length biography because they wanted his paper back, but they wanted it out there quickly.


[00:47:15] KM: That’s a good claim to fame.


[00:47:17] RN: The Hillary Factor came.


[00:47:18] KM: The Hillary Factor. What's next for you?


[00:47:21] RN: Oh, gosh, I have to keep grinding out columns right now. I'm having too much fun doing that.


[00:47:25] KM: What advice would you give yourself as a young man today? Knowing what you know, what advice would you give yourself?


[00:47:32] RN: As a young man?


[00:47:32] KM: As a young man.


[00:47:34] RN: Be a little more patient. I always wanted to move to the next level. I finished college even though I was having a great time and three and a half years instead of four. Be a little more patient to – now, I do sound like an old man, but to stop and smell the roses thing that we talk about. I was always ready to move on accomplish the next thing, and I've gotten a lot more patient too. Now, I can allow myself to drive slowly through East Arkansas and realize I'm being productive in my own way. Even though I might not be sitting at a computer writing copy at that point.


[00:48:10] KM: It's okay.


[00:48:12] RN: Absolutely. It is okay.


[00:48:13] KM: It is okay. It's hard to do that when you're an ambitious person. It's hard to tell yourself it's okay to stop and smell the roses. I think that's wisdom. Your legacy, I think, I already know what it is you're going to be telling the stories of Arkansas.


[00:48:27] RN: I've got a long way to go still to achieve that. But somebody once asked me they said, “How would you like to be known?” I still think of myself in my mind has been about 28 and I act about 18 according to my wife. Anyway, at some point and I've still got a long way to go, people would ask me, “What would you like to be known as?” I said, “Well, maybe this kind of Arkansas wise man, just as person that knows about Arkansas. Its people and kind of understands the state and what makes it tick. We're a unique place.”


[00:48:58] KM: We are a unique place. Everywhere that you talk about and write about is wonderful. And you know what, I think everything that you write is probably going to be in the Butler Center one day.


[00:49:10] RN: We'll see.


[00:49:12] KM: So, when I told my people at Arkansas FlagandBanner you were going to be on the air. Jeff Roper from the showroom said that you'd called and ordered a book that you forgot to pick up.


[00:49:21] RN: Oh, my gosh, I did forget to pick up. I’ve got to pay for it, too.


[00:49:24] KM: No, not. It’s your gift. It’s been signed by all the people –


[00:49:29] RN: Jeff, he sent me that, and that, and I did forget. Oh, my god.


[00:49:33] KM: That's the other thing about getting older.


[00:49:34] RN: Now, I’m embarrassed. You’ve embarrassed me like my cousin did earlier. I'll be back next week to get that, but that's been several months ago.


[00:49:42] KM: He said, “Oh, Rex has got a book I've been saving for him here.” So, thank you for coming on the show. For all of our listeners, it's a recipe and perpetuity, the timeless tastes and tales from the residents and the future residents of the Mountain Holly Cemetery. It's a great book. It's a great cookbook.


[00:49:59] RN: Yeah. Absolutely. Thank you. I will treasure this.


[00:50:01] KM: Good. I think that's the last one I have, too. I think you got the sound one.


[00:50:06] RN: Thank you.


[00:50:06] KM: And finally, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with me. If you think this program has been about you, you're right. It's also been for me, thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny. My hope today is that you've heard or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening and that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence or your life. I'm Kerry McCoy and I'll see you next time on Up In Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.




[00:52:14] GM: You've been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagand banner.com, select radio and choose today's guest. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Subscribe to podcasts wherever you'd like to listen. Kerry's goal is simple, to help you live the American dream.



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