The Doctors Dunaway: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

One cannot look back at Conway and Faulkner County history very long without seeing the name Dunaway. The family has been in the area for generations. John Dunaway was a store clerk, a public school teacher and owned a wagon yard in Conway. He was a delegate to the Arkansas Constitutional Convention and served as a State Senator (1886-1890).

John moved to Conway to make sure his eight children got a good education. His two daughters both attended Central Baptist College for Women. Among his six sons there was a doctor, two lawyers, a teacher, a businessman and a journalist.

Louis Sharpe Dunaway, John’s third son, was a well-known newspaperman and author. He was remembered for his astute political observations and the curious private zoo he kept. He and his wife, Lela, were also the parents of the first Dunaway doctor in Conway.

Dr. Louis Sharpe Dunaway, Jr. graduated from Conway schools and ASTC (now UCA). He taught school for two years in Arkansas City before going to the UA Medical School where he graduated in 1929.

Dr. Dunaway then opened a practice in Conway, specializing in obstetrics. “Doc,” as most people called him, would deliver thousands of babies in Faulkner County. He was known for his kindness and patience. Like many doctors of that era, he tended to his patients’ emotional and mental health as well as their physical health.

In 1939, “Doc” Dunaway invited his first cousin, Dr. Ed Dunaway, to join him in his practice. Ed was born in Bee Branch but his father, Oscar, served as a school superintendent in Texarkana, Prescott and Hot Springs before the family moved back to Conway in 1921.

Oscar was a nationally-known leader in the Christadelphian faith and founded the Martinville Bible School. Oscar’s five children, Ed, William, Oscar, Jr., Arthur and Margaret, all graduated college in Conway—three from Hendrix and two from ASTC.

Ed Dunaway graduated from Conway High School in 1924 and Hendrix in 1928. He was an outstanding basketball and football player in both high school and college. He also played baseball and ran track in high school. He earned all-state honors as a Hendrix forward all four years and held the school record for the most points scored during a college career until 1978.

After college, Ed was a high school coach for five years, coaching at Helena, Conway and Texarkana (Arkansas). While coaching football and basketball at Conway and Texarkana, he also earned a master’s degree in economics at UT Austin.

Ed then decided to become a doctor, entering the UA School of Medicine in Little Rock in 1934. He worked his way through by managing the bookstore there and in 1938, he received his medical degree. He then interned at Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock.

After quitting coaching and during the early part of his medical career, Dr. Ed continued to be involved in athletics. He served as a football official, working both Arkansas collegiate and Southwest Conference games. He assisted several athletes in attending college and was a close friend of the UA coaches. He was also a charter member of the Conway Razorback Club.

The Dunaway medical offices were located in the Halter Building with Dr. W.L. Brittain before World War II. The partnership ended when both Dunaways joined the Army in 1942. During the time they were gone, Dr. Brittain passed away. After the war, the Dunaways returned to practice together. Patients just climbed the stairs to sit down and wait their turn.

Two years after his discharge, “Doc” Dunaway was diagnosed with cancer. He went twice for radiation treatments in New York but passed away in September, 1946. Dr. Ed Dunaway continued the practice in the Halter building until he built the Conway Medical Clinic on Locust Avenue in 1955. Dr. Charles Archer and Dr. John Sneed, Jr., an ophthalmologist, joined him there.

Dr. Ed Dunaway was also a noted civic and business leader in Conway. He served three terms on the Conway School District Board of Education. He was on the board during the time the district made many of its most extensive improvements in physical properties. He was also a leader in the campaign to create Lake Conway. As a founder of Security Savings and Loan, he was one of its largest stockholders, serving as its president until his death.

Dr. Ed Dunaway’s extensive practice included both Faulkner and Van Buren counties. He practiced medicine for 35 years. He went into semi-retirement in 1972 before ending his medical career in 1974. In 1975, he died of cancer after a long fight that included trips to the Mayo Clinic for over a year.