Conway Regional Medical Park: “Looking Back”

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

In 1999, Conway Regional Health Foundation, Dr. Mitch Collins and Nabholz Properties co-developed the Conway Regional Medical Park. They named the various medical buildings in the complex after several prominent doctors who served Conway and Faulkner County. Today’s column sketches some of the accomplishments of these doctors.

Dr. Sam V. Daniel (1930-2005) opened a medical clinic in 1959 above Baker Drug on Front Street. Born in Marshall, Arkansas, he was an Air Force veteran. In 1965, he opened up a new clinic on Locust Street. He was the first doctor to serve on the Conway Memorial board of directors, serving from 1968 to 1983. He served as chairman of the board from 1975 until 1982, playing a major role in guiding the growth of that facility. He retired in 1991 after 31 years in practice.

Dr. Fred Gordy, Jr. (1919-2001) began practicing medicine in Conway after his discharge from the Army at the end of World War II. Although his family was from Conway, his father, Fred Sr., was working in Georgia when he was born. His father was a brother to President Jimmy Carter’s grandfather, Jim Jack Carter. The family would move back to Conway and Fred Sr. would become the manager of Conway Corporation.

Fred, Jr. graduated from Conway High and attended Virginia Military Institute before graduating from ASTC (now UCA). He graduated from UAMS in 1944 and then interned in the Columbus, Georgia city hospital before joining the military. Commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Army Medical Corps, he received specialized training in anesthesia during his time in the military.

When Gordy returned to Conway after the war, he joined the practice of his brother-in-law, Dr. Ed Dunaway, in the Halter Building. He was a general practitioner, surgeon and anesthesiologist as well as delivering some 6,000 babies (including myself) during his 45 years in practice. He later built his own clinic on Locust which he shared with Dr. Jerry Park, Optometrist. Although he closed that practice in 1991, he continued to help others find healing for years afterward.

In 1965, Dr. Ed Dunaway and Dr. Bob Benafield invited Dr. Doug Poindexter and his wife, Dr. Ann Robbins Poindexter, to come to Conway. Dr. Doug Poindexter joined the team of doctors at the Conway Clinic while Dr. Ann Poindexter became the resident physician at the Arkansas Children’s Colony. She was also on the faculty at UAMS.

Dr. Ann Poindexter, a native of Conway, was the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Joe G. Robbins. She graduated Conway High and Hendrix before getting her medical degree. She was an instructor at Emory University Medical School before she returned to Conway.

Dr. Robert L. Taylor (1906-1999) practiced medicine in Conway for 54 years. Born in Perryville, he graduated UAMS in 1934 and trained as a specialist in Brooklyn, New York. After World War II, he set up practice on Parkway Avenue where the Municipal Court meets today. In 1965, his nephew, Dr. Robert L. Clark, joined him at the clinic.

Dr. Taylor still made house calls even as Conway became more modern. He also was a farmer, owning 2,000 acres in Bigelow and Houston. He lived in a two-story white house on Robinson Avenue. Some may remember seeing the house in the movie, “9/30/55,” that was filmed in Conway. Today Conway Regional offices are located there.

Although there have not been any buildings named for them yet, there are other notable doctors who practiced medicine in Conway. Dr. Charles A. Archer, Jr. (1912-1995) moved to Conway in the 1940s and was associated with Dr. Ed Dunaway and later, Dr. Bob Benafield, at the Conway Clinic. In the late 1960s, he set up an office at his home beside the First Presbyterian Church on Caldwell. He was a cousin to Dr. James Flanagin, Sr., a long-time Conway dentist.

Dr. Bob Benafield (1932-1996) was also a well-known doctor who practiced medicine at the Conway Clinic for 11 years before becoming a medical director for Arkansas Blue Cross/Blue Shield in the mid-1970s. He was a graduate of Hendrix College and UAMS. He and his wife, the former Helen Speaker, made their home in Conway where she still resides.

Benafield served as coroner from 1963 to 1965 after the sudden death of Robert A. McNutt. He also was the campaign manager for Stanley Russ in his first bid for state representative in 1974. Dr. Benafield retired in 1992 and passed away in 1996 after a long illness.

Conway and Faulkner County have been blessed with many fine doctors who also serve as community leaders. They have contributed greatly to the growth and development of the area.

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