LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Family and friends are mourning the loss of former Arkansas State Senator Roy C. “Bill” Lewellen. His family says he died from respiratory distress on Tuesday, but the legacy he leaves behind will be forever remembered. 

Lewellen’s daughter Adrienne Lewellen says he was a great dad and her best friend.

“I remember every milestone because I was right there with him,” Lewellen said.

She said he died at 71 years old from respiratory distress because he had difficulty breathing. 

Adrienne goes on to say he left behind many accomplishments like becoming the second African-American to serve in the Arkansas Senate in the 20th Century.

According to the, Lewellen was from Marianna and represented eastern Arkansas for 10 years in the Senate, from 1991 through 2000.

Grant Tennille is the Chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, he said Lewellen “saw, lived and endured a lot.” 

Tennille said when he was a young reporter covering politics, Lewellen was always a huge help. 

“As a young reporter he was one of the people I would go to and say ‘hey explain this to me,” Tennille said. 

Tennille adds that when Lewellen was the sponsor of the law that created the Minority Health Commission in Arkansas, it was personal for him. 

“That’s an organization that he knew from where he lived that was critical. The health disparities partially among minority populations in rural areas are off the chart,” Tennille explained. 

In 1992, Lewellen served as an attorney for the Lake View School District in their fight for an “equitable and efficient” public school system. 

At the time Lewellen said, “The only way that we are going to be able to treat our children fairly and make sure all the districts receive proper funding, is that we do a constitutional amendment and take it out of the hands of the legislator.”

After leaving the Senate, Lewellen remained active and an advocate for small rural school districts.

Lewellen’s daughter says her father’s legacy should show anyone can make an impact no matter what community you grew up in. 

“Don’t allow where you come from to stop you from doing what you want to do,” said Lewellen. 

She says she remembers her dad as a loving grandfather to 6 of his grandkids and her favorite dance partner. 

“The night before he died I made sure we played that song (their favorite song) and I took his hand and I danced with him,” said Lewellen.  

She says Lewellen’s funeral will be on April 8th at noon held in the Lee Senior High School in Marianna.