Dr. Roger Browning Bost died early Tuesday morning, November 19, 2013 at his home in Little Rock. He was surrounded by his wife and children. He was born on October 28, 1921 in Clarksville, Arkansas to Fae Browning Bost and Roger Samuel Bost. He was a descendant of Captain John Browning who first came to Jamestown, Virginia in 1620 as the captain of the ship Abigail. Captain Browning made four more trips across the Atlantic bringing his family with him on his fifth and final voyage. Dr. Bost's father's family came to Arkansas in 1832 from Hickory, North Carolina on the same wagon train with the ancestors of his wife, Kathryn King Bost.
He grew up in Clarksville, going to school each morning and then working in the family drug store until it closed each night. His father was an early graduate of the University of Arkansas School of Pharmacy. Dr. Bost was in the same grade and class as his future wife, who was generally appalled by his mischievous behavior. He attended the University of Arkansas where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. He returned to Clarksville to court his childhood classmate Kathryn King and attended the College of the Ozarks. After 3 years of college, he was admitted to the U of A School of Medicine, which he also completed in 3 years. In 1944, he married Kathryn King. He and his bride made their first home at 913 Welch, the medical school being housed in the current Bowen Law School building in MacArthur Park. He served in the U.S. Navy, being stationed at Corpus Christi, TX until the end of World War II and then in Fayetteville, AR at the Veterans Administration.
Upon discharge from the Navy, he was accepted into pediatric residency at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, where he received the Bagby Award for outstanding first year resident and became a member of the Duke faculty. In 1951, he and his family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. He became Senior Staff Pediatrician at Oschner Clinic, assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Tulane University, and Senior Staff Pediatrician at Charity Hospital. In 1953, he became critically ill with a bleeding gastric ulcer. He had a radical gastrectomy, resulting in the small stature for which he was so recognized. Prior to that, he had been surprisingly robust.
In 1954, he decided to return to Arkansas because of his gnawing concern for the woefully unmet health needs of those in his home state, setting his compass to remedy as many of those deficits as he was able. He began that work not only by opening the third pediatric practice in the state, but also the first physician in Fort Smith to offer only one waiting room for all of his patients, regardless of race. One of his gnawing concerns was for the plight of disabled children--physically, mentally, and emotionally. He set to work to create programs for them that would not only bring them out of seclusion, but also offer them a quality of life that could bring them the dignity he felt they deserved. He cultivated both medical and community support to open simultaneously a Child Family Guidance Center to treat emotional and behavioral problems and a day School for Limited Children for the developmentally disabled. When he endeavored to seek for the inclusion of the educable developmentally disabled in the public school system, the superintendent refused. Dr. Bost responded by running for the Fort Smith School Board, becoming its president within 2 years. The Fort Smith Public Schools were the first in the state to allow the developmentally disabled and institute special education classrooms. Dr. Bost also oversaw racial desegregation during his tenure on the school board. The Sebastian County Child Family Guidance Center has grown to become the Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center, offering comprehensive behavioral services in seven locations. The School for Limited Children was later named the Roger B. Bost School for Limited Children in honor of Dr. Bost's untiring efforts on behalf of the developmentally disabled. BOST, Inc., as it is currently known, has been a source of deep honor, gratitude, and joy for Dr. Bost, as it grew into a thriving facility serving over 700 men, women, and children in 34 counties. The people of Fort Smith have supported it into becoming a premier facility, empowering those with disabilities and their families to achieve greater independence by providing lifelong choices, support, and learning and living opportunities.
In 1965, Dr. Bost had another gnawing desire to broaden his public health horizons and moved his family to Little Rock, joining the faculty of the UAMS College of Medicine as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics. He continued his work with disabled children, becoming the Administrator and Medical Director of the Crippled Children's Hospital. It was on the verge of having to close. Once again, he found a solution. He broadened its services to include outpatient pediatric care and facilitated Arkansas Children's Hospital becoming the pediatric arm of UAMS, moving all the pediatric patients to ACH, staffing it with the physicians of the Pediatrics Department, and funding it through UAMS. Since that time, through efforts of countless gifted and dedicated people, ACH has grown to become one of the top ten children's hospitals in the country, with 370 beds and a staff of 500 physicians in every sub-specialty.
In 1971, his long-time friend and newly-elected Governor Dale Bumpers asked Dr. Bost to serve in his administration and cabinet. Together, they created the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, today known as the Department of Human Services. It brought together for better coordination and oversight the Welfare Department, Juvenile Services, Mental Health, Rehabilitation Services, Crippled Children's Services, and Developmental Disabilities, among others. Under his tenure during the Bumpers and David Pryor Administrations, the state Medicaid program became a real resource for development of medical services, growing from $10 million per year to $126 million per year. Federal support for community programs to help physically and mentally disabled persons was increased from less than $1 million per year to more than $25 million per year. He oversaw the creation of community mental health centers throughout the state, and the inception of prescription drug coverage through Medicaid funds. His nemesis during legislative battles, Sen. Guy "Mutt" Jones, said that for such a runt of a man, he was ninety percent backbone.
In 1975, he left the political arena, returning to UAMS as Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Dean of the College of Medicine. He was handed another plaguing medical void to tackle--the lack of fundamental health services in rural Arkansas. He designed a program to address it beginning in 1976: Area Health Education Centers. He identified cities throughout the state and cultivated support for the centers with local medical and community leaders reminiscent of what he did in Fort Smith.
A seminal event occurred shortly thereafter that illustrates his commitment to UAMS and the health needs of the people of Arkansas. Upon the retirement of Dr. Win Shorey, Chancellor of UAMS, Dr. Bost was nominated to become the next Chancellor. The search committee narrowed the nominees down to two and submitted Dr. Bost's name as well as Dr. Harry Ward to U of A President Charles E. Bishop. He informed Dr. Bost that he would announce his selection before the Legislature on the floor of the House and to attend. Dr. Bishop named Dr. Ward the new Chancellor. Staying true to his goals in spite of his disappointment, Dr. Bost took Dr. Ward under his wing, escorted him throughout the state, introducing him to all of his political, medical, and civic contacts, laying the foundation for Dr. Ward to utilize them and create unprecedented funding and support for UAMS. Dr. Bost and Dr. Ward became the best of friends.
In 1984, Dr. Bost returned to his first love, the practice of pediatrics at Children's Hospital. He took on one more problem: inadequate outpatient general pediatric care. He devoted himself to the development of the Children's Care Center at ACH, modeling it after private pediatric clinics, like the one he built in Fort Smith, where patients could call and make an appointment, see the same physician, and build relationships with their pediatric care provider. He retired from there, although it took him three attempts to do so. Some time later, he was asked to return to instruct junior medical students in the art of physical examination and diagnosis, but he regretfully declined. He couldn't take that time away from his golf game.
Even though Dr. Bost had a long and satisfying professional career, his essence and spirit was so much more than that. He touched the lives of innumerable people in such tender ways. He was always available to make a house call, no matter the time of day or night, or the neighborhood. He was a storied diagnostician of children, long before the battery of tests available today, simply by using his fingers and his intuition. He loved dogs, pocket knives, hats, picking fruit, the Arkansas Razorbacks, and the St. Louis Cardinals, and he never went anywhere without an apple and peanut butter crackers. He was a faithful Christian in addition to being a devout Democrat. One of his most prized moments was getting to challenge Mr. Kenneth Starr during a question-and-answer session at his West Little Rock Rotary Club meeting regarding Mr. Starr's relentless investigation of Arkansas. Dr. Bost's question was the first one, and Mr. Starr did not take any after his.
Dr. Bost received countless awards and honors, among them the Bagby Award at Duke, the Golden Deeds Award from the Fort Smith Exchange Club, Professor Honorario for Universidad Mayor De San Simon of Cochabamba, Bolivia, Citation for Outstanding Service from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Alpha Omega Alpha honor Medical Society, University of the Ozarks Alumni Achievement Award, honorary doctorate, and lifetime Board of Trustees member, and the Roger Bost Distinguished Professorship of Chemistry at the University of Arkansas--Fayetteville, endowed by Mr. and Mrs. Jackson T. Stephens. He was appointed Professor Emeritus in the Department of Pediatrics at UAMS and ACH in April 1992, was inducted into the Inaugural Hall of Fame in the UAMS College of Medicine in 2004, and given the Betty A. Lowe Award from ACH in 2007 for his significant contributions to the health and well-being of the children of Arkansas.
He will be missed and celebrated by his wife of 69 years, Kathryn, his children, Dr. Kingsley Bost of Poplar Bluff, MO and his wife Linda, Becky Tucker of Little Rock and her husband, Rett, Margaret Faulkner of Little Rock and her husband, Gary, Virginia Berner of Russellville and her husband, Dennis, and Kevin Gao of New York City and his wife Jeanne; his grandchildren, Andrew Faulkner and his wife Jenny, Kathryn Tucker, Adam Faulkner and his wife Stacey, Dr. Keith Berner and his wife Cara Couch, Kyle Bost, Clarke Tucker and his wife Toni, Dean Berner, Betsy Abbott and her husband Matt, Dr. Gary Berner and his wife Ryan, Roger Cody Bost, and Sophia and Audrey Gao; and his great grandchildren, Libby Faulkner, Ava Faulkner, Ellis Tucker, Kate Faulkner, Crews Faulkner, John Berner, and Mari Francis Tucker. He leaves a host of students, patients, friends, and recipients of his generosity who contacted him frequently until he could no longer receive them. The Bost family would like to thank his special attendant Elmer Goins for his tender, loving care, UAMS Hospice and the Reynolds Center, and all of his friends at Woodland Heights who kept vigil during his final days.
The funeral service will be Thursday, November 21 at 10:00 a.m. at St. James United Methodist Church followed by burial at Oakland Cemetery in Clarksville at 3:00 p.m. He endured a long and devastating illness, but the giant spirit housed in the small man is now free. The gentle touch of his healing hands will be forever missed. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Arkansas Children's Hospital, #1 Children's Way, Little Rock, Arkansas 72202, or Bost Foundation (for developmentally disabled children), 1801 S. 74th St., Fort Smith, Arkansas 72903.
Arrangements by Little Rock Funeral Home, 8801 Knoedl Ct, Little Rock, AR 72205 (501) 224-2200. (NW Corner of I-630 and Barrow Rd. Dr. Bost's online guest book may be signed at www.littlerockfuneralhome.com.