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Newport Independent - Newport, AR
  • John Fortenberry

  • John Fortenberry of Little Rock, died Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012.
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  • Fortenberry, 85 years old, was born in San Diego, Calif., Aug. 22, 1927. Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Maxine Beaty Fortenberry; and two sons and their families:  David Fortenberry, his wife, Karen A. Fortenberry, two daughters, Anna Fortenberry and fiancé Bradley Williams of Dallas, Texas, and Katie Peek and husband, Hamilton Peek, of Little Rock; Don Fortenberry, his wife, Melody A. Fortenberry, and their daughter, Megan, and son, Eric, all of Dallas, Texas.  He is also survived by great-grandchildren, Hunt Williams and Kennedy Peek.
    Fortenberry’s parents, who preceded him in death, were James Elmer and Nellie Steward Fortenberry. John’s brother, David James Fortenberry and his wife, Ocie Bolden Fortenberry, and two daughters, Linda and Susan, and John’s mother died in an explosion at their home in North Little Rock Dec. 27, 1966.
    John Fortenberry was preceded in death by his first cousin, Olwyn Green Shields, of El Cajon, Calif.. Mrs. Shields’ husband, Gordon Shields, and their children, Susan Shields McKeown, Valerie Shields and Scott Shields and his family, all of California, survive him.  
    Fortenberry was a member of an Arkansas pioneer family settling in Lawrence County in the early 1800's.  With his wife, Maxine, he was co-author of a comprehensive history of the Fortenberry family.  The book, The Fortenberry Family in Arkansas, published in 1997 was accepted for the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.  It can also be found in the Mormon Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and several libraries in Northeast Arkansas, the archives at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the Central Arkansas Library and the Arkansas History Library in Little Rock.
    In 1931 John Fortenberry’s family moved from California to Diaz, in Jackson County.  After graduation from Newport High School he served for a year in the U.S. Navy during World War II.  
    Fortenberry had a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and a Master of Science in Education degree from Arkansas State University, Jonesboro.   He had 33 additional post-graduate hours from Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn. and the University of Arkansas Graduate Center in Little Rock.  Over the years he earned more hours at workshops and institutes at Columbia University in New York City, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas and Stanford University in California.
    While carrying a full load at the University of Arkansas in 1949, John Fortenberry started his 40-year career in education in Arkansas. He taught two and one-half years as band director and teacher at West Fork Public Schools near Fayetteville.
    From 1951-1962 Fortenberry served in the Jonesboro Public Schools. He was band director at Annie Camp Junior High School, principal at Annie Camp, and served as assistant superintendent of the Jonesboro School System.  Also, he was an instructor in the adult education program for veterans.   
    Page 2 of 3 - From 1962-1979 Fortenberry was Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction of the Little Rock Public Schools. During this time he organized and initiated numerous school programs. He provided the leadership for all elementary and junior high schools to be accredited by the North Central Association of Schools. Other programs included compensatory education, an in-service program for teachers, implementation of the middle school curriculum and the organization of self-contained elementary libraries.  He started the educational radio program (Station KLRE) and revived the long dormant string music program in 1965. He coordinated the school-to-school program in Bolivia and Germany in conjunction with the U.S. State Department for 14 years.  
    In 1979 Fortenberry returned to Jonesboro as Superintendent of Schools.  During his tenure a millage was passed and plans completed for a new Annie Camp Junior High School facility.  
    After retirement from the Jonesboro Schools, Fortenberry was named administrator of IMPAC, a new program initiated by Governor Bill Clinton and businessmen Mack McLarty and Walter Smiley to place computers in the public schools of Arkansas, develop educational software and train classroom teachers to use computers in the instructional program.  
    Fortenberry was a leader in professional education organizations and in the development of educational programs in Arkansas.  He served as president of the Arkansas Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and for a number of years was Chairman of the Curriculum Advisory Committee for Arkansas Educational Television (AETN).  
    Other organizations in which John Fortenberry was active included the state and national Association of School Administrators, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators and Arkansas Council for Economic Education.  He was a member of Arkansas Foreign Language Council, American Association of International Education, International Reading Association and Kappa Delta Pi.  Fortenberry was a program participant at numerous educational conferences including the Bi-National School Administration Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1967.  
    Fortenberry remained active in his retirement years. Since 1992 he was active in the Arkansas Retired Teachers Association serving in various capacities on the Board including president of the association in 1997-98.  Since January 1996 he has been a volunteer computer instructor of SeniorNet, a program for senior citizens at UAMS Institute on Aging. Fortenberry served as vice-chairman, board member and chairman of Little Rock SeniorNet.  In August 1999 Fortenberry was appointed to serve a one-year unexpired term on the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System Board of Trustees, and was subsequently elected to two six-year terms on the ATRS Board.  He served for two years as board chairman.  He also served as a director of the Retired Teacher Housing Board.
    John Fortenberry with his wife, Maxine, did a great deal of traveling.  They visited some of the great sight-seeing destinations of this country and abroad in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, South America and Europe.  During two of their six trips to Europe they attended the Great Passion Play at Oberammergau in Germany.  In 1990 they took a two-months journey that traversed Europe from western Wales to Greece and Istanbul, Turkey.
    Page 3 of 3 - John Fortenberry was reared as an Episcopalian.  He joined Central Methodist Church in Fayetteville in 1949.  Having been an active Methodist since that time including 47 years at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, John Fortenberry served in various capacities including member and vice-president of the Administrative Board of the church, chairman of the Commission on Education and of the Council on Ministries, teacher and leader in the Sunday School and served several years in the television ministry from its beginning under the leadership of Dr. James B. Argue.
    A Memorial Service was held at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church with Rev. Britt Skarda officiating Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 at 11 a.m. followed by a reception.  A graveside service was held at Walnut Grove Cemetery at Newport, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 at 3 p.m.  Arrangements are by Roller-Chenal Funeral Home.
    Memorial gifts may be made to Arkansas Retired Teachers Association Scholarship Fund, Parkview Towers, 1200 Commerce, Little Rock, AR 72202, or to Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church Endowment Fund, 4823 Woodlawn Drive, Little Rock, AR 72205.     
    Online guestbook: www.rollerfuneralhomes.com/chenal.
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