The Story of 2018’s Man and Woman of the Year: Phillip Brown and Bridget Hendrix

Editor’s Note:

There’s something about first impressions. They stick like glue. When Independent Editor Gina Slagley called me and asked about the current nominations for Man and Woman of the Year, I was thrilled. And then the memories flooded my mind.

I did not know Phillip Brown when IMAD began to gain attention. I asked a mutual friend to introduce us. Phillip walked into my office with what I thought was a chip on his shoulder, but those thoughts soon melted away when he settled himself into a chair and shamelessly let his emotions pour out over the children in our community. We would have lunch later that week at a local restaurant and he would weep openly as he relayed a story demonstrating the needs for people to care. I instantly became a firm supporter of IMAD and all it stands for.

I knew Bridget as a staunch, hard-working woman with a touch of an attitude, of course she was a police officer, but how wrong I was. Having been raised in Newport, I knew her mom, Jean Hendrix, because who didn’t know her, and had seen her around. I never got to know Bridget, though, until after I had the pleasure of assisting her sister through Red Cross when they had a fire in their home. During our first conversation outside of a local hotel where they would stay until their home could be cleaned, Hendrix looked at me and said, “I have a job to do. I’m coming home to do it.” Since that day, I’ve watched her begin a journey that she’s far from completing and see the genuine smile from her heart when you talk about her passion, the people of Jackson County who need her the most…abused and homeless men, women, children and pets.

It is my honor to call both Phillip and Bridget my friends, to hug their necks and tell them how proud I am of them every time I see them. Their journeys have been long and difficult as they have worked to fulfill their calling, but there’s no sign of them giving up anytime soon. I give you now the story of our 2018 Man and Woman of the Year.

There’s no place like home.

It’s been said you can’t return home, but Jackson County has certainly defied those sentiments. The Independent has run a series for several months about people who have left home to go to school, pursue careers, and begin families only to find themselves back home where their roots began.

This year’s Man and Woman of the Year section features two heroes who have done just that. They have both ventured out in different directions and come back home with experiences and talents that have enabled them to invest in the lives of the people of Jackson County.
Please join us as we celebrate Phillip Brown and Bridget Hendrix in a story of the journey to their purpose.

In the beginning…

Brown was born in Newport on April 10, 1972. He was raised in a single parent home by Janice Brown and had two siblings, Bryant Brown and Timothy Brown, as well as an extended family he claims as his own, Clemmie Alcorn, III, Terrance Ratliff, Talesha Alcorn and Tameka Neasman from his father, Clemmie Alcorn of Buffalo, NY.

“Life was tough coming up back in those days. We struggled to make ends meet as my brothers and I formed this unbreakable bond that we all still share today. We would embrace the tough times together by supporting one another.” To this day, the brothers can be seen together as they support Phillip and his endeavors to strengthen the weak in the community.

“Those tough times really sparked a fire inside of me to want more in life. I would write down my goals in my little notepad at elementary school and I would keep them to myself.”

Brown credits the people in the community for giving him purpose and something to look forward to. He remembers his first minor league baseball game that he attended with Attorney Jim McLarty and his sons, Jamie and Robert. “We went to watch the Arkansas Travelers and I thought that an attorney was the coolest person alive, so I had big dreams of one day being an attorney to help bring justice and peace to this mean world.”

At a young age, Brown describes himself as energetic, loving life and people. “I was an entrepreneur at a early age with lemonade stands, yard mowing services, newspaper routes, etc... I always believed in me.”
He credits his strong personality traits and qualities from his great-grandparents, Mack and Hester Brown and his biggest influence from his grandfather and grandmother, the late R.D. Brown, Sr. and Helen Brown. “These were two people that instilled integrity, hard work ethic and respect in me. I always listened to their voices and even to this day I still base my decision making on ‘What would "Pawpaw” and “Momma Helen" say about this?’ They were my lifeline.”

Brown says school was an incredible experience for him and attributes his positive experience to the people who chose to invest in his education.  

“I loved school, so much that I was one, if not the only kid, that never missed a day of school kindergarten through 12th grade. I had some great teachers that guided me to become better.”

One teacher in particular that helped Brown grow and he says “changed my entire outlook on life” was Mrs. Pat Brown, his Algebra teacher.  

“I love to tell this story because we need to realize that the things we say to our youth and our kids can impact them for the rest of their lives. One day I was goofing off in class and being a distraction to the rest of the class and Mrs. Brown walked to my desk and got right in my face and told me, ‘Phillip Brown, you need to stop goofing off and apply yourself. You are such a smart young man and you can become someone great if you would get serious about your education. You're one of the smartest students that I've ever taught and you need to get it together young man!’ Those words hit me like a ton of bricks! Nobody had ever told me how smart I was and the potential that I had of becoming better, so those words stuck with me. I started to focus more and began to apply myself for the years to come.”

Hendrix, born on May 15 in Newport, comes from a single parent home as well.

“I played softball for Bob Bradley from the age of 10 until I was 18 and played basketball from seventh grade until I graduated.” During that time, she enjoyed playing for Hogan’s Dairy Queen as “Hogan’s Angels.”

Bridget knew early on that she didn’t want to go to college, so in the 11th grade she took the ASVAB test and talked to an Army recruiter. She signed up for the Army as a 17 year old kid and reported to Little Rock to be formally sworn in before her high school graduation. She would graduate in Spring of 1986 and report for basic training in Fort Jackson, SC on Sept. 10, 1986.

After basic training, Hendrix went to AIT school in Georgia and was the first female chosen for a wire systems installment position, which entailed her climbing telephone poles and establishing communication. She planned to go to Texas for civilian training to further her career, but was given orders to go overseas.
“I ended up getting a stateside swap and went to Washington state, Fort Lewis, which I absolutely loved. From there I did my time and I came home as a 21 year old kid and decided I was going to go into law enforcement.”

there were people….

Brown says his grandmother always told him that God gave him special favor with people.   

“I always loved to see people happy and entertaining people is a passion of mine.”

So while he was still dreaming of being a big time lawyer, he began to experiment with the entertainment business.

“I would promote small parties, comedy shows and musical events to make people dance and laugh. At that point it hit me, I was bit by the entertainment bug.”

He started to promote bigger events and travel with those shows and next thing he knew he was on his way to Hollywood with his best friend and business partner, Ken Bright. Ken who is a very creative poet, producer and writer had a keen eye for talent. He had discovered this young talented kid from Little Rock that he taught at Mitchell Elementary School.

“We both agreed that this kid could do some great things with the right opportunities. At that time I owned a couple of retail businesses in Little Rock. I went to my bank, withdrew all the money that I had and we were on our way to Los Angeles. Upon arriving in Hollywood, we had no idea of the high cost of living so we had to go straight to "hustling". With God's favor that my grandmother spoke about we start making connections with the right people.”

The duo landed a couple of TV appearances, including the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and things started to progress from there.

“We landed a huge movie roll with our talent starring opposite of Emmy winner Queen Latifah in the hit movie Beauty Shop. Next came a movie deal starring opposite of powerhouses Dennis Quaid and Renea Russo in the family blockbuster "Yours, Mine & Ours.”

Hollywood then became Brown’s new home and they landed a TV show deal and more movie roles and the opportunity to produce shows on family networks such Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.

“Things were moving fast and going really well. I would go on to do some agency, artist management and talent broker work with some big time entertainers brokering multi million deals.”

Hendrix came home anxious to get into the field of law enforcement, but first she needed to sow her wild oats. “I was young. I knew what I wanted to do in life, but I didn’t want to just jump into it,” she laughs. So she worked a couple of smaller jobs for a year and then, in February of 1992, she went to the police academy. “And I came out in April 1992 as an undercover narcotic agent for the Third Judicial Task Force.” She worked for the force four years, went to ASU Jonesboro where she worked as a campus police for a year and then came back to undercover narcotics for two more years.

“I absolutely loved ASU Jonesboro and the good thing about being law enforcement there is you get a percentage off of your tuition, but college was still something I didn’t want to do,” she remembered.

After her stint in Jonesboro, Bridget would return home for a while and she and Deedee Jeffery opened The Slammer, a teen dance club, and ran an ambulance service, Central Paramedic. “So I was an EMT-Basic and worked in law enforcement for the Newport Police for about seven years and I decided that was about all that I wanted at the time.”

Hendrix moved to Little Rock in 2003 and went to work for Arkansas Children’s Hospital as security where she worked bicycle and exterior patrol.

“It was actually there that all my layers that I had built up over my 12 years of law enforcement started to peel away. I had gotten really hard and calloused to some of the things I shouldn’t have been, but it was a protective mechanism.” She said seeing the children suffering with various illnesses and injuries caused by disease or family started bringing her back to the very essence of innocence and life. “Children and elderly people are my safety thing. I love to make sure that they’re safe.”

“I remember one of the girls that came in, she was abused by her step-father. I remember meeting her and I knelt down and introduced myself and said, ‘You look like a hero. I don’t know why, but you look like a hero.’ And she said, ‘Well, I saved my family.’ There had been a house fire and this 11 year old girl had awakened her entire family and got everybody out of the house. She had gone back in because she thought she left somebody behind and the fire crew had to rescue her from the burning building.”

Bridget’s stories aren’t just from away, but hit home as well. While on the Newport Police Department, she responded to a call of someone on fire and her life would be changed forever when she looked into the eyes of Erica Crump who had been burned over most of her body. Following Erica’s heroic recovery through painful surgeries and extensive therapies, Bridget remained close with the family and treated her and her sister to a ride in the police car, complete with siren blaring and intercom, to get ice cream. “We still have a connection to this day. Those are the things in law enforcement that you remember.”

“You just make those connections. It’s stories that never go away. It’s a blessing and you get to meet that person for that moment.”

who needed them…

Despite all the success in Hollywood, Brown always knew he would come home to help the youth of Newport.

“I would travel home often to see my family and friends during this time and I would see our youth facing the same struggle that we faced as kids. I always said, ‘Something has to change’ and knew someone had to take the initiative to start the change. ‘Why not me?’ was the question I kept asking myself. So after a few more years in Hollywood we headed home to initiate that change.”

As a natural leader, Brown has always wanted to make a difference. IMAD (I’m Making a Difference) wasn’t just a name, but a calling. It was Phillip Brown.

“I moved back home to Little Rock where Ken and I had built homes and made my way to Newport looking for other community minded people.” Of course, it wasn’t hard to find and Brown encountered a few great people such as Pansy Neal, Alton Walker, Derrick Ratliff, Timothy Brown, Ysla Thompson, Linda Harris, Tracy Brown, Yolanda Moreland and others who shared his desire to help the community.

“We hit the ground running with some community revitalization and clean up, which was just an attention grabber. We started attracting more community members that shared our same concerns and IMAD was born.”

“Children’s Hospital really pulled all of those layers off of me that brought me back to, “Hey, not everything is so bad that you have to stay so glum. Life is what it is.”

After leaving Children’s, Hendrix went to Texas and managed a security company that serviced several large corporations including Wal-Mart, CVS, Starbucks, and Roden and Fields. “I absolutely loved it, but knew I needed to be with mom when she was so sick in 2011.” When “Momma Jean” got better in 2012, Bridget returned to her position in Texas, but was back home in 2013 until Jean lost her battle to cancer in 2014. “That was my driving force to actually keep me out of Newport. I love home. I love being home. I love the people. But when I lost mom, I was empty, really empty.”

Hendrix says she came home to be with her sister and help with her nephew, who is autistic and began to display signs of schizophrenia. “We noticed a change in him, but we didn’t know what it was. We needed a lot of help, but didn’t know which way to turn.”
While she was in transition, Elwanda Templeton approached Bridget about applying for the position of executive director of the White River Battered Women’s Shelter. Hendrix would decline with the same reason. “How can I give somebody something when I’m empty?” Two months later, around July 2015, Templeton again approached Bridget with the same proposition. In the meantime, the tombstone for her mother’s grave had been back ordered, so a year had passed before it was finally placed. “God knows what He’s doing. When mom’s tombstone was finally placed in September 2015, after I got everything settled on her grave I stood up and looked at her grave and I knew…I couldn’t get back to the shelter fast enough. I was like, ‘Oh my God, you brought me home for this reason. I don’t know what I have to give, all I know how to be is a cop.”’

to make a difference.

IMAD started as a dream of coming home and giving back to my community and giving our elderly and kids hope. It's been a tough road for Brown and those he works closely with, and certainly the road less traveled. Challenges met them from the beginning, mostly on the personal level.  

“The toughest part was gaining people's trust, which is understandable with all of different organizations around that aren't doing the things that they say they would do. Secondly, gaining the trust of our youth that had been let down and disappointed by so many adults was also tough.”

Limited resources was an issue for the organization in the early stages, but they vowed to create their own resources and not use that as an excuse. IMAD has created multiple resources through hard work and endless fundraising which teaches youth the work ethic. Brown says that in three years of IMAD’s existence, they've never applied for nor been awarded any government grants, bank loans or a line of credit from anyone.

“For IMAD it's about hard work and dedication. We believe in people helping people and not so much the government helping people.”

Because of their hard work ethic, Brown anticipates the future and the huge projects coming in 2018 that will impact our community even more.

“Our mission is to create unlimited resources that will enable IMAD to give our youth ample opportunities to succeed and to improve the quality of life for our elderly in our community. Our success has helped this organization change lives in this town. There's no greater joy than knowing that you've impacted another individual's life in a positive way. This community’s support has been impeccable and it shows that we all want to make a difference in our town.”

“In my lifetime I've always wanted to make a lot of friends. I've always wanted to be successful. But at this stage in my life, I just want to "Make A Difference"

Bridget Hendrix was unanimously picked for the position of Executive Director of the White River Battered Women’s Shelter in October 2015.
“I didn’t know anything about grants. I knew about domestic violence after witnessing it from my father’s hand. I saw it in my own relationship.”
Bridget’s journey had just begun, but she was constantly reflecting on the past as a driving force for the future of the shelter and her dream to reach the people in most need in Jackson County.
“I was in a four year relationship and was being abused as a police officer,” she candidly reveals. “I think the emotional abuse was the worst.” Bridget said she sought help from the shelter and Peggy Reardon, who she proclaims is the “most amazing executive director ever” helped her through the hardest of times. “I said, ‘Peggy, I need some help and I don’t know where to go.’”

She was able to meet with a counselor at Holden Avenue Church of Christ secretly and was able to regain some self-esteem. “I realized what had happened in that relationship and was able to walk away from it because of this very shelter. I was a woman who was putting people in jail every day for domestic abuse and couldn’t fix it in my own life.” As the executive director, Hendrix realizes the importance of her own story in the life of her journey to help others.

When she took the office in November of 2015, she immediately realized the shelter was divorced from the community. And it was women and children only. “I asked, ‘Where are the domestic violence men?’ I know there are men that are abused and it was taboo. And I asked, ‘Where are the animals?’ So at that moment I visioned and I purposed to find somebody with the same heart and passion that I had for men, women, children and animals that were fleeing domestic abuse.”

The White River Battered Women’s Shelter has since been staffed with employees and volunteers who are available for the abused and the homeless, to help with mental health needs, substance disorders, general counseling and resourcing to get residents back on their feet. With the acquisition of the old Jackson County Detention Center, the facility has expanded opportunity and embraced the community’s support in a team effort to reach those needing help the most. Momma Jean’s House and the White River Battered Women’s Shelter will speak for generations of the love shown by a woman who decided to take risks at her weakest moment to share with the broken.

“It has all come full circle.”

To be continued…in the lives of those touched by the giving spirit of Phillip Brown and Bridget Hendrix.