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Former A-State President, Congressman Ray Thornton Dies at 87

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  Former U.S. Congressman and Arkansas State University president Ray Thornton has died. 

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports Thornton passed away Wednesday after his battle with lung cancer at Hospice Home Care in Little Rock.  The Conway-native has served as Arkansas attorney general and U.S. Senator before returning to the state in 1979. 

Thornton served as the president of A-State from 1980 to 1984.  Afterwards, he served as president of the University of Arkansas, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and an Arkansas Supreme Court Justice before becoming the first chairman of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery in 2009. 

Arkansas State University System President Charles Welch released this official statement:

"On behalf of the entire Arkansas State University System, I want to express our deepest condolences to the family of Ray Thornton on his passing.  Mr. Thornton was a legendary figure for higher education in the state of Arkansas, serving both as the president of Arkansas State and later for the UA System.  Combined with his service as a congressman, attorney general and Arkansas Supreme Court justice, Ray was the quintessential advocate for his home state.  While we mourn his passing, we know his achievements in public service to our state will serve as his enduring legacy."

Governor Asa Hutchinson released this statement:

“I was greatly saddened to hear about the passing of former Congressman Ray Thornton. Ray was an Arkansas gem who passionately served the people of this state for many years. He was a man who had a genuine heart for the people of Arkansas. Every time I saw Ray, he had a smile and a word of encouragement. He will be greatly missed, and my heart goes out to his family and loved ones.”

U. S. Senator Tom Cotton tweeted:

U. S. Senator John Boozman released this statement:

“Congressman Ray Thornton led a distinguished career that benefited Arkansas from public service as an elected official to leading our state’s top universities. His dedication to the people of Arkansas leaves a lasting impact. I join with all Arkansans as we mourn the passing of Congressman Thornton and keep his family and loved ones in our thoughts and prayers.”

State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge tweeted:

Details will be updated as they become available.