Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Bud Canada, RIP

The obituary said Eugene “Bud” Canada served 28 years in the state Senate. Could it possibly have been that long? He was one of those men you rarely knew was there, and it turns out that he was there for 28 years, representing the resort city where he grew up and became a sports legend.

Hot Springs never produced a greater athletic hero than Bud Canada, unless it was Bobby Mitchell, the halfback at the black high school who had to go out of state to play college football and wound up an All-American and in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It was probably the football and track legend at Hot Springs and the University of Arkansas that got Bud Canada elected Garland County sheriff, then to the Arkansas House of Representatives and finally to the state Senate for 28 years. It didn’t hurt that he was humble and just begging to serve. For sure, it was not his oratorical skill or charisma because he had neither.

Yet the people of Garland County never thought about electing anyone else but Bud Canada. They didn’t get to read about great laws that he passed or profound remarks that he made.

But they could count on his name nearly always showing up on the progressive side of roll calls and they knew that he would never abuse the office no matter how much seniority he accumulated.

And they also knew that every session, every single one of them, he would introduce a bill to exempt groceries and prescription drugs from state and local sales taxes. Every time, the bill failed to get that simple majority, 18 votes. They said the state could not stand the loss of revenues.

Every time someone introduced a bill for some special interest to exempt some commodity or service from the sales tax — industrial machinery, farm implements, chicken and livestock feed and medicine, and dozens and dozens more — Bud Canada would always stand and ask in that halting, plaintive voice, something like this: “Senator, you’re telling us that it is important to this state that we eliminate taxes on the feed that a farmer buys for a rooster but yet we have to tax a baby’s formula and the dried beans a poor family buys for the supper table?” He wanted to know how he could explain that to the people back home.

Seven years after the old jock left the Senate, Governor Beebe persuaded the legislature to reduce the grocery tax in stages, and he had Bud Canada, the inspiration for it, come stand beside him when he signed the bill into law. It was the only epitaph for his career that Bud Canada wanted.

— Ernie Dumas