James Donald “Doc” Bilberry, 90, of McGehee, passed away August 1, 2021 at Dermott City Nursing Home.
Known as “Doc” to his countless friends and loving family, he was born in Bastrop, Louisiana on October 29, 1930 to the late James and Sarah Bilberry.
Growing up, Doc worked on his family’s small dairy farm, developing what would become a life-long love for God’s creatures. After an exceptional high school career in which he was class president and a football letterman, Doc studied pre-veterinary medicine at his beloved LSU. While a Tiger, Doc was also a member of the ROTC and was awarded the distinguished Scabbard & Blade Award out of 1,800 freshman cadets.
After graduation, Doc attended the Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine, graduating cum laude in 1954.
Doc served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War before opening his veterinary clinic in McGehee in 1957. In addition to serving his clients, Doc also dedicated himself to public service and the betterment of his community. He was elected President of the Desha County Republican Party in 1964, was appointed by Gov. Rockefeller to serve on the Arkansas State Racing Commission in 1968, and in 1975 helped to organize the Delta Chapter of Ducks Unlimited. For many years, Doc shared his love and knowledge of animals by volunteering at county fairs and 4-H events and raising cattle and horses, including his beloved prize-winning horse, Calypso.
For decades, Doc served as a Desha County Justice of the Peace and helped to establish long-standing community service organizations like the McGehee Men’s Club and the McGehee Industrial Foundation, serving as President from 1996 until his retirement in 2014.
Doc’s accomplishments and accolades could fill an encyclopedia, but include Arkansas Veterinarian of the Year in 1995, the Boy Scout’s highest honor of Eagle Scout, McGehee Chamber of Commerce Man and Volunteer of the Year, and First Natural State Bank’s inaugural Hometown Hero Award recipient.
While traveling the country and lobbying for economic development in his community, Doc became famous for his decadent Swamp Fudge, Delta Dawn cookies, and legendary homemade Mayhaw and Muscadine jellies.
Doc is survived by three sons, James D. “Rip” (Dena) Bilberry of Lake Village, Caleb (Lindsay) Bilberry of Dallas, Texas, and Stephen (Sally) Faust of Claremore, Oklahoma; three daughters, Claire Price of Fort Smith, Carol (Mark) Cummings of McGehee and Brandy (Tom) Jordan of Mountain Home.
He is also survived by grandchildren, Charles Craig Bilberry, Cash Bilberry, C.J. Dilley, Collin Ellis, Bailey Price, Sophie Price, Cristen Cox, Mark Allen Cummings, Jr., Blakely Jordan, Trey Jordan, Trent Jordan, Evelyn Bilberry, Camille Bilberry, Aaron Faust Lauren Smith, Mitchell Worley, and Savannah Worley; great-grandchildren, Anna Grace Bilberry, Charles T. Bilberry, Cadence Dilley, Warner Dilley, Ella Dilley, Bennett Ellis, Bryce Ellis, Riley Cash Cox, Haley Blake Smith, and Bowdie Faust.
Visitation will be held at Griffin-Culpepper Funeral Service on Tuesday, August 3, from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Services will be held Wednesday, August 4, at 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church of McGehee with Rev. Rick Miller and Rev. David Brown officiating. Burial will follow at Trippe Cemetery.
Active pallbearers are Danny Day, Kurt Rankin, Tommy Horton, Jake Kemp, Andy Gill, Braden Rial, and Tom Cat. Honorary pallbearers are F.H. Gill, Don Cash, Bill Bowman, Mike Smith, Jim Daniels, Arzo French, Lawrence Pambianchi, Danny Buntin, Charles Pambianchi, Kenny Gober, Randy Rankin, Billy Cobb, and Lloyd Evans.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Doc’s memory to Paws & Claws Humane Society, P.O. Box 238, McGehee, AR 71654.