A Little Rock businessman who once challenged Orval Faubus for the governor’s seat died in a plane crash at the Harrison Municipal Airport on April 1, 1964.
Chris Finkbeiner, 42, and Lester Hobbs, 49, died when their twin-engine plane apparently lost power only two minutes after taking off. The plane went down at 12:20 p.m. into a grove of trees about a quarter mile from the end of the runway.
Finkbeiner since 1951 had been the head of Little Rock Packing Company, a firm founded by his father. Hobbs was the company’s sales manager.
Doug Webb, a witness at the airport, told the Federal Aviation Administration that he heard a surge of engine power and then an explosion. Then the plane went down, he said.
Bill Coker, who lived in the Northvale Addition, said he heard the plane hit the ground. He described it as sounding like a dynamite blast.
“There had been a lot of blasting around and we didn’t pay any attention,” Coker was quoted in a newspaper account.
On impact, one of the plane’s engines was thrown about 150 feet. First responders, including Boone County Sheriff Doyle Hickman, arrived to find the plane standing nose down with the tail standing almost straight up. Parts of the plane were scattered throughout the wooded area.
Hickman reported that the bodies of Finkbeiner and Hobbs were near the fuselage.
Finkbeiner had flown his own plane for several years. He and Hobbs had arrived in Harrison earlier that morning, and had filed a flight plan to Hot Springs.
Doug Hudson, owner of Hudson’s Grocery, said that Finkbeiner and Hobbs, along with Norman Davis, the packing company’s area salesman, had paid a “goodwill” call at his store that morning.
“We had coffee together about 11 a.m.,” Hudson said.
Davis took Finkbeiner and Hobbs to the airport, then resumed his route calls. Hudson said he was at the airport when news came in about the crash.
Finkbeiner was born in Little Rock and attended Georgia Military Academy, the University of Arkansas and Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri. He served in the Army during World War II, attaining the rank of captain and winning the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
Finkbeiner served four times as president of the National Independent Meat Packers Association. In 1954, the Arkansas Junior Chamber of Commerce named him “Man of the Year.”
In 1958, Finkbeiner challenged incumbent governor Orval Faubus in the Democratic primary. Finkbeiner got more than 60,000 votes, but finished second to Faubus.
In a statement issued an hour after the crash, Faubus said he was glad to call Finkbeiner a friend. Faubus recalled the 1958 campaign.
“Chris was a gentleman throughout the whole thing,” Faubus said, “and the fact that we were running against each other never made a bit of difference in our friendship.”
This is article is part of a series about Boone County history and provided by the Boone County Heritage Museum. The museum is located at 124 South Cherry in Harrison. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday. Closed on Sunday and Wednesday. For more information on the museum, call 741-3312 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.