Long-time Danville mayor Roy Arnold dies

November 02, 2004|TODD KLEFFMAN

Former Danville mayor Roy W. Arnold, who served 22 years in the office and was known for his fiscally conservative policies, died Monday at his Lexington Avenue home. He was 94.

A Danville native, Arnold was first elected mayor in 1958 and resigned the office in 1964 after his father died. He was elected again in 1970 at a time when the city was struggling financially, and served 16 years before retiring in 1986. Arnold also served as state representative from 1946 through 1950.

"He was a great pay-as-you-goer. He never wasted any of Danville's money. He was a hard worker for our town," said former city commissioner George Cunningham, who served with Arnold during both of his stints as mayor. "He certainly wasn't wishy-washy. If he believed in something, he was behind it 100 percent. I didn't always agree with him, but I always knew he was coming form an honest and sincere position."


In a 1991 interview with The Advocate-Messenger, where he worked as a newspaper carrier at age 7 for $1 a week, Arnold recalled that much of current Danville's charm was initiated during his second term in office.

"During that period, we were very fortunate to get government subsidies and grants. Main Street, the sidewalks, the trees, all the utilities underground; all of that took place then. And Urban Renewal did a heck of a job in that section of town between Second Street and Constitution Square," Arnold said. "There's a whole lot that took place and money was available. All you had to do was go and get it. We went and got it."

Arnold Towers, the high-rise home for senior citizens on Third Street, bears the former mayor's name.

While Arnold was successful in helping Danville bring in state and federal money, his main legacy was as a mayor who came into office when Danville was in dire financial straights and who turned that into a surplus by being tight-fisted with the city's purse strings.

"Mayor Arnold was a money-saver," said retired professor Richard Brown, author of "The History of Danville and Boyle County." "He was noted for a legacy of low taxation and holding onto tax dollars. He helped build up a surplus in the civic treasury because he never spent any money."

Brown said that Arnold lived frugally in his personal life as well.

"One of the things people might remember about him, even today, is that he drove an unbelievably old car. I don't recall the make or model, but people used to joke about it all the time."

Brown, who retired to Danville in 1980, said he got to know Arnold as a person, not a politician. The former mayor was a font of local history and loved to share his knowledge, Brown said.

"He was a great storyteller. He basically apprehended people on Main Street to tell them these long-winded tales. I know he told me the same story four or five times."

Retired developer Ed Clark, a long-time friend, said Arnold remained sharp up to the end, even as his health was deteriorating.

"His mind was clear as crystal. He was an amazing facilitator as far as remembering names and dates and things that happened here," Clark said. "He was a great student of human nature and a judge of people, so he wasn't surprised very often.

"If he said something would be done, that's the way it would be done. You didn't need a written contract or a formal agreement. His word was as good as anyone I've known."

Funeral arrangements are incomplete at Stith Funeral Home.

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