Honored in 1987
H.K. Thatcher was born in 1891 in a sod house on a tributary of the Arkansas River near McCracken, Kansas. He grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River. At the University of Missouri, he excelled in sports, competing against the great Jim Thorpe and was named to the 1912 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team as a discus thrower.
Mr. Thatcher worked most of his life in agriculture and became director of the Arkansas Agricultural and Industrial Commissioner. He assisted the then Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover in the flood rehabilitation work in the White and Cache River valleys.
In 1950, at age 60, Mr. Thatcher became executive vice-president of the Ouachita River Valley Association and began a commitment to the nine-foot navigation project for that river. This was his most dramatic challenge, and the project took the next 30 years. The $252 million project included the building of four dams, two in Louisiana and two in Arkansas.
Before he died in 1985, H.K. Thatcher also worked to create a 65,000-acre national wildlife refuge in the Felsenthal basin in the Ouachita River Valley, with an additional 12,000-acre refuge along the navigation channel in Louisiana.