Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Cliff Hoofman, (‘68) of Enola, believes the University of Central Arkansas laid the foundation on which he has built his astounding career.
“I learned to study; I learned about the world; I really discovered myself at that school,” Hoofman said.
The university recently named Hoofman one of the 2014 Distinguished Alumni, a prestigious honor that recognizes his long and distinguished career in law, the justice system, public service, and politics. Hoofman plans to attend the Night of Distinction gala on May 10 with his wife, Debbie, and family, he said.
The Arkansas native earned his bachelor’s degree from State College of Arkansas in 1968, now UCA. It was Arkansas State Teachers College when he enrolled in 1963. During his college time, Hoofman stayed active at UCA. He was in the Math Club, president of the Student Senate, a member and President of both Phi Lambda Chi Fraternity and the Inter-fraternity Council. He was also a member of Royal Rooters.
He said his time at UCA had many moments where he realized how important his education from the school was. One of those moments happened when he first arrived at the college as a student. When he finally registered for the first time, reality set in for Hoofman, who had served in the U.S. Army before becoming a student.
"When I realized, while standing in front of the old, concrete bear at Old Main, I was a student — it was an emotional moment for me,” Hoofman said. “And it was more important than I knew.”
Hoofman went on to graduate with degrees in math and history. He then earned his law degree from the University of Arkansas in 1972. He practiced law in North Little Rock for more than 30 years. He served as a state representative from 1975 to 1982 and was in the state senate from 1983 to 2002. Hoofman was Arkansas Assistant Attorney General from 2003 to 2006. He served as a state Highway Commissioner from 2007 to 2011. In January 2011 he was appointed to the Arkansas Court of Appeals where he served through the end of 2012.
During his time as a legislator, Hoofman was Joint Budget Committee chairman and chairman of the Legislative Council. He also spent two years as the city attorney for North Little Rock, starting in 1973.
In 2012, Gov. Mike Beebe, who had served in the senate with Hoofman, appointed Hoofman to the Supreme Court. His appointment expires Dec. 31, 2014. Hoofman has served in all three branches of state government.
His awards include the Distinguished Service Award in 1975 from the Arkansas Municipal League. He is a lifetime board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Pulaski County, was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the National Surface Transportation Research Council in 1993 and served on the Commission for Arkansas's Future from 1993 to 1996.
While an undergraduate student, Hoofman was selected as "Mr. Courtesy" and was listed in Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.
Hoofman was inducted into the Searcy Education Foundation Ninth Annual Hall of Honor in 2012. He was also inducted into Maumelle's "Honorary Navy" for his contributions to the city.
During his 28 years as a lawmaker, Hoofman said he did what he could to support UCA. The university opened doors for him, he said. His education at the school created the foundation for his career and helped him get where he is today, Hoofman said.
UCA President Tom Courtway praised Hoofman as a leader, his service to Arkansas and his support of UCA.
“He has always been a friend of UCA and a faithful and consistent supporter of all endeavors at UCA,” Courtway said. “His life and his work show what higher education means to our state.”
Hoofman is a practical man. He is a cattle farmer, who likes to ride a mule over mountainous terrain because mules are so surefooted. When asked, he struggled to articulate how much the university means to him, but he said he never considered going to another school. It was always "ASTC for me,” he said.
When Courtway called to tell Hoofman he had been named the Distinguished Alumnus, Hoofman was so surprised that he asked Courtway to repeat himself.
“The truth is that I’m very humbled by the award,” Hoofman said. “But at the same time, I couldn’t be more honored.”