LITTLE ROCK — Ruth Whitaker, who served for over a decade as a Republican state Senator from Cedarville, died early Monday at age 77, staff members with the Arkansas Senate and Gov. Mike Beebe’s office said.

LITTLE ROCK — Ruth Whitaker, who served for over a decade as a Republican state Senator from Cedarville, died early Monday at age 77, staff members with the Arkansas Senate and Gov. Mike Beebe’s office said.


Whitaker was a state senator from 2001 to 2013. Before being elected to the Senate she served as a Cedarville city alderman.


Whitaker also was a secretary for the Republican Party of Arkansas from 1992-94 and worked as a political adviser and a community activist.


"The Arkansas Senate mourns the passing of former state Senator Ruth Whitaker (R-Cedarville)," the Arkansas Senate tweeted Monday, "Our thoughts and prayers are with her family."


Beebe said in a statement Monday, "Ruth Whitaker was a strong, independent Arkansan who didn’t fear anyone or shy away from anything. While we didn’t always agree politically, most conversations between Ruth and me would still end with both of us laughing. She carried a deep love of Arkansas and her people, and I will miss her wry smile and sensibility."


State Rep. and former state Sen. Denny Altes, R-Fort Smith, said in an interview Monday he was sorry to hear of Whitaker’s death,


"She was a good friend, a great person," he said.


State Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, said Whitaker "was a great legislator and certainly an asset for all of us in western Arkansas, and she will be sorely missed."


Files said that when he joined the Senate in 2011, for what was his first term in that body and Whitaker’s last, she became his mentor.


"She took me under her wing and really treated me like a son and included me in things," he said. "She set a great example for how to hold yourself and how to carry yourself when you disagreed with people — when you were doing things that were contentious and you felt like they were the right thing to do but somebody else had exactly the opposite feelings, but still leave the conversation and be friends."


She was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. T.J. Whitaker, in 2002 and is survived by a son, Dr. Bryan Whitaker and wife Carol of Fayetteville; a daughter, Alicia Viers and husband Ron of Cedarville; and three granddaughters, Emily and husband Aric Zantow of St Louis, Madeline Whitaker of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Amelia Whitaker of Fayetteville.


She was a member of the Arkansas Federation of Republican Women and past president of the Women’s Auxiliary to the American Medical Association of Sebastian County. She was a lifetime member of the American Legion Auxiliary and the Alden Kindred of America tracing her lineage to the first settlers aboard the Mayflower.


Her funeral arrangements are pending at Nelson-Berna Funeral Home in Fayetteville.