LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansas Supreme Court Justice J. Frank Holt, a 21-year court veteran who was narrowly defeated in a bitter 1966 gubernatorial primary, died Sunday of kidney failure. He was 72.
Holt had been admitted through the emergency room at St. Vincent Hospital Wednesday and was listed in 'very critical condition' Saturday night. He died about 7:15 a.m. Sunday, a hospital spokesman said.
Associate Justice Steele Hays said Holt had participated as usual in the regular court conference last Monday. He left work early Tuesday 'not feeling well but not alarmed,' Hays said.
Friends had been relieved when Holt 'rallied' Friday and Saturday, Hays said.
Holt's nephew, lawyer Jack Holt Jr. of Little Rock, said the justice had had kidney problems in the past. He said Holt's funeral would be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock.
Holt was attorney general when he was elected to the Supreme Court in 1962 in a special election. He filled the vacancy left by a cousin, J. Seaborn Holt, who had resigned the previous year.
Holt entered an eight-man Democratic primary for governor in 1966 when Faubus stepped down. He eventually lost by a few thousand votes in a bitter runoff with former Supreme Court Justice Jim Johnson, a virulent segregationist.
Holt did not openly promote integration, but he said Johnson's white supremist attitude would provoke 'chaos and hatred' in a state still smarting from the desegregation crisis of the late 1950s.
'The apostles of discord -- the 'aginners' -- are rallying around him,' Holt said on election eve. 'They want to make our state a last-ditch battleground in a war against the 20th century.'
Arkansas would have to cooperate with the federal government and open its doors to industry from outside if it was to grow, Holt said. He promised an administration of 'honesty, integrity and independence.'
Johnson won the primary, but he was defeated later that year by Republican Winthrop Rockefeller.
Holt grew up in Harrison in a family with 11 children. He worked in a garage and sold newspapers in high school and paid his way through the University of Arkansas by selling life insurance in the summers.
He taught school at Cotter for $50 a month during the Depression and worked as a clerk in the Highway Department while he attended law school.
When he graduated, Holt went to work for his older brother Jack, who was then attorney general. He amassed political experience helping out with Jack's campaigns for the Senate in 1942 and for governor in 1948 and 1952 -- all unsuccessful.
The brothers were partners in a private law practice in Little Rock after World War II. Holt joined the prosecuting attorney's office in 1948 and was elected prosecutor in 1954.