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Arlie Metheny (January 5, 1918—September 15, 2008) was a United States Army officer during World War II and the Cold War, who served as public information spokesman at Fort Chaffee, Arkansasmarker, at the time Elvis Presley was inducted into the military.

Metheny was the eldest of seven children born to a cotton farmer in Silverdale in Dunklin Countymarker in the southeastern Bootheelmarker of Missourimarker. In 1938, Metheny hopped a freight train and picked apples, strawberries, and cotton in Michiganmarker, Texasmarker, Illinoismarker, and Arkansas. Thereafter, Metheny began a 20-year military career. He was a personnel sergeant-major of the 27th Infantry Regiment. First, Metheny joined the United States Marine Corps and fought in the 1942 Battle of Guadalcanalmarker, where he was severely injured. In 1947, he transferred to the Army and was commissioned a first lieutenant. After World War II, he served two tours of duty in the occupation of Japanmarker under General Douglas MacArthur. His stateside service brought him to Fort Chaffee near Fort Smithmarker, Arkansas, where during the end of his military service, he was a public information officer. Metheny was also the Army liaison officer during the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock Central High Schoolmarker.

In 1958, Metheny was a coordinator, along with John J. Mawn, of the entry of Elvis Presley's induction into the Army. Photographers bombarded Presley during his three days at Fort Chaffee. Metheny recalled one free-lance photographer who snapped shots of Presley in his underwear and during meals whenever the entertainer opened his mouth. "After a few minutes I suggested they let him eat and everyone but the freelancer backed off. I had the [military police] escort him out of the mess hall.". Gary Metheny of Conway, one of his seven sons, recalled that Metheny nearly passed out when he came home from such an exhausting day at the time Presley left the camp. At home, his work continued, as Metheny fielded three hours of telephone calls from the national media. Metheny suffered severe exhaustion, was hospitalized, and given five days of leave for recuperation. Metheny thereafter retired in 1959 at the rank of captain. Metheny resided in Fort Smith until after his wife died of cancer in 1986.

Having earned his high school diploma and bachelor’s degree while in the military, Metheny earned his master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Arkansasmarker at Fayettevillemarker and focused a second career in education as superintendent of schools in three Arkansas communities: Mulberrymarker in Crawford Countymarker and Conwaymarker and Mayflowermarker, both in Faulkner Countymarker. He acquired the reputation of a staunch "disciplinarian" in the field of education.

Metheny resided in Conway, where he died at the age of ninety of complications from a stroke. In addition to son Gary, he was survived by three sons, Bill Metheny of Bridgermarker, Montanamarker, Jim Metheny of Conway, and Bob Metheny of Orlandomarker, Floridamarker; two brothers, Chester Metheny of Californiamarker and Alfred Metheny of Alabamamarker; eight grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren. Metheny was preceded in death by his wife, the former Willie Stroble (1920-1986), formerly of California, and three sons, Kenny Metheny (who at the age of twelve in 1958 was hit by a car and killed while delivering newspapers) and twins Ronald and Donald Metheny, three sisters, and a brother. Services were held at the Roller-McNutt Funeral Home in Conway. Interment was at Oak Cemetery in Fort Smith.

References

  1. Obituary of Arlie Metheny (1918-2008), Southwest Times Record, Fort Smith, Arkansas, September 16, 2008



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