Herbert Charles Rule III

Herb RuleBiography: As the waning hours of Palm Sunday passed and signaled the start of Holy Week, Herbert Charles Rule III departed this earthly life on Monday April 3, 2023 to be with his God and those in his family who had gone before. Herb was a loving father, advocate, public servant, U.S. Marine, lover of music and the performing arts, and one who was always ready for the next fight. In his final moments, he passed peacefully surrounded by his loving family, and singing the “songs we love so well.”

In his estimable wake, he leaves a legacy of career accomplishments, public service, advocacy for causes dear to him especially outreach to those less fortunate. All who knew Herb were amazed by his passion for fighting the good fight, amiable nature, imperviousness to correction, and verve for life. As part of the renaissance man he was, he was blessed, and sometimes cursed, by an irascible style and provocative nature that challenged others – truly a redoubtable force.

He was born in Little Rock on November 21, 1937 to the late Herbert Charles and Dora Rule, the middle child of three. He was educated in public schools in Little Rock and was a proud graduate of Little Central High School (as are all his sons) and supported the benefits of public education his entire life.

He graduated from Yale University in 1959, his father’s alma mater, where his greatest love was singing and carousing with his fellow classmates in the Baker’s Dozen and Whiffenpoofs. He attended Yale with the support of a Naval ROTC scholarship and that led to his commission as a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps with active duty service from 1959-1961 followed by service in the Arkansas Reserves until 1968. During his period of active duty, he passed the U.S. Foreign Service Officer Exam and briefly considered a career in this arena.

Upon completion of his active duty, he decided that Arkansas needed his service to fight for change and he returned to his home state and promptly entered the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1961 serving as editor of the Law Review in his senior year and earning his LLB in 1964. He began his professional career as an attorney with the Rose Law Firm where he ultimately became a Partner and represented clients as a zealous litigator for nearly 50 years.

Following graduation from Law School, he and his wife, Beth Dolbey Rule moved to Little Rock and started their family, and his first two children Nick and Chris were born in 1964 and 1966 respectively; his third son, Adam followed in 1971.

His legacy of public service in Arkansas includes many accomplishments including two terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives 1967-1971; two terms on the Little Rock School Board 1978-1984; the Board of Trustees of Lyon College 1984-2008, and a run for US Congress in 2012. He was a proud politico and an Arkansas Democrat who fought for liberal causes at times when strong voices were needed to stand against segregation and in support of the fight for equality.

His 1966 legislative victory has a special place in Arkansas history as he defeated an unreconstructed party boss by being a champion for women’s rights. He and other young liberal legislators of the time were active in reforming important advances in Arkansas law that are taken for granted today, such as the Freedom of Information Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and the Arkansas Election Code. Thanks to his authorship of Private Club Act, and the support of sponsors and Governor Rockefeller, mixed drinks were allowed for the first time, upon local approval, to be sold at restaurants, private clubs and hotels – you’re welcome.

In his later race for Congress, he supported marriage equality and adoption of children by same sex couples ahead of the state and national efforts to do the same. Above all, his drive for fair and equitable education, and the rights of individuals in the direst of circumstances – those sentenced to death, homeless veterans and those in need of a meal in the middle of the day – were foundational to his ideals. Not only did he espouse these views, he was always eager to be active through his service.

He served on numerous boards and commissions throughout his life, often in leadership roles, including: the Constitutional Enforcement and Revision Association, Little Rock Committee on Foreign Relations, Citizens Committee on Little Rock Public Schools, Arkansas Public Service Commission, Arkansas Council on Human Relations, Lyon College Board of Trustees, Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Yale Alumni Schools Committee, the Tiger Foundation. He was a founding member of the Stewpot Board, the Riverdale Soccer Club, the Wildwood Center for Performing Arts and the Friends of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

He loved the performing arts his entire life, and his tenor voice, wit, humor and showmanship made for a potent combination. He performed with the Arkansas Rep, the Arkansas Opera Theatre, Little Rock Community Theatre, The Weekend Theater, and the Arkansas Choral and Bach Societies. He especially cherished performing in the Gridiron Productions over the decades, singing with his Class of ’59 Whiffenpoof group, and, his most beloved Second Presbyterian Church Choir. When he wasn’t performing he encouraged children and other family members to perform in plays, learn musical instruments, and sing.

Always competitive, he excelled in athletics and participated in sports his entire life including playing football, basketball and baseball from middle school through high school and club lacrosse in college. He enjoyed tennis, golf, soccer and fishing as an adult, and he made sure his boys were active in all the sports he loved as he coached and attended their games every chance he could. He became a workout demon in his later years with pre-dawn arrivals at the gym multiple times a week, and he was active playing tennis in the final year of his life.
His most lasting accomplishment and source of pride was his family. Herb was a beloved patriarch and role model for so many extended family members, and their love, admiration and support was something he cherished. He was preceded in death by his loving son Adam Dolbey Rule, his parents, his sister Joan Rule Campbell, and step-grandson Chris Rima. He is survived by his former wives, Beth Dolbey Nyhus (Paul), and Renie P. Rule, his brother, James B. Rule (Anna Cox), his two sons Herbert Charles Nichols Rule (Lisa) and James Christopher Rule (Laura) and daughter-in-law Beth Storm Rule, and stepchildren Richard Warriner and Prentice McIntosh and six grandchildren and step-grandchildren – Camille Rule, Rebecca Bailey, Charles Rule, James Rule, Samuel Rule and Thomas Rule and 4 great grandchildren.

He loved a grand party as much as anyone and demanded a proper wake filled with stories and song. This will be held from 5-7 PM on Friday, April 14th at Ruebel Funeral Home. Funeral Services will be held at 10 AM on Saturday, April 15th at Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock.

The family would like to thank his doctors and nurses who have cared for him in the past months and the physicians and nursing staff at St. Vincent’s Infirmary in the CVSD in his final days. In lieu of flowers, please give generously in his name to the organizations or local charities Herb has always championed: The Stewpot, Second Presbyterian Church Rule Music Endowment Fund and Lyon College.