Charles L. (Charlie) Daniels, 83, one of the longest-serving elected officials in Arkansas state government history, passed away


The Honorable Charles L. (Charlie) Daniels of Bryant passed away on July 9, 2023, at UAMS Medical Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the age of 83. With a career spanning four decades that included elected service as Arkansas Secretary of State, Commissioner of
State Lands, and Auditor of State, Daniels was one of the longest-serving elected officials in Arkansas state government history.

Charlie Daniels was born in Parker’s Chapel near El Dorado, Arkansas on December 7, 1939, to Louie Green Daniels and Ruby Marie Hill Daniels. He was the baby of five children. He joined the United States Air Force after high school, serving four years of active duty and
another 15 years in the Air Force Reserves. He attended both Southern Arkansas University and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock after his active-duty military career and then worked for 13 years as an electrician with Arkansas Power and Light Company. Daniels was a proud member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). He married Patricia Burleson in 1958, who preceded him in death in 2005 after 46 years of marriage.

Daniels’ political career began in 1972 when he was elected to the Parker’s Chapel School Board. He would later be appointed by Governor David Pryor in 1975 to serve as the Director of the Arkansas Department of Labor, where he continued to serve under Governor Bill Clinton. As Director of Labor, Daniels created the Office on Women in Work, created a pilot program providing grants to train women in non-traditional jobs, and hosted the first Governor’s Conference on Women and Work. Under his leadership, the office became nationally recognized for its innovations in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) programs and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) programs to improve safety in mining operations in Arkansas.

Daniels was first elected to statewide office as Commissioner of State Lands in 1984 and would go on to serve in that office for 18 years. Under Daniels’ tenure as land commissioner, the office went from generating $300,000 to $12 million in annual revenue, increased the rate of tax-delinquent properties redeemed, and was the first commissioner to begin a program for the preservation of historic land records kept by the office.

In 2002, he ran for and was elected Secretary of State, where he served from 2003 to 2011 and oversaw the implementation of the Help America Vote Act and the resulting reforms to statewide election processes, a collaboration that he led alongside county elected
officials and appointed election commissioners of both parties. His administration was known for bringing information and services online for the convenience of citizens, including voter registration, candidate filing, and ballot information, as well as online services for business licensing. He also proudly oversaw many historic preservation efforts at the Arkansas State Capitol.

His final statewide elected position was that of State Auditor, where he served for four years after receiving nearly 70 percent of the statewide vote and carrying every county in Arkansas. Again, he established a reputation for making government services more convenient for citizens. His office was recognized nationally for creating an online system to reunite citizens with unclaimed property.

Daniels retired from public service in January 2015 at the age of 74 after having been elected on eight separate occasions by the people of Arkansas to lead three statewide executive branch offices. He spent his retirement years at his home in Bryant as a loving father and grandfather, and friend and mentor to many. He fondly referred to those he admired as ”Great Americans,” and we can bestow no greater title upon him. His legacy is that of a public servant who cared deeply about making government work for people and that of a mentor who loved and cared for those he employed and those he served. His gregarious spirit, generous heart, clever wit, and spirited storytelling combined with his spirit of humility in service inspired all those who knew him well. His loss is felt deeply by many.

Daniels is survived by his daughter, Marsha (Andrew) of Grand Junction, CO, and son Chuck Daniels of Bryant, AR; six grandchildren, Drew Harbert of Vernal, UT; Daniel Harbert of Grand Junction, CO; Dustin Harbert of Fort Collins, CO; David Harbert of Fayetteville, AR; Annie (Gray) Koenemann of Parrish, FL; and Payton Daniels of Little Rock, AR; one great grandchild, Ty Harbert; two sisters, Anna Raye Morgan and Yvonne Eudy of El Dorado, Arkansas; and a number of extended family and friends, including a host of former staff members who benefitted from his mentorship and legacy of service.

Daniels was preceded in death by his beloved wife Pat, his brother Harold Daniels of Hendersonville, TN, his sister Natalie Parham of El Dorado, AR, and his daughter-in-law Harmony Daniels of Bryant, AR.

Visitation will be held from 5-7 pm on Wednesday, July 12 at Roller Alcoa Funeral Home in Benton. A memorial service for family and close friends is planned for Thursday, July 13 at 10 am at Roller Alcoa, with interment to follow at Pinecrest Cemetery. A memorial tribute will be held at 10 am on Friday, July 14 in Little Rock in the Arkansas State Capitol Rotunda.