John Paul Hammerschmidt, 92, of Harrison, Arkansas, passed away April 1, 2015, at Regency Hospital in Springdale, Arkansas, with son, John Arthur, at his bedside. He was born May 4, 1922, in Harrison, to Arthur Paul and Junie M. (Taylor) Hammerschmidt, and was the second of five children. He was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Virginia (Sharp), in 2006; his parents; his sisters Zita Causey and husband Fred, Elaine Masterson and husband Rue, and Elizabeth Winham and husband Ross; his brother Robert A. Hammerschmidt. Survivors include son John Arthur Hammerschmidt of Harrison; sister-in-law Imogene Hammerschmidt of Springfield, Mo.; nephews Robert A. Hammerschmidt Jr. and wife Melinda of Springfield, Mo., Mike Masterson of Fayetteville, Ark., Grant Masterson of Denton, Tex., Mitchell Sharp Jr. and wife Linda of Austin, Tex., and John Sharp of Webb City, Mo.; nieces Beth Nixon and husband Allen of Jonesboro, Ark., Susan Hammerschmidt of Bedford, Tex., Gaye Lindberg of Santa Fe, N.M., and Becky Widner of Horseshoe Bay, Tex. John Paul, as folks best knew him, was raised with his four siblings on a small farm along the banks of Crooked Creek on the outskirts of Harrison. He graduated from Harrison High School at age 15 and then, at age 16, attended The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. After one year at The Citadel, he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. He later requested and received a change in that appointment to allow him to attend the U.S. Military Academy in West Point one year later with a good friend from Harrison. During the interim period, he attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. In December 1941, he traveled to California to visit a cousin, the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor and John Paul decided to start working at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo to become involved in the war effort. He worked on many ships, as a pipe cover insulation helper, including one damaged during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He also worked at the submarine base there. He then made the pivotal decision to forego West Point and join the Army Air Corps and begin pilot training. After pilot training, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and promptly volunteered for missions overseas. He was assigned to the China-Burma-India Theater, where he flew 217 combat missions as a pilot for the Third Combat Cargo Group. In addition to “flying the Hump” (the eastern Himalayan Mountains), he flew many air drop missions close to the ground in Burma to supply special operations jungle warfare units such as Merrill’s Marauders and the Mars Task Force. He also air dropped O.S.S. agents behind enemy lines into China. For his service in World War II, he was awarded four Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Air Medal with four oak-leaf clusters, three battle stars, and the China War Memorial Medal (by the Republic of China). He then served his country in the Air Force Reserves and retired as a major, after twenty years of service. He was also awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. After the war, he continued his college career at Oklahoma A&M College, now Oklahoma State University, until an illness in the family brought him home to Harrison to assume control of the family lumber business. He courted and married Virginia “Ginny” Ann Sharp in 1948, and they had one son, John Arthur. John Paul was by profession a lumberman, builder and building supplies businessman for twenty years before seeking public office. He served as President of both the Arkansas Lumber Dealers Association and the four-state Southwestern Lumbermen’s Association. Although he was kept busy running Hammerschmidt Lumber Company, he was active in the community including serving on the Harrison City Council for 8 years and as President of the Harrison Rotary Club. He was also active behind the scenes in the Arkansas Republican Party. By 1966, he was the chairman of the party and the party needed a candidate to oppose a 22-year Democrat incumbent in the Third Congressional District. Eventually he was asked if he would make the attempt to unseat the popular congressman. He won the 1966 campaign with 53 percent of the vote, becoming the first Arkansas Republican sent to Washington since Reconstruction. John Paul served in the U.S. Congress for 26 years, during the administrations of six presidents, including George Herbert Walker Bush with whom he created a close friendship as freshmen congressmen that lasted through his lifetime. He became particularly well known for his attention to individual constituent service and communication; his high voting and attendance records at Congressional sessions during the business week, plus routine working-weekends visiting with constituents in Arkansas; as well as his legislative expertise in highway, airway and water infrastructure and in veterans matters. His affection for and dedication to veterans’ needs and issues made him a respected and beloved member of their ranks nationally. Among his many accomplishments in public office, he was the author and initiating sponsor of the Public Law preserving the Buffalo River as a free-flowing stream, adding it to the National Park System in 1972. He was also the original sponsor of congressional authorization for a national Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. After retiring from Congress, John Paul continued to be involved in public service in Arkansas, maintaining local offices in Harrison to continue helping others in need. He served on the boards of the North Arkansas Medical Foundation and the Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Arkansas. He chaired the Northwest Arkansas Council, the March of Dimes Citizen of the Year Dinner, and the Governor’s Citizens Council on Highways and Transportation. He was a “lifetime trustee” of the University of the Ozarks at Clarksville and a former chairman of the board of trustees at Arkansas State University. The University of Arkansas also awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree. After leaving Congress, he also served on the President’s Task Force to Improve Health Care Delivery to our Nation’s Veterans, the Congressional Medal of Honor Commission and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. John Paul served on the boards of four Arkansas-based corporations: American Freightways, Bear State Financial, Dillard’s and Southwestern Energy Company. He was an ordained elder and deacon in the Presbyterian Church and a lifetime member of his home church. He was a 33rd Degree Mason and was awarded the prestigious “Grand Cross of the Court of Honor.” John Paul believed we are all put on earth to serve others and he lived a long and full life guided by that core principle. A daily prayer of his was “Lord, help me to overcome pride and self-concern, and always help me to be mindful of the needs of others.” Of all his accomplishments through life, John Paul’s dedication to his family, his country, his state, his hometown community and his Lord never wavered. He was kind, compassionate and always willing to make time for others. He lived each day with grace, humor and caring for what mattered. He will be missed immeasurably. A Memorial Service will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, May 4, 2015 (which would have been John Paul’s 93rd Birthday,) at the First Presbyterian Church, 220 Arbor Drive, in Harrison. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the First Presbyterian Church of Harrison Building Fund. Visitation will be at 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at the John Paul Hammerschmidt Conference Center at North Arkansas College (South Campus) in Harrison. A graveside service with military honors will be Saturday, May 2 at 11 a.m. in Harrison’s Maplewood Cemetery. Arrangements are by Roller-Christeson Funeral Home. Visit our online guestbook at

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