James Stephen Holt, of Little Rock, was born in Leachville, Ark., on July 20, 1967 and died Jan. 28, 2014 at the age of 46, from ALS. Stephen was diagnosed with both ALS and Lyme disease this past July. Stephen loved the Lord, his family, his work as a lawyer, missionary service (especially in Paraguay) and hunting and fishing (especially with his son, Will and his buddies at deer camp).
Stephen is survived by his wife Patience Pruitt Holt, daughter Abbey Holt, son Will Holt, mother Brenda McClearn Holt of Leachville, older brother Michael Holt of San Diego, Calif., and younger brother David Holt of Little Rock. Stephen is preceded in death by his father James Leo Holt of Water Valley, Mississippi (Nov. 8, 1934-July 5, 2001), the son of Daniel Holcomb Holt of Water Valley, Mississippi (Dec. 6, 1893 - April 24, 1946), the son of Andrew Neal Holt of Panola, Mississippi (Sept. 17, 1852 - Jan. 1, 1920), the son of Thomas Leo Holt of Dickinson County, Tennessee (1824 - July 7, 1862), the son of William Neal Holt of Orange County, North Carolina (1794 - October, 1853).
The son of a teacher and a farmer/businessman, Stephen had the opportunity to live in the small-town, agricultural environment that is much of Arkansas. He worked on the family farm along-side his dad, whom he loved dearly. “We were poor and times were tough. We were not a perfect family but my parents loved me and my two brothers,” has said Stephen. In kindergarten, Stephen met his lifelong best friend, Jeff Johnson, resulting in Stephen spending almost as much time in the home of Myrna and John A. Johnson as in his own home. During high school, Stephen’s competitive nature was, perhaps, featured most in showing his prized cattle. True to form, Stephen put in hours and hours of detailed attention to his cattle. He greatly enjoyed exhibiting (and winning) at local and regional events. After graduating from the newly-consolidated Buffalo Island Central High, in Monette, Stephen headed to off for college at Arkansas State University with his buddies Shannon Sanders, Chad Ward, and Jeff Johnson. It was at a freshman fraternity event that Stephen met Patience Pruitt. They dated through college and married shortly after their 1989 graduation (both with business degrees). Settling in Jonesboro, Stephen started his new career as a young banker. Their beloved daughter, Abbey Holt, was born in 1992.
Unexpectedly, during a term of circuit court jury service, Stephen-the-banker felt the call to become Stephen-the-lawyer. After prayerful consideration, Stephen and Patience decided to rent their recently-purchased home and move to Little Rock, so Stephen could attend law school. Stephen excelled. He was chairman of the Moot Court Board, a semifinalist in the National Trial Team Competition, Editor of the UALR Law Review, and graduated from the UALR Bowen School of Law with honors in 1996.
During law school, Stephen met fellow law student Bob Sexton and was employed by lawyers Mike Rainwater and Phillip Duncan as a student law clerk. After law school, Stephen joined the law firm of Duncan & Rainwater, P.A., where he was joined a few years later by Bob Sexton. Later, Mike and Stephen and Bob founded Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, P.A., which is now the largest plaintiff personal injury law firm in the state.
Stephen was devoted to his wife and children. It was in 1998 that the Holt family became four. Today, Abbey is a 21-year-old college junior at Ouachita Baptist University and Will is a 15-year-old high school freshman at Arkansas Baptist High School. Although she is close to becoming an early childhood teacher, Abbey is still Stephen’s sweet little girl. Her father is proud of her and loves her very much. In her special role as big sister, Abbey has joined her parents in showering Will with love and affection. Will is a man of action, and Stephen loves that. What a joy it has been for Stephen to introduce Will to hunting, fishing, golf and the many other pursuits that Stephen and Will so enjoyed together. How grateful is he for all the family trips taken, and for all the hunting and fishing adventures Stephen and Will have shared. Stephen has had the joy of seeing Abbey through her formative years and now knowing that Abbey is well on her way to her life as an independent adult. Stephen has spent his last few months making preparations for Will’s continued transition to adulthood. Stephen is a man with many brotherly friends, and the men in his life have agreed to come alongside Stephen, in brotherly love, to continue the legacy of Stephen’s fatherly investment in Will Holt.
While Stephen loves being a father and a lawyer/businessman, he has all along had his heart quietly set on a bigger goal. Stephen and his brothers grew up with Christian parents. During revival services at the First Baptist Church of Leachville, 10-year-old Stephen Holt made public his profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He was baptized on Aug. 21, 1977.
Years later during law school Stephen said he was confronted with the reality of how much time he was spending studying man’s law and how little time he was spending studying God’s word. Then and there, he resolved to change that. After law school, Stephen became a serious student of the Bible. His many hours of personal study include the recorded teachings of the Rev. W. O. Vaught, Jr. Stephen’s study led him to the conclusion that a disciple must do more than study. The preaching of the Rev. Stan Paris, a former missionary, fostered in Stephen a strong desire to go and tell. The continuing sense of calling led Stephen to a semester-long class entitled: “PERSPECTIVES,” which is a college-level class on the historical, biblical, cultural and strategic perspectives of the worldwide Christian movement. During that class, Stephen to decide he needed to GO … now, rather than wait until he retired (as he and Patience had long planned).
Stephen promptly signed up for an annual church mission trip … to Paraguay. There he met and began his work with Paraguayan pastor Augusto Vega. For the past several years, Stephen has served as the Paraguay GO-team leader for Immanuel Baptist Church. At the time he was diagnosed with ALS, Stephen was working to raise funds to help plan a new church in Paraguay. Such was the desire of his heart.
The family hosted a visitation at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014. Funeral services followed on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 at Immanuel Baptist Church with Pastor Gary Hollingsworth and former IBC Pastor Stan Paris officiating. Interment was at Riverwood Memorial Gardens in Maumelle, after which family and friends went to the Holt home in Maumelle for food and fellowship.
The family requests any memorial gifts be directed to either the Acts 1:8 Fund at Immanuel Baptist Church, 501 N Shackleford, Little Rock, AR 72211, or to the Stephen Holt Paraguayan Church Building Memorial Fund at the Arkansas Baptist Foundation, 10117 Kanis Rd, Little Rock, AR 72205.