Five Inducted Into Arkansas River Hall Of Fame
The Arkansas-Oklahoma Port Operators Association (AOPOA) honored five inductees to the Arkansas River Hall of Fame on September 5 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Event Center at Catoosa, Okla.
The inductees, recognized for their contributions to the Arkansas River and the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS), included Robert “Bob” Portiss, the late Terry Sims, John Roberts, Phyllis Harden and the late John Janoush.
Portiss is perhaps best known for his 30-year career as the port director of the Tulsa Port of Catoosa. His affiliation with the port didn’t end with his retirement in 2016, however, as he was named port director emeritus following the appointment of David Yarbrough as the new port director.
Portiss joined the Tulsa Port of Catoosa in 1973 as the manager of traffic and sales and the assistant secretary of the Facilities Authority, the port’s industrial financing trust.
The following year, he was named to a senior management position with Landmark Land Company, where he gained land development experience while managing commercial and industrial properties in Arizona and New Orleans.
His endeavor with the land development company didn’t last long, though, and he returned to his previous position at the port in 1977. He eventually was named director of marketing and transportation, followed by deputy port director, before being named port director in 1984. He is one of only four people to hold that position since the port opened in 1970.
In addition to his port duties, Portiss served several terms as chairman of the National Waterways Conference and of the Inland Waterways Committee of the National Transportation Research Board, as well as a member of the National Marine Board.
In 2009, he was awarded the Bronze Order of the de Fleury Medal by the Corps, and he was later named “Communicator of the Year” by the Tulsa Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. In 2015, Portiss was recognized as a White House Transportation Champion of Change.
The late Sims began his river career in Mobile, Ala., at the Alabama State Docks for Ryan Walsh Stevedoring Company in 1960. Shortly thereafter, he joined the Marine Reserve, where he would attain the rank of Lance Corporal.
After his stint in the military, Sims commenced his river career with the Ryan Walsh Stevedoring Company that later moved him to Little Rock, Ark., to work at its operation there. In 1984, Sims was named port manager of Logistics Services Inc., a subsidiary of Ryan Walsh Stevedoring Company, at the Port of Little Rock.
In 2000, Sims retired from SSA Marine, also known as Stevedoring Services of America, which operates at the port.
He was an early supporter of the Little Rock Chapter of the Propeller Club of America, the Arkansas Waterways Association and the Arkansas-Oklahoma Port Operators Association.
Roberts has more than 40 years of experience in project management and specialized experience in water resource development and military construction. An Air Force veteran, he obtained his master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Arkansas. He is a registered professional engineer in Oklahoma.
In 2016, he retired from the Corps, which he served for the first half of his career as a geotechnical engineer in the Little Rock and Tulsa Engineer districts. The second half of his career saw him serve as the senior civilian and deputy district engineer for programs and project management in the Tulsa District.
He led a $500 million annual program for civil works, military construction, environmental restoration, and support for other federal agencies and tribes. Some of his significant achievements include serving as the project manager for the Department of Defense’s Restore Iraq Oil project and his support of the EPA at the No. 1 superfund site, Tar Creek, in Oklahoma.
In addition to numerous water resource development and planning projects, Roberts has led many emergency recovery and response efforts. These include the Oklahoma City bombing tragedy at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995, the I-40 Bridge collapse in Webber Falls, Okla.; and major tornadoes, floods, droughts and ice storms.
He has earned many awards, including the Corps’ Civilian of the Year award, the Bronze and Silver Orders of the de Fleury Medals, and governor’s commendations from Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas.
Harden, the executive assistant at Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel Company in Pine Bluff, Ark., is a member of AOPOA and a vice chairman of the Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Port Authority Board.
With more 37 years of experience working with stakeholders, the Corps, Coast Guard and other river industry leaders, she has been instrumental in Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel’s most successful safety program initiative. The program has seen a dramatic decrease in injury and illness to the company’s staff, according to AOPOA.
Harden frequently heads to Washington, D.C., to lobby for Corps waterway project funding and for funding of the MKARNS. She is on the board of directors of the Mississippi Valley AGC, for which she is also a past president; the board of directors of the Dredging Contractors of America, and the board of directors of the National Waterways Conference.
Formerly the vice president of operations of Jantran Inc., Rosedale, Miss., alongside his brothers, Joe and Paul, Janoush had been with the company for 36 years.
He was active in both community and industry affairs. He was a member of local chamber of commerce and economic development groups, in addition to having served on the executive boards of the National Waterways Conference and the Arkansas Waterways Association.
He was a former chairman of the Arkansas River Emergency Reaction Committee, a member of Inland Rivers, Ports & Terminals association, and a member of AOPOA. Janoush also received the Coast Guard’s Public Service Commendation, the highest award given to a civilian.
About The Award
In 1991, the 20th anniversary of the MKARNS, AOPOA established the Arkansas River Hall of Fame awards. The purpose of the Hall of Fame is to honor those persons who have performed significant and outstanding service in the development of the MKARNS. The Hall of Fame is a tribute to the perseverance of individuals who refused to abandon their belief that navigation on the Arkansas River was feasible. Nominees are recommended to AOPOA’s board by its Hall of Fame Committee, and the board of directors selects honorees each year.
Last year, Paul Latture, executive director of the Little Rock Port Authority; the late David Choate, former vice president of Bruce Oakley; and Gene Higginbotham, the former executive director of the Arkansas Waterways Commission, were named to the Hall of Fame for their efforts.