Eureka Springs Independent Column

Ray Freeman of Eureka Springs, Arkansas was known for his honesty and integrity. Toward the end of his life, he had O’Connor’s Texaco (now the location of Sparky’s) service his automobile. When the work was completed,  Doris O’Connor returned the car to Mr. Freeman. What she didn’t realize is that she had accidentally left the Texaco’s bank deposit on the front seat of Ray’s vehicle. Duane O’Connor said that if you had to leave a bag of your money in someone’s car, you couldn’t find a safer person to leave it with than Ray Freeman.

Ray Freeman and his wife Chloe moved to Eureka Springs in 1921 soon after the birth of their son Bob and while their other son Charles was a toddler. Though new residents to Eureka Springs, Ray was a member of a historic family that had long played a prominent role in the affairs of Berryville and Carroll County.

Quite successful, Ray Freeman stayed active in the business world. A sampling of his endeavors include the grocery business, partnering with Eagle Thomas in a variety of entrepreneurial pursuits (including Onyx Cave), and operating cabins on the White River. He later founded Camp Joy, which evolved into the Joy Motel. He was a mayor of Eureka Springs and a charter member of the local Rotary Club. He also leased Lake Leatherwood.

The infamous Dr. Norman Baker once started a feud with Ray Freeman over integrity. He lived to regret it. Apparently, the Freemans had warned visitors away from becoming patients at Baker’s cancer hospital. In a open letter published in the Daily Times-Echo newspaper on June 15, 1939, Dr. Baker retaliated by accusing Mr. and Mrs. Ray Freeman of damaging the economy of Eureka Springs. The long letter had “language tending to impeach the honesty, integrity, veracity and reputation” of the Freemans, according to the charges brought against Dr. Baker by the prosecuting attorney. Norman Baker fought the charges tooth and nail at every level, but, in the end, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that he was guilty of libel and upheld the fine of $2,500 (equal to roughly $42,000 today).