April 21 was a monumental day for the judiciary as Retired Justice Jack Holt, Jr. unveiled his official judicial protrait, 20 years in the making, before more than 150 of his family and friends at the Justice Building in Little Rock.
Justice Holt, arguably one of the most influential Arkansas Supreme Court Justices, retired in 1995 after serving the Supreme Court as Chief Justice for 10 years. Justice Holt created the Judicial Disability and Discipline Commission, aided in expanding the Arkansas Court of Appeals from six members to twelve, and created the drug courts, which he considers “the highlight of my tenure as Chief Justice.” Prior to his time on the Supreme Court, Justice Holt served in the Air Force and practiced as a trial lawyer in Little Rock.
Justice Holt’s wife, Jane Holt, is the artist behind his official portrait. Holt is an award-winning Little Rock artist, founding member of the Portrait Society of America, and associate member of the Oil Painters of America. She has works in many national and international collections, including the Arkansas
Court of Appeals, the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute. Her work has been featured in Southwest Art, Amercian Art Collection Magazine, and other publications. “Most portrait painters do not share the privilege of painting a Justice of any Supreme Court, but our situation is unique since I am a professional painter and I married Jack Holt,” Jane said. “The honor of painting him and appearing before this court is mine.”
The portrait is symbolic in many ways. In it, Justice Holt stands in the Supreme Court courtroom, where he sat for 10 years. He is holding a gavel, a symbol of the authority and responsibility he carried during his tenure as Chief Justice. From the signature hangs a set of keys, a nod to the fact that Justice Holt is notorious for misplacing his keys.
Retired judge Jack Lessenberry introduced Justice Holt and gave a summary of his career and achievements, saying “Perhaps late Justice Tom Glaze said it best... ‘Jack was an outstanding chief in the way that he did not only have a full understanding of the law but he was, in essence, a reformer.’”
Chief Justice Jack Holt’s portrait was unveiled by his grandchildren in the courtroom and officially received by the Arkansas Supreme Court Historical Society. A brief reception followed.
The official portrait now resides in the lobby of the Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Building in Little Rock along with an exhibit featuring the life and works of Justice Jack Holt. The Justice Building is open to the public Monday through Friday, 8am to 5:00pm.