“I’m proud to be from Alabama, “says Arthur Orr. Born in May 1964 to Blythe and Bud Orr of Danville, Alabama, Arthur grew up next to the Alabama Sheriff’s Boys Ranch.
“One thing I learned growing up was the value of hard work… though I may not have appreciated it much at the time, I certainly do now.” Whether working on the Boys Ranch, hauling 55-gallon barrels for his family’s business or loading sand at the Norfolk-Southern Railroad yard in the early morning before high school, hard work was an important part of his early years.
“I’ve always been a ‘doer’… even early in life.” While attending college at Wake Forest University, Arthur served as chairman of the Honor Council and set a new fund-raising record as chairman of the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund Drive. He received several academic honors and held numerous leadership posts while in college.
“After college, I was eager to come back home to Alabama. The law was an area of great interest to me after serving as chairman of the college Honor Council.” He attended law school at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa where he was elected as chief justice of the Honor Court, senior editor of a law review, and on the Moot Court board. While also earning academic honors in school, Arthur taught freshman English to undergraduates and regularly volunteered with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Community Soup Bowl.
“The plight of those in need has always concerned me. My faith mandates action to address the needs of others.” While his classmates pursued legal careers after graduation, Arthur joined the Peace Corps. He was assigned to the remote Himalayan village of Khandbari, Nepal; several days walk from the nearest road. He lived primitively with no indoor plumbing and dirt floors, teaching in the village school and conducting teacher trainings. “I soon noticed the plight of young village girls who were married off at early ages and unable to continue to their educations. They would be relegated to a lifetime of despair with little hope for a better existence.” With the financial help of friends and family in the U.S., Arthur used his legal and language training while in Nepal to establish a college scholarship program to benefit female village students. To date, over 80 village students have benefited by attending college and seeking the opportunities an education provides.
After completing his Peace Corps commitment, he returned to Decatur where he joined the law firm of Harris, Caddell and Shanks, P.C. He also served as president of the Decatur Jaycees, the Volunteer Center and Main Street Decatur and was an active board member with other organizations and his church. Arthur was selected as the Citizen of the Year by the Decatur Rotary Club and received other leadership awards from various organizations. He was honored as a "Community Hero" to carry the 1996 Olympic Torch in Morgan County.
“Though I became a partner in a respected law firm and was active in the community, I felt led to return overseas to do what I could to help the poor in the developing world.” Hired by Habitat for Humanity International for a three-year period, he was assigned to establish a new Habitat program in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh program was built from scratch and, to-date, has constructed over 1000 houses in partnership with the working poor of that country. Arthur also served as legal counsel throughout the Asia/Pacific region, traveling to numerous countries and negotiating with government officials, aid organizations and local citizens to further advance Habitat programs across southeast Asia.
After serving beyond his initial term with Habitat, he returned to Decatur where he joined Cook's Pest Control, Inc. as its Vice President and General Counsel. “Working with a company operating 35 offices in 7 states with over 1600 employees has provided me the opportunity to be more involved in the ongoing growth and management of a business — which I enjoy." Since his return in 2001, Arthur also started several businesses, primarily involved in real estate development and management. He has also re-engaged as an active community leader and served as president of the Calhoun College Foundation, Community Foundation of Decatur and the Decatur Rotary Club. He helped start the Community Free Clinic and has served on many other boards. He is the former President of the National Alumni Association for Wake Forest University and a member of its Board of Visitors and a Trustee for Athens State University. A long-time adult Sunday school and men's Bible study teacher, Arthur and his family are members of First Bible Church in Decatur.
Since his election in 2006, Arthur has sponsored, and seen his colleagues pass, numerous bills to make government more transparent and efficient, thereby saving the taxpayers money, along with tightening campaign finance laws. He now chairs the $12 billion Senate Budget Committee for Education and several other legislative committees. He serves as Chairman of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission created to celebrate the State’s 200th Anniversary. For his efforts both in and out of the legislature, Arthur has received many regional, state and local awards from education, business, agriculture and state agencies and volunteer associations. He enjoys reading, jogging and travel; having visited or lived in over 70 countries.
Arthur and his wife of almost twenty years, the former Amy Bethshares of Decatur, have one son named Jack and a daughter, Anna. Amy serves on various local boards along with being involved with several women’s Bible study groups.