Cover photo for James Daniel Nelson's Obituary
James Daniel Nelson Profile Photo

James Daniel Nelson

d. February 14, 2024

James Daniel Nelson

James Daniel Nelson, 88, of Little Rock, Arkansas, passed away from natural causes in the comfort of his home on February 14, 2024. Known to most simply as “Nelson”, was born on December 17, 1935, in Victoria, Texas, to William Bryan Nelson and Pearl Anderson Nelson.

When he was 9 years old, the family moved to Eldorado, Arkansas, following the unexpected death of his father. He quickly became the “man of the house” and molded his unstoppable work ethic and character, as we came to know it. When he wasn’t bagging groceries after school to help support his mother and sister, you could find him on the baseball field. His claim to fame was hitting the first home run out of the newly fenced ball field. Determined to provide a better life, he put himself through college at Henderson State University where he was a member of the Kappa Sigma Kappa fraternity and a 2nd Lieutenant in the ROTC program. Nelson joined the United States ARMY in 1958 as a Captain in the Army Security Agency and was honorably discharged in 1968. He was a true Patriot!

After his release from active duty, he returned to Little Rock where he began a long and storied business career. An entrepreneur by nature, his business interest spanned ownership in an insurance agency with his brother-in-law (Gabe Balmaz), wholesale distribution, trade show production, hunting guide service and real estate. Nelson was honored with Arkansas Business Magazine’s, “Business of the Year Award” in 1990. He was the “J” in B.J.’s Star Studded Honky Tonk, a popular Little Rock country and western club in the mid-80’s. He loved Lee Greenwood’s version of “God Bless the USA”, Elvis, George Straight and of course Willie’s, “You Were Always on My Mind”.

He lived life to the fullest. Never letting his age or ability get in the way of something he wanted to do. An avid outdoorsman, he started duck hunting in his 50’s as a way to bond with his two boys; something that he never got to do with his father. For over 20 years, he duck hunted in the woods of Bayou Meto with family, friends, and black lab “Star”. He loved spending time at the duck club with his boys and their friends. He was just one of the guys and was nicknamed “Jazz D”. He was a great shot but couldn’t blow a duck call. That was one challenge he couldn’t conquer. In 1998, he was a founding member of the Arkansas Guide Association. His eldest son Jimmy and he shared many great moments together as Elk Guides in Colorado. He simply volunteered for this work and loved every minute of it. He was a recipient of the Triple Crown Award given by the AGFC, hit the ugliest hole in-one at PVCC and had his pilot’s license. He quit flying after admitting, “I’m the world’s worst pilot”. After being told he was too old to be a lines judge at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, he chose the next best option; a ballboy. During 1990, he trained for four months with a former baseball pitching coach to strengthen his arm and improve his throwing accuracy. After some skepticism and laughter, at the age of 54, he became the oldest ballboy in U.S. Open history. In 1991, he and his youngest son Scott, became the first father-son ballboy combination in U.S. Open history.

The family enjoyed trips to the beach, Colorado, Hawaii, and visited Europe three times; Italy was his favorite. He loved Italian food! They were members of PVCC and enjoyed playing tennis with friends and family. They loved watching their granddaughters compete in soccer, volleyball, and tennis. He is survived by his wife Jane of 55 years and two sons Jimmy (Stacey) and Scott (Mary Kathryn) and four beautiful granddaughters (Mary Kathryn, Ella, Emmy, and Finley).  

Nelson was a “man for all seasons”. He stayed true to his principles and high moral integrity. Never wavering, regardless of the situation. He was a glass half full kind of guy who always had a good attitude and a welcoming smile. He was simple, genuine, polite, and people respected him. He enjoyed a daily glass or two of white wine and a bowl of ice cream or a pack of M&Ms. As the condolences have rolled in, words such as legend, gentleman, kind, awesome, and stud have described him. Many of these words from a younger generation that haven’t seen him in years.

He leaves this life full, leaving nothing on the table. We should all be so lucky.

The family would like to thank Trish Jones for the loving care she gave Nelson and Gentiva Hospice for their services. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

A memorial service will be held at 1:30 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024 at Smith Little Rock Funeral Home, 8801 Knoedl Court, Little Rock, Arkansas. A reception will follow.  Online guestbook at www.smithfamilycares.com.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James Daniel Nelson, please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Memorial Service

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

1:30 - 2:30 pm (Central time)

Smith Family Funeral Home Little Rock

8801 Knoedl Ct., Little Rock, AR 72205

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Reception

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Starts at 2:30 pm (Central time)

Smith Family Funeral Home Little Rock

8801 Knoedl Ct., Little Rock, AR 72205

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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