White House Counselor to the President Thomas F. (Mack) McLarty is a lifelong friend of President Clinton, serving for 18 months as his Chief of Staff, and is the former chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Arkla, Inc., one of the nation's largest natural gas companies.
President Clinton and Mack McLarty met in kindergarten in their native town of Hope, Arkansas. Since that time, they have stayed in touch, personally as well as professionally, and have always referred to each other as "my oldest friend."
Student body president at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, McLarty, at age 23, was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives. One of the youngest people ever to be elected to the Arkansas House, McLarty later went on to serve as chairman of the Arkansas State Democratic Party from 1974 through 1976. He was also treasurer in the successful gubernatorial elections of Senator David Pryor and President Clinton.
McLarty became the youngest person ever elected to the Arkla board in 1974, and was named president of Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company in 1983. McLarty was named chairman and chief executive officer of Arkla, Inc. in 1985 and held this position until being asked to serve as White House Chief of Staff after the election of President Clinton in 1992. During McLarty's tenure, Arkla was recognized by Forbes and Financial World magazines, as well as the Wall Street Transcript, as one of the nation's most innovative companies in the natural gas industry. Additionally, he was personally recognized on several occasions as one of the natural gas industry's most outstanding chief executive officers.
Under McLarty's leadership, Arkla was praised for its efforts to promote minority business growth and to enhance the company's efforts to employ minorities. For these efforts, McLarty received a Fair Share Award in 1991 from the NAACP. McLarty also led Arkla's efforts to preserve natural resources, and in 1991, Arkla received the first ever Corporate Stewardship Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its environmental sensitivity and cooperation with many national and local environmental groups during the construction of a major pipeline project.
In addition to his work for Arkla, McLarty helped transform a five-generation family business, McLarty Companies, into one of the South's largest transportation companies, with interests ranging from truck leasing to automobile dealerships.
Despite his national success, McLarty has always remained a devoted advocate of economic and civic development in his home state of Arkansas. He was particularly active in the Arkansas public school system, and was instrumental in establishing a program to bring computers into the public school classrooms.
McLarty is married to Donna Cochran, also a native Arkansan and graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. They have two sons, Mark, a student at Georgetown University, and Franklin, a student at the University of Arkansas. During her years in Little Rock, Arkansas, Donna was very active in community affairs and served on the board of directors for the Centers for Youth and Families and as a member of the Little Rock Airport Commission.
In 1991, the McLartys were recipients of the Humanitarian Award from the Arkansas Chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ). They are members of the Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church in Little Rock.