Mike Gauldin, a University of Arkansas alumnus who served as press secretary to then-Gov. Bill Clinton and later as director of communications for the U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior during the Clinton presidential administration, died July 22, 2010, at his home in Burke, Virginia, after a two-year struggle with brain cancer.
When he first joined the Gridiron cast, he was a relatively shy and reticent actor, but he soon overcame that timidity and turned into a full-fledged ham and writer for the show. His best-remembered role, which became a recurring one for several seasons, was that of the backwoods preacher Brother Billy Bob from Brentwood. He also produced cover artwork for the Gridiron programs for several years and was emcee for the show in 1988 after he became press secretary for Clinton. In 2005, he traveled to Arkansas to stand in for Elmer Stufflebeam one year when Rusty Garrett was not able to be in the show.
Mike was born Nov. 13, 1954, at Mena and reared in nearby Foreman. From 1974 to 1977, he served in the U.S. Army as a public affairs specialist in Colorado and Europe. While in the service, Mike began drawing a cartoon strip that was syndicated to Army newspapers in the United States and overseas.
After his discharge, Mike came to the University of Arkansas, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and was editor of the student newspaper, The Arkansas Traveler. He continued his cartooning, starting a comic strip called “Wild Bill” about life on campus and drawing editorial cartoons as well. He was named the outstanding journalism graduate in 1981.
After graduation, he worked for the Northwest Arkansas Morning News in Rogers, the Springdale News and the Russellville Courier-Democrat, continuing to draw editorial cartoons that were syndicated to newspapers statewide. In the mid-1980s, he returned to the university campus as assistant director of information for the Division of Information, where he provided media relations and taught journalism courses.
Mike left the university in 1987 to work as press secretary for Clinton. After Clinton’s presidential election in 1992, Mike went to Washington as well and served a couple of years as director of communications for the Department of Energy under Secretary Hazel O’Leary before moving to a similar position at the Department of Interior under Secretary Bruce Babbitt. Near the end of the Clinton administration, Gauldin became an information officer in the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and later became the public affairs officer for the U.S. Geological Service, a position he held until his death.
At the time of his death, he was separated from his wife, Jane Catherine Harrison Gauldin of Springfield, Va., who survived him as did their four children, Amanda Willett, Patrick Gauldin, John Gauldin and Elizabeth Gauldin; his parents, Harold and Fairy Gauldin of Foreman; three brothers; and two grandchildren. He was also survived by his companion of 15 years, Jana Prewitt.