Gina King, a long-time Gridiron actor and the first to portray a pregnant teenager while pregnant herself, died Oct. 7, 2020. She was 59.
King first performed in the Gridiron in the 1980s, and one of the sketches for which she is well remembered, Sixteen Going on Preggers, about teen pregnancy in Arkansas. Several actors portrayed pregnant teens, including King, who was pregnant at the time with her daughter Kate, who 20 years later also performed in the Gridiron.
When the Gridiron returned to the stage in 2004, King portrayed the White Rabbit during the opening sketch and the character Minnie Pearl in a send-up of the old Hee Haw variety show in the last sketch of the show. Other characters for which is remembered include Paula Deen and her Southern cooking recipes; Nancy Grace, the celebrity gossip TV news personality; and the local celebrity, Janine Parry, in a sketch called “Candidate Roadshow.”
King was born June 27, 1961, in Texarkana, Texas, the daughter of Joel and Mattie (Clark) Green. She was a 1983 graduate of what was then called the Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism, now the School of Journalism and Strategic Media in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.
After graduation, she served five years as a writer and public information officer for the U.S. Army. She returned to Fayetteville in 1988 and worked as a reporter for The Springdale News and its successor, The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas from 1988 to 1995, first covering Springdale education and then as a court reporter writing about state and federal trials. She and her family moved to North Carolina where she was director of public relations for the Charlotte Convention and Visitors Bureau and also researched and helped write The History of Nucor Steel, which chronicled the history of America’s second-largest steel mill corporation.
She returned to Fayetteville in 1999 to become managing editor of Arkansas magazine, the quarterly publication of the Arkansas Alumni Association, at a time when the university was expanding its public relations efforts during the university’s Campaign for the Twenty-First Century.
When she was hired, the director of the alumni association at the time, Mike Macechko, said, “When I interviewed Gina I was impressed by her energy, enthusiasm and qualifications. I became even more excited upon learning she is an alumna. Gina has walked where our alumni have walked, so she will be able to convey those special University insights in a way that others can feel. It is obvious that she brings a special relationship to the editorship.”
King edited Arkansas, the quarterly alumni magazine of the Arkansas Alumni Association, for 11 years and led the editorial staff of the Office of University Relations during a period when strategies and methods of public relations changed significantly with the rise of online and social media and a shift toward communicating directly with the university’s community. As part of that effort, she developed an email newsletter for the campus called Daily Headlines that evolved into today’s Arkansas News email.
Melissa Blouin, who developed the office’s research and science communications, described King as a colleague, mentor and good friend. “She seemed to know everyone in Northwest Arkansas from her university and newspaper days,” Blouin said. “She had a biting wit, a sharp mind and a generous heart. The world’s light is dimmer in her absence.”
“She was the glue that kept communicators connected across campus. Everyone knew they could count on her for advice and ,” said Charlie Alison, editor for University Relations. “I knew her in college, worked with her at The Springdale News, performed crazy sketches with her in the Northwest Arkansas Gridiron and then was hired by her at the university. She was a good boss and friend, and I’ll miss her.”
In recent years she worked as a freelance writer and spent more time with her family. King was a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville.
She was preceded in death by her father and granddaughter Berkleigh James Oxford. Survivors include daughter Kate Oxford, mother Mattie Green, brother Joel Green; and granddaughter McKenzie Oxford.