Obituary – Ruth Elizabeth “Liz” Workman

Ruth Elizabeth “Liz” Workman
October 23, 1928 – January 1, 2022

Ruth Elizabeth (“Liz”) Teague Workman died on January 1, 2022. She was 93 years old and had been a resident of Conway since 1985.

Mrs. Workman was best known for her long and engaged involvement in the United Methodist Church’s social and human rights work. She was particularly active in advocating civil rights, women’s equality, and efforts to promote justice and world peace. As a result of her lifelong leadership in these areas, Mrs. Workman received numerous honors. These included Hendrix College’s Ethel K. Miller Award for Religious and Social Awareness (1985); recognition by the Arkansas Peace Center for her “sustained commitment to contemporary issues of peace and justice” (1987); The Valiant Woman Award from Arkansas Church Women United (1988); the Human Rights Award from Church Women United (2011), and the 2013 Humanitarian Award from Hendrix College.

Born in Buckner, AR in 1928, Elizabeth Teague was the second child of Otto Warren Teague (d. 1988) of Hollywood, AR, and Lydia Lois Young Teague (d. 1998), formerly of Mayfield, KY. Her father was a United Methodist minister who served for 43 years in various Arkansas conferences. The Church and its music formed the foundations of young Elizabeth’s life. Her earliest memory, she once said, was hearing a piano as she walked along a dirt road in rural Arkansas and felt drawn to the sound.

By the time she was 12, she was playing the piano for worship services led by her father. Only a few years later, she would serve in local churches as a youth counselor, Sunday school teacher, and choir director. She graduated from Pine Bluff High School (1946) and received her BA from Hendrix College (1950). At Hendrix she met her husband, John S. Workman (d. 2014), a Methodist minister and a journalist who, from 1979 into the early ‘90s, was the Arkansas Gazette’s religion editor. They were married for 64 years, a remarkable partnership which often saw them both engaged in many of the same political, social justice, and human rights issues.

Mrs. Workman was also deeply committed to public schools and, in particular, the education of the underprivileged and neglected. She earned an MA from the University of Central Arkansas in 1970 in special education and taught in the Little Rock Public Schools for 10 years (1970-1980). While the focus of her advocacy work was the United Methodist Women’s organization, her activism extended well beyond the halls of Methodism. From 1986-89 she was State President of Church Women United (CWU) in Arkansas, an organization of women of diverse races, cultures, and religious traditions advocating for peace and justice throughout the world. She also served on the CWU’s National Common Council, as well as on the National Committee for Ecumenical Action. The Arkansas CWU selected her State Chairperson for their Jubilee Year Celebration, marking the completion of their first 50 years of operation. While living in Little Rock, she also helped reorganize the Conway chapter of CWU and, after moving to Conway, held several offices there, including service as its president (2003-2004).

During the 1980s, Mrs. Workman also worked closely with the late Betty Bumpers, wife of the former Arkansas Governor and U.S. Senator, as one of the earliest members of Arkansas’ Peace Links initiative, an organization focused on ending the nuclear weapons race. As a part of this effort, she served on the Curriculum Committee for The Peace Education Project at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In 1985 she was state coordinator for the organization’s Peace Ribbon project. And in this leadership position she was selected to represent the group with Betty Bumpers at the Peace March in Washington, D.C., as well as served as a delegate for the organization’s mission to the Soviet Union in 1987.

An enthusiastic sports fan and athlete, Liz Workman played tennis into her mid 80s, often with her good friend, the late Betty Courtway of Conway. She was a highly competitive player. So much so that her children often joked that, for Mom, the promotion of world peace did not extend to the tennis court. Mrs. Workman’s other activities included work as co-chair of the Conway League of Women Voters; as a speaker and active member of NOW (National Organization for Women); as an advocate for alleviating poverty and hunger among Arkansans; as a member of the Advisory Council for the Arkansas Conference of Churches and Synagogues; and as a prominent voice for ERArkansas, the campaign in the mid-1970s to pass a State Equal Rights Amendment.

Mrs. Workman is survived by her brothers Otto Warren Teague, Jr. of Stuttgart, AR, Samuel Berris Teague of Conway, AR, and David Gene Teague of Lexington, SC. Her sister, Lydia Lorraine Teague Wilson of Beebe, Ark., passed away in 2015. Her husband of 64 years, John S. Workman of Conway, died in 2014. She is also survived by her four children: John S. Workman, Jr. of Ridgewood, NJ; Paul Steven Workman of Owasso, OK; Susan (Susie) Workman Jones of Miami, NM; and Charles M. Workman of Valeyres-sous-Montagny, Switzerland; plus seven grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.

Her memorial service will be at the First United Methodist Church in Conway on a date to be arranged after the crest of the pandemic has subsided. In lieu of flowers, her family would welcome memorial donations made to one of the following: First United Methodist Church of Conway (designated for “The Elizabeth and John Workman Social Justice Fund”); Hendrix College (designated for “The Elizabeth and John Workman Grant Fund”); or to The Arkansas FoodBank, 4301 W. 65th Street, Little Rock, AR 72209.

Share this: