That night he spoke highly of Mike Nail and regarded the man who offered him his first job in TV as a mentor and a blessing. Matt had his entire life ahead of him and he intended to make it an amazing life. What I sensed in him that evening while he spoke of his family in Arkadelphia, Julee - the beautiful college sweetheart - and his hopes of someday working at a tv station in Little Rock, was his ability to achieve what he set his mind to. I knew then that Matt was the kind of guy you wanted around to inspire you, to uplift you and to support you when you needed it most.
The next nine years would see us both grow in our roles at the tv station. Matt was an immediate stand-out and his ability to tackle not just the sports stories that mattered, but the news stories as well, made him an obvious choice for advancement. I will never forget the night a tornado tore through Bentonville. Matt was still a sports reporter and had his friend and colleague, Jason Carroll, with him. They came back to the station after running around in the wind and rain with a report to air. We quickly discovered it was Matt walking through a home literally ripped in half with the homeowner talking about the terrifying experience. That report was hands-down one of the best on-the-spot news reports I have ever watched.
As KNWA main anchor Matt flourished. His positive and engaging nature lit up the NWA TV sets every night. Matt quickly transitioned into his new role and utilized the position to help give back to a community he regarded as his second home. He was tireless in his dedication to our local non-profits and he always wanted to use his position to help further their cause.
Matt also greatly enjoyed building relationships with the more influential people of NWA. He liked to just talk with people and hear their stories. He really had a knack for making a person feel comfortable. His genuine nature made talking to Matt feel like talking to an old friend. He just struck everyone as the kind of guy you would always keep close.
One by one, I witnessed Matt achieving all the goals he spoke of that fall evening nine years ago. He married the college sweetheart that was his one great love. He thrived as a broadcast professional. He won awards and accolades for his work both professionally and his work with the community. He achieved more than most, even as he struggled through hardships that many of us will never know in our own lifetime. Matt was every bit of amazing as I had suspected.
And one day something amazing happened to Matt - his daughter Preslee was born. In all these years together, I had never seen Matt so astounded. The joy, the pride, the selfless love that can only be known through parenthood left a mark on Matt so deep you couldn't help but notice it immediately.
When Matt told me he was headed to Little Rock for the job he always wanted - I was torn in two. Torn because I knew I would miss the man I had grown to love. And torn because I knew he was about to begin the best chapter in his life. Matt did everything he set out to do. And he did it all with such passion, style and grace that none will ever follow in his footsteps.
Today I mourn for Matt's passing. Today I mourn for the loss that Julee and Preslee now must face. Today I mourn for the loss of an Arkansas son who amazed us all and became a household name that carried integrity and honor. Today I mourn for the loss of a man I met on the sidelines nine years ago. We laughed together, we grew together, we fought with each other, we wept together, we enjoyed life's wonderful moments together and we simply lived together.
But through my grief - I will celebrate Matt's life. I know it is what he would want. I can almost hear him now...'Hey, BT - don't worry about me, buddy. I am home.'"
- Brook Thomas, KNWA News Director