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Bill Underwood, Well-Known Arkansas Jeweler, Dies at 90

He started Underwoods Jewelers with $1,000 loan and an uncompromising work ethic.




(PRESS RELEASE) William “Bill” Gravely Underwood, fondly known as Dadu, was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, and a friend to many. He was a leader in the community, a role model, mentor and always the eternal optimist. Surrounded by family at home in Fayetteville, Arkansas, he left this world on April 2, 2023, after a brief battle with cancer.

Bill Underwood

Bill Underwood

Bill was born on September 22, 1932 in Mountain View, Oklahoma to Mildred and Robert G. Underwood. He grew up in a loving family during the Great Depression, learning values that served him through his life. Bill earned a degree in Horology from Southwestern State College, then served in the Navy from 1952-1956. After the Navy, Bill moved to Fayetteville to attend the University of Arkansas on the G.I. Bill where he was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity and earned a BS in Business.

It was Fayetteville where he met the love of his life, LeAnn, whom he married in 1958. While attending the University of Arkansas, Bill started Underwoods Jewelers with nothing more than a $1,000 loan and an uncompromising work ethic. With his dedication, talent and passion, Underwoods Jewelers grew to become one of the preeminent jewelry stores in the nation. Bill was in the first class of only twenty-nine jewelers in all of America to earn the designation of Certified Gemologist Appraiser, the industry’s most advanced title. He also treasured his involvement with the American Gemological Society (AGS) and served as its President from 1988-1990. He served on numerous national and international diamond and jewelry committees, and received countless awards and honors in the industry.

Bill loved Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas. In 1959, he became a member of Central United Methodist Church. Being civic minded, he served on numerous organizations including the Fayetteville Civil Service Commission, the Dickson Street Improvement District and the Rotary Club. Bill served as a director of First Variable Life Insurance and First National Bank. He was a 32nd degree Mason and longtime member of the Fayetteville Country Club. Bill and LeAnn have made numerous gifts in the community including the Sam M. Walton Honor Lab at University of Arkansas and the Underwood Garden gift to the Walton Arts Center, as well as the media room at The Fayetteville Public Library. In 2004, Bill was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Sam M. Walton College of Business, and he received the Citation of Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2019. An avid pilot for 60 years, Bill shared his passion of flying with family and friends. He loved people and was forever curious.

Bill is survived by a large loving family: his wife LeAnn, daughter Michelle [Barry] Gass, son Craig [Laura] Underwood, daughter Vicki [Kurt] Nelson, grandchildren Alex [Steffie] Gass, Logan Gass, Kyle [Sydney] Underwood, Troy Underwood, Brent Underwood, Will Nelson, Sam Nelson, and John Nelson, great grandchildren Grayson Gass, Harrison Gass, Mac Underwood, Clark Underwood and Tripp Underwood. He was predeceased by his brother, John David Underwood.


A Celebration of Life will be held 2:00 PM, Thursday, April 6th at Central United Methodist Church in Fayetteville.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you consider donations to the University of Arkansas Walton College of Business ( or the Walton Arts Center Donations.

To sign the online guest book please visit



This Third-Generation Jeweler Was Ready for Retirement. He Called Wilkerson

Retirement is never easy, especially when it means the end to a business that was founded in 1884. But for Laura and Sam Sipe, it was time to put their own needs first. They decided to close J.C. Sipe Jewelers, one of Indianapolis’ most trusted names in fine jewelry, and call Wilkerson. “Laura and I decided the conditions were right,” says Sam. Wilkerson handled every detail in their going-out-of-business sale, from marketing to manning the sales floor. “The main goal was to sell our existing inventory that’s all paid for and turn that into cash for our retirement,” says Sam. “It’s been very, very productive.” Would they recommend Wilkerson to other jewelers who want to enjoy their golden years? Absolutely! “Call Wilkerson,” says Laura. “They can help you achieve your goals so you’ll be able to move into retirement comfortably.”

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