Baptists of Arkansas: Representative Matthew J. Shepherd

Matthew J. Shepherd is the Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives and the Arkansas State Representative for District 6, serving his sixth term in the House.  

Shepherd lives and practices law in El Dorado at the law firm of Shepherd & Shepherd, P.A. He and his wife, Alie, have three children. He was born and raised in El Dorado and graduated from El Dorado High School in 1994. Shepherd went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in History and Political Science from Ouachita Baptist University in 1998 and received his J.D. from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 2001. 

Shepherd is a member of First Baptist Church of El Dorado, where he is a deacon and Sunday School Teacher. He is currently a board member of the Arkansas Baptist Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado, and El Dorado Fifty for the Future, and serves as President of the Murphy USA Classic football game. 

What led you to your career and how did you get to where you are today?  

I grew up reading newspapers and watching the evening news with my parents. They were always discussing current events with my siblings and me. My family, particularly my mother’s family, had been involved in politics through the years. Add to that my father being an attorney and later a judge, and law and politics were subjects I grew up around. At Ouachita, I majored in History and Political Science and interned in one legislative session for Governor Mike Huckabee. After graduating from Ouachita, I attended law school and became an attorney. I was the Union County Republican Committee Chairman when our local House seat came open. I tried to recruit others to run, but finally, after being unsuccessful in recruiting others and receiving encouragement from many others, I decided to run for it myself. I believe my success in being elected to the House and re-elected going on six times is in large part due to being involved in the community well before running for office. 

Can you share a specific story that relates to what you do and how God is using you to make a difference? 

There are so many stories that I could share about how I have felt God has used me in my role as Speaker to make a difference. Many of them, at the time, I probably couldn’t see God at work, but in retrospect, I could see his hand at work. One example would be that leading up to when I became Speaker the legislature had a series of members and former members that had been arrested for various misdeeds. One of the priorities I had in becoming Speaker was for the House and our members to conduct ourselves legally, morally, and ethically, and to uphold the integrity of the House. Along with my fellow House members, I believe we have taken steps to restore the integrity and honor of the House. I believe God has used me and many others to make a positive difference in this regard. Additionally, I believe God has used me and my fellow legislators to make a difference in helping Arkansas to now become the most pro-life state in the nation.      

How does your faith relate to your job? 

My faith relates to not just my job as Speaker, but in everything I do in life. Specifically, as Speaker I have a role in making laws and carrying out state government for over three million Arkansans. Politics can be a rough endeavor, particularly in today’s world of social media and hyper-partisanship. My faith keeps me grounded to be able to resist the temptation to elevate myself, and conversely, to overcome the attacks and criticism, even personal at times, that are part of being in politics. My faith also helps me to keep in mind that the things of this world are temporal in nature, and that our relationship with Jesus Christ is what ultimately matters.   

Do you have anything else you would like to add, such as advice you would give to your younger self or someone pursuing the same career path? 

I think the best advice that I can offer in general or to someone who might want to pursue running for office, is to take chances and not be afraid of failure. This has been something that has been hard for me to learn, as I am very conservative in my decision-making by nature. I have found that whether it is becoming Speaker or some of the other opportunities that I have had, many times the person who steps out and takes a chance is rewarded.  Further, even in instances of failure, there is much to be learned and gained from that, and in the end God’s plan and timing are perfect. I was defeated for Speaker in 2014, but in retrospect, it was for the best, as I was even better prepared to become Speaker later in 2018 and serve as Speaker during one of the most trying times in our state’s history, the COVID-19 pandemic.   

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