Mrs. Eliza Jane Burnett Dodson Ashley was born October 11, 1917, to Mr. and Mrs. William Burnett in Pettus, Ark. She departed this life November 13 at the age of 103 at home in California, where she retired after 36 years of public service to the State of Arkansas as a cook at the Governor’s Mansion.
Faith in God and service to others was a cornerstone of Liza’s life. She was converted at an early age when she was united with the St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Pettus. In 1942, she moved to Little Rock and united with the Collins Street Missionary Baptist Church, now known as Canaan Missionary Baptist Church. She was a member of the Usher Board, the Missionary Society, the October Club, and was a faithful attendee at Bible class and Sunday school.
Liza attended public school in Pettus and Pulaski Training School in McAlmont before beginning her amazing career with the Governor’s Mansion, serving seven governors. She was famous for her pound cake and chocolate chip cookies.
Liza was also a unique witness to Arkansas history. As she quietly prepared meals for the governors, their families, staff members, friends, and special guests, including visitors from around the world, she often did so as they sat at the kitchen counter, discussing anything from kids’ schoolwork to matters of state. President Bill Clinton was Liza’s last governor before retirement, making the final months of her career exciting ones as she made sure the family and the presidential transition team had plenty of sustenance.
Many of the governors included Liza and her husband as guests at their family holiday dinners. Liza and Fred were also thrilled to be invited by the Clintons to the White House as special guests for several holiday dinners.
In partnership with former Governor’s Mansion Administrator Carolyn Huber, Liza wrote “Thirty Years at the Mansion,” a delightful book of her governors’ favorite recipes and special insights into life at the Governor’s Mansion. More than one million copies have been sold. After the book was published, the spotlight turned onto Liza – she traveled extensively around the country to give television and newspaper interviews about the book and stories about her career.
Following retirement, Liza also volunteered at the Veterans’ Administration Hospital, the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. She was a member of the National Council of Negro Women and the American Legion. She was also a member of the Governor’s Mansion Advisory Board.
Both of Liza’s husbands, Calvin Dodson, and Fred Ashley, preceded her in death. She and Calvin are survived by a son, Calvin Louis Dodson; and, two wonderful grandchildren, Dave Elgin Dodson and Chenelle M. Dodson.
A walk-through visitation will be held on Friday, December 4, 2020, from 12 noon to 6 p.m. at Ruffin & Jarrett Funeral Home chapel, 1200 Chester Street, Little Rock, Ark. 72202. (501) 372-1305. Masks are required and social spacing is observed. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, December 5, 2020 at 11 a.m., also, at the funeral home.
Interment will be on Monday, at 1 p.m., December 7, 2020, at the Arkansas State Veteran’s Cemetery, 1501 Maryland, North Little Rock, Ark.
Memorials my be made to Canaan Missionary Baptist Church, State Street, Little Rock, Ark.