Danny Johnston, Associated Press
In this Nov. 1, 2010 photo, farmer and businessmen Stanley Reed speaks at a campaign event for Republican senatorial candidate John Boozman in West Memphis, Ark. Reed, 59, died Friday, July 15, 2011, in a traffic accident near Augusta, Ark., a state police spokesman said.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Stanley Reed, a cotton farmer and lawyer who briefly ran for the U.S. Senate and was among the finalists to lead the University of Arkansas system, died Friday in a single-vehicle crash. He was 59.

Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler says troopers were notified a little before 10 a.m. Friday of a car that crashed in Woodruff County. Sadler says Reed was dead at the scene.

State police said Reed's vehicle left the roadway without any evidence of attempting to brake or skid, crossed a ditch, traveled more than 300 feet and struck a tree.

Reed learned Thursday that after being one of four finalists, he'd missed out on being named to lead the University of Arkansas system. The UA trustees chose Donald Bobbitt, the current provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington, as the next president.

"He just loved the university of Arkansas system and everything about it," said B. Alan Sugg, the outgoing president of the system. "I just can't say enough things about him. He was one of the most outstanding human beings I've ever known."

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee praised Reed as someone who had a "heart of service" for the state.

"He was a great guy to be around, whether in a duck blind or a board room, and he will be greatly missed," Huckabee said in a statement released by his political action committee.

Gov. Mike Beebe said he was shocked by Reed's death and called him a "staunch advocate" for the state's farmers. "He was known for his dedication and commitment, and his voice will be missed," Beebe said.

Reed had launched a bid for U.S. Senate in late 2009 but withdrew after just more than a week, citing health reasons. He later co-chaired Republican John Boozman's successful bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

"The state of Arkansas lost a true friend and champion," Boozman said. "Stanley's friendship has meant a great deal to me over the years and his wisdom and example has had tremendous influence on so many."

Reed had been a past supporter of Lincoln and had donated money to her campaign, but said he had become concerned about her position on issues such as health care.

"This was a tough decision, but it's the right one," Reed said when he left the Senate race.

In co-chairing Boozman's campaign, Reed stumped for the northwest Arkansas congressman and argued that he could represent the state's farmers in east Arkansas.

"We have historically been a strong Democratic area of the state, but I think we're seeing that change," Reed said. "I think that's because of the agenda of the national Democratic Party."

Rep. David Sanders, who left his job as a columnist to manage Reed's brief campaign, said Reed and his wife were more concerned about him than their own future when Reed dropped out.

"When he told me, him and Charlene were more worried about me and my family than his getting out of the race. That's just who he was," said Sanders, R-Little Rock.

A cotton farmer and lawyer from Marianna, Reed served as president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau from 2003 until 2008. He had served as a member of the bureau's board of directors for 21 years. At the time of his death, he was on the boards of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Simmons National Bank, the Arkansas World Trade Center Board of Advisors and the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation.

"The state of Arkansas has lost a true leader, and the Farm Bureau family has lost a gracious man," said Randy Veach, the bureau's president. "Stanley Reed stood for everything that is good and just about this organization. He was a man of integrity, compassion and faith."

Reed served on the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2008, the last two years as chairman.

In seeking the UA system presidency, Reed had touted his background in law, higher education, agriculture and public service.

"From the outset, my desire to seek this position has been motivated by my deep love and passion for the state of Arkansas, and an understanding of the role the University of Arkansas system plays in the everyday lives of Arkansans," Reed said in a statement released after his interview with the board Thursday.

He had earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics in 1973 and a law degree in 1976 from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

State police said they believed Reed was returning to Marianna from a farm supply business at Augusta. An investigative report on the crash was not expected to be completed until next week.

Reed is survived by his wife, Charlene, three children and three grandchildren.

Associated Press writer Chuck Bartels contributed to this report.