Today marks the birthday of one of Little Rock’s most reluctant native sons. Douglas MacArthur was rarely at a loss for words, opinions, or nerve. But when it came to admitting he was born in Little Rock, he was, reticent.
MacArthur was born in Arkansas by mistake. His mother, the product of multiple generations of Virginia breeding, had wanted all of her children born in Virginia. His father, being a career military man, was stationed in a variety of places outside of Virginia. Thus, the problem.
Mrs. MacArthur was not able to get back to Virginia from her husband’s new assignment in Little Rock. So on January 26, 1880, Douglas MacArthur was born in Little Rock at the U.S. Army Arsenal. He would be baptized at Christ Episcopal Church, but the family left Little Rock in June 1880.
MacArthur would not visit Arkansas again until 1952 when he was testing the waters for a potential Presidential bid. At the time, Little Rock had its first (and to date only) Republican Mayor in Pratt C. Remmel. The park which now stood where the former military arsenal was located had been named in MacAthur’s honor in 1942.
In the 1952 visit, MacArthur made a speech from the Foster Bandshell in MacArthur Park. He also visited Christ Episcopal Church, though the existing building had been built after his baptism.
The only structure remaining from the Arsenal, the Tower Building, is purportedly the building in which MacArthur was born. Since 2001, that building has housed the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. That museum is dedicated to telling Arkansas’ military history past from territorial days onward. While it does have an exhibit about MacArthur, the museum is not solely dedicated to him.
A previous tenant of the building, the then-Museum of Science and Natural History, hosted the premiere of a movie about General MacArthur entitled MacArthur. Gregory Peck played the five star general and attended the premiere. Though partially inspired by the success of Patton earlier in the decade, this film was not as successful.
General MacArthur is also featured as one of the twenty-five Medal of Honor recipients with Arkansas connections. The Arkansas State Capitol features a memorial to the honorees.