Little Rock Look Back: Election Set for Auditorium Approval

muni aud elect ad editedOn November 30, 1936, Little Rock Mayor R. E. Overman asked the City Council to call a special election for January 1937 for approval of the issuance of bonds for a municipal auditorium.  Prior to asking the aldermen to call the election, the mayor had been in Washington DC to visit with Public Works Administration (PWA) officials. The mayor was assured that the auditorium project would be approved for federal funds.

While the mayor was meeting with federal officials, architects Eugene Stern, George Wittenberg and Lawson Delony were meeting with local PWA officials in Little Rock.  They were reviewing the plans for the funding request.  Though there were still a few refinements to be completed in the documents, the local officials seemed satisfied.  With these assurances in hand, Mayor Overman moved forward with putting the request before the City Council.

Though there were many things discussed at length during the November 30 City Council meeting, there was virtually no conversation regarding the structure before the 15-0 vote by the City Council to refer the auditorium bonds to the voters.  There were three different bond programs to be put before the voters in January 1937: a municipal auditorium, expansion of the public library and creation of a park for African Americans.

The bonds for the auditorium would be $468,000 in general obligation bonds which would be paid off between 1940 and 1971.  This was toward a total cost of $760,000 for the entire project.  At the time of the initial auditorium application in 1935, the mayor had noted that if the PWA failed to approve funding for the entire project, it could be submitted to the voters for the issuance of municipal bonds.  This was ultimately the course of action that would come to pass.  The PWA grant would only cover a portion of the project.  The government did agree it would purchase the financing bonds if no other entity did.

The election would be held on January 26, 1937.

21 Songs with Cody Belew & John Willis tonight at South on Main

codyandjohn.png.190x140_q60_cropA perfect way to spend Thanksgiving weekend Saturday: South on Main proudly presents 21 Songs with Cody Belew & John Willis, presented by Barbara/Jean and ESGI. Doors open at 4:00 PM, show begins at 9:00 PM. Wristbands can be purchased for $10 after doors open. Call (501) 244-9660 to reserve your table for this show in advance.

Cody grew up singing at rodeos and in black gospel church houses. He was a scrawny little white kid with a stutter and big voice. He could not carry on in normal conversation, so he sang- all the time. Life happened to him, and he grew up; finding his feet somewhere between college and 22 years of age. He moved to Arkansas’ capital city, Little Rock, and booked his first show in the fall of 2008 at a little club called The Afterthought. He has been tearing his way through sold out show after sold out show ever since. Shortly after moving to Nashville, Tennessee, Cody received the call that would change his life. After making it to the top 8 on season 3 of NBC’s number one show, “The Voice,” Cody has earned his spot in the world of music. He is currently working on his debut album that will introduce the world to his heart and soul. Good things to come.

How do you get to be @likejohnwillis? Grow up listening to equal parts MoTown, 60’s-70’s singer/songwriters, and Gospel. Take piano lessons long enough to learn to love classical music. Start listening to late-night jazz on public radio in high school because you think it will make you cool. Start listening to world music in college because you think it will teach you something and because you think it will make you unique. Read some good books and some good poetry in hopes you’ll apprehend how to express adequately all your heartache and your hope. Keep practicing. Play some shows. Record your songs. Play some more shows. Keep it interesting. Have fun.

John Willis released the King of the Cocktail Party EP in 2013 and his latest single, “Enough,” in October of this year. He’s been featured on AETN’s “On the Front Row” and UALR’s Songwriter Showcase. He also sings and plays keys in Late Romantics, the 4-voiced soul-pop band he helped form in 2014. John Willis is thrilled to be back at the piano playing with Cody Belew for this special Thanksgiving Weekend show.

Explore Little Rock’s civil rights history with new app

Little Rock-area residents and visitors have a new way to explore the city’s rich civil rights history.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock Institute on Race and Ethnicity and Little Rock city officials  have unveiled the Arkansas Civil Rights History Tour app.

The free Apple and Android app guides users on an excursion through some of the city’s most influential historical sites, going back to the 1840s. Each of the 35 stops on the GPS-guided tour includes compelling narratives, historic photos, audio, and links to related content.

Tour stops range from the L.C. and Daisy Bates House to the Trail of Tears. The tour includes a total of three National Historic Landmarks, three National Register Historic Districts, and numerous buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

Narrated in both English and Spanish, the app also offers information about Jewish history in Little Rock, Hispanic migrations to Arkansas, and Native American tribes.

Organizers recommend app users begin their route at Broadway and West Ninth Street in downtown Little Rock, but the app can help people customize their own path.

A collaboration of the Institute on Race and Ethnicity, the City of Little Rock, the Mayor’s Tourism Commission, and KUAR, UALR’s public radio station, led to the creation of the Arkansas Humanities Council-funded app.

“The institute’s mission is to remember and understand the past, to inform and engage the present, and to shape and define the future in the area of race and ethnicity,” said Dr. John Kirk, director of the Institute on Race and Ethnicity.

“The tour app helps us to do all those things: It powerfully sheds light on the past, it allows people to engage with the past in the present moment, and it helps us to consider how those legacies and lessons can shape and define the future of the city and state.”

The app can be found in the Apple App Store and on Google Play by searching for “Arkansas history.”

PIGSKIN TURKEY DAY IN THE ROCK, Part 6 – A Variety of Foes

Turkey Day 1921From the first Thanksgiving football game for Little Rock High School in 1914 until 1933, the Tigers played a variety of opponents.  They faced off against other Arkansas high schools, out of state high schools, a college and a team of soldiers.  Their record in these twenty games was 18 wins and 2 losses.  While the opponent may have varied, each year the Tiger eleven lined up against their foes at home in Little Rock. The team had enough of a reputation that they could invite opponents and never had to travel.

Playing games on Thanksgiving had become a tradition by the time Little Rock joined in the fray in 1914. Their first Thanksgiving Day opponent was Texarkana High School.  The Tigers won by a score of 20 to 0. The crowd of 1,500 at West End Park (now the site of Quigley Stadium) not only witnessed the high school game, but also saw Arkansas College (now Lyon College) defeat Little Rock College (no association with UALR) by a score of 40 to 0.  With their win, Little Rock captured the state championship – their fourth since 1907.

By the next Thanksgiving Day, the field at West End Park was known as Kavanaugh Field. It would have that name until it was replaced by Quigley Stadium in 1936.  From 1915 until 1933, Little Rock would defeat three Arkansas high schools Van Buren, Benton and Hot Springs as well as high schools from Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Kansas, Illinois and Missouri.  Three of their out of state opponents returned for a second time, so even though these schools were generally overwhelmed by Little Rock High, it was obviously viewed as a positive experience.  Playing out of state teams garnered other benefits. In 1920, they played Tupelo Military Institute, which held the Mississippi-Alabama championship. By defeating them, Little Rock High School claimed the state championship of four states: Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi.

In 1917, they beat the college team of Arkansas State Normal School (now UCA) by a score of 45 to 0. (The Tigers so overpowered State Normal that the Gazette mused that the extremely muddy field was all that kept LR from scoring more than 45 points.)

The Tigers’ only two defeats came in 1918 and 1924.  The first Thanksgiving Day defeat came in 1918 when Little Rock played a team of soldiers from Camp Pike. The soldiers were an average of 20 pounds heavier than the Tigers. They used that weight to their advantage to defeat the high schoolers by a score of 42 to 0.  This was at the height of the US involvement in The Great War. So this game was certainly part of Little Rock’s war effort as the City worked to extend hospitality to soldiers. The Tigers’ 1924 defeat was at the hands of Atlanta Tech High School by a score of 35 to 7.

While the Thanksgiving games were serious business for the Tigers and their fans, they also provided for moments of entertainment.  In 1923, the Gazette reported that the Tigers had hosted a dance at the Capital Hotel for the visiting Ensley High football team from Birmingham, Alabama.  One wonders if there were a motive to their hospitality considering that the next day the Tigers won by a score of 20-7. Perhaps distracting the opposing players the night before the game was all part of Coach Earl Quigley’s strategy.  On Thanksgiving 1929, Little Rock hosted previously undefeated Soldan High from Saint Louis. At halftime of the game (which would end with LR scoring 26 to their opponent’s 6), there was a performance by the Little Rock High School band as well as a group of girls called Quigley’s Quackers.

Based on their reputation as a powerhouse, Little Rock would continue to play teams from other states. But after 1933, Little Rock would play a close rival: first North Little Rock (1934-1957) and then Hall High (1958-1982).  During the two decades of playing various teams, the Little Rock Tigers achieved ten shutouts and suffered one shut out.  The Tigers scored 492 points and gave up 133 points.

1914 Little Rock 20 Texarkana 12
1915 Little Rock 40 Muskogee Central High 0
1916 Little Rock 46 Van Buren 0
1917 Little Rock 45 Arkansas State Normal 0
1918 Little Rock 0 Camp Pike 42
1919 Little Rock 52 Benton 0
1920 Little Rock 6 Tupelo Military Institute 3
1921 Little Rock 21 New Orleans Warren Easton High 3
1922 Little Rock 7 Bryan (TX) High 0
1923 Little Rock 20 Birmingham Ensley High 7
1924 Little Rock 7 Atlanta Technical High 35
1925 Little Rock 6 New Orleans Warren Easton High 0
1926 Little Rock 18 Birmingham Ensley High 6
1927 Little Rock 37 Wichita Central High 0
1928 Little Rock 18 Chicago Lindblom High 0
1929 Little Rock 26 Saint Louis Soldan High 6
1930 Little Rock 33 Chicago Lindblom High 13
1931 Little Rock 31 Dallas Woodrow Wilson High 0
1932 Little Rock 6 Saint Louis Cleveland High 0
1933 Little Rock 13 Hot Springs 6


  • Muskogee Central High has been known as Muskogee High since the 1970 integration of the formerly all-white school with an African American high school.
  • Tupelo Military Institute existed from 1913 to 1937.
  • Warren Easton High is Louisiana’s oldest high school. After Hurricane Katrina it is now a charter high school.
  • Bryan High School was replaced by Stephen F. Austin High School, which was replaced by a new Bryan High School.
  • Ensley High in Birmingham closed in 2006.
  • Atlanta Technical High closed in 1947. A charter school with the same name operated from 2004 to 2012.
  • Wichita Central High has been known as Wichita East High since 1929. It is the largest high school in Kansas.
  • Chicago Lindblom High now educates under the name Lindblom Math and Science Academy.
  • Saint Louis Soldan High now educates as Soldan International Studies High School
  • Woodrow Wilson High School continues to operate in the Lakewood neighborhood of East Dallas.
  • Saint Louis Cleveland High now educates as Cleveland Junior Naval Academy and is no longer in the longtime Grover Cleveland High School building.


PIGSKIN TURKEY DAY IN THE ROCK, Part 5 – Little Rock Catholic vs. NLR

Turkey Bowl Catholic NLRFollowing the demise of their Turkey Day rivalry with Little Rock High School, North Little Rock set their Thanksgiving sights on Little Rock Catholic.  In 1958, they started a 21-year tradition of meeting on the fourth Thursday in November.  (Previously Cathlolic had not been in a regular Thanksgiving rivalry. In fact, they sometimes did not even play on that day.)

The 1958 game, held at Wildcat Stadium, started where NLR’s previous Thanksgiving series had left off. A Little Rock team, now the Rockets of Catholic High, achieved a lopsided win over the NLR Wildcats.  The final score was 26-0, in favor of Catholic.

The next several years saw close games. Sometimes Catholic would win, other times NLR was the victor.  In 1960, Catholic lost the game, but won the conference championship (which was tantamount to a state championship at the time) due to results of other games.  In 1965, NLR won the game AND the conference/state championship.

From 1966 to 1969, NLR ran up a string of convincing victories over Catholic High.  This streak ended in 1970.  That year, NLR had been ranked number 1 heading into the game.  They lost the game to Catholic by a score of 21 to 16.  This also marked the first meeting of the teams to take place at the Catholic home field of War Memorial Stadium.  All previous meetings had been at NLR’s Wildcat Stadium.

Starting in 1970, they alternated hosting the game at their respective home stadium.  In 1971, Catholic again won the game and a state championship. The following year, NLR won both the game and a championship.  By that time, the northside school bore the name Ole Main to distinguish it from the new NLR high school: Northeast.  The 1972 game would be the final time that the game between the Rockets and Wildcats had championship implications.

From 1973 through 1978, Catholic and NLR alternated winning the game with the home team coming out on top.  Due to conference realignment, Catholic High dropped from AAAAA to AAAA starting with the 1979 football season. With that, they no longer played NLR on Thanksgiving Day.

Though in 1970 NLR had acquired its own cross-town rival with the opening of NLR Northeast, the creation of an all-NLR Thanksgiving Day tradition was never started. Likewise, Catholic did not start playing the new Little Rock high school, Parkview, on Turkey Day. Both would have probably created stronger Thanksgiving Day rivalries, but by this time, the Arkansas Activities Association was trying to discourage the tradition of playing on Thanksgiving.  Having a game that late in the season interfered with conference tournaments.  The AAA had actually tried to dissuade teams from playing on the holiday as early as 1961, but were rebuffed by the larger schools who saw no need to give up the tradition.

In 1958, there were at least 23 high school football games played throughout the state on Thanksgiving.  By 1965, that number had shrunk to 13. In 1970, there were only two games: Hall v. Central and NLR v. Catholic.

The final tally of Thanksgiving meetings between NLR and Catholic was NLR 12 wins, Catholic 8 wins and one tie.  Catholic twice shut out NLR, and the Wildcats blanked the Rockets three times.  The northside team scored 267 points over 21 years, while the southsiders earned 223 points.


Year NLR Catholic


0 26


6 0


20 14


14 7


7 14




1964 6


1965 14


1966 33


1967 19



40 13


21 12


16 21


6 21


7 6
1973 25


1974 3


1975 9


1976 7


1977 7


1978 7





PIGSKIN TURKEY DAY IN THE ROCK, Part 4 – Horace Mann vs. Scipio Jones

Turkey Day MannFrom the 1930s to the early 1960s, Thanksgiving Day high school football in Arkansas was the time for big rivals to meet.  In addition to Little Rock playing NLR (later morphing into Central playing Hall), many a Thanksgiving Day schedule involved seeing Jonesboro face off against Paragould or El Dorado play Camden. Fayetteville vs. Springdale, Morrilton vs. Conway, Newport vs. Batesville, and DeQueen vs. Texarkana were all longtime traditions.

In these days, football classifications were much more fluid.  It would not be until the 1960s that the Arkansas Activities Association would permanently institute state playoffs in football.  This led to the demise of Thanksgiving Day games throughout the state.  Either the schools were not in the same classification and/or they were in a classification that had playoffs starting in mid-November.  Gone were the days when a regular football season extended from September to Thanksgiving.

The two exceptions to this were the largest classification of schools and the segregated African American schools.  The largest class, which eventually became known as the AAAAA (it had previously been the Big 6, 8, 9–whatever number of schools were in it), had few enough members that they were all in one conference.  A conference championship was tantamount to a state championship.

The African American schools were ignored in athletics as they were in other areas.  While the schools fielded teams and played each other, they did not have playoffs or Arkansas Activities Association recognized championships.  Up through the late 1950s, a mention of their games in the Arkansas Gazette or Arkansas Democrat was rare.

For several years, Little Rock’s Dunbar High School Bearcats took on the Scipio Jones Dragons of North Little Rock on Thanksgiving Day.  Due to the lack of coverage in newspapers, there are few records of these games.  Unfortunately the yearbooks of neither school shed any light. Due to limited budgets which led to thinner yearbooks, the football team usually got one page that was devoted to showing the players and left no room for details about their exploits on the gridiron.

In the 1955-1956 school year, Little Rock opened a new high school for African American students – Horace Mann High School. The Bearcat mascot of Dunbar (now a junior high) became the new Horace Mann mascot.  Mann carried on the tradition of playing Jones on Thanksgiving.

Many seasons the African American LR-NLR football game was the second meeting of the two teams.  They usually played against each other in September and then again on Thanksgiving.  This second game seems to have been as much about ensuring that their students, fans, and alumni had the chance to have a Thanksgiving Day game – just as most white schools throughout the state had.

Due to the lack of African American high schools fielding football teams in Arkansas, often the LR and NLR schools would also play out-of-state teams.  While it was not unusual for Little Rock’s white high school to play teams from other states, this was because of prestige, not necessity.  The same luxury was not afforded African American schools.  In 1963, for instance, Horace Mann played teams from Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas.  Their in-state rivals that year were segregated schools in North Little Rock, El Dorado, Pine Bluff (two schools), Camden, Hope, Hot Springs and Texarkana. Horace Mann’s travel schedule was much more extensive than either Central or Hall had on a weekly basis.

From 1956 through 1965, Mann and Jones met at Wildcat Stadium. After that season, the Thanksgiving game would alternate between Wildcat and Quigley.  Since the Central v. Hall and NLR v. Catholic matchups were in the morning, the Mann v. Jones games were afternoon affairs.

As the Little Rock School District was gradually integrating its high schools in the 1960s, the Mann vs. Jones game continued.  (North Little Rock was even slower in integrating its high school than LR had been with its high schools. Both seemed to be more focused on the “deliberate” part of the Supreme Court directive than on the “speed” aspect.)   With the demise of Jones High in the spring of 1970, the Mann vs. Jones series ended.

Because of the lack of records of the Dunbar games, here is the breakdown only of the Mann games.  In the fourteen Mann vs. Jones games, Horace Mann won ten of the outings, while Jones captured four.  The Bearcats shut out the Dragons twice, while NLR only once blanked LR.  Horace Mann scored 332 points over the fourteen Thanksgiving games to Scipio Jones’s 126 points.


Horace Mann Scipio Jones


14 0

















31 18




1964 27


1965 51



20 7


13 14
1968 19


1969 8





Turkey Bowl LRHS NLRHSAfter 20 years of playing a variety of schools on Thanksgiving, in 1934 Little Rock High School had started the new tradition of playing the North Little Rock High School Wildcats.  These cross-river rivals had played a few games previously in the 1910s and early 1920s. The competition was resumed in 1931, but was not on Thanksgiving Day until 1934.  With that game, the Tigers of Little Rock would begin a 49-year tradition of taking on their biggest rival on Turkey Day.

For much of the 1920s and 1930s, a Thanksgiving Day game for Little Rock High School meant rain.  That was the case in the 1934 meeting at Kavanaugh Field. (Located at the current spot of Quigley Stadium, it was a baseball field on which football games could also be played.  In 1936, the current stadium opened.)  The Tigers and Wildcats played to a 2-0 win achieved by the southside Bengals of Earl Quigley.

Another notable matchup was the 1938 game.  Little Rock won 12 to 7. With that win, it captured its first official state football championship. (Though the Arkansas Activities Association does now credit LRHS with several prior championships.)

The 1939 edition took place on Arkansas Thanksgiving.  That November featured five Thursdays.  President Roosevelt issued a proclamation that Thanksgiving would be the fourth Thursday, as it traditionally was. However Arkansas and a few other states chose to observe it on the final Thursday.  Little Rock won 6 to 0, but it was a messy game. Some sports fans joked that the game was FDR’s revenge on Arkansas for ignoring him regarding Thanksgiving.

In 1941, only a few days before the US would be plunged into World War II, North Little Rock achieved its first Turkey Day win over Little Rock.  The score was 26 for the Wildcats and 0 for the Tigers.  This was only the third ever loss for the Tigers on a Thanksgiving Day.  The Tigers were so dominant on Turkey Day games, a student had once remarked to a Gazette reporter that the matchup against Pine Bluff should be moved to Thanksgiving since the Tigers always seemed to win on that day.  (Pine Bluff was the state’s other football powerhouse at the time and often gave the Tigers fits in games.)

North Little Rock repeated as winner in the 1942 game, this time with a 31 to 12 score.  Writing for the Gazette, Orville Henry wondered if this would be the final meeting for the duration of the war.  He opined that many of the players might be in a different type of uniform for future games and that rubber might be needed for the war effort instead of athletic equipment.  While some colleges and high schools did drop football during the war, neither LR nor NLR did.

The Tigers were back on top in 1943 by a 13-7 score.  (It would be the last football game for the NLR coach who had been drafted.)  The 1944 game also featured a 13-7 score, but this time it was flipped and the Wildcats were winners.  The 1945 edition ground to a 13-13 tie.

In 1947, both teams were undefeated heading into the Turkey Day classic.  The inky wretches and scribes were predicting another evenly matched slugfest.  Instead Little Rock owned the game and came out with a 13-0 win.

The teams met eight times in the 1950s on Thanksgiving.  Little Rock won seven of the eight, losing the 1951 game by one point (13 to 14).

With the anticipation of a second Little Rock high school to be opened in a few years, Little Rock High School was rechristened as Little Rock Central High in 1954. The new school, named Hall High opened in 1957 but played much smaller schools for its first year on the gridiron.  Plans were underway for Hall and Central to meet on Turkey Day in 1958, so the 1957 meeting of Little Rock and North Little Rock would be the final time the two teams would meet on Thanksgiving Day.

Little Rock Central High had dominated world headlines in September and October 1957 with the desegregation of the school.  The sports coverage of this game however belied all the drama off the field. News reports focused on Turkey Day as the final game between the longtime rivals and on the fact that it had a morning start time instead of the traditional afternoon start time.  In the end, the Tigers had the same result as they did in the first Turkey Day meeting: a win.

After 24 meetings on Thanksgiving Day, Little Rock had 19 wins, 4 losses, and one tie.  Seven times they shut out the Wildcats, and one time the northern team blanked them.  The fewest total points scored were 2 in the 1934 game, while the 1950 game produced a cumulative total of 71 points (LR 64, NLR 7).  The Tigers scored a total of 517 points over 24 games and gave up only 203.