2015 In Memoriam – Tillie “Mumaw” Anderton

1515 Mumaw

In these final days of 2015, we pause to look back at 15 who influenced Little Rock’s cultural scene who left us in 2015.

She was never a resident of Little Rock, but for the last several of her 101 years, Tillie Anderton was a frequent visitor.  She would often be found at Arkansas Arts Center events or attending the Arkansas Repertory Theatre while in town to visit her grandson Laine Harber.

Mumaw, as she was known to everyone, enjoyed seeing the art, attending a Children’s Theatre performance, or taking part in the crafts. She also enjoyed the chance to socialize with her many well-wishers who stopped by to chat with her.  As longtime Arts Center supporter Jeane Hamilton once remarked, “I want to be her when I grow up!”

Mumaw loved to learn, so she viewed a trip to the Arts Center or the Rep as a chance to learn more – both from experiencing the art and from visiting with people.

On the occasion of her 100th birthday, “Tillie ‘Mumaw’ Anderton Day” was declared in Little Rock in recognition of her contributions as a participant in, and ambassador of, Little Rock’s cultural life.

Bonus Highlight of 2015 – Creative Corridor

Sep opening ccA grand opening to highlight the new features and completed sections of the Creative Corridor’s Low Impact Development (LID) streetscape took place on September 14 as the revitalization of Little Rock’s Main Street continues to take shape, block by block.  Earlier in the year, Matt McLeod’s mural Beneath the Surface was dedicated at the corner of Sixth and Main Streets.  Together with Lorri Acott’s sculpture Peace and mural banners by Stephano and Virmarie DePoyster, public art is taking shape along the Creative Corridor.

The most recently completed improvements in the 500 block of Main Street were opened to the public for strolling along the tree-lined boardwalk on the west side.  All of the pedestrian and environmentally friendly streetscapes in the 100, 200, 300 and 500 blocks of Main Street contain LID features such as bioswales, porous pavers, rain gardens, and other biodiverse vegetation.

The grand opening also celebrated the elements of creative place-making that have occurred. Recent public art installations and the clustering of artistic and creative organizations on Main Street are transforming the Creative Corridor into a downtown hub that supports a great level of pedestrian activity, sociability, recreation and aesthetics.

An arts open house and reception followed the tour, with the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Arkansas, Matt McLeod Fine Art, and Cranford Co. opening the doors to their new, connected spaces. Later that week, ACANSA kicked off with a street party showcasing the ASO.

The Creative Corridor is a mixed-use development project aimed at restoring the vitality of Main Street by creating an arts district and retrofitting a four-block segment of the street between President Clinton Avenue and 7th streets. The City of Little Rock estimates that more than $100 million in private and public investment has occurred to date to help make this vision a reality.

2015 In Memoriam – Parker Westbrook

1515 WestbrookParker Westbrook WAS Mr. Preservation for Arkansas. But even though he is gone, it does not mean that preservation efforts in Arkansas are dormant.  Quite the contrary.  Like any good teacher, Parker used his knowledge to inspire others to share his interest in preservation.

It is no surprise that the organization he helped found, the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas (now called Preserve Arkansas), names its lifetime achievement award after him.  He was not only the founding President of Preserve Arkansas, he was active in it until his final days.  It was not his only founding: he was a founder of Pioneer Washington Foundation (the oldest historic preservation organization in the state), the Main Street Arkansas Advisory Board, Historic Arkansas Museum Commission, the Arkansas State Capitol Association, and the Arkansas State Review Board for Historic Preservation. He served on the latter board from 1975 until his death this year, with the exception of five years from 2002 to 2007.  In recognition of his work in the field of heritage tourism, he was a 2007 inductee into the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism’s Hall of Fame.

His work was not limited by the boundaries of his home state.  He was an Advisor Emeritus to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a 2001 recipient of a Preservation Honor Award from the Trust. Rep. Mike Ross declared him a “National Treasure” in the Congressional Record. He also served for two terms on the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and was named Chairman of the Committee on National Historic Landmarks on the National Park System Advisory Board.

A public servant, he worked for several federal officials from Arkansas, most notably Senator J. William Fulbright. He returned to Arkansas to work for Governor David Pryor.  But whether he worked in Washington DC; Little Rock; or his beloved hometown of Nashville, he was always interested in ensuring the past came alive. It might be through historic preservation, or it might be recounting a colorful moment of Arkansas history. Either way, Parker was a proponent of living history. He did not want it to be relegated to a musty, dusty book or building.
In 2007, he donated papers collected by his late sister Lucille and himself. The Lucille and Parker Westbrook Arkansas and Genealogy Collection is housed in the $20 million Arkansas Studies Institute, a joint project of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.  This collection has three parts: the first part focuses on Southwest Arkansas and contains genealogical sources and 3,000 historic photographs; the second highlights his public service and political career including much about the state’s architectural history; the third part consists of family papers, letters and photographs which document the Westbrooks’ deep roots in Arkansas.
He was the epitome of the Southern gentleman.  Not only did he look the part, he acted it. He was gracious in sharing credit with others; generous with his time, labor and talent; and did his best to keep up the lost art of writing letters and notes.

2015 In Memoriam – Bert Parke

1515 ParkeBert Parke enjoyed music.  While he may have been better known for listening to the organ at the baseball park (first Ray Winder Field, then Dickey-Stephens Ballpark), he also enjoyed the organ at Christ Episcopal Church.  Of course his affection for the church organ cannot be separated from the fact that his beloved Ann Blair was often in the choir singing with the organ.

To many in Arkansas (and — let’s be honest, beyond Arkansas), Bert was known for his decades-long association with the Arkansas Travelers. He was part of the small group of businessmen who kept baseball in Little Rock in the 1960s by turning the Travelers into the nation’s only community-owned professional baseball team. In the 1970s, he served as Treasurer of the Travelers before being elected as President in 1980. For the next 30 years, he served in that capacity until becoming President Emeritus in 2010. Just weeks before he died, Bert was elected to the Texas League Hall of Fame.

As a businessman, he led Democrat Printing & Lithograph through many innovations and changes. Through it all, he made sure it continued to serve its customers. He passed this on to his sons Frank and John. To his children and grandchildren, he also passed on to his family the importance of philanthropy and serving the community.  He and Ann Blair co-chaired the first Opus Ball for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. At the time, there were very few black tie balls in Little Rock, so their leadership was crucial to the success of the event.

Bert also was involved in the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History; he was named an Honorary Lifetime Commissioner of that museum. A life-long member of Christ Episcopal Church, he held many leadership positions in the church and the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas.

These words do poor service to the man who was Bert Parke. He had a perpetual twinkle in his eye. His mouth was always curled ready to burst into one of his generous smiles. He met no strangers.  For a while in 2015, he and I both were using walkers as we trudged down the side aisle at Christ Church. Well, I trudged. Bert reveled in the affection as he worked the crowd in a way that would be the envy of most politicians who try to work a rope line.  Each week, he would check on my progress as I recovered from a broken ankle.

For a better job at capturing the spirit of Bert Parke, here is the Rev. Scott Walters’ outstanding homily which was delivered at his service.

15 Highlights of 2015 – Recital featuring restored 1927 Steinway at Central High

 In September, the LRCH Tiger Foundation and Little Rock Central High School hosted a recital to celebrate the successful completion of the renovation of the 1927 Steinway & Sons grand piano.
It took place in the Roosevelt Thompson Auditorium at the school. The concert was free and open to the public and all were welcome.

The recital showcased the variety of music that has been played on the Model A III Steinway over the past 88 years. The piano was purchased for the school when it opened in September 1927. Over the years, it had fallen into disrepair and been improperly maintained. 

Due to the efforts of the Tiger Foundation (led by project chair Julie Keller), LRCHS Principal Nancy Rousseau and choral director Scott Whitfield, money was raised to restore the piano. A new onsite storage facility was also completed, paid for by donations.  

At the concert, it was announced that the piano would now be named “Scott” in honor of Mr. Whitfield. 

The $38,000 restoration project was undertaken by Mike Anderson of Anderson’s Piano Clinic who assembled a team of experts from Arkansas and Texas.

The Tiger Foundation is led by a 21-member board of dedicated volunteers, many of whom are Central alumni, who are passionate about the continued growth and success of Little Rock Central High School.

2015 In Memoriam – Milton Crenchaw

1515 Crenchaw

In these final days of 2015, we pause to look back at 15 who influenced Little Rock’s cultural scene who left us in 2015.

Milton Pitts Crenchaw, was one of the first in the country to be trained by the federal government as a civilian licensed pilot. While an instructor at the Tuskegee Institute, he trained hundreds of cadet pilots and started the aviation program at Philander Smith College.

Crenchaw graduated from  Dunbar High School and attended Dunbar Junior College before enrolling at the Tuskegee Institute in 1939.  After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, his focus shifted from living the life of a normal college student to flying in the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP), sponsored by the Army Air Corps, and becoming a flight instructor.

Early in his career, Crenchaw worked as a civilian pilot training officer contracted by the military. Crenshaw instructed scores of pilots and cadets, including Judge Robert Decatur, Charles Flowers, Lieutenant Colonel Charles (Chuck) Dryden, Earl V. Stallcups, and fellow Arkansan Woodrow Crockett.  Crenchaw returned to Little Rock and taught aviation at Philander Smith from 1947 to 1953. He was also employed by the Central Flying Service and worked as a crop-duster in the central Arkansas and Delta regions.

Then he served as a flight instructor at several airbases from 1953 until 1972.   In 1972, with over 10,000 hours on record logged in the air, Crenchaw was signed on as an equal employment opportunity officer with the Department of Defense and as a race relations officer at Fort Stewart in Georgia until 1983.

Crenchaw was inducted into the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame in 1998. Nine years later, he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.  He was also honored by Governor Mike Beebe in 2007 and the City of Little Rock in 2012.   On March 29, 2007, Crenchaw, along with the other members of the Tuskegee Airmen, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush in Washington DC.

Today at noon, Mosaic Templar’s Cultural Center celebrates Kwanzaa


The Mosaic Templar’s Cultural Center, in partnership with the Sue Cowan Williams library, Pyramid Art Books and Custom Framing, and other community partners, will celebrate Kwanzaa from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, December 31.

MTCC’s Kwanzaa celebration is a citywide event that will celebrate the principle of Kuumba or creativity. This year’s event will feature saxophonist Ricky Howard and poet and educator Marquese McFerguson.

Kwanzaa is an African American holiday celebration that focuses on family, community, and culture.

The Mosaic Templar’s Cultural Center is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.