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.
Fred Poe was a world traveler who spent his lifetime sharing his love of travel with others.
Poe’s first solo trip at age nine on the Rock Island’s “Doodlebug” from Little Rock to El Dorado, Poe visited 168 countries (a country being defined as one which issues its own postage stamps) include such arcane destinations as Tristan da Cunha, the Faroe Islands, Afghanistan’s Wakkan Corridor and Upland Togo. Poe Travel was the first American travel agency to arrange tourist travel to the Peoples’ Republic of China as that nation’s Cultural Revolution wound down with son Tony Poe led an early group of Americans to North Korea. He loved automobile trips and drove in each of the 50 states and every province and territory of Canada save Nunavut which he visited only by air.
After growing up in Little Rock, he graduated from Vanderbilt University where he wrote the college musical comedy. Upon graduation he moved to San Francisco becoming part of the Beatnik subculture and playing ragtime and jazz piano in clubs. Drafted, he served as a translator in Germany in the US Forces and did graduate work at Mainz University in Eastern European History. In 1961, he opened Poe Travel in Little Rock, likely the youngest travel agency owner in the US at the time. The firm continues today.
Poe was active in the Civil Rights Struggle among other accomplishments having sat-in at the Memphis Airport Restaurant which resulted in its racial integration. He is a member of the ACLU, a former president of the Little Rock SKAL club made up of travel professionals and was a lifetime member of the Country Club of Little Rock. As a travel writer he enjoyed great success in local publications, published at Bicentennial Guide to the USA for the German speaking market and was frequently quoted in such publications as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Travel and Leisure, and Conde Nast Traveler. He was a serious scholar with a fine library on the subject of the Nazi Holocaust and a dedicated art collector with especially significant items from the Russian Avant Garde and 20th Century Austrian schools.
With Jeane Hamilton, he led Arkansas Arts Center patrons on many trips including to China, Egypt and Cuba. Just weeks before he died, he was in the front row at the Clinton School as Jeane Hamilton and Skip Rutherford discussed her lifetime support of the Arts Center. Jeane often referred to Fred in to fact check when they discussing some of the travel seminars.