Little Rock Look Back – Abraham Lincoln

Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863On February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky.

Lincoln never visited Arkansas. In the 1860 election, he barely registered on the Arkansas election map. Arkansas counties went strongly for Southern Democratic candidate John Breckinridge.  John Bell, the Constitutional Union/Whig candidate ran strongly in Pulaski County and a scattering of other counties.  Neither Lincoln nor Northern Democratic candidate Stephen Douglas carried a county in Arkansas.  In 1864, though Arkansas was officially under control of the Union forces, the state had not been readmitted. Therefore no Arkansans voted for Lincoln that year.

As President, Lincoln did correspond with several Arkansans.  It is said that the polite written exchanges he had with former Mayors C. P. Bertrand and Gordon Peay were helpful in maintaining a fairly peaceful occupation of Little Rock by federal forces.

In the listing of Presidential Streets of Little Rock, Lincoln is omitted.  On first blush, this might seem to be intentional to skip the name of the President who oversaw the “occupation.”  However, if that were the case, then surely Johnson would have been left out as well since he was President during the final years of the federal military occupation.  In fact, there once was a Lincoln Street. A portion of what is now Cantrell/Highway 10 was named for Lincoln. It predated the other Presidential streets.  At the time the other streets were laid out, Lincoln was skipped because a street already bore the name.

Over time, Highway 10 had been given multiple names for various sections: Lincoln, Q, and Cantrell. In the 1930s, these names were consolidated into Cantrell which was the longest section. The name Lincoln was dropped. There were very few addresses on Lincoln, most of it was railroad property.  The viaduct connecting Highway 10 with LaHarpe still bears the name of Lincoln Avenue.

In 2008, Sam Waterston appeared at the Clinton School of Public Service to kick off the Abraham Lincoln Sesquicentennial celebration activities. The official launch was supposed to be elsewhere but was cancelled due to inclement weather. So it happened in Little Rock as Waterston appeared in a program reading letters and writings from throughout Lincoln’s lifetime.  In 1994, Waterstson had received a Tony Award nomination for starring in the Lincoln Center revival of Abe Lincoln in Illinois.