Arkansas Heritage Month – LR Mayor Pat L. Robinson and a municipal auditorium

PLR AuditIn April 1929, at the age of 29, Pat L. Robinson (no relation to Senator Joe T. Robinson) was inaugurated as Little Rock’s mayor.  Shortly after he took office, a variety of City Council committees and city interest groups started making proposals for projects to be funded by City bonds.  The decision was made to put a municipal bond issue before voters in August 1929.

The Young Business Men’s Association proposed a municipal auditorium be included.  In his 1929 inaugural address, Mayor Robinson had commented that an auditorium would be a worthwhile project for the city, should funding be available.  Another proposal, which seemed to have mayoral support, was the Civic Center plan (including land for an auditorium) which J. N. Heiskell had started shopping in the waning days of the Moyer administration.

The City Council approved the calling of the election and the submission of eleven different items.  Mayor Robinson then invoked the ire of the aldermen by noting he would only support four of the eleven proposals. Over the ensuing weeks, he and the aldermen traded charges and parliamentary ploys.  In July, the Council voted to cancel the election, which the mayor vetoed.  Though the Council had the votes to override the veto (and therefore not have the election), they let the veto stand.  The election proceeded as planned in August.

Hobbled by a lack of a cohesive campaign to begin with which was exacerbated by the City Hall infighting, it was probably no surprise that the few of the election proposals were approved by voters.  The marvel is probably that any were actually approved.  This appears to have been the first municipal bond election put forth after the 1926 approval of the new amendment to the Arkansas constitution.

Neither the Auditorium nor the Civic Center proposals were approved.  Throughout his term, the Hotel Marion continued to be the main site in Little Rock for conventions, while Little Rock High School’s auditorium was the showcase for performances.

No further proposals for an auditorium were put forth during the remainder of the Pat L. Robinson administration.  After continuing to alienate the Democratic power structure, he was challenged in the November 1930 primary, and failed to receive the nomination to be the Democratic nominee for mayor in 1931.