On December 12, 1819, future Little Rock Mayor Gordon Neill Peay was born. The Peay family arrived in Arkansas from Kentucky in 1825. They quickly became one of Little Rock’s leading families. Mayor Peay’s father, Nicholas Peay served on the Little Rock Board of Trustees (which existed before the town was incorporated) and later served on the City Council and was acting mayor.
Godon N. Peay served as mayor of Little Rock from 1859 to 1861. During the Civil War, Peay served as Captain and later Colonel of the Capital Guard. He later received a pardon from the federal government. In the days leading up to the Civil War and during it, Mayor Peay was one of a select group of civic leaders who corresponded with President Lincoln and other Union leaders. It has been said that this conciliatory tone is a reason that Little Rock fared better during Federal occupation and Reconstruction than did many other Confederate cities.
The Peay family owned the Peay Hotel, Little Rock’s first hotel, and were also co-founders of what became Worthen Bank. They were also a founding family of Christ Episcopal Church. Mayor Peay later served as Pulaski County Chancery Clerk.
He died on December 14, 1876, and is buried at Mount Holly Cemetery along with many members of his family. A nephew of his, Ashley Peay, served on the City Council in the 1920s. Mayor Peay’s great-grandson Joseph Barber Hurst, Sr. served on the Little Rock City Board of Directors from 1967-1971. One of Mr. Hurst’s sons, Howard, was born on Mayor Peay’s birthday.