Little Rock Look Back: Gordon N. Peay, Little Rock’s 23rd Mayor

Mayor PeayOn 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.

3 thoughts on “Little Rock Look Back: Gordon N. Peay, Little Rock’s 23rd Mayor

  1. Do you have any info on John W. Hopkins, who was mayor of Little Rock after Mr. Peay? Hopkins was my great-great-great-grandfather. Thank you!

    • I don’t have a whole lot of information. He was mayor from January 1867 to February 1868. That is a time of scant information both from City of Little Rock and newspaper accounts. But I’ll work on an entry on him in 2017.

    • There is some info on his tenure in the old Gazette files. He was also the father of James F. Hopkins, founder of the Sigma Nu fraternity – my great-great-grandfather. They are all buried at Martin Cemetery, beside I-30, near the 430 interchange. Very interesting family, if I do say so myself! I will watch for your stories in 2017, thanks.

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