Little Rock Look Back: President Truman dedicates War Memorial Park

HST in LR2Though President Truman was in Little Rock for a military reunion, he did conduct some official business while here.  In his Presidential role, he spoke at the dedication of War Memorial Park on June 11.  (It is sometimes erroneously reported that he dedicated the stadium.  That took place at a Razorback game with former Razorback player and future Lt. Governor Maurice “Footsie” Britt delivering the keynote.)

President Truman’s address took place inside War Memorial Stadium at 2:30 p.m..   It was not a brief dedicatory speech, but instead was a lengthy treatise on foreign affairs.  The address was carried on nationwide radio.  The text of his address can be found here.

The stadium was by no means full.  A major reason for that was that many thousand individuals had turned out to witness a parade downtown in which President Truman marched along side Governor Sid McMath.  The parade was in conjunction with the military reunion.  Given the June heat in Arkansas (in which parade spectators had been standing for several hours) and the difficulty of getting from the parade route to the stadium, most (if not all) parade spectators opted for skipping the presidential address.

Before the parade, President Truman (who was still riding high from his upset victory in the 1948 election) was asked by a local reporter if he would run in 1952. He refused to answer stating that the national media would think he had planted the question with a local member of the press.

Prior to the name War Memorial Park, the land had been known as Fair Park.  It was a former location of the State Fair.  In the 1930s, it had briefly been known as Overman Park in honor of then-Mayor R. E. Overman.  The City Council had named it for him as a tribute to his work on a variety of projects. When he displeased them, they reversed their decision and renamed it to Fair Park.


1 thought on “Little Rock Look Back: President Truman dedicates War Memorial Park

  1. Terrific information.

    By the way, Mr. Britt’s greatest achievement was receiving The MEDAL OF HONOR. “THAT” was why he was chosen to be the keynote speaker at the dedication of the stadium — NOT because he was the Lt. Governor of Arkansas.
    Mr. Britt is buried with a simple govt issue marker near the back of the old National Cemetery in LR. His funeral drew a sizeable crowd as many respected, admired and loved him — and recognized his passing was an important part of both Arkansas’s and the Nation’s history.

    I would like to address a very serious matter regarding the magnificent stadium.

    This magnificent structure was created as a MEMORIAL…a place to take note of Freedom, the joy of life, togetherness in sport and most importantly, to honor & never forget THE DEAD FROM WWII. It is common knowledge it cost greatly to keep such a facility in top order / repairs/ improvements, etc… Advertising allows some of this extra expense to be covered. HOWEVER, I hate, hate, hate the fact there is a gigantic A T & T sign looming over…and far, far larger than the name of the stadium. Looking at the AT&T sign — every time I pull up to the intersection nearby, turns my stomach! I would hope a member of the Ark. Legislature would pass a law stating there will NEVER AGAIN be a sign taller nor larger than the official name of the stadium.

    It may cost a lot over a year’s time to keep a gas flame illuminated at JFK’s gravesite, but you’d don’t see a sign there saying: ‘EAT AT CRACKER BARREL!’ The Memorial to 9-11 in NYC has the names of those killed in the disaster there (and out at Shanksville too) and there are no signs reading ‘MOBILE GAS & PETRO PRODUCTS!” Why does Arkansas have to be so crass, tacky, and greedy as to belittle the honor of the sacrificed lives of beloved Arkansas men and women from WWI? There has to be a better way of offering advertisers recognition. ItWhat is there now is shameful!

    Also, the moderne star sculpture and newly added landscape is attractive on site. Wouldn’t it have been even greater if there had been a Footsie Britt statue added where visitors can pose for a photo with this outstanding figure. At ballparks across the nation, admirers of sportsfigures stand beside bronze replicas of these players captured in poses from their prime. This would have become a great addition…and can be done yet.

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