On this date in 1900, future Little Rock Mayor Pat L. Robinson was born. While it cannot be verified that he was indeed named after St. Patrick, it would be fairly reasonable to assume there might be a connection. He was born in a community outside of Arkadelphia, but moved to Little Rock with his parents.
By the 1920s, Robinson was a rising star of Little Rock Democratic politics. In April 1929, just weeks after his 29th birthday, he was elected Mayor. He had twice been elected as City Attorney (1926 and 1928) and was one of the youngest to serve in that position.
During Mayor Robinson’s tenure, he announced plans to construct a new airport. That project led to the creation of what is now the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport. Mayor Robinson was also involved in helping Philander Smith College secure the property where it is now located. In addition, during his tenure, what is now the Museum of Discovery was folded into the City of Little Rock. Shortly after taking office, he championed several projects for approval by Little Rock voters. The projects he supported were approved; the ones he did not support did not pass.
Single at the time he was in office and generally considered good looking, Mayor Robinson was sometimes referred to as the “Jimmy Walker of the Southwest.” Walker was the handsome and charming Mayor of New York City at the time.
Mayor Robinson ran afoul of some of the Democratic party leaders. While the extent of the discord is not exactly known, it IS known that shortly after taking office he confronted the City Council over a special election. Mayor Robinson sat silently while the City Council voted to approve a special election with a variety of options for voters. Only after the Council approved it did he disclose he only supported three of the initiatives. In a bit of political brinkmanship, the Council subsequently voted to cancel the election. The Mayor vetoed their vote. The aldermen chose not to attempt an override (though they had the votes based on disclosures made to the public and the press). It appears that the relationship between the Mayor and the City Council never recovered.
During this era in Little Rock, it was customary for an incumbent mayor to be given a second term. But City Clerk Horace Knowlton challenged Robinson in the primary. It was a bitter campaign with Robinson linking Knowlton to disreputable denizens and Knowlton charging Robinson with “an orgy of spending.” Robinson initially came out 17 votes ahead. But after a review and a lawsuit, it was found that Knowlton ended up with 10 more votes and became the nominee. At the time, being the Democratic nominee was tantamount to election.
After he left office, Robinson practiced law for a few years in Little Rock and then left the city. He married a woman from England, Arkansas in the 1930s, but by the 1940 census, he was listed as divorced and living as a lodger. He later served in the Army during World War II. Robinson died in June 1958, and is buried in Clark County.