Happy Birthday to Jim Dailey! Little Rock’s 71st Mayor and current Director of Tourism for Arkansas

On July 31, 1942, Dalton James “Jim” Dailey, Jr. was born to Dalton and Ellen Dailey.   He would serve fourteen years as Little Rock’s 71st mayor and is now continuing his public service as the Director of Tourism for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

After graduating from Little Rock Catholic High School, he attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. He joined his father in the family business, Dailey’s Office Furniture.

In 1974, Dailey was elected to the City of Little Rock Board of Directors.  He served one four-year term. The last two years of that term, he was the Vice Mayor of Little Rock.

Following that term, he remained engaged in civic activities including serving in leadership capacities in community campaigns.  He also served as president of the National Office Products Association – the first Arkansan to do so.  Dailey also served as the founding chair of Leadership Greater Little Rock.

In 1988, Dailey was elected to return to the City Board.  He was reelected in 1992.  Dailey served as Vice Mayor in 1991 and 1992.  In January 1993, he was chosen by his fellow City Directors to serve a two year term as Mayor.  Under his leadership, the Future-Little Rock goal-setting process took place.

Following a voter-approved change to the City structure, the position of Mayor was changed to be elected by the people while maintaining the City Manager form of government.  On January 1, 1995, Jim Dailey was sworn in as the first popularly-elected Mayor of the City of Little Rock in over 38 years.

As Mayor, he served as Chair of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee of the Federal Communications Commission. He was also a member of the United States Conference of Mayor’s Communications Task Force.  He also served as president of the Arkansas Municipal League in 2002 and 2003.

While he was Mayor of Little Rock, he was a strong proponent of the development of the River Market and worked to locate the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock.  He also worked to increase public safety support.  He also oversaw the establishment of Central Arkansas Water, the development of downtown headquarters for Acxiom Corporation and Heifer International, and the creation of Prevention, Intervention and Treatment programs.  In addition, he was instrumental in leading the efforts for the 40th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High in 1997.

Mayor Dailey was re-elected in 1998 and 2002.  His fourteen years as Mayor of Little Rock set a longevity record.  Upon his retirement the City’s fitness center was renamed the Jim Dailey Fitness and Aquatic Center.  This was in recognition of his lifelong interest in wellness activities.

Since 1965, he has been married to the former Patti Murphy.  They have four children and six grandchildren.

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Ben Piazza – born in LR 85 years ago

Actor-director-playwright-author Ben Piazza was born on July 30, 1933, in Little Rock.  Piazza graduated from Little Rock High School in 1951 as valedictorian. He also had starred in the senior play that year (The Man Who Came to Dinner) and edited the literary magazine.

Piazza attended college at Princeton University and graduated in 1955.  While there he continued acting, including an appearance in a Theatre Intime production of Othello.

In February 1958, he starred in Winesburg, Ohio sharing the National (now Nederlander) Theatre stage with James Whitmore, Dorothy McGuire, and Leon Ames. In April 1959, Piazza starred in Kataki at the Ambassador Theatre.  For his performance, Piazza received one of the 1959 Theatre World Awards.

Piazza started the 1960s on Broadway starring at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in A Second String with Shirley Booth, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Nina Foch, Cathleen Nesbitt, and Carrie Nye.   Following that, he started his association with Edward Albee by appearing as the title character in The American Dream.  That play opened at the York Playhouse in January 1961.  Later that year, he appeared in Albee’s The Zoo Story opposite original cast member William Daniels at the East End Theatre.

In February 1963, he took over the role of Nick in the original run of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? when original actor George Grizzard left to play Hamlet at the Guthrie Theatre.  (He had participated in earlier readings of the play prior to it being mounted on Broadway.)

Piazza played Nick for the remainder of the run and acted with Uta Hagen, Arthur Hill, fellow Arkansan Melinda Dillon, Eileen Fulton, Nancy Kelly, Mercedes McCambridge, Rochelle Oliver and Sheppard Strudwick.

During the run of this show, Piazza’s novel The Exact and Very Strange Truth was published.  It is a fictionalized account of his growing up in Little Rock during the 1930s and 1940s.  The book is filled with references to Centennial Elementary, West Side Junior High, Central High School, Immanuel Baptist Church and various stores and shops in Little Rock during that era.  The Piazza Shoe Store, located on Main Street, was called Gallanti’s.

He appeared with Alfred Drake in The Song of the Grasshopper in September 1967.  In 1968, he returned to Albee and starred in The Death of Bessie Smith and The Zoo Story in repertory on Broadway at the Billy Rose Theatre.

Later that season, in March 1969, his one-acts: Lime Green/Khaki Blue opened at the Provincetown Playhouse.  Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Piazza toured in many plays nationally and internationally. As the 1970s progressed, he turned his focus to television and movies.

Piazza’s film debut was in a 1959 Canadian film called The Dangerous Age. That same year, his Hollywood film debut came opposite Gary Cooper, Karl Malden, Maria Schell and George C. Scott in The Hanging Tree.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he appeared in a number of TV shows.  He had a recurring role during one season of Ben Casey and appeared on the soap opera Love of Life. In the 1970s, he starred in the films Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon; The Candy Snatchers and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.  He also starred as the City Councilman who recruits Walter Matthau to coach a baseball team inThe Bad News Bears.

Among his numerous TV appearances in the 1970s were The Waltons, Mannix, Switch, Barnaby Jones, Gunsmoke, Mod Squad and Lou Grant . In the 1980s, he appeared in The Blues Brothers, The Rockford Files, Barney Miller, Hart to Hart, Family Ties, The Winds of War, Dallas, Dynasty, Too Close for Comfort, The A Team, Saint Elsewhere, Santa Barbara, The Facts of Life, Mr. Belvedere, Moonlighting and Matlock.

Piazza’s final big screen appearance was in the 1991 film Guilty by Suspicion.  He played studio head Darryl Zanuck in this Robert DeNiro-Annette Bening tale of Hollywood during the Red scare.

Ben Piazza died on September 7, 1991.

In November 2016, a room at the Robinson Conference Center was dedicated to his memory.

Gretchen Hall of LRCVB appointed to International Tourism Board

Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) President & CEO Gretchen Hall has been appointed to the Destinations International 2018-2019 Board of Directors representing Little Rock’s and Arkansas’s tourism and hospitality industry on a national and global stage.

Destinations International (formerly Destination Marketing Association International) is the world’s largest resource for official destination organizations, convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) and tourism boards.

“I’m proud to join the DI Board representing more than 6,000 professional members and 575 destination organizations. My appointment means that Little Rock will be well represented in driving economic impact, job creation, community sustainability and quality of life through travel. Having recently returned from DI’s Annual Convention, I can tell you that the organization is THE leading source for education, research, advocacy and community in the tourism space.”

Hall has spent the majority of her career in the hospitality industry, having served the LRCVB in multiple roles for nearly 17 years. She has been the LRCVB’s President and CEO since May 2011. Hall is the President of the Heart of Arkansas Regional Tourism Association, President of the Arkansas Travel Council, Chair of the Arkansas Association of CVBs, an executive committee member of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, and serves on the board of directors for the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and on the finance committee of Destinations International. She is also a member of the US Travel Association, Destinations International, Skål International, and Little Rock Rotary – Club 99.

Together with representatives from Tourism Toronto, Visit Baltimore, Visit Vacaville, Visit Phoenix and Houston First Corporation, Hall will serve a three-year term dedicated to serving Destinations International’s 6,000 members.

Destinations International serves destination marketing professionals first and foremost. Together with partners from nearly 600 destinations in approximately 15 countries, Destinations International represents a powerful forward-thinking, collaborative association; exchanging bold ideas, connecting innovative people and elevating tourism to its highest potential. For more information, visit www.destinationsinternational.org

The Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) is the official destination marketing organization for the City of Little Rock, charged with marketing and selling the city as a meeting, sports and leisure travel destination. The LRCVB also manages the Statehouse Convention Center, Robinson Center, River Market and multiple parking facilities.

Shark Week remembrance of Roy Schneider

Actor Roy Scheider’s connection to Little Rock is a sad one.  He visited the City quite frequently during the last years of his life as he was getting treated at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.  Despite UAMS’s best efforts, Scheider died in Little Rock on February 10, 2008.

Though he starred in several iconic films in the 1970s and 1980s, he is probably best remembered for his role in the Jaws series of films.

In the 1970s, Scheider received two Oscar nominations. His first, for Best Supporting Actor, was in The French Connection.  While Scheider did not pick up the Oscar, the film itself was named Best Picture.  It won four other Oscars that night. (As a side note: it was the first R-rated movie to win Best Picture.  Though Midnight Cowboy was re-released as an R-Rated movie after winning the Best Picture Oscar, it was initially released as an X-rated movie.)

Scheider’s second Oscar nomination came for playing Bob Fosse’s stand-in in the movie All That Jazz.  It, too, won four Oscars, though Scheider’s nomination would not result in a win.

Happy 77 to Historic Arkansas Museum

77 years ago today (July 19, 1941), Louise Loughborough presided over the opening of a restored original Little Rock city half-block.  A member of Little Rock’s Planning Commission, she had become concerned about plans to demolish a half-block of dilapidated historic homes—the last remnant of Little Rock’s oldest neighborhood

While the buildings were in desperate need of repair and restoration, they were not yet too far gone to be saved. Using her politically astute skills, she worked with the federal, state, and city governments to get funding and labor to restore the buildings.  They opened at the Arkansas Territorial Restoration.

Over the years, the project grew. It became more than just a historical recreation of bygone days. It became a true museum which celebrated not only Arkansas during its territorial heyday but also the history and culture since then.  Additional historic structures have been relocated to land adjacent to the original property to showcase what rural territorial life in Arkansas was like.

In 1981, the organization became the first history museum in Arkansas to be accredited by the American Association of Museums. The museum was renamed the Historic Arkansas Museum (lovingly shortened to HAM) in 2001 to reflect its expanded facility and mission. At that time, it also opened expanded and new galleries.

Today, HAM continues to thrive as it tells the story of Arkansas’ past, but also the state’s present.

Spend Midsummer evenings at A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM this weekend

ACANSA Arts Festival presents Free Shakespeare this weekend!
Spend a mid-summer evening enjoying A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM July 20-22.  All performances take place at the Clinton Center Ampitheater, 6:30 pm.
The event is totally free- no tickets are required, audience members can just come as they are to any and every show.
“ACANSA is so pleased to be working with the Clinton Center to bring this wonderful show to the community,” noted ACANSA executive director Dillon Hupp.  “Shakespeare is timeless, and we are thrilled to offer three entirely free performances of a Midsummer Night’s Dream next weekend. We hope you will make your plans to join us and support some wonderful local artists!”
Image may contain: sky, grass, tree, outdoor and nature A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM is a romantic comedy that follows young lovers on the run and a group of amateur actors on their journey deep into the forest of Athens where they unknowingly stumble into the fairy kingdom. When the worlds collide, chaos ensues and the fairies realize they’ve made a mistake that has to be corrected before sunrise.

What to Bring:
Picnic, bug spray & sunblock
Concessions will be available.

Seating:
The natural amphitheater overlooking the Arkansas River and Rock Island Bridge. Bring a blanket and pillows for the best seating locations.

Limited locations:
Camping chairs
Wheelchair accessible

Donate:
Donations will be accepted at the event to benefit Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

Remembering Mahlon Martin on what would have been his 73rd birthday

On July 19, 1945, future Little Rock City Manager Mahlon A. Martin was born in Little Rock.

After graduating in 1963 from Horace Mann High School, he attended Philander Smith College.  (He had received a baseball scholarship to Grambling, but chose to remain in Little Rock to be near his ailing grandmother.)  Martin graduated from Philander Smith in 1967 with a degree in business administration.

After working in the private sector for two years, Martin was hired by City Manager Jack T. Meriwether to work for the City of Little Rock in 1969 after the City had received a Model Cities grant.  Martin started working with community organizations and then became promoted to the City’s recruiting officer.

In 1972, he was named to leadership posts at the four-county Central Arkansas Manpower Program.  Three years later, he returned to the City of Little Rock to work on the staff of City Manager Carleton McMullin.  In 1976, Martin was named Assistant City Manager for Little Rock.

Martin left City Hall in 1979 to become a top executive at Systematics, Inc.  However, his stint in the private sector was short-lived.  In 1980, the City Board of Directors asked him to come back and be Little Rock’s sixth City Manager.  At thirty-four, he was one of the youngest chief administrators of a major city in the country and the first African American City Manager for Little Rock.

In 1983, Governor Bill Clinton asked him to join the state of Arkansas as the Director of the Department of Finance and Administration.  He was the first African American to lead that or any major Arkansas state department.  Throughout his tenure with the State, he oversaw numerous initiatives to restore the state to sound financial footing.

Martin joined the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation as president in 1989.  He held that position until his death in 1995.

The name Mahlon Martin lives on in a son and grandson named after him, in an apartment complex on south Main Street, in a street in Clinton Presidential Park, and in the City of Little Rock’s Employee of the Year award.  The latter was created by City Manager Bruce T. Moore in 2004.  At the time Moore noted that Martin had been so popular while City Manager, “It was said you could criticize the Razorbacks to a City of Little Rock employee, but you better not say anything bad about Mahlon Martin to them.”

In 2001, Mahlon Martin was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.  A decade later, the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies created a fellowship in his memory.  It supports research and programming in the field of public policy in Arkansas.  In 2015, he was included in the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail.