Little Rock Look Back: Mayoral Election of 1832

Little Rock’s 73rd Mayor will take office on Tuesday, January 1, 2019.  In the next few weeks, past races for mayor will be featured on Tuesdays.

Up first is the the first race for mayor.  It was between Dr. Matthew Cunningham and Rev. W. W. Stevenson.

  • Dr. Cunningham had been a founding father of Little Rock.  He was the first physician, husband of the first woman to be a permanent settler of Little Rock, and father of the first baby born to a Little Rock resident.
  • Rev. Stevenson was a member of the Presbyterian clergy as well as a geologist.  He had first come to Batesville before settling in Little Rock.

In November 1831, the Town of Little Rock was officially chartered by the Territory of Arkansas.  The first election was set for New Year’s Day, 1832.

On the appointed day, the white men who were eligible to vote gathered at the prescribed location and cast their votes. By a vote of 23 to 15, Dr. Cunningham won the race. There are no media accounts of issues that may have arisen during the campaign, or if there was even much of a campaign.

Dr. Cunningham served as Little Rock’s first mayor during the calendar year of 1832 but did not seek a second term.  His successor was Rev. Stevenson. Records suggest that Rev. Stevenson may have been unopposed in his quest. He, too, served only one year.  Later in the 1830s, some friends tried to recruit him to run for mayor again, but he declined.

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