Bill Clinton has the distinction of being both the 42nd President of the United States and the 42nd Governor of Arkansas. But the 42nd Mayor of Little Rock was Charles E. Taylor.
On September 15, 1868, future Little Rock Mayor Charles E. Taylor was born in Austin, Mississippi. After locating to eastern Arkansas, his family moved to Little Rock around 1880.
Taylor graduated from Scott Street High School in Little Rock and proceeded to work for various hardware stores and other businesses. In 1895 he married Belle Blackwood, with whom he would have four children.
In 1910, Taylor announced his intention to run for mayor of Little Rock. Though he had never held elective office, he had been involved in several civic organizations. Taylor was the main challenger to Alderman John Tuohey. Seen as a reformer, Taylor initially lost to Tuohey. But after an investigation of voter fraud and a subsequent runoff, Taylor was elected Mayor.
Upon taking office in August 1911, Mayor Taylor focused on improving health conditions in the city, upgrading the fire department and enhancing the overall moral tone of the city.
As a progressive of the era, he fought against gambling, drinking and prostitution. He created a Health Department and enhanced the City Hospital. His efforts led to a decrease in the death rate in Little Rock. As mayor, Taylor introduced motorized vehicles to the Fire Department. He also led the City Council to establish building and electrical codes. Mayor Taylor also oversaw the construction of the 1913 Beaux Arts Central Fire Stations (which today serves as the City Hall West Wing).
Under his leadership, the City of Little Rock annexed Pulaski Heights. One of the selling points to Pulaski Heights residents was Mayor Taylor’s ability to provide modern services such as paved streets, water mains, fire hydrants and street lights.
Though neither his 1911 Parks Master Plan nor his dreams for a civic auditorium came to fruition, they paved the way for future successes in both of those areas.
Funding for projects continued to be a problem throughout Mayor Taylor’s four terms in office. He believed that one obstacle to city funding was the prohibition by the state constitution against cities issuing bonds. Though that ban has since been lifted, Taylor tried three times unsuccessfully to get it changed while he was Mayor.
In April 1919, Taylor left office after having served eight years. He was the longest serving Mayor of Little Rock until Jim Dailey served in the 1990s and 2000s. Following several business ventures, Taylor moved to Pine Bluff and led their chamber of commerce from 1923 through 1930.
Mayor Charles E. Taylor died in Pine Bluff in 1932. He was buried at Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock.
During his time in office, Mayor Taylor was presented with an unofficial flag of Little Rock by a group of citizens. During Mayor Dailey’s tenure, that flag was restored by some private citizens and presented to the City. It is framed on the 2nd Floor of Little Rock City Hall.