Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Little Rock Look Back: Warren E. Lenon

OMayor Lenonn October 8, 1867 in Panora, Iowa, future Little Rock Mayor Warren E. Lenon was born.  He was one of eleven children of John D. and Margaret M. Long Lenon.

Lenon came to Little Rock in 1888 after finishing his schooling in Iowa.  He helped set up an abstract company shortly after his arrival.  In 1902 he organized the Peoples Savings Bank.  Among his other business interests were the City Realty Company, the Factory Land Company, the Mountain Park Land Company, and the Pulaski Heights Land Company.

From 1895 to 1903, he was a Little Rock alderman, and in 1903, he was elected Mayor of the city. A progressive Mayor, he championed the construction of a new City Hall which opened in 1908.  At the first meeting of the City Council in that building, Mayor Lenon tendered his resignation.  His duties in his various business interests were taking up too much of his time.

Mayor Lenon had been a champion for the establishment of a municipal auditorium. He had wanted to include one in the new City Hall complex. But a court deemed it not permissible under Arkansas finance laws at the time.  He also worked to help establish the first Carnegie Library in Little Rock which opened in 1912.

Mayor Lenon continued to serve in a variety of public capacities after leaving office.  In the 1920s, he briefly chaired a public facilities board for an auditorium district. It appeared he would see his dream fulfilled of a municipal auditorium.  Unfortunately the Arkansas Supreme Court declared the enabling legislation invalid.

In 1889, he married Clara M. Mercer.  The couple had three children, two of whom survived him.  A son W. E. Lenon Jr., and a daughter Vivian Mercer Lenon Brewer.  Together with Adolphine Fletcher Terry (also a daughter of a LR Mayor), Mrs. Brewer was a leader of the Women’s Emergency Committee.

Mayor Lenon died June 25, 1946 and is buried at Roselawn Cemetery.  Lenon Drive just off University Avenue is named after Mayor Lenon.

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Little Rock Look Back: Elizabeth Eckford

After 60 years, the most dramatic images of the 1957 crisis at Little Rock Central High School remain those of 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford, being taunted as she walked through a hate-filled mob, on her way to school.  Today, Ms. Eckford recalls how difficult it was for her parents, Oscar and Birdie, to allow her to continue the struggle to integrate the Little Rock schools.

Born on October 4, 1941, she grew up in Little Rock.  Because all of the city’s high schools closed her senior year, Ms. Eckford moved to St Louis, where she obtained her GED. She attended Knox College in Illinois, and received her BA in History from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.  While in college, Ms. Eckford became one of the first African Americans to work in a local St. Louis bank, in a non-janitorial position, and later she worked as a substitute teacher, in Little Rock public schools.

Ms. Eckford, a veteran of the U.S. Army, has also worked as a substitute teacher in Little Rock public schools, test administrator, unemployment interviewer, waitress, welfare worker, and military reporter.  Along with her fellow Little Rock Nine members, she is a recipient of the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal and the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal.  Together with one of her former tormenters, Ms. Eckford also received a Humanitarian award, presented by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), following their meeting 34 years after an apology.  The award recognizes forgiveness and atonement.  They talked to students for two years, and, together, attended a 12-week racial healing course.

Ms. Eckford has started to walk through the painful past in sharing some of her story.  She has said that true reconciliation can occur if we honestly look back on our shared history. She believes that the lessons learned from Little Rock Central High School must continue to be shared with new generations, reminding audiences that “the dead can be buried, but not the past.”  Ms. Eckford continues her interest in education by sharing her story with school groups, and challenges students to be active participants in confronting justice, rather than being passive observers.

Ms. Eckford lives in Little Rock, and is a probation officer for the First Division Circuit Court of Pulaski County.


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JFK in LR and other parts of ARK

JFK LROn October 3, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered remarks at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds.  Only a few weeks later, he would be felled by an assassins bullet in Texas.

In the speech, the President praised Arkansas’ congressional delegation including Senators John McClellan and J. William Fulbright and Congressmen Took Gathings, Bill Trimble, Wilbur Mills and Oren Harris.  Each of these men held senior leadership positions in key committees.  The main focus of the speech was to discuss President Kennedy’s vision for a new economy in the South.

The President was actually in the state to speak at the dedication of the Greers Ferry Dam. He agreed to make that appearance as a part of a negotiation with Congressman Mills as they were deadlocked over changes to the tax code.  He had previously visited Little Rock in 1957 when he came to the state to address the Arkansas Bar Association meeting in Hot Springs.

President Kennedy continued the string of 20th Century Presidents to visit Little Rock.  Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman had all visited while in office.  Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower all visited prior to attaining the presidency.


Central to Creativity – Dee Brown

Dee BrownDorris Alexander (Dee) Brown was born in 1908 in Louisiana.  After spending time in Stephens, Arkansas, his family relocated to Little Rock.

He lived more than half his life in Arkansas and, beginning as a teenager, wrote continuously for publication.  An admiration for a Native American baseball player in Arkansas helped influence Brown’s attitude toward Native Americans.  After graduating from high school in 1927, Brown got a job as a printer for the Harrison Daily Times in Boone County.

In 1928, Brown went to Arkansas State Teachers College (ASTC), now the University of Central Arkansas, graduating in 1931 with a Bachelor of Arts and Education degree with a major in history. Brown met his future wife, Sally Stroud of when they were both students there.

In the 1930s, Brown worked in Washington DC for the U.S. Department of Agriculture library. While there, he earned a Bachelor of Library Science degree in 1935 from George Washington University. During World War II, he served in the Army.

His first book was 1942’s Wave High the Banner, which was based on stories Brown had heard his grandmother tell.  In the 1950s, Brown received his Master of Library Science degree at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.  He worked there as a librarian until 1972 and wrote several books during that time.

 

 

In the late 1960s, Brown began writing his groundbreaking book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.  After his return to Little Rock, Brown spent 27 years as a writer.  Brown died on December 12, 2002, at the age of ninety-four at his home in Little Rock. A branch library in


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Central to Creativity – Charlotte Moorman

tvbra2For 2017’s Arts and Humanities Month, the blog will focus on cultural personalities who are connected with Little Rock Central High School.

Up first – the Topless Cellist, a 1951 graduate.  Charlotte Moorman

Born in Little Rock, at the age of ten she began to study cello.  After graduating from Little Rock high school in 1951, she attended Centenary College.  She undertook subsequent studies at the University of Texas and Julliard.

After spending time with the American Symphony Orchestra, she participated in the experimental art scene including with her friend Yoko Ono.

In 1963 Moorman founded the Annual Avant Garde Festival of New York, which presented the experimental music of the Fluxus group and Happenings alongside performance, kinetic art, and video art. Despite the event’s title the festival was not held annually. There were fifteen festivals from 1963 to 1980.

On February 9, 1967 Moorman achieved widespread notoriety for her performance of Paik’s Opera Sextronique at the Film-Makers Cinematheque in New York City. For this performance, Moorman was to perform movements on the cello in various states of nudity. For the second movement, she played International Lullaby by Max Matthews while wearing a black skirt, but while being topless, and was arrested mid-performance by three plainclothes police officers For her court trial, Moorman and Paik restaged and filmed the first two movements of Opera Sextronique with the filmmaker Jud Yalkut.

In the late 1970s she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy and further treatment, to continue performing through the 1980s in spite of pain and deteriorating health. She died of cancer in New York City on November 8, 1991, aged 57.

 


Little Rock Look Back: US Supreme Court announces Cooper v. Aaron decision

Thurgood Marshall, of the NAACP, sits on the steps of the Supreme Court Building after he filed an appeal in the integration case of Little Rock’s Central High School. The students are, from left: Melba Pattillo, Jefferson Thomas, Gloria Ray, escort Daisy Bates, Marshall, Carlotta Walls, Minnijean Brown, and Elizabeth Eckford. (AP Photo, file)

On September 29, 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Cooper v. Aaron. That decision held that Little Rock public officials were required to implement a desegregation plan in compliance with the Brown v. Board decision.

The Court found that “the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution” and all state officials must adhere to the Court’s decisions and follow the rules laid down in those decisions in similar future cases.

The genesis for the Cooper v. Aaron court case was the Little Rock School Board seeking a delay in further implementation of the plan to integrate schools.

After the events of 1957-1958, the School Board was reluctant to have another year of integration, even if it were severely limited. The school board caved to this political pressure, filing a request for a two-and-a-half-year delay in implementing desegregation. The district court granted the request, but the court of appeals reversed. Chief Justice Earl Warren called a Special Term of the Supreme Court into session to consider the case. The stage was set for Cooper v. Aaron.

In their decision, the Warren Court made it clear that resistance to Brown would not be tolerated. The Court went on to state that “the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the Constitution” and “the interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment enunciated by this Court in the Brown case is the supreme law of the land.”


Little Rock Look Back: Pulaski Heights City Council first meeting

On September 28, 1905, the first meeting of the Pulaski Heights City Council took place.  The newly elected Mayor was J. H. Joslyn, the Recorder was F. D. Leaming, and new Alderman present were E. E. Moss, Maxwell Coffin and C. C. Thompson.  Pulaski Heights had been incorporated on August 1, 1905.  At that time its population was estimated at between 300 and 400.

The first ordinance, which was offered by E. E. Moss, was to set a tax rate and give the City the ability to levy taxes.  Next was a motion to establish a committee to establish rules and procedures for the council. The final business before the Council was to allow the Recorder to order stationary, a seal and a record book (that record book is now in the vault at Little Rock City Hall).

The next meeting would be October 28.  At that meeting, two other Aldermen are mentioned in the minutes (Fauble and Paul) but were absent from that meeting as well.  Mr. C. M. Fauble was present at the third meeting.  Mr. R. O. Paul did not appear until the fifth meeting (December 13, 1905).

Interestingly the Recorder had a vote in the Council meetings (which was not a practice in the City of Little Rock at the time).

The Council did not have a permanent meeting place until the third meeting.  At that point in time, they used space in the offices of Dr. Hockersmith.  They later met in a building which is now part of the Pulaski Heights Baptist Church campus.

Pulaski Heights was a separate City until January 1916.  On January 4, 1916, Little Rock voters approved the annexation of Pulaski Heights by a ten-to-one margin, and the suburb became the city’s ninth ward. This established a couple of precedents for the City of Little Rock which are in effect to this day.  The first is that Little Rock would not be a central city surrounded by a variety of small incorporated towns (in the manner that St. Louis and other cities are).  It was this thought process which has led the City to continue to annex properties.

In addition, this move to annex Pulaski Heights was the first time that the City grew toward the west.  Previous growth had been to the south.  By emphasizing western expansion, this has allowed Little Rock to continue to grow.