Little Rock Look Back: First Basketball Game in Little Rock

Very few sports can have a definitive “this was the first game in Little Rock” moment. But basketball does.

On April 7, 1893, the Arkansas Gazette ran stories about the final day of horse racing at Clinton Park racetrack (the park stretched roughly from what is today’s Clinton Presidential Park through the East Village to Clinton National Airport), the men who were soon to take office as aldermen met to plan for their upcoming City Council terms, and a preview of a new sport coming to Little Rock.

Less than two years earlier in Springfield, Massachusetts, a YMCA instructor named James Naismith had invented the new game of Basket Ball (then spelled with two words).  The sport caught on in popularity and spread throughout the country through the network of YMCAs.

Now, on April 7, 1893, Little Rock residents would get their first glimpse of the game.  Two hundred men and women gathered at the Little Rock YMCA (located at the northeast corner of Fourth and Main Streets) to see the game, which started at 8:30pm.

The Little Rock YMCA team (which had only formed the night before) took on the Pine Bluff YMCA team.  The Pine Bluff young men had been practicing for six months.  The results of the game reflected that.  At the end, Pine Bluff had scored 70 points and Little Rock had scored 9 points.

Following the game, the Little Rock chapter hosted both teams for refreshments.  Little Rock was scheduled to go to Pine Bluff to play again during the YMCA statewide convention at the end of April.

From those meager beginnings, Little Rock has seen its fair share of basketball triumphs.

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Women Making History: Gretchen Hall

Gretchen HallAt the 2019 Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Gretchen Hall was named Tourism Person of the Year.  This is just the latest honor for her.  In 2017, she was the first woman to solely receive the Downtown Little Rock Partnership’s Top of the Rock Award.

As the President and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, she leads a staff that not only brings conventions and tourists to Little Rock, but also creates opportunities for local residents to enjoy their city more.

From 2014 to 2016, she actively oversaw the deconstruction and reconstruction of Robinson Center Performance Hall. Taking a New Deal era assembly hall and making it into a state-of-the-art performance facility was not an easy task. Gretchen and her team have worked with the architects, engineers, designers and consultants to make it happen.

Gretchen joined LRCVB in 2001 and worked her way up through the organization.  In May 2011, she was named to her current position.  Since that time, the LRCVB has undertaken numerous efforts to enhance Little Rock including a new amphitheatre in Riverfront Park, enhanced programming at the River Market, and increased financial support of cultural organizations.  She has worked to improve not only the meeting space available for conventions, but also to enhance the dining and lodging scenes in Little Rock.  In addition, she helped lead the effort to see the additional penny of the hotel tax be dedicated to support the Arkansas Arts Center and MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History.

Little Rock Look Back: Creation of War Memorial Stadium approved

On March 18, 1947, Governor Ben T. Laney signed the bill into law which authorized the construction of War Memorial Stadium.

The plans for the stadium were the brainchild of Arkansas Secretary of State C.G. “Crip” Hall and University of Arkansas Athletic Director John Barnhill.

Apparently the Southwest Conference was threatening to kick Arkansas out because of an inadequate football facility. Since the University did not have the funds to build a new one on its campus, Barnhill and Hall decided that the state should build one. Many other states were building War Memorial facilities of a variety of natures. The duo decided that the new football facility could be a War Memorial Stadium to pay tribute to the men who died in the recently concluded World War II.  While the stadium was touted as being of use to all colleges in the state and a variety of other types of activities, it was very much designed to be a home for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Getting the stadium through the Arkansas General Assembly was not easy.  The bill to create the stadium commission sailed through both houses. But even some who voted for it said they would oppose any funding bills.  When time came to vote for the funding, the bill fell far short of the three-quarters vote that was needed in the House for an appropriation bill.

WWII veterans were on both sides of the issue.  Some felt it was an appropriate way to honor those who died.  Others felt it was a gimmick to get the stadium approved.  Some of the opponents felt that a new state hospital for UAMS would be the more appropriate way to honor those who died during the war.  The debates were often heated and personal.

Overnight a new bill was created. It would pay for the stadium through the issuing of bonds. In addition to the state issuing bonds, any city which wished to bid for it would have to put up money for it as well as provide land.  This new bill would require only 51 votes to pass the House.  It was able to pass that threshold.  The Senate made a few amendments (mostly dealing with the composition of the stadium commission and the amount of dollars that the host city had to pledge).  Finally the House agreed to the Senate amendments and it went to Governor Laney.

The next hurdle for the stadium was choosing a location. That process would occupy stadium proponents throughout the spring and summer of 1947.

Newspaper man, Sheriff, County Judge, Senator and Baseball promoter: WILLIAM MARMADUKE KAVANAUGH

On March 3, 1866, William Marmaduke Kavanaugh was born in Alabama. He later moved with his family to Kentucky before coming to Little Rock as a newspaper reporter.

Kavanaugh served as editor and manager of the Arkansas Gazette before entering politics.  From 1896 until 1900, he served as Pulaski County Sheriff, which at the time also included the duties of tax collector.

From 1900 until 1904, he was County Judge of Pulaski County.  In that capacity he helped wrangle several cities, railroads and trolley lines to create a compromise which lead to the completion of the Third Street Viaduct which connected Little Rock with Pulaski Heights. It is still in use today.

After leaving his post as County Judge, he had a varied career in banking and business interests.

When Senator Jeff Davis died in early January 1913, he left the last few weeks of his term incomplete as well as the new term he was set to start in March 1913.  There was much interest in who would fill the remainder of Davis’ current term, because that person might be the frontrunner to also fill out the new term.  (This was at the time that the U.S. Senators were still selected by state legislatures.) Defeated Governor George Donaghey appointed J. N. Heiskell to fill out the term. But once the Arkansas General Assembly convened in mid-January, they overrode Donaghey’s appointment and replaced Heiskell with Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh served in the Senate from January 29, 1913 until March 3, 1913.  He was succeeded by Joseph T. Robinson who had only recently taken office as Governor.  Speculation was that Kavanaugh would not want the full six year term, so that he was acceptable choice to all of the politicians jockeying for the full appointment.  From 1912 until 1915, he was an Arkansas member of the Democratic National Committee.

Another interest of Kavanaugh’s was baseball.  He served as president of the Southern Association minor league starting in 1903.  The baseball field in Little Rock situated at West End Park was named Kavanaugh Field in his honor.  It stood until the 1930s when it was replaced by what is now known as Quigley Stadium.  (In 1927, Little Rock High School had opened on the land which had been West End Park.)

Kavanaugh died on February 2, 1915 at the age of 48.  He is buried in Oakland Cemetery.

Prospect Road was renamed Kavanaugh Boulevard in his memory.

Intersection of Athletics and Higher Education is focus of Clinton School program tonight

Image result for john wolohanThe Intersection of Athletics and Higher Education is the focus of a Clinton School program this evening.  It starts at 6pm at Sturgis Hall.

Attorney John Wolohan is a professor of Sports Law in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics at Syracuse University.

Wolohan is one of the lead editors of the book “Law for Recreation and Sport Managers” by Cotten and Wolohan, as well as being the author of the “Sports Law Report” a monthly article that appears in Athletic Business. Wolohan has also published numerous articles and book chapters in the areas of athlete’s rights, intellectual property and antitrust issues in sport in such Journals as the Marquette Sports Law Journal, Seton Hall Journal of Sports Law, Villanova Sports & Entertainment Law Journal, University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review, Educational Law Reporter, International Sports Law Journal, Journal of the Legal Aspects of Sport and the Journal of Sport Management.

In addition, Professor Wolohan has made numerous presentations in the area of sports law to such organizations as the American Bar Association, Asser Sports Law Institute, Athletic Business, Australian & New Zealand Sports Law Association, European Association for Sport Management, International Sports Lawyers Association, North American Society of Sport Management, Sport and Recreation Law Association, US Indoor Sports Association and the United States Sport Congress.

Professor Wolohan, who is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, received his B.A. from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and his J.D. from Western New England University, School of Law.

All Clinton School Speaker Series events are free and open to the public. Reserve your seats by emailing publicprograms@clintonschool.uasys.edu or by calling (501) 683-5239.

Super Bowl Sunday look at the Copper Bowl

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, so it seems to be a good time to remember the five year series of football games in Little Rock known as the Copper Bowl.

A Little Rock police officer tackles a NLR player in one of the Copper Bowls.

A Little Rock police officer tackles a NLR player in one of the Copper Bowls.

From December 1959 through December 1963, the Little Rock Police Department played the North Little Rock Police Department in a series of football games.  The Copper Bowl games were fundraisers to help the LRPD provide food and presents for needy families during the Christmas season.

The agreement was that the teams would play for five years. The team with the most wins would permanently receive the Copper Bowl trophy.  The LRPD was outfitted with uniforms from Little Rock University and Louisiana State University (thanks to the efforts of Sgt. Harold Zook).  The games were played at Quigley Stadium.

Before the final game on December 1, 1963, the series was tied at 2-2.  The LRPD team won the game and permanently captured the trophy.  Over the five year period several thousand dollars were raised.

African Americans and Sports in Arkansas focus of Black History Commission of Arkansas program today (2/2)

Image may contain: one or more people and textThe Black History Commission of Arkansas presents “African Americans and Sports in Arkansas.”  The program runs from 9:45 am to 3 pm today at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

Speakers: Evin Demirel, Jimmy Cunningham Jr., Dr. Wilbert Gaines, and Kenneth (Muskie) Harris. Lunch will be provided. Teachers can earn up to four professional development hours. Registration is required.

10 a.m.
Evin Demirel, author of “African-American Athletes in Arkansas: Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks and Other Forgotten Stories”
• The legacy of African American sports in Jim Crow era with an emphasis on the now-defunct, all-black high school’s athletic association and stories from his book.

11 a.m.
Jimmy Cunningham, Jr., author of “African Americans of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County”
• Highlights and stories about three African American athletes from Jefferson County, including Boid “One Arm” Buie, Willie Roaf and Ivie Moore.

12:45 p.m.
Dr. Wilbert Gaines, former Arkansas State University professor
• Personal experiences and surmounting challenges and obstacles as a pioneer and trailblazer in sports, sports-related activities and academia.

1:45 p.m.
Kenneth “Muskie” Harris, community activist and former Razorback
• The history of the Razorbacks and integration of athletes, including facts about all 17 sports at the University of Arkansas and some of the first African Americans to receive sports scholarships.

For those unable to attend, footage from the programs will be on the Arkansas State Archives Facebook page in the coming days.

The Black History commission of Arkansas is an advisory board of the Arkansas State Archives, a division of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.