Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Haco Boyd – Little Rock mayor who went to Cuba

On July 6, 1902, future Little Rock Mayor Haco O. Boyd was born in Leslie, Arkansas.  At the age of four, his family moved to Little Rock; he graduated from the Little Rock public schools.  He attended and graduated from Hendrix College.

In World War II, he was in the Army Air Corps.  He was a very decorated soldier earning two Purple Hearts, a Legion of Merit, and a Bronze star among other designations from the United States.  He also received high military honors from numerous European governments.  Boyd would remain in the Air National Guard and retired with the rank of Colonel in 1964.

As a businessman, he was a founder of Rebsamen Ford and then state manager of Benjamin Moore for Arkansas.  In 1952, he joined Union Life Insurance.  Throughout his career, he received most any recognition and honor and designation that the field of life insurance offered.

In November 1968, he won a three-candidate race for the Little Rock City Board of Directors. One of the candidates he defeated was former (and future) Director and Mayor Byron Morse.  In January 1969, he was selected to serve as Mayor of Little Rock.

One week later, Mayor Boyd and 70 others were on an Eastern Airlines plane headed for a life insurance convention in  Nassau, departing from Miami.  A passenger hijacked it and the plane was diverted to Cuba.   The next morning the passengers were returned to Miami and then sent to Nassau without incident. Once the media found out that one of the passengers was the Mayor of Little Rock, he was interviewed by numerous newspapers.  Mayor Boyd expressed that they had been treated well by the Cuban government, but that all in all he had rather not made that leg of the trip.

In other civic involvement, Boyd served on the Little Rock Airport Commission, including a term as chair.  He was also honored for his involvement with the Boy Scouts of America and Easter Seals.

In September 1923, Boyd married Mary Josephine “Polly” Goodrum.  They were married until her death in February 1977.  Haco Boyd died on March 27, 1988.  The couple are buried at Roselawn Cemetery.  They had two children and four grandchildren.


235 years of Dr. Matthew Cunningham, a founding father of Little Rock

Future Little Rock Mayor Dr. Matthew Cunningham was born on July 5, 1782, in Pennsylvania. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, he ended up in New York City.  He also served in the Army during the War of 1812.

It was there he met and married a young widow, Eliza Wilson Bertrand. After a brief stint in St. Louis, Dr. Cunningham was one of the first settlers of Little Rock in February 1820. With his arrival, he became the first physician in Little Rock.

In September 1820, Mrs. Cunningham and her children joined him. She became the first female in the Little Rock settlement. Dr. and Mrs. Cunningham had a son, Chester, who was the first white baby born in Little Rock. (Though not supported by any public records, there is some unsubstantiated thought that one of the African-American slaves they had gave birth to a child before Chester was born.) The Cunninghams had several other children.  One daughter, Matilda, would marry Little Rock businessman Peter Hanger.  (The Hanger Hill neighborhood is named after Peter Hanger.)

In 1831, Dr. Cunningham was elected the first Mayor of Little Rock. He won the race 23 to 15 over Rev. W. W. Stevenson. The first City Council meeting took place at the Cunningham house on the block which is the southwest corner of what is now 3rd and Main Streets. Records are incomplete as to where on the block the Cunningham house was located, but a plaque is on 3rd Street near Main on the side of the Fulk Building which CJRW now calls home.

Dr. Cunningham served one year as Mayor. He lived until June 15, 1851, and is buried at Mount Holly Cemetery. His wife, son, and the Hanger family are buried next to him.  Because he lived for two decades after serving as mayor, he was able to see Little Rock continue to grow.

His stepson – Charles P. Bertrand – also served as Mayor of Little Rock.  While there have not been any Little Rock father-son combinations serve as mayor, Dr. Cunningham and Mr. Bertrand certainly shared a kinship.

Through Matilda Hanger and also the Bertrands, descendants of Dr. Cunningham still reside in Little Rock.


Happy 90th to former LR Mayor Buddy Benafield

Future Little Rock Mayor James Weldon “Buddy” Benafield was born on July 5, 1927 in Coy, Arkansas.  As a child he spent part of his time chopping cotton.  He graduated from England High School and then served in the U.S. Navy.  Following his stint in the military, he enrolled in Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas).

After college he returned to England.  From 1967 to 1974 he served as Mayor of England.  While in England, he also worked to establish a hospital there. While he was Mayor, Benafield also served as a legislative aide to Governor Dale Bumpers.

After moving to Little Rock, Benafield served as legislative aide to Governor Frank White.  He had been a donor to former Governor Bill Clinton, who had been defeated by White. Though a staunch Democrat, he remarked to the media at the time that he had been a friend of White’s and never declined a Governor’s request for help.

Long active in Democratic politics, he had served as Secretary of the State Democratic Party.  (One of his daughters, Dawne Benafield Vandiver has carried on the family tradition serving in several leadership positions in the State Democratic Party.  Most recently she was Executive Director of the party.)

In January 1982, Benafield was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Little Rock City Board of Directors. He ran for election to a full term in November 1982 and was reelected in November 1986.  From January 1983 to December 1984, Benafield served as Mayor of Little Rock.

After leaving the Little Rock City Board in January 1991, he has remained engaged in civic matters.  He served a term on the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Commission.  He was first appointed in January 1993 by Gov. Jim Guy Tucker to fill out the remainder of Rodney Slater’s term. Slater had resigned to to take a job in the Clinton Administration in Washington DC.  In 1995, he was reappointed, this time to a full ten year term.  This was only the second time a member of the Highway Commission had been reappointed.

Buddy Benafield is the only Little Rock Mayor to have also been a mayor of another Arkansas city.  He continues to be involved in farming and a variety of business ventures and has maintained his interest in politics.


Little Rock Look Back: Robinson Center closes for renovation

On July 1, 2014, Robinson Center Music Hall closed so that renovations could commence.  Instead of having a groundbreaking ceremony, Gretchen Hall and LRCVB arranged for a “stage breaking.”  Slats from the stage flooring were pried up with crowbars.

Twenty-eight months later, Robinson Center reopened on-time and on-budget.

(As a side note:  the Culture Vulture announced the countdown before Governor Mike Beebe and various Little Rock leaders used their crowbars for the first breaking of the stage flooring.)

Here are some photos from that ceremony.


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See You Tomorrow, Patricia Matthews

Though not leaving Little Rock, Patricia Matthews is moving on from Christ Church to take a position at St. Mark’s Church.

In appreciation for her many gifts, this tribute is offered. The title comes from the conclusion of her final sermon at Christ Church.

 

SEE YOU TOMORROW

Two parishes are different today.

One because it is missing someone.
One because it has gained someone.

Who?

A woman of grace and humor.
A woman of grins and hugs.

She is a keeper of secrets.

Be they the most fantastic story of a preschooler,
Or a heartbreaking confession of an adult.

She is a user of hands.

Be they gardening or greeting,
Comforting the afflicted, administering communion.

She is a seeker.

Be it roasted nuts on a Mississippi roadside,
Or truths for living from a difficult scripture.

She is a giver.

Of knowledge, succor, and time.
And encouraging others to explore their talents.

She is a family-person.

A finder of time to devote to her husband and children
And share in their interests while involving them in hers.

She is eclectic.

Her taste in music, literature, and movies
Runs the gamut from Monty Python to Harper Lee.

Two parishes are different today.

One because it knows how special she is.
One because it is about to find out how lucky it is.


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Godspeed Scott Walters

scottwaltersdepartureFor twelve years, Scott Walters has been an advocate for many things in Little Rock.  One of these has been the arts — especially literature, visual arts and music.

His tenure as Rector of Christ Church saw the concerts by Mavis Staples and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the development of The Undercroft music venue, the creation of the Sixth Street Library gallery, and partnerships with the Arkansas Literary Festival.

As he moves on to his next adventure in Memphis, this is a chance to say farewell to him.

 

CHANGES AND CHANCES

A troubadour of truths once came
to a church of rock in a city built on a rock.
A language loving scholar with an interest in seemingly everything
He was a student of cultures (both pop and high).

He was called to aid people as they worked and watched and wept.
With his carpenter’s hands he
Crafted,
Carved,
Hewed,
Shaped.

During times of joy and woe, he shared insight he had gained.
In his brilliantly simple and simply brilliant words he referenced
Sacred Texts
NPR stories
YouTube videos
Childhood memories.

Like the philosophers of old, he raised questions not easily answered.
As he sought to make sense of a world that too often
Confounds
Confuses
Conflates
Confutes.

But, as in his carpentry days, he used his tools and
Found a way to restore equilibrium and return the bubble to the
Middle
Level
Even
Balanced.

Though at home in a pulpit,
he was equally at ease walking the streets
Be they the sidewalks of his city
Or a pilgrimage through Spain.

His unassuming manner was on display whether chatting with
Prize winning poets
Presiding Bishops
Preschoolers
And all other personalities included in this story of human redemption.

The troubadour and his family embraced the church of rock,
Its neighborhood and its city built on a rock.
As active participants in its life
Their impact spread far beyond the half of a city block.

Now

There are many more lessons to teach.
There are many more lives to touch.
There are new words to explain.
There are new worlds to explore.

When particles collide, they are forever changed.
(That is what physicists tell us in their not-so-ancient texts.)
Hurtling on their new trajectories, seeking new directions,
The particles are eternally impacted because of the contact.

This church of rock in the city on a rock
Is likewise evermore transformed by the troubadour and his household.
A dozen years of tears, laughter, memories
And ordinary time that twas always more than that.

In improvisation (this troubadour once noted)
there is a perfect response when met with a strange new reality.
It is two words which accept that revised status quo
And anticipate the unforeseen.

So now as the troubadour and his family
venture into their new realms
And as the church of rock in the city on a rock
Remains with a renewed purpose

Collectively everyone takes a breath,
A pause
A prayer
A smile
A tear

And utters with gratitude for the past
And anticipation for the future

“Yes, and….”