Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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Little Rock Look Back: Jefferson Thomas

Jefferson Thomas was a track athlete at all-black Dunbar Junior High School in Little Rock when he volunteered to integrate all-white Central High School as a sophomore in 1957.  A few days before he entered the school, he celebrated his fifteenth birthday, having been born on September 19, 1942.

Mr. Thomas was a quiet, soft spoken, unique, and special person.  He had a subtle, infectious sense of humor that served him well throughout his life.  He would find that sense of humor and his love for humanity severely tested by the hate and violence directed toward him by some of the white students at Central High School.  Mr. Thomas graduated from Central High School in May 1960.

He served as the narrator of the Oscar winning documentary short, “Nine from Little Rock.”

Mr. Thomas married in 1965 and has one child (Jefferson, Jr.), still living in Los Angeles.  Mr. Thomas, Sr. was inducted into the United States Army in 1966.  He returned to civilian life in the summer of 1968.

After obtaining a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration from Los Angeles State College, Mr. Thomas went to work as an Accounting Clerk and later, Supervisor for Mobil Oil Corporation.  When Mobil Oil moved its Credit Card Operations, Mr. Thomas remained in Los Angeles, and entered Federal Service as an Accounting Clerk with the Department of Defense.  The DOD relocated parts of its LA operations to Columbus, Ohio, in 1989.  He sold his business and moved to Columbus.

After moving to Columbus, Mr. Thomas continued his commitment to serve the local community, Mr. Thomas took time to serve as a volunteer mentor in the Village to Child Program, co-sponsored by Ohio Dominican University.

He was a frequent speaker at numerous high schools, colleges and universities throughout the country, and an eager mentor to young people.  He was the recipient of numerous awards from local and federal governmental agencies.  These awards include the NAACP Spingarn Medal, and Congressional Gold Medal, this Nation’s longest-running tradition of honor, for helping make democracy work.  He was especially proud of the life-size sculpture of the Little Rock Nine at the Arkansas State Capital in Little Rock, the first in the state honoring living citizens.

Jefferson Thomas retired in September 2004, after 27 years of Federal Service. He departed this life in 2010.  His wife, Mary, still resides in Columbus, Ohio.

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Little Rock Look Back: The “Battle” of Little Rock

On September 10, 1863, Confederate forces under General Sterling Price evacuated Little Rock in advance of Federal forces, thus ending the Little Rock Campaign. By 5:00pm, his forces had left the city and at 7:00pm, civil authorities formally surrendered. Little Rock became the fourth Southern capital to come under Federal control.

The battle was the culmination of a campaign launched by Maj. Gen. Fred Steele, on August 1, 1863 to capture Little Rock. The campaign includes engagements at Westport, on 14 August, Harrison’s Landing, on 16 August, Brownsville on 25 August, the Reed’s Bridge, on 27 August, and Ashley’s Mills on 7 September 1863. After the Union army affected a river crossing east of Little Rock, effectively flanking the Confederate defenses north of the river, the Confederates staged a brief delaying action at Bayou Fourche to allow for evacuation of Little Rock.

As local historian Dr. Bobby Roberts has noted, “It was really more of a ‘skirmish’ than an actual ‘battle.'”

City of Little Rock leaders must have been anticipating the result of the battle.  In August 1861, they took the City’s treasury to an undisclosed location and started scaling back on City government.

The Battle of Little Rock is also known as the Battle of Bayou Fourche.


Veterans Day Sculpture Vulture, Kathleen Caricof’s Stars and Stripes sculpture in War Memorial Park

Veterans Day is a good day to visit Kathleen Caricof’s Stars and Stripes in the Sturgis Veterans Plaza at War Memorial Park.  This 36 by 40 feet stainless steel sculpture welcomes visitors to the park and was dedicated in 2008 in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of War Memorial Stadium.

There are five interlocked stars which represent the five branches of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard – both the active duty and the reserve segments of each branch as well as their affiliated guard units.

The gleaming stainless steel is both light and durable to represent the strength and vitality of the men and women who protect the United States and have done so for centuries.

Caricof, a member of the National Sculptors Guild, was selected for the commission after a national competition by the War Memorial Stadium Commission.  She has several other pieces in Little Rock including several in Riverfront Park and the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden.


Sculpture Sunday: Stars and Stripes

As part of the Veteran’s Day weekend, today’s Sculpture Sunday showcases Kathleen Caricof’s Stars and Stripes in the Sturgis Veterans Plaza at War Memorial Park.  This 36 by 40 feet stainless steel sculpture welcomes visitors to the park and was dedicated in 2008 in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of War Memorial Stadium.

 

 

There are five interlocked stars which represent the five branches of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard – both the active duty and the reserve segments of each branch as well as their affiliated guard units.

 

 

The gleaming stainless steel is both light and durable to represent the strength and vitality of the men and women who protect the United States and have done so for centuries.

 

 

Caricof, a member of the National Sculptors Guild, was selected for the commission after a national competition by the War Memorial Stadium Commission.  She has several other pieces in Little Rock which will be featured in future entries.