Little Rock Look Back: Sixty Years of the Little Rock Nine

Sixty years ago today the Little Rock Nine entered Central High School and stayed. On one hand, this brought to the end a nearly month long standoff between segregationists and those who wanted to obey the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision.

In the bigger picture, the struggle did not end that day.  Throughout the remainder of the school year, the Little Rock Nine were subjected to threats, isolation and hostility.  Outside of the school, while the crowds may had dispersed after September 25, the raw feelings did not subside.

This was evidenced by the fact that the following year the high schools were closed to avoid having them integrated.

But September 25, 1957, was an historic day in the United States. Under guard of members of the 101st Airborne Division of the Army, the Little Rock Nine were escorted into Central High School. This action by President Dwight Eisenhower was the result of the intrusive efforts of Governor Orval Faubus who had used the Arkansas National Guard to keep the nine students out.

The City of Little Rock was largely a bystander in this issue. The form of government was changing from Mayor-Council to City Manager in November 1957. Therefore Mayor Woodrow Mann and the entire City Council were lame ducks. Mann, whose son was a senior at Central, tried to focus on keeping the peace in Little Rock. Most (if not all) of his Council members sided with the Governor.

Congressman Brooks Hays, a Little Rock resident, had tried to broker an agreement between the President and the Governor but was unsuccessful.  Following that, Mayor Mann was in discussions with the White House about the ability of the Little Rock Police Department to maintain order.  Finally, in the interest of public safety, the President federalized the National Guard and removed them. This paved the way for the Army to come in.

Though the school year was not easy, the nine youths who became known worldwide as the Little Rock Nine were finally in school.  They were Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton, Governor Mike Huckabee and Mayor Jim Dailey, famously held open the doors of Central High for the Little Rock Nine on the 40th anniversary.  Ten years later, Clinton, Huckabee and Dailey returned joined by Governor Mike Beebe and Mayor Mark Stodola to host the 50th anniversary events.

Today, President Clinton was once again at Central.  This time he was joined by Governor Asa Hutchinson and Mayor Stodola.  Two people who have played parts in organizing all three of these commemorations are City Manager Bruce T. Moore and Central High Principal Nancy Rousseau.  Others, such as Skip Rutherford and Annie Abrams have participated in all three commemorations.

In light of its role in history, the school is a National Historic Site, while still functioning as a high school.

Little Rock Look Back: 1944 Launch of USS Little Rock

On August 27, 1944, the first USS Little Rock was launched in Philadelphia at the Cramp Shipbuilding Company shipyards.  A 10,000 ton light cruiser, it first touched water in the Delaware River.

The sponsor of the ship (who broke the champagne bottle on the hull) was Mrs. Ruth May Wassell, the wife of Little Rock alderman Sam Wassell.  The main address was delivered by Congressman Brooks Hays, whose district included Little Rock.  A crowd of 5,000 was gathered to witness the launch.

According to the Associated Press Congressman Hays called light cruisers, “the hottest item of naval combat.”

The congressman further elaborated:

The people of Little Rock are proud to have such a ship as this bear their city’s name.” said Mr. Hays. “Even those of us who know little about the classification of naval vessels know that the cruisers have distinguished themselves in the Pacific war and that this is the outstanding type of combat vessel for that area. The navy men tell us that the cruiser is the ‘work horse of the navy.’ big enough to go into any battle, fast enough to lead any task force.

Carrying, as it has, the heaviest load in the Pacific where the greatest battles have taken place, the cruisers have added luster to naval history. We hope that, in the time remaining before our enemies are put down, the Little Rock will take her place along side the Boise, the San Francisco, the Helena,and the Chicago, preserving the prestige of the cruisers.

We are glad to honor the workmen and the company for which they work.  I am sure we are all impressed with the spirit of teamwork which produced the results we observe today.  In March 1943, the keel was laid and for 18 months materials for the ship have come from everywhere. The taxes to pay for it will be assessed against men and women of great and little resources. Teamwork from beginning to end did the job.

So with the war.  A glorious victory lies ahead, but there is much remaining to be done. Only teamwork can supply the dynamic power yet needed to complete that victory. Every ship launching is a reminder of the power that comes to a people who work together to achieve.”

Other guests at the ceremony included United States Senator John L. McClellan and Congressman and senator-elect J. William Fulbright. Alderman Sam Wassell was also present.  He and his wife hosted a dinner for the Arkansas delegation and other dignitaries the night before the christening while they were in Philadelphia.

At the request of the Secretary of the Navy, Little Rock Mayor Charles Moyer designated Mrs. Wassell for the honor of sponsoring the USS Little Rock. There are not details as to why Mayor Moyer made the designation.  A first cousin of Alderman Wassell, Dr. Corydon Wassell had been an early World War II hero and was a favorite of President Franklin Roosevelt.  Paramount had released a movie about him earlier in 1944. That may have been a reason for the designation.

The Little Rock City Council sent a bouquet of roses to the ceremony, fitting since the city’s nickname at the time was “City of Roses.” After the launch, Mrs. Wassell sent a telegram to Mayor Moyer and the Council

Thanks a million for the beautiful bouquet of red roses. They made the christening of the cruiser Little Rock perfect. I wish it could have been possible for you to have been present.  The cruiser is 600 feet long and will have a crew of 1,200 men.  I was so proud of our city.  Little Rock has something to be proud of.

Little Rock Look Back: Congressman David D. Terry

david_terry_fOn January 31, 1881, future U.S. Congressman David Dickson Terry was born in Little Rock.  He was the son of William Leake Terry, who would serve in Congress from 1891 until 1901.  At the time David was born, his father was Little Rock City Attorney.  His mother was Mollie C. Dickson Terry. His parents also had two other sons, and after his mother’s death and his father’s remarriage, David had a half-sister.  He attended school in Virginia, and studied law in Little Rock and Chicago.

In 1910, he married Adolphine Fletcher, daughter of a former Little Rock mayor.  They had four children: David, Sarah, William and Mary. They later adopted a fifth child, Joseph.  The family lived in the Albert Pike Mansion, now known today as the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House.

In 1918, at the age of 37, David enlisted for service in World War I.  During the war, he would remain stateside.  Due to some family health issues, after the war he split his time between Little Rock and Massachusetts.  By the late 1920s, he had returned to Little Rock pretty much full time.

Continuing with his family’s commitment to public service, he served as president of the Little Rock Boys Club beginning in 1928. He oversaw a fundraising drive which raised $150,000 to replace a building destroyed by fire in 1930.  From 1929 until 1933, he served on the Little Rock School Board.

In 1933, David began service in the Arkansas House of Representatives.  The next year, he was elected to Congress to fill a vacancy in a hotly-contested election.  After the primary, he had barely made it into a runoff with Brooks Hays. But he ended up defeating Hays by 625 votes. Hays and his supporters protested due to election irregularities in Yell County, but David Terry was declared the winner.

Though he often was fiscally very conservative, he was also a strong advocate for the New Deal. His first bill in congress was to provide relief for financially strapped Arkansas schools.  In 1942, he decided to run for the Senate, but lost to John L. McClellan.  He ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 1944.  The winner that year, Ben Laney, appointed David Terry to lead the Flood Control, Water and Soil Conservation office. He held this position until 1953.

In later years, he kept a lower profile, even as his wife continued to raise her profile.  Arguably more people in Little Rock today are familiar with Adolphine Fletcher Terry and her efforts to reopen the Little Rock public schools than with the Congressman.

He died on October 6, 1963 and is buried at Mount Holly Cemetery.

The Terry Lock and Dam and the Little Rock School District’s Terry Elementary are both named for the former Congressman.

Little Rock Look Back: The Little Rock Nine finally enter Central High

101st_Airborne_at_Little_Rock_Central_HighIt was 58 years ago today that the Little Rock Nine entered Central High School and stayed. On one hand, this brought to the end a nearly month long standoff between segregationists and those who wanted to obey the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board decision.

In the bigger picture, the struggle did not end that day.  Throughout the remainder of the school year, the Little Rock Nine were subjected to threats, isolation and hostility.  Outside of the school, while the crowds may had dispersed after September 25, the raw feelings did not subside.

This was evidenced by the fact that the following year the high schools were closed to avoid having them integrated.

But September 25, 1957, was an historic day in the United States. Under guard of members of the 101st Airborne Division of the Army, the Little Rock Nine were escorted into Central High School. This action by President Dwight Eisenhower was the result of the intrusive efforts of Governor Orval Faubus who had used the Arkansas National Guard to keep the nine students out.

The City of Little Rock was largely a bystander in this issue. The form of government was changing from Mayor-Council to City Manager in November 1957. Therefore Mayor Woodrow Mann and the entire City Council were lame ducks. Mann, whose son was a senior at Central, tried to focus on keeping the peace in Little Rock. Most (if not all) of his Council members sided with the Governor.

Congressman Brooks Hays, a Little Rock resident, had tried to broker an agreement between the President and the Governor but was unsuccessful.  Following that, Mayor Mann was in discussions with the White House about the ability of the Little Rock Police Department to maintain order.  Finally, in the interest of public safety, the President federalized the National Guard and removed them. This paved the way for the Army to come in.

Though the school year was not easy, the nine youths who became known worldwide as the Little Rock Nine were finally in school.  They were Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton, Governor Mike Huckabee and Mayor Jim Dailey, famously held open the doors of Central High for the Little Rock Nine on the 40th anniversary.  Ten years later, Clinton, Huckabee and Dailey returned joined by current Governor Mike Beebe and Mayor Mark Stodola to host the 50th anniversary events.

Today the school is a National Historic Site, while still functioning as a high school.

Little Rock Look Back: L. Brooks Hays

BrooksHaysFor many years on a Sunday morning, the Brooks Hays Sunday School Class met at Second Baptist Church in downtown Little Rock.  Named for its longtime leader, the class continued for decades after he had retired to the Washington D.C. area.  Since today is a Sunday, and his birthday, this entry looks back at the life, career and legacy of Brooks Hays.

Lawrence Brooks Hays was born on August 9, 1898, in the Pope County town of London.  He grew up in Russellville and attended the University of Arkansas.  After military service in World War I and law school at George Washington University, he returned to Arkansas and practiced law with his father.  In 1925, he was named an Assistant Attorney General and moved to Little Rock.  A lifelong Southern Baptist, he joined Second Baptist Church.

His first entries into political races were not met with success.  He failed to attain the Democratic nomination for governor in 1928 and 1930. In 1933, he narrowly lost a race for Congress to David D. Terry.  Following that loss, he was appointed General Counsel to the U.S. Department of Agriculture by President Roosevelt.

In 1942, he was elected to Congress to succeed Terry.  Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, he was focused on foreign affairs. He was a leading proponent of religion as a way to fight Communism. His emphasis on faith was also evident when he became elected the President of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1957. He was only the second lay person, and last one to date, to have been selected to this post.

In Congress, Hays had been a proponent of seeking a middle road on issues of segregation. He was not an integrationist, but he did believe that some rights should be afforded to African Americans.  These efforts were met with disdain by both sides.  Hays denounced the Brown v. Board decision in 1954, but three years later was caught up in it.

With Governor Orval Faubus openly defying federal law, there was pressure on President Dwight Eisenhower to uphold the law.  Hays brokered a meeting with Faubus and Eisenhower, which did nothing to break the stalemate.  However, because he had worked to uphold the law, he was a target when he was on the ballot in 1958.  After defeating a segregationist candidate in the Democratic primary, Hays was surprised by a write-in candidate a week before the general election.  Dr. Dale Alford, a member of the Little Rock School Board, pulled an upset and defeated Hays.

Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Hays to a series of positions following that election.  In 1966, he ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.  He moved to North Carolina in 1968 to take a position with Wake Forest University. While in that state, he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1972.  Shortly thereafter he moved to Chevy Chase, Maryland, which would be his base until his death in 1981.  He is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Russellville.

Among the books he authored were Politics is My Parish, A Hotbed of Tranquility: My Life in Five Worlds, and A Southern Moderate Speaks.

His son, Steele Hays (named for the Congressman’s father) served on the Arkansas Supreme Court from 1981 to 1994. He had previously served on the Court of Appeals and as a Pulaski County Circuit Judge.

 

Little Rock Look Back: 1944 Launch of USS Little Rock

USS LR 1944On August 27, 1944, the first USS Little Rock was launched in Philadelphia at the Cramp Shipbuilding Company shipyards.  A 10,000 ton light cruiser, it first touched water in the Delaware River.

The sponsor of the ship (who broke the champagne bottle on the hull) was Mrs. Ruth May Wassell, the wife of Little Rock alderman Sam Wassell.  The main address was delivered by Congressman Brooks Hays, whose district included Little Rock.  A crowd of 5,000 was gathered to witness the launch.

According to the Associated Press Congressman Hays called light cruisers, “the hottest item of naval combat.”

The congressman further elaborated:

The people of Little Rock are proud to have such a ship as this bear their city’s name.” said Mr. Hays. “Even those of us who know little about the classification of naval vessels know that the cruisers have distinguished themselves in the Pacific war and that this is the outstanding type of combat vessel for that area. The navy men tell us that the cruiser is the ‘work horse of the navy.’ big enough to go into any battle, fast enough to lead any task force.

Carrying, as it has, the heaviest load in the Pacific where the greatest battles have taken place, the cruisers have added luster to naval history. We hope that, in the time remaining before our enemies are put down, the Little Rock will take her place along side the Boise, the San Francisco, the Helena, and the Chicago, preserving the prestige of the cruisers.

We are glad to honor the workmen and the company for which they work.  I am sure we are all impressed with the spirit of teamwork which produced the results we observe today.  In March 1943, the keel was laid and for 18 months materials for the ship have come from everywhere. The taxes to pay for it will be assessed against men and women of great and little resources. Teamwork from beginning to end did the job.

So with the war.  A glorious victory lies ahead, but there is much remaining to be done. Only teamwork can supply the dynamic power yet needed to complete that victory. Every ship launching is a reminder of the power that comes to a people who work together to achieve.”

Other guests at the ceremony included United States Senator John L. McClellan and Congressman and senator-elect J. William Fulbright. Alderman Sam Wassell was also present.  He and his wife hosted a dinner for the Arkansas delegation and other dignitaries the night before the christening while they were in Philadelphia.

At the request of the Secretary of the Navy, Little Rock Mayor Charles Moyer designated Mrs. Wassell for the honor of sponsoring the USS Little Rock. There are not details as to why Mayor Moyer made the designation.  A first cousin of Alderman Wassell, Dr. Corydon Wassell had been an early World War II hero and was a favorite of President Franklin Roosevelt.  That may have been a reason for the designation.

The Little Rock City Council sent a bouquet of roses to the ceremony, fitting since the city’s nickname at the time was “City of Roses.” After the launch, Mrs. Wassell sent a telegram to Mayor Moyer and the Council

Thanks a million for the beautiful bouquet of red roses. They made the christening of the cruiser Little Rock perfect. I wish it could have been possible for you to have been present.  The cruiser is 600 feet long and will have a crew of 1,200 men.  I was so proud of our city.  Little Rock has something to be proud of.

Little Rock Look Back: Congressman David D. Terry

david_terry_fOn January 31, 1881, future U.S. Congressman David Dickson Terry was born in Little Rock.  He was the son of William Leake Terry, who would serve in Congress from 1891 until 1901.  At the time David was born, his father was Little Rock City Attorney.  His mother was Mollie C. Dickson Terry. His parents also had two other sons, and after his mother’s death and his father’s remarriage, David had a half-sister.  He attended school in Virginia, and studied law in Little Rock and Chicago.

In 1910, he married Adolphine Fletcher, daughter of a former Little Rock mayor.  They had four children: David, Sarah, William and Mary. They later adopted a fifth child, Joseph.  The family lived in the Albert Pike Mansion, now known today as the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House.

In 1918, at the age of 37, David enlisted for service in World War I.  During the war, he would remain stateside.  Due to some family health issues, after the war he split his time between Little Rock and Massachusetts.  By the late 1920s, he had returned to Little Rock pretty much full time.

Continuing with his family’s commitment to public service, he served as president of the Little Rock Boys Club beginning in 1928. He oversaw a fundraising drive which raised $150,000 to replace a building destroyed by fire in 1930.  From 1929 until 1933, he served on the Little Rock School Board.

In 1933, David began service in the Arkansas House of Representatives.  The next year, he was elected to Congress to fill a vacancy in a hotly-contested election.  After the primary, he had barely made it into a runoff with Brooks Hays. But he ended up defeating Hays by 625 votes. Hays and his supporters protested due to election irregularities in Yell County, but David Terry was declared the winner.

Though he often was fiscally very conservative, he was also a strong advocate for the New Deal. His first bill in congress was to provide relief for financially strapped Arkansas schools.  In 1942, he decided to run for the Senate, but lost to John L. McClellan.  He ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 1944.  The winner that year, Ben Laney, appointed David Terry to lead the Flood Control, Water and Soil Conservation office. He held this position until 1953.

In later years, he kept a lower profile, even as his wife continued to raise her profile.  Arguably more people in Little Rock today are familiar with Adolphine Fletcher Terry and her efforts to reopen the Little Rock public schools than with the Congressman.

He died on October 6, 1963 and is buried at Mount Holly Cemetery.

The Terry Lock and Dam and the Little Rock School District’s Terry Elementary are both named for the former Congressman.