On September 20, 1997, the Central Arkansas Library System debuted its new main library building. The building had previously been the Fones Brothers Warehouse building and was repurposed by the Polk Stanley Yeary architectural firm.
The grand opening festivities included storytellers for children throughout the day as well as various special activities. Linked balloons made to resemble bookworms greeted visitors to the front entrance.
The move and expansion were the dream of then-CALS Director Bobby Roberts. The previous library space had limited parking and was in a confined (and confining) space with no room for expansion.
To prepare for the move from the old location at 7th and Louisiana Streets, the library’s main branch had closed in July. They had to inventory the existing materials in anticipation of the move. The actual transport of the 250,000 books was accomplished in three 16-hour work days by the 65 member staff.
The project cost $13 million dollars, most of which came from a millage approved by voters. The 200 seat auditorium was funded by overdue book fines and areas for the employees were financed by a patron bequest.
At the time it opened, the fifth floor remained undeveloped.
Since September 1997, the fifth floor has been developed and CALS has ultimately developed over one city block in what is now known as Library Square.
On Tuesday, September 16, 1958, the first meeting of the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools took place at the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House in downtown Little Rock. Fifty-eight women were in attendance at the initial meeting.
The group had been envisioned four days earlier, on September 12. At the time, Adolphine Fletcher Terry had invited Vivion Lenon Brewer and Velma Powell to her house to discuss the current school situation. Terry and Brewer were both daughters of former Little Rock mayors. They were frustrated with the stalemate that was taking place with the Little Rock School District, the State, and the Federal Government.
In a conversation about the group with her friend Arkansas Gazette editor Harry Ashmore, Mrs. Terry stated, “The men have failed, it’s time to call out the women.”
The same day the trio met, an immediate concern superseded their general discontent.
On September 12, Governor Faubus had signed several segregationist bills into law. One of them gave him the authority to temporarily close schools in order to keep the from being integrated. After signing the bills, he issued an order closing Little Rock’s four high schools. He set October 2 as the election day for Little Rock voters to ratify or reject the closing.
The closure of the schools and impending election, gave an urgency and an immediate focus for the WEC. The women sprung into action.
The way the election law was written, keeping the schools open would require a majority of all registered voters — not just those voting in the election. There were several other requirements written into the law that made it all but impossible to reject the closure. Nonetheless the WEC went to work. They wrote letters, made phone calls, made personal pleas, raised money, and placed newspaper ads.
Their need for a quick and efficient organization became even more paramount with the Governor moved the election forward to September 27. His public reason was to remove the uncertainty; but privately he was likely concerned that there was organized opposition.
Though the voters approved keeping the high schools closed, the WEC was undaunted. They continued to work throughout the 1958-59 school year in a variety of ways. They backed candidates in the December 1958 school board elections, and succeeded in getting three moderates elected. In May 1959, they were a crucial bloc in the campaign to recall of three segregationist school board members.
Following the reopening of the schools in 1959, the WEC continued to focus on social issues until disbanding in 1963.
The membership of the WEC was kept a secret. No official roll was kept. With a membership which swelled to over 1,300, obviously not all attended meetings at once. There were well organized phone trees which quickly got the word out to the membership. During elections, they would create files on all registered voters with codes for Saints, Sinners and Savable.
In an effort of intimidation (as if anyone could intimidate Adolphine Fletcher Terry), there were efforts to force the WEC to disclose membership lists. The officers and their legal counsel replied that there were no lists in existence, so there was nothing to disclose.
On March 13, 1998, the names of the WEC were made public for the first time when they were published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. This was done in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the year of the founding. Later in the year, the names were etched in glass in the solarium of the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House. (In the 1970s, the house was given by the family to the City of Little Rock for use by the Arkansas Arts Center.)
A ceremony at the house in October 1998 celebrated the 40th anniversary and the names permanently etched there. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton came back to Little Rock to deliver remarks at the ceremony.
Sara Murphy, a member of the WEC wrote a book about the organization which was published in 1997, shortly after her death. Around the same time, Sandra Hubbard produced a documentary called The Giants Wore White Gloves. A sold out screening of the film is scheduled today at the CALS Ron Robinson Theatre as a presentation of the Clinton School Speaker Series in conjunction with the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.
For those who do not have paraskevidekatriaphobia, tonight is a good night to stop by several downtown museums and galleries for 2nd Friday Art Night.
It runs from 5pm to 8pm (though times at some individual locations may vary slightly).
Among the locations and their offerings are:
CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies (401 President Clinton Avenue) –
A Matter of Mind and Heart: Portraits of Japanese American Identity holds up a mirror to Arkansas and U.S. culture and asks what it means to be an American today. Displaying portraits created by Japanese Americans unjustly incarcerated in Arkansas during World War II, this exhibition invites visitors to reflect on American identity and challenge widely held assumptions about living in a diverse society.
A Legacy of Brewers – Incorporating paintings from both private and public collections, this exhibition of paintings by Nicholas, Adrian, and Edwin Brewer includes portraits and landscapes featuring people and places in Arkansas, Arizona, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Texas going back to the early 1900s.
Historic Arkansas Museum (200 E Third Street) – Justin Bryant: That Survival Apparatus. The exhibit will contain pieces from Justin Bryant’s most recent body of work, which was made in response to Maya Angelou’s poem “Mask.” His drawings and paintings show the bottom half of black faces, images pulled from documentary and commercial photographs of famous individuals and civil rights leaders. Each mouth and chin is carefully rendered, while the eyes and other features are left blank.
Old State House Museum (300 W Markham Street) – Erin Enderlin in Concert. Beginning at 5:30 p.m., Enderlin will perform on the second floor of the museum. Recently named to the CMT Next Women of Country Class of 2018, Enderlin is an Arkansas native and award-winning singer/songwriter currently based in Nashville, Tenn.
Christ Episcopal Church (500 Scott Street) – a selection of small works including paintings and mixed media by a variety of artists from the Little Rock area.
Matt McLeod Fine Art (108 E Sixth Street) – Arkansas League of Artists 2018 Members Show and Sale.
Other participating sites include Nexus Coffee and Creative (301 President Clinton Avenue); The Art Group Gallery in the Marriott Little Rock (3 Statehouse Plaza), Bella Vita (523 S Louisiana), and Gallery 221 (221 W Second Street).
The Central Arkansas Library System’s (CALS) Ron Robinson Theater continues the $2 horror movies tonight with the 1943 film DEAD MEN WALK as part of the Terror Tuesday Summer Series. All showings are open to the public and start at 6:00 p.m.
Shot in only six days, DEAD MEN WALK tells the story of twin brothers. One a kindly physician, the other a sinister, Satanic-worshiper. Concerned about his brother’s impact on society, the physician kills him. But the dead brother returns from the dead to avenge his death and terrorize the town.
Born on June 14, 1912, Sidney Sanders McMath would play a key role in the development of Arkansas throughout the 20th Century.
A veteran of World War II, he was part of a new breed of Arkansas politicians who challenged the “old guard.” He won election of Prosecuting Attorney in Hot Springs and took on gaming and other corruption. This propelled him into the Governor’s Office (and to be the first family to reside in the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion.)
After being defeated in his bid for a third two-year term as governor, McMath returned to being a full-time attorney. He also remained active in the Marine Corps Reserves, achieving the rank of Major General. In 1967, he founded the Marine Corps JROTC program at Catholic High School.
After a lifetime of public service, Gov. McMath died on October 4, 2003.
In 2004, the Central Arkansas Library System opened the Sidney Sanders McMath branch library. A sculpture of him, created by Bryan Massey, Sr. and was commissioned to stand on the campus of the library branch which bears the Governor’s name. It was dedicated in 2006.
This bronze sculpture depicts Gov. McMath in shirt sleeves, slacks and a tie in mid stride. He confidently smiles as he raises his right hand to wave with the hat in the hand. It is based on a photo of the Governor walking in a Little Rock parade along side President Harry S. Truman.
Behind the statue are a series of medallions mounted on individual pedestals which depict scenes from McMath’s life. They are accompanied by a quote from U. S. Senator David H. Pryor “…the best friend Arkansas ever had.”
The plaza is flanked by the United States, Arkansas and Marine Corps flags.
The Central Arkansas Library System’s (CALS) Ron Robinson Theater has $2 horror movies starting June 5 as part of the Terror Tuesday Summer Series. All showings are open to the public and start at 6:00 p.m.
In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city’s mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.
Adolphine Fletcher Terry was born on November 3, 1882 to former Little Rock Mayor John Gould Fletcher and his wife Adolphine Krause Fletcher.
Raised in Little Rock, in 1889 she moved into the Albert Pike House on East 7th Street, when her aunt transferred the title to her father. That house would be her primary residence the rest of her life. Her sister Mary Fletcher Drennan never lived in Arkansas as an adult after marriage. Her brother John Gould Fletcher spent much of his adulthood in Europe before returning to Little Rock and establishing his own house, Johnswood.
At age 15, Adolphine attended Vassar. She later credited that experience as broadening her views on many issues. After graduating at age 19, she returned to Little Rock. Her parents both died prior to her 1910 wedding to David D. Terry, which took place at what was then known as the Pike-Fletcher House (and today is known as the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House).
She is perhaps best known today for establishing the Women’s Emergency Committee in 1958 and for her subsequent deeding of the family house to the City for use by the Arkansas Arts Center. But her entire life was based on civic engagement.
She was instrumental in establishing the first juvenile court system in Arkansas and helped form the first school improvement association in the state. She was long an advocate for libraries, serving 40 years on the Little Rock public library board. Through her leadership, the library opened its doors to African Americans in the early 1950s. Today a branch of the Central Arkansas Library System (the successor the Little Rock public library) is named after her. Another branch is named after her Pulitzer Prize winning brother.
Adolphine formed the Little Rock chapter of the American Association of University Women, the Pulaski County tuberculosis association and the Community Chest.
In 1958, when the Little Rock public high schools were closed instead of allowing them to be desegregated again, she called Harry Ashmore the editor of the Gazette and exclaimed, “the men have failed us…it’s time to call out the women.” With this, she formed the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools. This group played a major role in getting the four high schools open the following year.
From 1933 to 1942, David Terry served in the U.S. Congress. During that time, Adolphine alternated her time between Washington DC and Little Rock. But she spent much time in Little Rock raising her five children.
After her husband’s death in 1963, she continued to remain active in civic affairs. In the 1960’s, she and her sister deeded the Pike-Fletcher-Terry House to the City of Little Rock for use by the Arkansas Arts Center upon both their deaths. Following Adolphine Fletcher Terry’s death in 1976, Mary turned over the title to the City.
Adolphine Fletcher Terry is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery alongside her husband. Three of her children are also buried in that plot. Her parents and brother are buried in a nearby plot.
Her granddaughters and their families carry on Adolphine Fletcher Terry’s commitment to making Little Rock better.