Birth of Little Rock’s 42nd Mayor – Charles E. Taylor

Bill Clinton has the distinction of being both the 42nd President of the United States and the 42nd Governor of Arkansas.  But the 42nd Mayor of Little Rock was Charles E. Taylor.

On September 15, 1868, future Little Rock Mayor Charles E. Taylor was born in Austin, Mississippi.  After locating to eastern Arkansas, his family moved to Little Rock around 1880.

Taylor graduated from Scott Street High School in Little Rock and proceeded to work for various hardware stores and other businesses.  In 1895 he married Belle Blackwood, with whom he would have four children.

In 1910, Taylor announced his intention to run for mayor of Little Rock.  Though he had never held elective office, he had been involved in several civic organizations.  Taylor was the main challenger to Alderman John Tuohey.  Seen as a reformer, Taylor initially lost to Tuohey.  But after an investigation of voter fraud and a subsequent runoff, Taylor was elected Mayor.

Upon taking office in August 1911, Mayor Taylor focused on improving health conditions in the city, upgrading the fire department and enhancing the overall moral tone of the city.

As a progressive of the era, he fought against gambling, drinking and prostitution.  He created a Health Department and enhanced the City Hospital.  His efforts led to a decrease in the death rate in Little Rock.  As mayor, Taylor introduced motorized vehicles to the Fire Department.  He also led the City Council to establish building and electrical codes.  Mayor Taylor also oversaw the construction of the 1913 Beaux Arts Central Fire Stations (which today serves as the City Hall West Wing).

Under his leadership, the City of Little Rock annexed Pulaski Heights. One of the selling points to Pulaski Heights residents was Mayor Taylor’s ability to provide modern services such as paved streets, water mains, fire hydrants and street lights.

Though neither his 1911 Parks Master Plan nor his dreams for a civic auditorium came to fruition, they paved the way for future successes in both of those areas.

Funding for projects continued to be a problem throughout Mayor Taylor’s four terms in office.  He believed that one obstacle to city funding was the prohibition by the state constitution against cities issuing bonds.  Though that ban has since been lifted, Taylor tried three times unsuccessfully to get it changed while he was Mayor.

In April 1919, Taylor left office after having served eight years.  He was the longest serving Mayor of Little Rock until Jim Dailey served in the 1990s and 2000s.  Following several business ventures, Taylor moved to Pine Bluff and led their chamber of commerce from 1923 through 1930.

Mayor Charles E. Taylor died in Pine Bluff in 1932. He was buried at Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock.

During his time in office, Mayor Taylor was presented with an unofficial flag of Little Rock by a group of citizens.  During Mayor Dailey’s tenure, that flag was restored by some private citizens and presented to the City.  It is framed on the 2nd Floor of Little Rock City Hall.

Little Rock Look Back: Pulaski Heights officially becomes part of Little Rock

Ninth Ward

On January 13, 1916, the Little Rock City Council formally accepted Pulaski Heights into the City of Little Rock.

The Council had held a regular meeting on Monday, January 10, 1916, which was the same evening as the final meeting of the Pulaski Heights City Council.

Three days later, on Thursday, January 13, 1916, Mayor Charles Taylor again convened the Little Rock City Council to take the steps to officially annex Pulaski Heights into Little Rock.

By Ordinance 2259, the City’s boundaries were increased to include the land which had been Pulaski Heights.  Resolution 918 directed city staff to replat the land, which was necessary to bring the land in accordance with existing city plats and documents.

Resolution 919 set forth January 20 as a special election date to elect the two new members of the Little Rock City Council who would represent the new Ninth Ward of Little Rock.  Those who won would serve until April 1916.  The election would also serve as the primary for the April election.  Back then, winning the Democratic primary for a City race was tantamount to winning the race.  Since there were two seats being created, one would have a two year term, the other would be for only one year.  The candidate receiving the most votes on January 20 would, after April, take up the two year term and be able to run for re-election in April 1918. The candidate with the second highest total of votes would win the one-year term and be up for re-election in April 1917.  At the time, there were three publicly declared candidates for the two seats.  Another had been interested, but dropped out that morning.

Making Pulaski Heights the Ninth Ward was not the only focus of the City Council meeting.  An ordinance was also approved which allocated $438 for the purchase of beds, mattresses, chairs and other furniture for the City hospital.  (That is the equivalent of nearly $10,000 today.)  The Council then reimbursed a doctor the $438, which presumably had been spent on making the purchases.

Little Rock Look Back: Voters annex Pulaski Heights into Little Rock

On January 4, 1916, voters in Little Rock and Pulaski Heights voted overwhelmingly to annex the latter into the former.

First platted in 1890, Pulaski Heights had been incorporated as a city in August 1905.  By 1915, Pulaski Heights was booming.  It was growing so fast, that its infrastructure and public safety needs were far outpacing the city’s ability to pay for them.  Though there was a ribbon of commercial businesses along Prospect Avenue (now Kavanaugh Boulevard), it did not produce enough sales tax revenue to pay for City services. Then, as now, property taxes were also an important part of city revenue sources but not sufficient without sales taxes.

The City of Little Rock, likewise, was looking for ways to grow physically. At the time, the City was hemmed in by a river to the north and low, marshy land to the east. Current development was to the south, but even that presented limits in the foreseeable future. The best option was to grow to the west, but Pulaski Heights was in the way.  In 1915, Little Rock Mayor Charles Taylor (after failing in a previous attempt to re-annex North Little Rock into Little Rock), approached Pulaski Heights leadership about the possibility of annexation.

010516 PH electionIn November 1915, there were public meetings in Little Rock and Pulaski Heights to discuss the issue.  As a part of the annexation, Little Rock promised to build a fire station in the area and to install traffic lights, sidewalks and pave more streets.

On January 4, 1916, Little Rock voters approved the annexation of Pulaski Heights by a ten-to-one margin. The majority of Pulaski Heights residents also approved the deal.  The suburb became the city’s ninth ward.

This established a couple of precedents for the City of Little Rock which are in effect to this day.  The first is that Little Rock would not be a central city surrounded by a variety of small incorporated towns (in the manner that St. Louis and other cities are).  It was this thought process which has led the City to continue to annex properties.

Little Rock Look Back: Mayoral Race of 1924

After serving three two-year terms as mayor, Ben D. Brickhouse decided to follow the precedent of his predecessor Charles Taylor and seek a fourth term in the Democratic Primary of 1924.  In the election for his third term, Brickhouse was unopposed. So it would have appeared that he was well-positioned for this fourth bid.

However…

Early in his third term, Brickhouse had broken ranks with the Ku Klux Klan. At the time, the Klan controlled much of Democratic Party politics in Little Rock (and indeed all of Arkansas).  Mayor Brickhouse did not appreciate local Klan leadership trying to dictate City appointments to him.  Beaten but unbowed, the Klan sought someone to run for mayor.  The candidate who was found was Pulaski County Judge Charles Moyer.

In October 1924, Moyer and Brickhouse both announced what everyone in Little Rock already knew, they would be seeking the Democratic nomination for Little Rock mayor.  Traditionally, the primary was in December before the April general election (in which the Democratic nominee was usually unopposed).  The Pulaski County Democratic Committee set the date for the election.

There was a bit of a surprise at the early November meeting of the Democratic Committee when it was announced the election would be in January. Neither Moyer nor Brickhouse nor their surrogates offered much comments on the change.  But Arthur Jones, who announced at the meeting he too would be seeking the office of mayor, protested the change.  The date was set for the later option.

However, a week later, the Committee met again and moved the elections back to the originally anticipated times.  Several of the Committee members had been unaware of the proposed change. Upon further reflection (and likely conversations with candidates), they opted to reverse the earlier vote.

At the start of the race, Moyer talked about the need for better control of City finances, better parks, and improving the police and fire.  Jones attacked the City’s police force and courts in general. He called Brickhouse a “double crosser” who got the City into debt and cannot get it out of it.  About Moyer, Jones said he was reactionary, non-progressive, opposed women’s suffrage, and only improved roads for political purposes.

While Jones was in the race, and lobbed charges at both Brickhouse and Moyer, it really was a two-man faceoff. In fact, neither Moyer nor Brickhouse seemed to discuss Jones much at all.

The major issues in the campaign revolved around government debt and the Klan.  Moyer accused Brickhouse of getting the City into debt and not paying with cash.  Brickhouse countered that the County had more debt than Moyer claimed, and that any fiscal improvements at the County were due to others such as the County Treasurer.  Further, Brickhouse stated he had inherited $1,000,000 in debt. But he gladly took ownership of the $750,000 in debt he had caused because that was the only way to improve the hospital and the parks.  He also laid out plans for a zoo and a City swimming pool.

Moyer was openly backed by the Klan.  Leadership of the KKK attacked Brickhouse. They said he had an attitude of ingratitude for the support he had previously received.  Moyer did not distance himself from the Klan but remained personally silent about the organization or his affiliation with it.  At one of his final rallies, a Moyer Glee Club sang. It was composed of Gus Blass department store employees and contained Jews, Catholics, and Klan members.

The Saturday before the Monday election, both Moyer and Brickhouse had parades on Main Street.  In fact, there were so many people either in the parades or watching them, a retailer estimated he had lost $10,000 in Christmas sales that night.

In the end, the election was not close.  Moyer won all of the City’s wards. His vote total was 5,534, while Brickhouse had 2,944. Jones received 100 votes.  Moyer was unopposed in the April 1925 election.

Many of the Little Rock aldermen were disappointed by the outcome.  Before taking office in April, Moyer met in private with the aldermen to try to assuage their concerns.

Little Rock Look Back: Little Rock Celebrates End of The Great War

Portion of a Pfeifer Brothers ad in November 11 1918 ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT

Portion of a Pfeifer Brothers ad in November 11 1918 ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT

When the residents of Little Rock awoke on Monday, November 11, 1918, they discovered that the Armistice had been signed.  A celebration of Peace broke out and continued on throughout the day.

The Arkansas Democrat (an afternoon paper) got the ball rolling when it issued a special edition at 2:27am that the treaty would be signed. In addition to being distributed around the City, copies were rushed to Arkansas Governor Charles Brough and Little Rock Mayor Charles Taylor.  Mayor Taylor declared he would issue a proclamation setting aside Saturday, November 16, as a day of celebration in the city.

Unwilling to wait that long, throngs of people filled the streets greeting each other with handshakes and hugs. From the wee hours of the morning through late at night, friends and strangers alike were treated as familiars as the celebratory love swept through the city.

Firecrackers, car horns, whistles, and church bells competed with each other and with the shouts of the citizenry in contributing to the din of celebration.  An impromptu parade formed at Third and Main around 9:00am and eventually stretched the length of Main Street’s business district.  Student forgot their studies and participated in the parade instead of going to the high school at Scott and 14th Street.  (While many businesses closed that day, the schools did not.  But one suspects that attendance was light.)

At 10am, there was five minutes of silence. Most men stopped and removed their hats while many women were seen offering silent prayers.  Then the Governor and Mayor addressed the crowds gathered at Capitol and Main Streets.

Two hundred recent arrivals from Puerto Rico who were in to Little Rock to work at a factory grabbed an American flag and joined in the parade once they were informed of the news. They joined a throng that cared not about race or ethnicity, class or status, faith background, gender, or occupation.

Three thousand employees of the Missouri Pacific Railroad marched in a parade led by a coffin with an effigy of Kaiser Wilhelm in it. Next came the railroad’s marching band, followed by row after row of railroad employees.  Interspersed were rail company trucks equipped with railroad bells which had been rung previously as part of war bond rallies. Now they were rung in tribute to peace and victory.

Around noon, the crowds moved back to sidewalks and side streets, turning Main Street and Capitol Street over to an automobile parade. Cars, trucks, and other vehicles were festooned with red, white, and blue bunting and packed with people.  Overhead throughout the day, airplanes performed acrobatic feats to the delight of crowds below.

Government offices closed early as did factories and most businesses.  About the only people working that day seemed to be the Little Rock police.  They reported no major incidents, although one officer did have to rescue his hat from being nearly trampled by a group of dancing women.  The only quibble seems to have come from various groups claiming to have been the first to start the celebration.

Little Rock Look Back: 1911 Mayoral Election (both of them)

The 1911 Little Rock mayoral election brought progressivism to the forefront in Little Rock’s municipal politics.

After incumbent Mayor W. R. Duley chose not to seek another term, three candidates emerged in late 1910.  The first, J. K. Riffle, was an attorney.  The second was businessman Charles E. Taylor. The third candidate was longtime alderman John H. Tuohey.  An eight-year veteran of the City Council, he had spent the past two years as chair of the Police Committee.

Riffle focused on public safety and the City’s finances.  He charged that if Taylor were elected he would be a pawn of the Arkansas Brick and Manufacturing Company, which Riffle felt had run the city for fifteen years.  Taylor had been an officer of the company but resigned before seeking office.

Tuohey ran a low-key campaign relying on surrogates to make many of his speeches. He was suffering from rheumatism during the campaign.  Mayor Duley and Police Chief Frank McMahon were identified as his advisors.

Taylor, for his part, sought to bring reforms to the City.  A staunch Southern Baptist, (he was Sunday School Superintendent at Little Rock’s Second Baptist Church), he fought against gambling, drinking, and prostitution.  He sought to improve health conditions in the City in addition to enhancing the overall moral tone.

Taylor and Tuohey both claimed to offer a “Square Deal for Laborers and Businessmen Alike.” Taylor called for dramatic changes, while Tuohey espoused the need for gradual growth.

The Democratic Primary for Little Rock was on January 12, 1911.  The election was open only to white men who were members of the Democratic Party.  The results were 1,530 for Tuohey, 1,493 for Taylor, and 506 for Riffle.  It appeared that Tuohey had won by 37 votes.

Taylor and his allies charged that there were 323 illegal votes.  He alleged that the names of dead men and African Americans had been used by voters, as well as voters from North Little Rock.  Taylor requested the poll tax lists from each of the City’s wards.

The central Democratic Committee was uncertain if it could investigate the charges or if they should go to the courts.  On January 11, the Committee agreed to handle the situation.  It gave Taylor ten days to investigate and file charges.  They planned to meet on February 8 to hear both sides and declare a winner.

On January 26, Taylor and Tuohey jointly announced they had agreed to a winner-take-all special election to take place on February 7. (By that time the number of illegal votes had shrunk to 250 after a review of the poll tax books.)

The campaign was intense with both sides holding numerous rallies and blanketing newspapers with advertisements.  Taylor mused, “if Tuohey knew he was right, why did he agree to a new race?”

Only ten fewer votes were cast in the special election than had been cast during the original primary.  The result was Charles Taylor with 1,874 votes and John Tuohey with 1,645.

The April 1911 general election was its usual anti-climactic self with Taylor running unopposed.

The Charles Taylor era of Little Rock, which would last eight years, was about to begin.

Little Rock Look Back: Charles E. Taylor, born 150 years ago

On September 15, 1868, future Little Rock Mayor Charles E. Taylor was born in Austin, Mississippi.  After locating to eastern Arkansas, his family moved to Little Rock around 1880.

Taylor graduated from Scott Street High School in Little Rock and proceeded to work for various hardware stores and other businesses.  In 1895 he married Belle Blackwood, with whom he would have four children.

In 1910, Taylor announced his intention to run for mayor of Little Rock.  Though he had never held elective office, he had been involved in several civic organizations.  Taylor was the main challenger to Alderman John Tuohey.  Seen as a reformer, Taylor initially lost to Tuohey.  But after an investigation of voter fraud and a subsequent runoff, Taylor was elected Mayor.

Upon taking office in August 1911, Mayor Taylor focused on improving health conditions in the city, upgrading the fire department and enhancing the overall moral tone of the city.

As a progressive of the era, he fought against gambling, drinking and prostitution.  He created a Health Department and enhanced the City Hospital.  His efforts led to a decrease in the death rate in Little Rock.  As mayor, Taylor introduced motorized vehicles to the Fire Department.  He also led the City Council to establish building and electrical codes.  Mayor Taylor also oversaw the construction of the 1913 Beaux Arts Central Fire Stations (which today serves as the City Hall West Wing).

Under his leadership, the City of Little Rock annexed Pulaski Heights. One of the selling points to Pulaski Heights residents was Mayor Taylor’s ability to provide modern services such as paved streets, water mains, fire hydrants and street lights.

Though neither his 1911 Parks Master Plan nor his dreams for a civic auditorium came to fruition, they paved the way for future successes in both of those areas.

Funding for projects continued to be a problem throughout Mayor Taylor’s four terms in office.  He believed that one obstacle to city funding was the prohibition by the state constitution against cities issuing bonds.  Though that ban has since been lifted, Taylor tried three times unsuccessfully to get it changed while he was Mayor.

In April 1919, Taylor left office after having served eight years.  He was the longest serving Mayor of Little Rock until Jim Dailey served in the 1990s and 2000s.  Following several business ventures, Taylor moved to Pine Bluff and led their chamber of commerce from 1923 through 1930.

Mayor Charles E. Taylor died in Pine Bluff in 1932. He was buried at Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock.

During his time in office, Mayor Taylor was presented with an unofficial flag of Little Rock by a group of citizens.  During Mayor Dailey’s tenure, that flag was restored by some private citizens and presented to the City.  It is framed on the 2nd Floor of Little Rock City Hall.