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.

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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.

Little Rock Look Back: A few municipal primary races of yore

Taylor

Today is primary day in Arkansas.  Though City of Little Rock municipal races are non-partisan and won’t be on the ballot until November, that has not always been the case.

Between 1874 and 1957, usually winning the Democratic Primary was tantamount to election. So the municipal general elections were usually boring. (The only exception would be the three elections in which Pratt Remmel was the GOP nominee for mayor facing off against the Democratic nominee.)

The real drama was in the primary races.

The 1911 primary pitted crusading businessman Charles Taylor against a firebrand attorney and Alderman John Tuohey, a grocer. Each of the three tried to position himself as an outsider, though Tuohey was least successful in accomplishing this considering he was an alderman and the candidate of choice of the retiring mayor.

Riffle logged insults at both Taylor and Tuohey. Taylor sought to position himself as not just the candidate of the businessmen. As a progressive, he borrowed Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal motto and offered “A Square Deal for Everyone.” A Baptist Sunday School superintendent, he also campaigned against vice. Tuohey offered his own solutions to city issues but was hampered in the campaign by illness.

After the January 12, 1911, primary election day, Tuohey had 1530 votes, Taylor had 1493 and Riffle had 506. Taylor alleged 323 illegal votes were cast and sought the poll tax records to try to prove it. After he saw the poll tax lists, he reduced his charges to 250 illegal votes.

On January 26, Tuohey and Taylor agreed to a new, two-man primary (essentially a run-off) in an attempt to resolve the matter. After that race, Taylor had 1874 votes and Tuohey had 1645. Taylor went on to be elected mayor in April 1911 and would subsequently serve four two-year terms.

 

Robinson

When he took office in April 1929 having just turned 29 a few weeks earlier, Mayor Pat L. Robinson seemed to be a rising star in the Democratic Party. Within a few months, however, he found himself at odds with the Little Rock City Council on a variety of issues.

Some of these appear to have been of his own doing, partially due to youthful arrogance, and part of these were probably rooted in entrenched resistance to change. With the onset of the Great Depression six months into his term, the City’s already tight financial shape became even tighter. The aldermen and city clerk gave him no quarter (though some may have wanted to draw and quarter him).

Knowlton

In November 1930, City Clerk Horace Knowlton squared off against Mayor Robinson (no relation to Joe T.) in the Democratic primary. It was a particularly raucous primary with charges and counter-charges of corruption, malfeasance and misfeasance. In describing Mayor Robinson’s handling of the City finances, Mr. Knowlton declared the mayor had undertaken an “orgy of spending.”

The results after the election were  Knowlton, 4,537; Robinson, 4,554; and 61 votes for a third candidate. Robinson was declared the nominee. But Knowlton protested and filed suit. There charges of illegal voting and persons whose ballots were not counted. After an exhaustive investigation (over 1,800 pages of testimony were taken), the court found that neither side had willingly engaged in voter fraud or vote tampering. The painstaking analysis further found that Knowlton had received ten more votes than Robinson.

In April 1931, Knowlton won the general election and was sworn in as Little Rock mayor. Robinson continued to pursue the case and appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court. In June 1931 (in the third month of Knowlton’s mayoral term), the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the circuit court ruling that Knowlton had indeed won the primary.

 

Sprick

A little more than a decade later, the state’s high court would again be called on to weigh in on Little Rock’s Democratic primary for mayor. In December 1944, Alderman Sam Wassell and former Alderman Dan Sprick faced off in a particularly nasty race.  As World War II was drawing to a close, there were charges leveled which questioned patriotism. With both men having service on the Little Rock City Council, there were also plenty of past votes on both sides which could become fodder for campaigns.

Wassell

The election was on December 5, 1944. Sprick received 3,923 votes and Wassell 3,805. A few days later, Wassell filed suit claiming that there were people who voted who were not on the poll tax rolls and another group of voters who did not live in the ward in which they voted. Sprick countersued making the same charges against Wassell.

The case eventually ended up at the Arkansas Supreme Court, which remanded it back to the lower court. On March 26, 1945, Wassell dropped his case. This was only eight (8) days before the municipal general election.

Two years later, Wassell would challenge Sprick in the primary and be triumphant. Wassell would serve from 1947 until 1951.  Sprick would later return to politics and serve a decade in the Arkansas State Senate.

 

There are many more interesting primary and election stories to tell. Stay tuned…

Little Rock Look Back: Mayoral Races without Incumbents

The announcement by Little Rock’s 72nd Mayor, Mark Stodola, that he will not seek a fourth term in 2018, sent the Little Rock Culture Vulture thinking about past mayoral races in Little Rock history.

Election records in the 1800s are spotty at best, so this discussion focuses on those who have run for Mayor once the current City Hall opened in April 1908.

The November 2018 election will be only the sixth mayoral election since 1908 without an incumbent or former mayor on the ballot.  (Assuming that none of Little Rock’s living seven former mayors choose to run.)

The most recent election without a current or former mayor was in 2006, when Jim Dailey had announced he would not seek another term. It was at that election that former City Attorney Mark Stodola, faced off against two former City Directors (Barbara Graves and Jesse Mason) and former State Senator Bill Walker.

From 1908 through 1957, Little Rock elections were partisan in nature.  In most instances, if one won the Democratic Primary, one was assured of being mayor.  Looking back at municipal general election results (where there was usually only token opposition at best) in those decades does not give a true picture to the spirited nature of races for City Hall.

The first election since 1908 without an incumbent or former mayor was in 1911. Charles Taylor ran as a reforming outsider and won an open seat for mayor.  He would serve until 1919. That year, former alderman Ben Brickhouse won the open seat.

R. E. Overman was elected to his first term as mayor in 1935, after incumbent mayor Horace Knowlton did  not seek a third term.  After returning to City Hall in 1941 and being re-elected, Mayor Moyer retired a second time in 1945. In that election, Dan Sprick was elected mayor.  That would be the final election in Little Rock without an incumbent or former mayor until 2006.

From 1957 until 1994, the mayor was chosen every two years by members of the City Board of Directors from among their membership.  The last person to be selected in that manner, Jim Dailey, won city-wide election to the mayoral position in 1994 and served until 2006.

Here is a history of all the mayor races since 1908:

1908 Special – Incumbent acting mayor John Herndon Hollis did not seek election to full term.  Former Mayor W. R. Duley elected
1909 – Mayor Duley re-elected
1911 – Charles Taylor elected after Mayor Duley forgoes seeking another term.
1913 – Mayor Taylor re-elected
1915 – Mayor Taylor re-elected
1917 – Mayor Taylor re-elected
1919 – Ben D. Brickhouse elected after Mayor Taylor forgoes seeking another term.
1921 – Mayor Brickhouse re-elected
1923 – Mayor Brickhouse re-elected
1925 – Mayor Brickhouse loses Democratic Primary to County Judge Charles Moyer, who wins the general election.
1927 – Mayor Moyer re-elected
1929 – Mayor Moyer loses Democratic Primary to City Attorney Pat L. Robinson, who wins the general election.
1931 – Mayor Robinson loses Democratic Primary to Horace Knowlton, who wins the general election.
1933 – Mayor Knowlton re-elected
1935 – R. E. Overman elected after Mayor Knowlton forgoes another term.
1937 – Mayor Overman re-elected
1939 – J. V. Satterfield defeats Mayor Overman in the Democratic Primary. He subsequently wins general election.
1941 – Former mayor Moyer returns to City Hall after Mayor Satterfield opts to retire after one term.
1943 – Mayor Moyer is re-elected
1945 – Dan Sprick is elected after Mayor Moyer forgoes another term.
1947 – Sam Wassell defeats Mayor Sprick in the Democratic Primary, subsequently wins general election.
1949 – Mayor Wassell is re-elected
1951 – Republican Pratt Remmel defeats Democratic incumbent Sam Wassell in the general election to become mayor.
1953 – Mayor Remmel is re-elected.
1955 – Democratic nominee Woodrow Mann defeats GOP incumbent Mayor Remmel in the general election to become mayor.
1956 – Voters switch to City Manager form of government, partially in response to actions by Mayor Mann’s administration.  Mayor Mann leaves office in November 1957.

1957 to 1994 – City Manager form with mayor selected from among membership

1994 – Mayor Jim Dailey wins election as Little Rock’s first popularly elected mayor since 1957.  He had previously been selected mayor by his city board colleagues.
1998 – Mayor Dailey is re-elected
2002 – Mayor Dailey is re-elected
2006 – Mark Stodola is elected mayor after Mayor Dailey forgoes another term.
2010 – Mayor Stodola is re-elected
2014 – Mayor Stodola is re-elected
2018 – Mayor Stodola announces he will not seek another term.

Little Rock Look Back: Voters approve annexation of Pulaski Heights into LR

010416 PH electionOn 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.

Another special election was held in January 1916 to select the first two aldermen from the 9th Ward.  L. H. Bradley, John P. Streepy and Tom Reaves ran for the two slots. Bradley and Streepy were the top two vote recipients.  Streepy served until April 1921 and Bradley served until April 1928.

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.