Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Little Rock Look Back: A governmental structure for Little Rock

The first permanent settlement of Little Rock started in 1820. But by 1825, it was little more than a loosely defined group of structures. One hundred and ninety-two years ago today, on October 27, 1825,Territorial Governor George Izard signed legislation which started establishing a framework for Little Rock to function as a city.

It established that Little Rock citizens could elect a board of trustees to decide matters. Those trustees would choose one of their own to be a presiding officer. Though Little Rock would not be officially incorporated until 1831, this was the first step towards incorporation. The first trustees, elected for 1826, were Robert Crittenden, Joseph Henderson, Nicholas Peay, Bernard Smith and Isaac Watkins. Smith was chosen to be the presiding officer.

Crittenden had been largely responsible for the relocation of the capitol to Little Rock, where he owned a lot of land. He was a major political force in Arkansas politics during the territorial days. Watkins was a nephew of a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He had established the first tavern in Little Rock in 1821 and later he first mill in 1826. He was murdered in 1827 and the perpetrator was never captured.

Peay bought the tavern from Watkins in 1826 and continued in the tavern and hotel business the rest of his life. He later served on the Little Rock City Council and was acting mayor. His son Gordon Neill Peay served as Mayor of Little Rock. The Peay family also co-founded Worthen Bank and Christ Episcopal Church. Members of several branches of Mr. Peay’s descendants including the Worthen and Hurst families remain active in Little Rock affairs.

Advertisements


1 Comment

See You Tomorrow, Patricia Matthews

Though not leaving Little Rock, Patricia Matthews is moving on from Christ Church to take a position at St. Mark’s Church.

In appreciation for her many gifts, this tribute is offered. The title comes from the conclusion of her final sermon at Christ Church.

 

SEE YOU TOMORROW

Two parishes are different today.

One because it is missing someone.
One because it has gained someone.

Who?

A woman of grace and humor.
A woman of grins and hugs.

She is a keeper of secrets.

Be they the most fantastic story of a preschooler,
Or a heartbreaking confession of an adult.

She is a user of hands.

Be they gardening or greeting,
Comforting the afflicted, administering communion.

She is a seeker.

Be it roasted nuts on a Mississippi roadside,
Or truths for living from a difficult scripture.

She is a giver.

Of knowledge, succor, and time.
And encouraging others to explore their talents.

She is a family-person.

A finder of time to devote to her husband and children
And share in their interests while involving them in hers.

She is eclectic.

Her taste in music, literature, and movies
Runs the gamut from Monty Python to Harper Lee.

Two parishes are different today.

One because it knows how special she is.
One because it is about to find out how lucky it is.


2 Comments

Godspeed Scott Walters

scottwaltersdepartureFor twelve years, Scott Walters has been an advocate for many things in Little Rock.  One of these has been the arts — especially literature, visual arts and music.

His tenure as Rector of Christ Church saw the concerts by Mavis Staples and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the development of The Undercroft music venue, the creation of the Sixth Street Library gallery, and partnerships with the Arkansas Literary Festival.

As he moves on to his next adventure in Memphis, this is a chance to say farewell to him.

 

CHANGES AND CHANCES

A troubadour of truths once came
to a church of rock in a city built on a rock.
A language loving scholar with an interest in seemingly everything
He was a student of cultures (both pop and high).

He was called to aid people as they worked and watched and wept.
With his carpenter’s hands he
Crafted,
Carved,
Hewed,
Shaped.

During times of joy and woe, he shared insight he had gained.
In his brilliantly simple and simply brilliant words he referenced
Sacred Texts
NPR stories
YouTube videos
Childhood memories.

Like the philosophers of old, he raised questions not easily answered.
As he sought to make sense of a world that too often
Confounds
Confuses
Conflates
Confutes.

But, as in his carpentry days, he used his tools and
Found a way to restore equilibrium and return the bubble to the
Middle
Level
Even
Balanced.

Though at home in a pulpit,
he was equally at ease walking the streets
Be they the sidewalks of his city
Or a pilgrimage through Spain.

His unassuming manner was on display whether chatting with
Prize winning poets
Presiding Bishops
Preschoolers
And all other personalities included in this story of human redemption.

The troubadour and his family embraced the church of rock,
Its neighborhood and its city built on a rock.
As active participants in its life
Their impact spread far beyond the half of a city block.

Now

There are many more lessons to teach.
There are many more lives to touch.
There are new words to explain.
There are new worlds to explore.

When particles collide, they are forever changed.
(That is what physicists tell us in their not-so-ancient texts.)
Hurtling on their new trajectories, seeking new directions,
The particles are eternally impacted because of the contact.

This church of rock in the city on a rock
Is likewise evermore transformed by the troubadour and his household.
A dozen years of tears, laughter, memories
And ordinary time that twas always more than that.

In improvisation (this troubadour once noted)
there is a perfect response when met with a strange new reality.
It is two words which accept that revised status quo
And anticipate the unforeseen.

So now as the troubadour and his family
venture into their new realms
And as the church of rock in the city on a rock
Remains with a renewed purpose

Collectively everyone takes a breath,
A pause
A prayer
A smile
A tear

And utters with gratitude for the past
And anticipation for the future

“Yes, and….”


1 Comment

Little Rock Look Back: MacArthur Returns

General MacArthur and Mayor Remmel

On Sunday, March 23, 1952, General Douglas MacArthur made his only post-infancy visit to Little Rock. He had previously been scheduled to visit Mississippi, and Little Rock Mayor Pratt Remmel had persuaded him to add a visit to Little Rock to the agenda. The fact that Little Rock now had a Republican mayor had apparently piqued the General’s interest.

General MacArthur, accompanied by his wife and son as well as several journalists and members of his military retinue, arrived at Little Rock Airport at 10:40 am. He was met by a delegation of civic leaders including Mayor Remmel. Alderman James Griffey made welcoming remarks on behalf of the city. Then the General and Mayor boarded an open car and led a motorcade from the airport to downtown.

The motorcade’s destination was Christ Episcopal Church at Capitol and Scott streets. It was at this church that MacArthur had been baptized as an infant. The delegation was greeted by the Episcopal Bishop R. Bland Mitchell, Rector J. Hodge Alves, and Rector Emeritus W. P. Witsell. (While he had been Rector, Dr. Witsell had garnered national attention by issuing an Easter blessing to Gen. MacArthur as he had been evacuating the Philippines at the height of World War II.) In order to gain admittance to the church that morning, church members and guests had to have tickets.

Following the worship service, the General and his party went to three events in the park named in his honor. The first was a tour of the Museum of Natural History (now the Museum of Discovery and located in the River Market; the current tenant of the building is the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History), which was located in the building in which the General had been born. After the tour, he spoke at a dedication of a small rose garden adjacent to the museum. It was sponsored by the Little Rock City Beautiful Commission and the Garden Clubs of Greater Little Rock.

Though every stop of the General’s visit had featured crowds, the largest was at the third location in MacArthur Park. A crowd of several thousand greeted the General as he spoke from the Foster Bandshell in the park’s southwest corner. Chamber of Commerce president Richard C. Butler (brother-in-law of Mayor Remmel) was the master of ceremonies. Following an invocation by Methodist Bishop Paul Martin, the only other speaker was the General. In his remarks he spoke of his Southern heritage and of his appreciation for the support of the citizens of Little Rock over the years.

Several gifts were bestowed upon the MacArthurs at the ceremony. The City of Little Rock presented Mrs. MacArthur with an engraved silver serving tray.

Following the events in MacArthur Park, the family retired for a brief respite to the Hotel Marion. They then attended a luncheon buffet in their honor at the home of Howard and Elsie Stebbins on Edgehill Road. The General and Mrs. MacArthur circulated through the house greeting guests and then eschewed a special table in favor of balancing their plates on their laps and sitting in wingback chairs. Meanwhile Arthur MacArthur stayed upstairs and discussed stamp collecting and other hobbies with the Stebbins’ two teenage sons.

Following the luncheon, the MacArthur party went back to the airport and by 4:00pm, the plane was in the air.

Though this visit was coming at the end of a whirlwind of activities, by all accounts, the General and Mrs. MacArthur were very gracious and accommodating. The General was being mentioned as a potential GOP candidate for President, but purposefully steered clear of any political comments in his remarks. He and Mrs. MacArthur dutifully posed for photos not only for the media but also for amateur photographers. At lunch, the General even asked a Gazettephotographer to take a photo of him with his Little Rock Police motorcycle escorts so that they could have a souvenir of the visit.


Little Rock Look Back: Douglas MacArthur

GOn January 26, 1880, Douglas MacArthur was born in the Arsenal Building while his father was stationed at the Little Rock Barracks.  Though he left Arkansas a few weeks later when his father was transferred, he returned to his birthplace on March 23, 1952. On that day he was greeted by crowds welcoming one of the USA’s most famous military figures.

Though Gen. MacArthur spent only a few weeks in Little Rock, he was baptized at Christ Episcopal Church.  The location of the baptism remains a mystery today because the church was meeting in temporary locations due to the first structure having been lost to a fire.

When the General returned to Little Rock in 1952, he did pay a brief visit to Christ Church.  He also spoke at the Foster Bandshell in the park which bore his name.  He was one of three presidential candidates to speak at the Foster Bandshell in 1952, the others were the eventual Democratic and Republican nominees Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower.

When General MacArthur died, he was granted a state funeral.  He was one of the few non-Presidents to have been given this honor.

Today, the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History is located in the Arsenal building.  It was created to interpret our state’s military heritage from its territorial period to the present.  Located in the historic Tower Building of the Little Rock Arsenal–the birthplace of General Douglas MacArthur–the museum preserves the contributions of Arkansas men and women who served in the armed forces.  Exhibits feature artifacts, photographs, weapons, documents, uniforms and other military items that vividly portray Arkansas’s military history at home and abroad.


3 Comments

Little Rock Look Back: Gordon N. Peay, Little Rock’s 23rd Mayor

Mayor PeayOn December 12, 1819, future Little Rock Mayor Gordon Neill Peay was born.  The Peay family arrived in Arkansas from Kentucky in 1825.  They quickly became one of Little Rock’s leading families.  Mayor Peay’s father, Nicholas Peay served on the Little Rock Board of Trustees (which existed before the town was incorporated) and later served on the City Council and was acting mayor.

Godon N. Peay served as mayor of Little Rock from 1859 to 1861.  During the Civil War, Peay served as Captain and later Colonel of the Capital Guard.  He later received a pardon from the federal government.  In the days leading up to the Civil War and during it, Mayor Peay was one of a select group of civic leaders who corresponded with President Lincoln and other Union leaders. It has been said that this conciliatory tone is a reason that Little Rock fared better during Federal occupation and Reconstruction than did many other Confederate cities.

The Peay family owned the Peay Hotel, Little Rock’s first hotel, and were also co-founders of what became Worthen Bank.  They were also a founding family of Christ Episcopal Church. Mayor Peay later served as Pulaski County Chancery Clerk.

He died on December 14, 1876, and is buried at Mount Holly Cemetery along with many members of his family.  A nephew of his, Ashley Peay, served on the City Council in the 1920s.  Mayor Peay’s great-grandson Joseph Barber Hurst, Sr. served on the Little Rock City Board of Directors from 1967-1971. One of Mr. Hurst’s sons, Howard, was born on Mayor Peay’s birthday.


2016 Arkansas Literary Festival dates and lineup announced

ALF 2016_textPrestigious award-winners, screenwriters, comedians, an expert witness, artists, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet are among the diverse roster of presenters who will be providing sessions at the thirteenth annual Arkansas Literary Festival, April 14-17, 2016. The Central Arkansas Library System’s Main Library campus and many other Little Rock venues are the sites for a stimulating mix of sessions, panels, special events, performances, workshops, presentations, opportunities to meet authors, book sales, and book signings. Most events are free and open to the public.
     The Arkansas Literary Festival, the premier gathering of readers and writers in Arkansas, will include more than 80 presenters including featured authors from approximately 24 different states and guests hailing from Canada, England, Russia, and Singapore. Each year, several of the attending authors have not visited Little Rock, Arkansas, or even the South.
     Presenters come from a wide range of backgrounds including: journalist, documentary filmmaker, economist, editor, microbiologist, national bank examiner, essayist, photographer, sports reporter, psychological examiner, musician, actress, reporter, and professor. One is co-producing Keanu Reeves’ new television show and writing an adaptation of his own book for Warner Bros. and Bradley Cooper.
     Special events for adults during the Festival include a cocktail reception with the authors, a tour of the Governor’s Mansion gardens with a wine and cheese reception, an escape room, and Readers’ Map of Arkansas launch party. Panels and sessions include genres and topics such as literary fiction, barbecue, Monopoly, female rocket scientists, travel, graphic novels, science fiction, classic literature, and a story told in playing cards.
     Children’s special events include a session by Nikki Grimes, activity hour, concert by the Kinders, and the play How the Camel Got His Hump. based on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Festival sessions for children will take place at both the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center, 4800 10th Street, and the Youth Services Department at the Main Library, 100 Rock Street. Special events for teens include North Little Rock High School Readers Theater, a teen poetry competition, and a panel with three authors of books for young adults.
     Through the Writers In The Schools (WITS) initiative, the Festival will provide presentations by several authors for central Arkansas elementary, middle, and senior high schools and area colleges.
     Author! Author!, a cocktail reception with the authors, will be Friday, April 15, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $40 at the door, and go on sale at ArkansasLiteraryFestival.org beginning Monday, March 15.
     This year’s Festival authors have won an impressive number and variety of distinguished awards and fellowships including: Pulitzer Prize, James Beard Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, Hugo Award, Coretta Scott King Award, Will Eisner Comic Industry Award, National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, Dashiell Hammett Prize, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, Houghton Mifflen Literary Fellowship, Arkansas Arts Council Fellowship.
     The work of this year’s Festival authors has been featured in notable publications including: New York Times, Details, McSweeney’s Quarterly, Forbes, the Paris Review, theHuffington Post, Women’s Health, Gourmet Magazine, the New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian, the Daily Telegraph UK, VICE, the New Yorker, Harper’s, the Atlantic, Slate, Time, Popular Science, Salon, the Best American Travel Writing, Outside Magazine, Esquire, USA Today, Reader’s Digest, Best American Essays, Best American Short Stories, Penthouse, the Nation, Best American Poetry, the Washington Post, Town & Country, the Economist, the Christian Science Monitor, National Geographic, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Rolling Stone, GQ, Sports Illustrated, and Vogue
     The Literary Festival is presented by the Central Arkansas Library System. Sponsors include Arkansas Humanities Council, Friends of Central Arkansas Library System (FOCAL), Clinton Presidential Center, Fred K. Darragh Jr. Foundation, KUAR FM 89.1, ProSmartPrinting.com, Rebsamen Fund, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansas Times, Gibbs Elementary School, Hendrix-Murphy Foundation Programs in Literature and Language, MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, Museum of Discovery, Otter Creek Elementary School, UALR Department of English, Windstream, Arkansas Library Association, Christ Episcopal Church, East Harding Construction, Hampton Inn, Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center, Henderson State University, Hendrix College Project Pericles Program, University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center, Greater Little Rock Council of Garden Clubs, Capital Hotel, City of Little Rock, Et Alia Press, Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest, Literacy Action of Central Arkansas, Mayor Mark Stodola, Mollie Savage Memorial/CALS, North Little Rock High School, Plum Street Publishers, Inc., Pyramid Art Books & Custom Framing/Hearne Fine Art, Sibling Rivalry Press, Stickyz Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicken Shack, UALR Department of Rhetoric and Writing, and Whole Hog. The Arkansas Literary Festival is supported in part by funds from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
     The Festival’s mission is to encourage the development of a more literate populace. A group of dedicated volunteers assists Festival Coordinator Brad Mooy with planning the Festival. Committee chairs include Kevin Brockmeier, Talent Committee; Susan Santa Cruz, Festival Guides; and Amy Bradley-Hole, Moderators.
     Visit the Festival Facebook and Twitter pages to get the latest news about the Festival. For more information about the 2016 Arkansas Literary Festival, visit ArkansasLiteraryFestival.org, or contact Brad Mooy at bmooy@cals.org or 918-3098. For information on volunteering at the Festival, contact Angela Delaney at adelaney@cals.org or 918-3095.