Tag Archives: Clinton School Speaker Series

Little Rock Look Back: First Meeting of the WEC

Vivion Brewer, Adolphine Terry, and Pat House with an award presented to the WEC around the time the group disbanded.

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The same day the trio met, an immediate concern superseded their general discontent.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.

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Future of The Rep focus of Clinton School program today at 12 noon

Arkansas Repertory Theatre is the state’s largest nonprofit professional theatre and one of the most critically acclaimed performing arts organizations in the region.

Since The Rep announced it was suspending operations on April 24, a groundswell of support has emerged from the community. Volunteers hosted a Rally for the Rep on May 1 directly in front of the theatre.

Ruth Shepherd has been involved with The Rep for more than 40 years. Shepherd first served as chair of Friends of The Rep before joining the theatre’s staff for three years as Development Director in the 1980s. She chaired the committee that hired Bob Hupp, who served as producing/artistic director for 17 years, and was serving as chair-elect when the theatre announced its plans to go dark on April 24.

Shepherd, along with long-time board member Bill Rector and Rep founder Cliff Baker, are serving as an Interim Leadership Team as The Rep reimagines itself to be Arkansas’ Theatre that is professional, affordable, and sustainable.

All Clinton School Speaker Series events are free and open to the public.

Repertorium Praeter Theatrum

An Update on Plans to #SaveTheRep!

Since the Arkansas Repertory Theatre made the announcement on April 24, 2018, that the theatre were suspending operations, several important steps have been taken.

Overall, they can be summarized by the mantra which is guiding the Rep leadership during this time:  PROFESSIONAL, AFFORDABLE, & SUSTAINABLE.

  • Within just the first few weeks since the news broke, the Rep has received more than 550 gifts totaling almost $220,000.  Every dollar given right now is being matched by the Windgate Charitable Foundation, and monthly and multi-year pledges make it possible to be even more generous with giving.
  • The Rep Board has appointed a volunteer Interim Leadership Team consisting of Rep founder Cliff Baker and Rep board members Bill Rector and Ruth Shepherd.
  • The Rep has formed an “Our Next Act” Steering Committee of board and community leaders who are examining every facet of Rep operations and make recommendations to The Rep Board for action. The aim is to have a plan by mid-August about how to reopen The Rep after this brief intermission.
  • The theatre is in the process of selling the building which was used as actor housing.  That will reduce our property debt by nearly half.  There are many more options for housing actors downtown near the Rep than there were when those apartments were originally acquired.
  • The Rep is planning community listening sessions to get Little Rock’s best thinking and ideas. Check soon on the Rep’s website to learn how you can participate.  (Also, make plans to attend the Clinton School presentation on the future of the Rep featuring Ruth Shepherd on Thursday, June 7 at 12 noon at Sturgis Hall.)
  • The education programs will continue throughout the summer with programming for rising K-12 students. There are still a few slots left, so check the education section of the Rep’s website for class information.

While much progress has been made, the work is far from over.  The Rep still needs support from the public, financial and otherwise.

Repertorium Praeter Theatrum

Remembering when Royal Wedding speaker Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry spoke in Little Rock

Today, the sermon for the Royal Wedding was delivered by the Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry,  the 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church.

In December 2016, he delivered remarks twice in Little Rock.

On Sunday, December 11, 2016, he delivered the homily at Christ Episcopal Church. The next day, he spoke in the Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Center as part of  the Clinton School Speaker Series.  His remarks can be viewed here.

Presiding Bishop Curry has a national preaching and teaching ministry, having been featured on The Protestant Hour and as a frequent speaker at conferences around the country.  He has authored numerous publications including columns for the Huffington Post and the Baltimore Times. His most recent book, Songs My Grandma Sang, was published in June 2015; Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus was his first book, in August 2013.

Rock the Oscars: Oscar nominated actor and past Clinton School speaker John Lithgow

On February 18, 2008, two time Oscar nominee John Lithgow appeared in Little Rock before a packed house at the Statehouse Convention Center.  Sponsored by the Clinton School for Public Service speaker series, he spoke about the importance of the arts.  He also read from his children’s stories to the kids in attendance who he brought up to the front.

Actor, author and singer John Lithgow has appeared in more than 30 films, been nominated for two Oscars and had roles in numerous television shows. Perhaps his most celebrated work came as the loopy character of the alien High Commander, Dick Solomon, on the hit NBC comedy series “3rd Rock from the Sun.” As an author, Lithgow has written seven New York Times best-selling children’s picture books, including “The Remarkable Farkle McBride,” “Marsupial Sue,” “Micawber,” and “I’m a Manatee.” A graduate of Harvard University, Lithgow helped to establish “Arts First,” a weeklong festival on campus dedicated to the arts, and the “Arts Medal,” given annually to a Harvard graduate for outstanding achievement in the arts.

As a New York Times best-selling author of children’s, Lithgow says he writes in order to educate children “without them knowing it” and labels himself “the perfect man for the job.” Lithgow calls for successful people who achieve their ambitious goals to ask, “What else can I do here?” and “How can I use my success to make things happen?”

His 2008 appearance can be viewed here.

Rock the Oscars: Sam Waterston

On February 15, 2008, Oscar nominated actor Sam Waterston appeared at the Clinton Presidential Center in a Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series program sponsored by the Clinton School for Public Service and the Clinton Foundation.

Waterston was joined by the nation’s leading authority on Abraham Lincoln, Harold Holzer in presenting “Lincoln Seen and Heard,” featuring excerpts from Lincoln’s speeches, photographs of the late president and historical commentary.

He received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for 1984’s The Killing Fields.  He has also appeared in the Oscar winning The Great Gatsby and the Oscar nominated Heaven’s Gate, Interiors, Crimes & Misdemeanors, and Nixon.  On stage, Waterston was nominated for a Tony Award and received the Drama League Award for his performance in a revival of Abe Lincoln in Illinois.

 

Rock the Oscars: Past Clinton School speaker Geena Davis

On February 7, 2012, Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis spoke in Little Rock.  She was hosted by the University of Arkansas Clinton School for Public Service and the William J. Clinton Foundation.

Davis founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2004. The institute is the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate and influence the need for gender balance, reducing stereotyping and creating a wide variety of female characters in entertainment. Davis won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “The Accidental Tourist” in 1988.

She was again nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe for her performance as Thelma in Ridley Scott’s “Thelma and Louise,” in which she co-starred with Susan Sarandon.  She received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal of baseball phenomenon Dottie Hinson in “A League of Their Own.”

Geena Davis is not only an Oscar and Golden Globe winning actor, but a world-class athlete (at one time the nation’s 13th-ranked archer), a member of the genius society Mensa, and is becoming recognized for her tireless advocacy of women and girls nearly as much as for her acting accomplishments. She is the founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and its programming arm See Jane, which engages film and television creators to dramatically increase the percentages of female characters — and reduce gender stereotyping — in media made for children 11 and under.

Davis is also a former trustee of the Women’s Sports Foundation, serves on the Board of the White House Project, is an appointee to the California Commission on the Status of Women, and is an official partner of UN Women in their effort to change the way media represents women and girls worldwide.

Davis holds honorary degrees from Boston University, Bates College and New England College.