LR Women Making History – Peg Newton Smith

While the Culture Vulture remains a huge fan of Peg Newton Smith, it is better for this entry to be taken from a tribute written by her longtime friend Bill Worthen.

Peg Newton Smith was a pioneer in the field of history and historic preservation.  A founder of both the Arkansas Museums Association and the Quapaw Quarter Association, Little Rock’s historic preservation organization, she served as a significant resource for many local history researchers and historians.

Born February 10, 1915, Peg Smith came from a family deeply engaged in Arkansas history. Two Arkansas counties – Newton and Hempstead – are named after ancestors.  She married George Rose Smith, himself from a prominent Arkansas family, in 1938. Peg Smith became his most vigorous supporter as George Rose Smith was elected and  reelected to the State Supreme Court, ultimately offering 38 years of service as Associate Justice.

She  enjoyed a sixty-two year career as a volunteer at the Historic Arkansas Museum, where she served as Commission Chair from 1978 to 1983. On the museum’s first day, she was dressed in period garb as a volunteer.  She was named Chair Emerita of the Commission in 2002. Her commitment to history has also included decades of service on the Mount Holly Cemetery Association Board of Directors, where she was famous with Mary Worthen for tours of the cemetery, often hot items at charity auctions.

Because of her instrumental work for the Arkansas Museums Association and the Quapaw Quarter Association, both organizations named significant annual awards after her. She was appointed to the inaugural Review Committee of the State Historic Preservation Program and with architect Edwin Cromwell was the first Arkansan named to the Board of Advisors of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She was appointed to the Arkansas Bicentennial Commission, was elected president of the Junior League of Little Rock, was a founding member of the Board of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas, and was active in the Pulaski County Historical Society.  She also was an early supporter of the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History.

She was honored by many groups, being named 1967 Greater Little Rock Woman of the Year by the Arkansas Democrat, Shield of the Trojan Award winner from the UALR Alumni Association in 1979, Fellow of the Museum of Science and History in 1981, and Candlelight Gala Honoree of the Historic Arkansas Museum in 1994. She became the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Museums Association in 2003.

Peg Newton Smith died on July 20, 2003.

Because of her love of Arkansas history and Arkansas art, the Historic Arkansas Museum commissioned the pARTy for Peg sculpture which dances near the north entrance to the museum.  pARTy for Peg is not a portrait of our dear friend—it is a sculpture inspired by her spirit. It had been her brainchild for the museum to have a separate gallery devoted to contemporary Arkansas artists. She also founded the Museum Store, filled with Arkansas crafts.

2015 In Memoriam – Parker Westbrook

1515 WestbrookParker Westbrook WAS Mr. Preservation for Arkansas. But even though he is gone, it does not mean that preservation efforts in Arkansas are dormant.  Quite the contrary.  Like any good teacher, Parker used his knowledge to inspire others to share his interest in preservation.

It is no surprise that the organization he helped found, the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas (now called Preserve Arkansas), names its lifetime achievement award after him.  He was not only the founding President of Preserve Arkansas, he was active in it until his final days.  It was not his only founding: he was a founder of Pioneer Washington Foundation (the oldest historic preservation organization in the state), the Main Street Arkansas Advisory Board, Historic Arkansas Museum Commission, the Arkansas State Capitol Association, and the Arkansas State Review Board for Historic Preservation. He served on the latter board from 1975 until his death this year, with the exception of five years from 2002 to 2007.  In recognition of his work in the field of heritage tourism, he was a 2007 inductee into the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism’s Hall of Fame.

His work was not limited by the boundaries of his home state.  He was an Advisor Emeritus to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a 2001 recipient of a Preservation Honor Award from the Trust. Rep. Mike Ross declared him a “National Treasure” in the Congressional Record. He also served for two terms on the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and was named Chairman of the Committee on National Historic Landmarks on the National Park System Advisory Board.

A public servant, he worked for several federal officials from Arkansas, most notably Senator J. William Fulbright. He returned to Arkansas to work for Governor David Pryor.  But whether he worked in Washington DC; Little Rock; or his beloved hometown of Nashville, he was always interested in ensuring the past came alive. It might be through historic preservation, or it might be recounting a colorful moment of Arkansas history. Either way, Parker was a proponent of living history. He did not want it to be relegated to a musty, dusty book or building.
In 2007, he donated papers collected by his late sister Lucille and himself. The Lucille and Parker Westbrook Arkansas and Genealogy Collection is housed in the $20 million Arkansas Studies Institute, a joint project of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.  This collection has three parts: the first part focuses on Southwest Arkansas and contains genealogical sources and 3,000 historic photographs; the second highlights his public service and political career including much about the state’s architectural history; the third part consists of family papers, letters and photographs which document the Westbrooks’ deep roots in Arkansas.
He was the epitome of the Southern gentleman.  Not only did he look the part, he acted it. He was gracious in sharing credit with others; generous with his time, labor and talent; and did his best to keep up the lost art of writing letters and notes.

Little Rock Look Back: LR Mayor Donald Mehlburger

Mayor D L MehlburgerOn October 19, 1937, future Little Rock Mayor Donald Lee Mehlburger was born in Little Rock.  His parents were Max A. Mehlburger and Mary Lou Covey Mehlburger who also had another son Max C. Mehlburger.

Mehlburger’s first run for the City Board of Directors was in November 1968 when there was an open seat.  At the time he was 30, the youngest one could be and be elected to the City Board.  He lost that race, but eight years later ran again.  This time Mehlburger won the race.  At his first meeting on the City Board, Mehlburger was selected as Mayor of Little Rock by his colleagues.

Prior to running for the City Board the second time, Mehlburger had been appointed to the Planning Commission.  Planning and growth were two important emphases for Mayor Mehlburger, in addition to public safety.  He stressed the importance of quality growth in the edges of the city and a push for a revitalized downtown.  Mayor Mehlburger was also an advocate for public mass transit.

Due to business interests taking up too much of his time, he resigned from the City Board a few months before his term was up.  But he remained engaged in civic affairs.  Historic preservation was important to Mehlburger.  In addition to owning historic properties, he was a founding board member of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas.  He had graduated from the University of Arkansas and was a member of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.  He had also been active with the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) and Rotary Club 99.

Mehlburger died on May 25, 1992 and was buried at Mount Holly Cemetery.  His grave marker features an engraved sextant which pays tribute to his career as an engineer.  It also notes that he was Mayor of Little Rock.  Mayor Mehlburger was survived by his wife Susan and his three children – Donald Lee Jr., Harry and Katherine.

Master Mix-Off celebrates historic cocktails to promote historic structures

Master-Mix1-300x278Preserve Arkansas, the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas, is hosting the First Annual Master Mix-Off tonight.  This will features some of Central Arkansas’s best bartenders engaging in a bartending competition.  It promises to be a rip-roaring good time celebrating prohibition-era mixology!!!

Eight of Central Arkansas’s best bartenders will mix for the masses with a prohibition-era drink, hoping to win the “People’s Choice” Award. Then our “best in the business” judges will judge a second round of mixing, where bartenders will serve an updated, modern version of their favorite prohibition-era drink.

Joann “Jojo” Sims of Cache Restaurant, the reigning Arkansas Times Best Server in Little Rock, will be the emcee.

Participating Bartenders are:

The “Best in the Business” Judges are:

DATE: Thursday, June 25, 2015
TIME: 5:30-7:30 pm
LOCATION: Albert Pike Memorial Temple, 712 Scott Street, Little Rock

Happy Birthday Mayor Stodola

colr_mayor_mark_stodolaToday, May 18, is the birthday of current Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola.

Mark Stodola was elected as Mayor for the City of Little Rock, beginning his term in January 2007 and re-elected in 2010 and 2014.  Mayor Stodola has been key in promoting the revitalization of Little Rock’s Main Street, resulting in the City having been awarded a “Greening of America’s Capitals Grant” from the Environmental Protection Agency and an “Our Town Grant” from the National Endowment for the Arts for the creation of an Arts District in the heart of the downtown core.  The UA’s Community Design Center, which includes faculty and staff members from the school, won a 2014 Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects for its work on the Creative Corridor, on which it collaborated with Marlon Blackwell Architect of Fayetteville.

Prior to becoming Mayor, he served as a senior partner in the Little Rock Law Firm Catlett & Stodola, PLC.  While at that firm, he served as General Counsel to the Little Rock Airport Commission.   Having previously served the City of Little Rock as its City Attorney for six (6) years, he was elected as Prosecuting Attorney for the 6th District in 1990 and was re-elected again in 1992 and 1994.   Mayor Stodola is Past President of the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Arkansas City Attorneys Association, as well as Past Chair of the Municipal Operations Section of the International Municipal Lawyers Association.  In addition, he is a member of various State, regional and national legal and professional associations.

Mayor Stodola is a graduate of Leadership Greater Little Rock, and served as Chair of Class 16 for that program. In addition, he is a member of the Heights Neighborhood Association and serves as Co-Chair of the Downtown Partnership’s Main Street Task Force.  Mayor Stodola has served on the Board of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre (for which he was the attorney who incorporated the Rep) and is Past-President of the Quapaw Quarter Association and the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas.  He has worked with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program and is currently a member of the Rotary Club of Little Rock.

Mayor Stodola graduated from the University of Iowa with a double major in Political Science and Journalism, and received his law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville.  Mayor Stodola is married to Jo Ellen and has three (3) children:  a daughter, Allison; and twin sons, Robert and John Mark.