Birth of Little Rock Mayor James Woodson (aka – future Ron Swanson)

On July 14, 1848, future Little Rock Mayor James Alexander Woodson was born in North Carolina.  The son of two prominent eastern families, he and his parents moved to Pine Bluff in 1849.  His father died within two weeks of the family’s arrival in Arkansas.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted as a drummer boy in the Ninth Arkansas infantry but was discharged because of his youth. He worked as a clerk at a general store in Pine Bluff. After the Civil War ended, he attended school in Virginia and Maryland before returning Pine Bluff. Upon his return he worked in the steamboat business and eventually started working in railroads. He was instrumental in putting together one of the forerunners of the Missouri Pacific Railroad and worked for them for 18 years.

Woodson moved to Little Rock in March 1881 and continued working for the railroad until 1891.  Working in the mercantile business allowed him more time to be engaged in civic affairs.  In 1895 he was elected mayor.   He handily defeated former mayor W. G. Whipple who was seeking to return to office.

During Mayor Woodson’s tenure, he oversaw renovations of the 1867 Little Rock City Hall (which was located at the time on the north side of Markham between Main Street and Louisiana Street).  He also championed the construction of a city hospital and the first free bridge across the Arkansas River.  Mayor Woodson was reelected in April 1897 and April 1899.

In April 1890, he resigned to take over the Arkansas and Southwestern Railway.  After restoring it to sound financial footing, he later led the Arkansas Asphalt Company.  That company provided the first asphalt for paving Little Rock city streets.

Woodson served as a director of the Little Rock board of trade (forerunner to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce), director of the Mercantile Trust Company and president of the state board of trade (forerunner of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce).

Woodson married Virginia Lanier in 1868.  They had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood.  Mayor Woodson died on October 19, 1908 and is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery.  His wife lived until 1937 and is buried next to him.  Also buried in Mount Holly are their children James Alexander Woodson, Benjamin Morehead Woodson and Gertrude Woodson Hardeman; each of whom died before their mother.  Mrs. Hardeman’s husband and son are also buried in Mount Holly.

Some have noted his resemblance to actor Nick Offerman of the show “Parks and Recreation.”

Little Rock Look Back: Mayor William Whipple

whippleOn August 4, 1834, future Little Rock Mayor William G. Whipple was born in Connecticut.  He attended school in Massachusetts and graduated from Wesleyan University. After studying law at Albany Law School, he moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In 1868, Whipple moved to Little Rock following the 1866 death of his first wife in Wisconsin. Long active in Republican politics, he quickly became involved in Little Rock’s political and social life.  Shortly after his arrival he was appointed United States Attorney and served three years.

In 1870, he married Mary S. Dodge, daughter of former mayor Roderick Lathrop Dodge MD.  They had one son Durand, who followed his father into the legal profession. The Whipples were active members of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

In 1887, Whipple was elected Mayor of Little Rock and was re-elected two years later.  Whipple’s mayoral administration introduced electric lighting to the city beginning on September 1, 1887, paved many streets with granite and macadam, created sixty miles of new brick and concrete sidewalks, and introduced a steam dummy railway.

In 1892, he ran for Governor of Arkansas as the Republican nominee but was unsuccessful.  In 1895, he sought a third term for Mayor but was defeated by James A. Woodson.

From 1897 to 1900, he served as register of the US Land Office in Arkansas.  Whipple, who had long practiced law, was appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas in 1900.  He served in that capacity until 1913.

In July 1914, Mayor Whipple died.  He is buried at Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock.

Little Rock Look Back: Mayor James A. Woodson

IMG_0298On July 14, 1848, future Little Rock Mayor James Alexander Woodson was born in North Carolina.  The son of two prominent eastern families, he and his parents moved to Pine Bluff in 1849.  His father died within two weeks of the family’s arrival in Arkansas.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted as a drummer boy in the Ninth Arkansas infantry but was discharged because of his youth. He worked as a clerk at a general store in Pine Bluff. After the Civil War ended, he attended school in Virginia and Maryland before returning Pine Bluff. Upon his return he worked in the steamboat business and eventually started working in railroads. He was instrumental in putting together one of the forerunners of the Missouri Pacific Railroad and worked for them for 18 years.

Woodson moved to Little Rock in March 1881 and continued working for the railroad until 1891.  Working in the mercantile business allowed him more time to be engaged in civic affairs.  In 1895 he was elected mayor.   He handily defeated former mayor W. G. Whipple who was seeking to return to office.

During Mayor Woodson’s tenure, he oversaw renovations of the 1867 Little Rock City Hall (which was located at the time on the north side of Markham between Main Street and Louisiana Street).  He also championed the construction of a city hospital and the first free bridge across the Arkansas River.  Mayor Woodson was reelected in April 1897 and April 1899.

In April 1890, he resigned to take over the Arkansas and Southwestern Railway.  After restoring it to sound financial footing, he later led the Arkansas Asphalt Company.  That company provided the first asphalt for paving Little Rock city streets.

Woodson served as a director of the Little Rock board of trade (forerunner to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce), director of the Mercantile Trust Company and president of the state board of trade (forerunner of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce).

Woodson married Virginia Lanier in 1868.  They had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood.  Mayor Woodson died on October 19, 1908 and is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery.  His wife lived until 1937 and is buried next to him.  Also buried in Mount Holly are their children James Alexander Woodson, Benjamin Morehead Woodson and Gertrude Woodson Hardeman; each of whom died before their mother.  Mrs. Hardeman’s husband and son are also buried in Mount Holly.

In 2013 and 2014, Mayor Woodson was one of the characters portrayed at the annual Parkview High School “Tales from the Crypt” program at Mount Holly.

Some have noted his resemblance to actor Nick Offerman of the show “Parks and Recreation.”  Here is a Six Degrees game to link the two.

  • James Woodson
  • The Woodson community and Woodson Lateral is named for him
  • Growing up in the area, actor Billy Bob Thornton has been to Woodson Lateral
  • Bruce Willis appeared in BANDITS with Thornton.
  • “Friends” featured Willis and Paul Rudd as multi-episode guest stars
  • Rudd appeared in “Parks & Recreation” as a multi-episode guest star
  • Nick Offerman starred in “Parks & Recreation”

Little Rock Look Back: Happy 183 to Little Rock

LR 183With the stroke of Territorial Governor John Pope’s pen, Little Rock was officially chartered as a town on November 7, 1831. This followed approval by the Arkansas legislature a few days earlier.

As a chartered, officially recognized municipality, the Town of Little Rock was authorized to create a government and to plan for a Mayor and Aldermen to be elected. That election would take place in January 1832 with the initial council meeting later that month.

There are several earlier and later days which could be used to mark Little Rock’s official birth (LaHarpe sighting in 1722, first settler in 1812, permanent settlement in 1820, selection of trustees in 1825, chartered as a City in 1835, chartered as a City of First Class in 1875) — but it is November 7, 1831, which has been the officially recognized and accepted date.

In 1931, Little Rock celebrated her centennial with a series of events.  Likewise, in November 1981, Little Rock Mayor Charles Bussey signed and City Clerk Jane Czech attested Resolution 6,687 which recognized the Little Rock sesquicentennial.

Mount Holly Cemetery Comes Alive Tonight with Tales of the Crypt

A Parkview student portraying former LR Mayor Woodson.

A Parkview student portraying former LR Mayor Woodson.

The ghosts of Little Rock past will arise tonight at Mt. Holly Cemetery for the 20th Annual Tales from the Crypt.

Held the second Tuesday of October, Tales of the Crypt is an annual Mount Holly event.  Under the direction of Fred Boosey & Tamara Zinck, drama students from Parkview Arts & Science Magnet High School are each given a person buried in the cemetery to research. They then prepare short monologues or dialogues, complete with period costumes, to be performed in front of the researched person’s grave.

Former Little Rock Mayor James Woodson, and Juliet Neill Peay (whose family has been involved in Little Rock politics for 190 years) are two of the featured residents.  Others include Eleanor Counts, Albert DeShon,  David O. Dodd, Senhora Dodd, Sallie and Dr. Isaac Folsom, Katherine Eller Henderson, Mary Eliza Knapp, Eliza Miller, James Robbins, Quatie Ross, Lillian Scott, Albert Stocking, Mollie Stocking, Anne Warren, Edward Payson Washburn, Mary & Edward Wiegel.

Award-winning local costumer Debi Manire will once again provide the wonderful historical characters’ costumes.  Audiences are led through the cemetery from grave to grave by guides with candles. Although it takes place around the same time as the American holiday Halloween, the event is meant to be historic rather than spooky.  Many local teachers award extra credit to students who attend.

The Twentieth Annual “Tales of the Crypt” will be sponsored by Mount Holly Cemetery Association and Parkview Arts-Science Magnet High School.

The event will be held  at Mount Holly Cemetery, 1200 South Broadway, Little Rock, Arkansas on from 5:30 pm until 8:30 pm.  Admission is free to the public, however donations to Mount Holly Cemetery are appreciated and aid in the maintenance of the cemetery.

Little Rock Look Back: William G. Whipple – LR’s 34th Mayor

whippleOn August 4, 1834, future Little Rock Mayor William G. Whipple was born in Connecticut.  He attended school in Massachusetts and graduated from Wesleyan University. After studying law at Albany Law School, he moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In 1868, Whipple moved to Little Rock following the 1866 death of his first wife in Wisconsin. Long active in Republican politics, he quickly became involved in Little Rock’s political and social life.  Shortly after his arrival he was appointed United States Attorney and served three years.

In 1870, he married Mary S. Dodge, daughter of former mayor Roderick Lathrop Dodge MD.  They had one son Durand, who followed his father into the legal profession. The Whipples were active members of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

In 1887, Whipple was elected Mayor of Little Rock and was re-elected two years later.  Whipple’s mayoral administration introduced electric lighting to the city beginning on September 1, 1887, paved many streets with granite and macadam, created sixty miles of new brick and concrete sidewalks, and introduced a steam dummy railway.

In 1892, he ran for Governor of Arkansas as the Republican nominee but was unsuccessful.  In 1895, he sought a third term for Mayor but was defeated by James A. Woodson.

From 1897 to 1900, he served as register of the US Land Office in Arkansas.  Whipple, who had long practiced law, was appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas in 1900.  He served in that capacity until 1913.

In July 1914, Mayor Whipple died.  He is buried at Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock.