Little Rock Look Back: Clinton Center opens in 2004

wjc library openingIt has been thirteen years since the Clinton Presidential Center opened on a wet, cold Thursday.

The days leading up to it has been glorious.  And while the weather may have literally dampened spirits a bit, it was still an important day for Little Rock and Arkansas.

The events leading up to the opening included a concert by Aretha Franklin with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and an appearance by Senator John Glenn at the Museum of Discovery.  Events were hosted by the Arkansas Arts Center, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Historic Arkansas Museum, and Old State House Museum.  There were scores of receptions and parties as Hollywood, New York, and DC descended on Little Rock.

November 18 dawned rainy and cool.  As the day continued on the precipitation continued while the temperature did not warm up.  Years of planning for a grand opening ceremony came down to this.  But at the appointed time, festivities began.

On the site of an abandoned warehouse district and unofficial dump which had previously been a train station, many leaders of the free world were gathered.  They rubbed shoulders with thousands of Arkansans from probably every county in the state.

It had been seven years and eleven days since Bill Clinton had announced the site of his presidential library.  It had been five years since artifacts and articles started arriving from Washington DC in Little Rock.  There had been lawsuits, threats of lawsuits, the threat of a Counter-Clinton Library, and countless meetings.

After speeches from Presidents Carter, Bush 41 and Bush 43, remarks from President Clinton and then-Senator Clinton (who was made even wetter by water pouring off an ill-placed umbrella), and even a musical performance by Bono and The Edge, Chelsea Clinton turned over the ceremonial key from the Clinton Foundation to the National Archives to officially open the Clinton Presidential Center.

In his capacity leading the Clinton Foundation, Skip Rutherford oversaw the planning for the Clinton Library and the grand opening festivities.  He, along with the foundation’s Executive Director Stephanie Streett, oversaw a phalanx of volunteers and staff to anticipate every detail.  The 1,000 days countdown sign that had been on the construction site (the brainchild of Tyler Denton) finally reached 0.

Isabelle Rodriguez, Shannon Butler, Mariah Hatta, Jordan Johnson, Lucas Hargraves, and Ben Beaumont — among others — had been putting in twelve plus hour days for months on end to get ready for the opening.  City Manager Bruce T. Moore led a team of City officials who had assisted on the planning and execution of the site preparation and making sure Little Rock was ready to welcome the world.  Moore and City Director Dean Kumpuris had been appointed by Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey to lead Little Rock’s efforts to land the library.  After Clinton’s announcement of the site, Dailey, Kumpuris and Moore continued to work together to ensure the library would be successful.

While the weather on November 18, 2004, may have been a disappointment, the people who were gathered knew they were witnesses to history.  And thirteen years later, is a day people still talk about.


RIVERFEST 2012 – 35 years of Letting the Good Times Flow

For 35 years, Riverfest has been showcasing outstanding musicians and visual artists along the Arkansas River.

Among the artists highlighted this year from Friday through Sunday are Boyz II Men, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Little Big Town, Joe Walsh, Gov’t Mule, Staind, Mutemath, Chevelle, Third Eye Blind, EKG, B.o.B., Snoop Dogg, Sleeper Agent, Rodney Block & The Real Music Lovers, Archnemesis, and Trout Fishing in America.  As the event has for years, Sunday night will be punctuated by a fireworks display. This year’s display is in memory of longtime sponsor Jennings Osborne.

Riverfest is proud to announce “Ruff on the River”, our new Pooch Parade! The first annual Ruff on the River Parade will be held Saturday, May 26th at 3:00 p.m. in the River Market District in downtown Little Rock. The theme for the 2012 event is “Let the Good Times Flow!” Register your four-legged friend today, then dress your pooch in costume and let the judges decide who has the most creative costume. Each pooch registration includes one human escort.

Angie Staley Johnson is the Chairman of the Riverfest committee, Jordan P. Johnson, Sr., is the Chairman of the Riverfest Board of Directors (and husband to Angie), and DeAnna Korte is the Executive Director of Riverfest.

Play Ball!

Major League Baseball started the 2012 season last week.  The St. Louis Cardinals began their defense of their World Championship!

“Play Ball! The St. Louis Cardinals” opened at the Clinton Presidential Center last month.  The exhibit features more than 100 items from the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame Museum, a collection the team owns and has improved in recent years despite not having a place to publicly display it.

“This is going to be something that kids, adults, women, men, baseball fans, non-baseball fans alike will all enjoy,” says Jordan Johnson, spokesperson for the Clinton Foundation.

The Clinton Library and the Cardinals have been working on this exhibit for several years, and it’s only by coincidence that the library will have the Cardinals-based display immediately following a World Series championship. Among the items that the Cardinals lent to the library are several Dizzy Dean-related artifacts, including one of four known game-worn jerseys from the Hall of Fame pitcher and Arkansas native.

The trophies from the 2006 and 2011 World Series are also featured.

The exhibit runs through Sept. 16.

iPhotos 2011: The Good

Like many people, the Little Rock Culture Vulture has an iPhone and takes many iPhotos. Today’s entry, and the next two, will highlight some of his favorite personal iPhotos taken in Little Rock during 2011. The are divided into the Good, the Odd and the Arty.

Today focuses on The Good. These 11 from ’11 are presented chronologically.

Allsopp Park snow - February 2011


A sidewalk near MacArthur Park at night - March 2011

Kids playing by Dickinson Fountain at Arkansas Arts Center - April 2011


Jordan Johnson in a rare moment of sitting still on grounds of Clinton Library - May 2011


Ducks crossing street in downtown Little Rock - May 2011


Little Rock Sky - June 2011


After at party in black box at Arkansas Repertory Theatre - June 2011


Setting sun reflected on Arkansas River - June 2011


Downtown reflection - June 2011

Bill Worthen joining with a band at 2nd Friday Art Night at Historic Arkansas Museum - July 2011


Snow along Kavanaugh - December 2011