Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Remembering Betty Fowler

(Photo courtesy of Arkansas Jazz Heritage Foundation)

Arkansas entertainer icon Betty Fowler died Saturday, April 15, 2017.

The information below is adapted from her obituary.

Betty was born on September 17, 1925 in Wynne, Arkansas to the late Harry Willis Hunter and Elizabeth Sands Hunter. Her love for music began at age 9, when she started taking piano lessons. Betty began her illustrious career at age 18 after winning a talent contest, which gave her the push she needed to pursue her life’s passion. Betty graduated from Little Rock Jr. College in 1944. She spent most of her life in Little Rock as a popular musician and television entertainer.

Betty began her musical career on a statewide radio show. She moved on to become a television performer in the early 1950’s in Little Rock with what is now known as Channel 7. She was best known for her children’s TV show, “Betty’s Little Rascals”, which began in 1955.

She went on to co-host the “Little Rock Today Show” on Channel 4 with Bud Campbell, where she did live commercials, played the piano and interviewed celebrities who came to town, such as Liberace, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, Red Buttons and Robert Goulet.

Through the years, Betty maintained a vigorous schedule with her band, “The Betty Fowler Four”, which produced a record album of her music. She was also musical director for The Miss Arkansas Pageant (1960-84), Musical Director for Broadway musicals produced by the Community Theater, Musical Director for the Farkleberry Follies and The Gridiron.

For many years, Betty taught piano and had a recording studio in her home, where she gave voice coaching lessons and made accompany tapes for many aspiring performers.
Betty Fowler will forever be remembered and treasured for her lifetime love and devotion to the world of music, both in performing and in the teaching of music to others.


Little Rock Look Back: Central & Hall Football at 2-0

lrchs-lrhhsAfter two weeks of prep gridiron (that is high school football to those who don’t write like a 1950s inky wretch), Little Rock Central and Little Rock Hall are both posting records of 2 wins and 0 losses.  This feat has not been achieved in quite a while.

How long?  37 seasons!  It was 1979, the last time that the Tigers and Warriors were both out of the gate at 2-0.


Jimmy Carter was in the White House. Bill Clinton was in his first term as Governor. First Lady Hillary Rodham was several months pregnant with Chelsea. Hall High and Razorback standout Webb Hubbell was Mayor of Little Rock.  The City’s population was in the 150,000s (it would be 159,151 after the 1980 census).  Little Rock had an area of approximately 80 square miles.  (Today it is approximately 200,000 citizens over 122 square miles.)

Lou Holtz was coaching the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Southwest Conference.  Harry Hall was in his first season as Commissioner of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference.  Rex Nelson was a student at Ouachita.  Paul Eells was in his second year with KATV, while Dave Woodman was finishing his first decade at KARK.  Gary Hogan was anchoring sports for KTHV.  Hogs football games were broadcast on KAAY radio.  While Bob Buice and Jim Elder were ruling the airwaves at KARN, Craig O’Neill was dominating mornings at KLAZ.

Orville Henry, Jim Bailey, and Wadie Moore covered college and high school sports for the Arkansas Gazette.  The Arkansas Democrat had switched to morning delivery and hired John Robert Starr as editor.  Both papers carried ads for Kempners, Golds, M.M. Cohn, Skaggs Albertsons, Minute Man, Union National Bank, Commercial National Bank, Worthen National Bank, and First National Bank.

Metrocentre Mall existed with bricked over streets on Main and Capitol. The Grady Manning Hotel and Hotel Marion still stood (though in their twilight days before their February 1980 date with demolition.)

So a lot has changed since Central and Hall previously achieved this.  In the interval, Central has been 2-0 a dozen times and Hall has achieved that a brace. But the schools never managed it during the same season.  Three times the schools both managed 1-1 seasons and seven times they each started at 0-2.

The 1979 Warriors were helmed by C. W. Keopple, who would lead the team from the 1960s into the 1980s winning four conference/state titles. (When your conference is statewide, winning one got you the other.)  Bernie Cox was in his fifth season as the Tigers’ mentor, with two state championships already under his belt, five more would be in his future.

The teams stayed tied through the fourth week. But in the fifth week, while Central won, Hall lost to Parkview by a score of 7-0.  The following week, the Warriors rebounded, while the Tigers settled for a 0 to 0 tie with Ole Main.  Weeks seven through ten saw both teams notching another win each week.  This set up a Thanksgiving Day classic with the state’s top two teams facing off.  Central was slightly favored, but season records seldom carried any weight when the two cross-town rivals played on Thanksgiving afternoon.  In an upset, Hall bested Central by a score of 17 to 0.

From 1987 to 1990, the second game of the season was the Hall-Central matchup, which meant that it would have been impossible to both start with a 2-0 record.  This second week matchup was made necessary by the fact that not only could the two teams no longer face off on Thanksgiving after 1982, but the two schools were not in the same conference from 1983 through 2000. So the faceoff was early in the season, during the non-conference portion.

Due to subsequent restructurings by the Arkansas Activities Association, the two schools have not played a football game since 2005.  The bell from the “Battle of the Bell” which was supposed to replace the pageantry and intense rivalry of the Thanksgiving Day matchups, sat forlornly and largely forgotten in the trophy case at Central following the 2005 edition which Central won by a score of 24 to 7.  (That season Central started at 0-2 on the way to a 5-5 record and Hall started at 1-1 on the way to a 3-7 record.)  UPDATE: As noted in a comment on this piece, the Bell has now been refurbished and sits proudly at Quigley Stadium.  Thank you Belinda Stilwell for the information!

Who knows how the 2016 season will turn out for these two teams?  In the past 2-0 has led both to State Championships and to a 6-4 record.  But for two schools that have struggled in the past few seasons, to start with a 2-0 record is quite an accomplishment. For both to start with that record is remarkable.


While the blog hiatus and a restructuring continue, this was a bit of history that needed mentioning.

Creative Class of 2015: Sericia Cole

sericiaSericia Cole has quietly and quickly transformed the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.  She was named interim director in July 2012 and permanently took the post in November of that year.  Since then, she has expanded programming and outreach efforts of the museum.

Under her leadership, Mosaic Templars has started lunchtime lecture series and has expanded its exhibition schedule.  She has also worked to ensure that special events take place year-round at the museum.  In addition to exhibits on a variety of aspects of African American history in Arkansas, the museum is the permanent home of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

A Little Rock native and UALR graduate, she has previously worked for Governor Mike Beebe, Philander Smith College, Wildwood Park for the Arts, and KATV.



Black History Month Spotlight: Deborah Mathis

bhm deborahDeborah Mathis has deep Arkansas roots.  She grew up in Little Rock the daughter of Rev. Lloyd Myers, a Baptist minister, and Rachel A. Myers Jones, a teacher.

Her journalistic pursuits began as early as junior high school, when she became the first black editor of West Side Junior High’s school newspaper. In 1970 she became the first black and first female editor of Central High School’s Tiger student newspaper. From the early 70′s through the early 90′s, Mathis was busy establishing herself as a journalist and broadcaster. She served in various positions ” reporter, editor, columnist and anchor ” at statewide media outlets including the Arkansas Democrat, Arkansas Gazette, KARK-Channel 4, KTH V-Channel 11, and KATV-Channel 7 From Arkansas, Mathis career took her to briefly to Jackson, Mississippi before she landed in Washington, D.C., where she was a White House Correspondent for Gannett News Service from 1993-2000.

Since 1992, Mathis has been a syndicated columnist, appearing in more than 100 U.S. publications and periodicals. She is also a contributor to such outlets as USA Today and and a frequent commentator on political and public affairs talk shows such as PBS’s Frontline, CNNs Inside Politics NPR’s All Things Considered America’s Black Forum and Oprah, to name a few. She also field-produced, wrote and narrated two nationally aired documentaries: “Edukashun: The Cost of Failure” (1982) and “Return of the Little Rock Nine” (1987).

Mathis is the author of Yet A Stranger Why Black Americans Still Don’t Feel at Home, Sole Sisters: The Joy and Pains of Single Black Women and What God Can Do: How Faith Changes Lives for the Better.  She has also been an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism (Washington office).  In 2003, she was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

For more on Deborah Mathis and other inductees into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, visit the permanent exhibit at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. That museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

“396 Days: From Arkansas to America” to be screened at noon today

396daysAs part of the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center, the Central Arkansas Library System is showing a series of documentaries pertaining to the Clinton presidency.

Today at noon at the Ron Robinson Theater it kicks off with “396 Days: From Arkansas to America.”  This documentary short was directed and produced by videographer and local TV news director Randy Dixon for the opening of the Clinton Presidential Library. It chronicles the 1992 Clinton Presidential campaign from an Arkansas perspective. The project has received more than a dozen national and international awards.

Free admission.

Little Rock Look Back: Ark Municipal League 1954 President H. C. “Sport” Graham

H C GrahamToday is the first full day of the 80th Arkansas Municipal League convention here in Little Rock.  It is at the Statehouse Convention Center which stands on the site of the Hotel Marion, which was the site of the first meeting.

Five Little Rock leaders have led the AML as President. On Friday, Mayor Mark Stodola will become the sixth Little Rock city official to be president of the Arkansas Municipal League.

Today’s feature spotlights Henry Clay Graham. Known officially as H. C. Graham, his nickname was “Sport.”  H. C. Graham was the first, and to date, only City Clerk to have served as AML President. He was president in 1954, serving as the 22nd President.

Graham was first appointed City Clerk in August 1934 to fill out the term of John Krumm, who had died that month. Graham ran for election in 1936 and was re-elected every two years through 1954. He was not afraid to challenge the Mayor or City Council members in meetings or in the press if he felt that rules were not being followed. He openly criticized Mayor Overman over spending habits in the late 1930s and sided with Mayor Satterfield when members of the City Council were being held in contempt of court for disobeying a judge’s order.

In October 1954, Little Rock Mayor Pratt Remmel, a Republican, was running for Governor. Graham supported Orval Faubus, who was the Democratic nominee.  On a Friday evening, he appeared on KATV promoting Faubus’ campaign.  He went home that night after the program complaining he did not feel well. On Sunday, he was having dinner at his nephew’s house in Little Rock and collapsed and died. It was a few days before the Municipal League annual meeting at which he was supposed to preside.  The decision was made to continue with the meeting as a tribute to him.

Graham’s 20 years and two months as City Clerk is the second longest in the City’s history and the longest of any elected City Clerk.

Graham’s sister, Pauline Graham Beeson, was appointed to fill out the remainder of his term. She did not seek election. In 1958, however, she was appointed the first City Clerk of Little Rock under the City Manager form of government and served in that capacity until December 1968.

Sculpture Vulture: Jane DeDecker’s Patty Cake

Patty CakeOne of the two newest sculptures to be located in Riverfront Park is Jane DeDecker’s Patty Cake.  This is one of two sculptures in the Nicholson Sculpture Plaza which was dedicated in September 2013.

Patty Cake depicts a mother with a child sitting on the mother’s knees.  The two are facing each other and playing the game which gives the sculpture its name.

This sculpture was donated by longtime KATV executive Dale Nicholson in memory of his wife Pat.

Part of Jane DeDecker’s artistic philosophy is her desire to select a moment to which everyone can relate on a personal level. These moments span all generations, depicting universal scenes. This may speak of the love between parent and child, the freedom of imagination, or the simple dignity of everyday tasks. Each is a timeless expression of the human experience, causing us to reflect and evaluate.