Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Little Rock Look Back: J. V. Satterfield Jr.

SatterfieldOn May 14, 1902, future Little Rock Mayor John Vines Satterfield, Jr. was born in Marion.   He grew up in Little Rock and Earle. J.V. was a star quarterback for the Earle football team and is featured in a painting of that team by respected painter Carroll Cloar.

Following high school, J.V. taught (including, much to his family’s amusement, a course in penmanship) and coached and sold Fords.  He then moved to Little Rock and sold insurance and later securities.  In 1931 he opened his own business; that same year he built a house at 40 Beverly Place in Little Rock, which would serve as his home until his death.

J. V. Satterfield was elected to serve as Mayor of Little Rock in 1939 and served one term, until 1941.  He was credited with saving the City from bankruptcy because of his fiscal policies. Among his efficiencies were the creation of a central purchasing office and using grass moved from the airport to feed the Zoo animals.  Though as a private citizen he had voted against the creation of a municipal auditorium in 1937, Mayor Satterfield fought valiantly to ensure that Robinson Auditorium opened to the public once he took office.  Shortly after he became Mayor, it was discovered that there were not sufficient funds to finish the construction. After the federal government refused to put in more money, he was able to negotiate with some of the contractors to arrange for the building to be completed. He also oversaw a successful special election to raise the money to finish the project.

Satterfield was a staunch supporter of the airport and worked to expand it.  He would serve as the chair of the first Municipal Airport Commission.  He also established the Little Rock Housing Authority (on which he would later serve on the board).  Mayor Satterfield also served as President of the Arkansas Municipal League in 1941.

Following the outbreak of World War II, Satterfield enlisted in the Army and was given the rank of a Major. He later was promoted to a Colonel and worked in the Pentagon during its early days.

In the late 1940s Satterfield became president of a small Little Rock bank called People’s Bank.  The bank changed its named to First National Bank when it moved into new offices at 3rd and Louisiana in 1953.  By focusing on smaller customers and courting corporate customers, Satterfield grew the bank into one of the state’s largest banks.  He maintained his desk in the lobby of the bank so he could interact with the customers and ensure they were having a positive experience.

Due to chronic health issues, Satterfield retired from the bank in 1964. He died in March 1966.

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Susan Altrui is new director of Little Rock Zoo

cc15 altruiSusan Altrui will take the helm as the Little Rock Zoo’s new director, City Manager Bruce T. Moore announced today.  Altrui, who has been with the state’s only accredited zoo since 2005, fills the position left open by the retirement of longtime director Mike Blakely in October.

“Our goal is for the Little Rock Zoo to become one of the top mid-sized city zoos in the country,” Moore said. “Susan is the person to get us there because of her experience, dedication and vision. I’m excited to have her leading the Zoo as it continues its growth as a world-class institution focused on education, conservation and recreation.”

Altrui began her career at the Zoo as the director of marketing and development and executive director of the Arkansas Zoological Foundation. In July 2015, she was named the Zoo’s assistant director. She has been responsible for marketing, public relations, special events, development, government relations, and fundraising for the Zoo and has helped to maintain the Zoo’s accreditation.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to take on this important new role as the next director of the Little Rock Zoo. I’m ready to work hard with our city leaders, staff, volunteers, board members and other members of the community to grow and develop our Zoo,” Altrui said. “The Zoo is a place that nurtures our passion for animals and encourages respect for all living things. It’s a place where learning lives.”

Under Altrui’s guidance, the Zoo has raised funds for the Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe exhibit, the Laura P. Nichols Cheetah Outpost, Diamond Express Train and the Arkansas Heritage Farm exhibit, which opened in April of this year.

Altrui served as project manager for a new master plan and strategic plan. She also worked on the Zoo accreditation by attending hearings on three separate occasions before the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Accreditation Committee. She has developed several successful fundraisers, including Zoo Brew and the annual Wild Wines event, which is now one of Arkansas’s largest food and wine festivals.

Altrui holds a master’s degree in Applied Studies in Communication from Colorado State University and a bachelor’s degree in the same area from Arkansas State University.

Ninety years ago, the Little Rock Zoo brought wildlife to the citizens of Arkansas with just two animals: an abandoned timber wolf and a circus-trained bear. Today, the Zoo is one of Arkansas’ most attended attractions, with approximately 300,000 visitors annually. It cares for more than 700 animals representing 200 different species, many endangered.

The Zoo is part of the AZA Species Survival Plan aimed at saving threatened/endangered species through cooperative breeding, a program that Altrui seeks to expand.

My goal as Zoo director is to enhance our conservation education efforts and to provide an engaging experience for every guest every time they walk through our gate,” Altrui said. “Updating and renovating the Zoo is essential and we have already begun the planning process for the next major animal exhibit. We are also revamping education efforts to provide exciting, engaging programming that helps inspire who you want to be and who you can become. We will help cultivate the next generation of biologists, wildlife scientists and conservationists.”


UALR Historian Dr. Deborah Baldwin to serve as interim provost

baldwin-cropped-700x709Dr. Deborah Baldwin, associate provost of collections and archives and director of the Center for Arkansas History and Culture, has been named the interim provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Baldwin will serve as the interim provost for the spring 2017 semester, following the departure of UALR Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs and Provost Dr. Zulma Toro, who will begin her tenure as president of Central Connecticut State University on Jan. 3. The university will conduct a search for a permanent provost with an anticipated start date of July 1, 2017.

Baldwin has served the university in a number of positions, including six years as the chair of the Department of History and nearly 20 years as the dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

Throughout her years of administrative service, Baldwin has continued to teach in the public history program and has overseen graduate student work with community organizations. Baldwin holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago.

Through her public history teaching, Baldwin and her students have helped to document the history of various Little Rock businesses and institutions. Among those are the Arkansas Arts Center, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Museum of Discovery and Little Rock Zoo.


New Penguin Chick at the Little Rock Zoo!

penguin-chickVisitors to the Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe exhibit at the Little Rock Zoo are now able to see the latest addition to the Zoo family: a baby penguin.

First-time penguin parents “Domino” and “Laura” (named for the donor Laura P. Nichols) successfully hatched an egg on Nov. 2. Their breeding was a recommendation of the African Penguin Species Survival Plan administrated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

“This is the seventh chick we’ve hatched successfully at our zoo,” said Susan Altrui, acting Zoo director. “This birth adds another individual to the population of these endangered and beautiful animals. We’re proud to be a part of that.”

Domino and Laura, who is also one of the Zoo’s Animal Ambassadors, reared the chick in a nest box for the first few weeks – the most crucial time, but keeper staff have stepped in to hand-rear it so it will become comfortable around people and possibly be an Animal Ambassador like its mother.

The sex of the chick won’t be known for at least another week after blood testing results are available. The Zoo will hold a naming contest via social media once the chick’s sex is determined.

For now, the chick will be visible through the conservation room window of the Penguin Pointe exhibit. It will join the rest of the colony when it’s about 3 months old and big enough to be around adult penguins.

There are about 52,000 mature African penguins in the wild. Also called jackass penguins because of their braying donkey-like calls, these aquatic birds dine on fish and are well-suited to Arkansas’s climate.


Holidays in the Wild – with a Kick – tonight at the Little Rock Zoo!

Kick off the holiday season with the wildest party in town at the Little Rock Zoo on Thursday, Dec. 1, at Holidays in the Wild – With a Kick! This adults only version of the zoo’s festive event will feature a holiday light show, rides on the South Pole Express train and unique adult beverage stops along the way. You also won’t want to miss pictures with our Santa and Mrs. Claus! Live music and food trucks will also be available.

Proceeds from Holidays with a Kick benefit the conservation of the Somali Wild Ass, a critically endangered animal in the wild that is also found at the Little Rock Zoo. This Wild Ass party will help support efforts to survey the number of asses in Somalia and other parts of Africa in order to design conservation strategies that will help protect these beautiful animals.

Must be at least 21 years old to attend. Please bring photo ID.

$25 per person in advance. $30 at the gate.


RobinsoNovember: Mayor R. E. Overman

Overman AuditR. E. Overman assumed the office of Little Rock mayor in April 1935. Around that time, a new wave of New Deal programs were filtering down from Washington DC to cities.  It can be said of Mayor Overman that he did not meet a New Deal program he did not like.  From rebuilding the sewer system, to creating a public water utility, to constructing of structures for the Museum of Fine Arts, Little Rock Zoo, and Boyle Park, Mayor Overman signed the City up for program after program.

While the programs were all worthwhile, and in some cases absolute necessities, Mayor Overman did not seem to consider how these massive projects running concurrently would impact the City finances.  In November 1935, he submitted a proposal to the Public Works Administration for the construction of a new municipal auditorium to be located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Scott Street and Capitol Avenue. It would have taken up three/quarters of that block and wrapped around the Women’s City Club building (now the Junior League of Little Rock headquarters).  Because of other projects in the works, he did not pursue any further action on the auditorium project at the time.

In November 1936, Mayor Overman asked the City Council to place three bond issues on a special election ballot for January 1937, one of which was a municipal auditorium. Though a location had previously been identified in 1935, at this point in time supporters made a concerted effort to disclose that no location had been selected.  After the election was called, there was a concerted effort by supporters of the three separate bond issues to collaborate.  Voters overwhelmingly approved all three issues, and Little Rock’s journey to a municipal auditorium at last was underway. Perhaps.

Over the summer, architects and lawyers were selected. In the autumn, a consultant was hired to help with the selection for the site.  The month of October was consumed with City Council battles over the auditorium site.  Mayor Overman favored a location at Markham and Spring Streets (now site of the Cromwell Building and the Bankruptcy Courthouse). Because the Federal Government owned half the site and did not want to sell it, that location was deemed not feasible – though that did not stop Mayor Overman and others from repeatedly citing it as their first choice.  The only person who favored the location at Markham and Broadway did not have a vote: Planning Commission Chair J. N. Heiskell. Though he had no vote, he had the twin bully pulpits of Planning Commission and the Arkansas Gazette. As other sites fell by the wayside, he kept advocating for it.  Finally, the City Council approved of Heiskell’s choice, and the auditorium had a site.

The groundbreaking had to take place by January 1, 1938, or the money would be rescinded. After finalizing a location, planning could get underway.  With a week to spare, the ground was broken on December 24, 1937.  Mrs. Joseph T. Robinson, widow of the recently deceased US Senator from Arkansas, joined Mayor Overman in the groundbreaking. This ceremony was the first mention of the building being named in memory of the fallen senator, who had died in the summer of 1937.

Construction progressed throughout 1938 and into 1939.  Because of the precarious state of the City’s finances, Mayor Overman lost the support of the business community.  In November 1938, he lost his bid for the Democratic nomination for Mayor and was denied a third two-year term.  He left office in April 1939.


Arkansas Heritage Month – LR Mayor Overman and a municipal auditorium

Overman AuditR. E. Overman assumed the office of Little Rock mayor in April 1935. Around that time, a new wave of New Deal programs were filtering down from Washington DC to cities.  It can be said of Mayor Overman that he did not meet a New Deal program he did not like.  From rebuilding the sewer system, to creating a public water utility, to constructing of structures for the Museum of Fine Arts, Little Rock Zoo, and Boyle Park, Mayor Overman signed the City up for program after program.

While the programs were all worthwhile, and in some cases absolute necessities, Mayor Overman did not seem to consider how these massive projects running concurrently would impact the City finances.  In November 1935, he submitted a proposal to the Public Works Administration for the construction of a new municipal auditorium to be located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Scott Street and Capitol Avenue. It would have taken up three/quarters of that block and wrapped around the Women’s City Club building (now the Junior League of Little Rock headquarters).  Because of other projects in the works, he did not pursue any further action on the auditorium project at the time.

In November 1936, Mayor Overman asked the City Council to place three bond issues on a special election ballot for January 1937, one of which was a municipal auditorium. Though a location had previously been identified in 1935, at this point in time supporters made a concerted effort to disclose that no location had been selected.  After the election was called, there was a concerted effort by supporters of the three separate bond issues to collaborate.  Voters overwhelmingly approved all three issues, and Little Rock’s journey to a municipal auditorium at last was underway. Perhaps.

Over the summer, architects and lawyers were selected. In the autumn, a consultant was hired to help with the selection for the site.  The month of October was consumed with City Council battles over the auditorium site.  Mayor Overman favored a location at Markham and Spring Streets (now site of the Cromwell Building and the Bankruptcy Courthouse). Because the Federal Government owned half the site and did not want to sell it, that location was deemed not feasible – though that did not stop Mayor Overman and others from repeatedly citing it as their first choice.  The only person who favored the location at Markham and Broadway did not have a vote: Planning Commission Chair J. N. Heiskell. Though he had no vote, he had the twin bully pulpits of Planning Commission and the Arkansas Gazette. As other sites fell by the wayside, he kept advocating for it.  Finally, the City Council approved of Heiskell’s choice, and the auditorium had a site.

The groundbreaking had to take place by January 1, 1938, or the money would be rescinded. After finalizing a location, planning could get underway.  With a week to spare, the ground was broken on December 24, 1937.  Mrs. Joseph T. Robinson, widow of the recently deceased US Senator from Arkansas, joined Mayor Overman in the groundbreaking. This ceremony was the first mention of the building being named in memory of the fallen senator, who had died in the summer of 1937.

Construction progressed throughout 1938 and into 1939.  Because of the precarious state of the City’s finances, Mayor Overman lost the support of the business community.  In November 1938, he lost his bid for the Democratic nomination for Mayor and was denied a third two-year term.  He left office in April 1939.