Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Little Rock Look Back: Benjamin Harrison becomes first sitting president to visit LR

On April 17, 1891, Benjamin Harrison became the first sitting president to visit Arkansas.  He was on a cross-country railroad trip having left DC on April 13.

The morning of the 17th he spoke in Memphis and then took the train to Little Rock.  Accompanying him from Memphis to Little Rock were a delegation which included Governor and Mrs. James P. Eagle, Mayor H. L. Fletcher and Col. Logan H. Roots.  Also in the party was Mrs. W. G. Whipple, a former first lady of Little Rock.

They arrived in Little Rock in the afternoon.  A parade took them from the train station to the State House (now the Old State House Museum) where the Governor formally welcomed the President and his party.

In his brief remarks, President Harrison spoke of the hospitality and the natural resources available in Arkansas.  He also touched on the Civil War, which at the time was less than 30 years in the past. He noted “The commonwealth rests upon the free suffrage of its citizens and their devotion to the Constitution and the flag is the bulwark of its life.  We have agreed, I am sure, that we will do no more fighting among ourselves.” These remarks were met enthusiastically by the crowd assembled.

The President concluded is brief remarks thanking the State officials and the citizenry.  He then took the train to Texarkana where he made his third set of remarks of the day.

Benjamin Harrison was on the Presidential ticket two times. The first time he lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College defeating incumbent Grover Cleveland. The second time he lost both the popular and electoral votes to Cleveland.  He did not carry Arkansas in either election. Though he was the first sitting president to visit Little Rock, there is nothing here named for him.  Since there was already a Harrison Street named after his grandfather, he is skipped between Cleveland and McKinley in the presidential streets.


Little Rock Look Back: President Benjamin Harrison becomes first sitting president to visit LR

Benjamin-Harrison-by-Joseph-Gray-Kitchell-1897-358x426On April 17, 1891, Benjamin Harrison became the first sitting president to visit Arkansas.  He was on a cross-country railroad trip having left DC on April 13.

The morning of the 17th he spoke in Memphis and then took the train to Little Rock.  Accompanying him from Memphis to Little Rock were a delegation which included Governor and Mrs. James P. Eagle, Mayor H. L. Fletcher and Col. Logan H. Roots.  Also in the party was Mrs. W. G. Whipple, a former first lady of Little Rock.

They arrived in Little Rock in the afternoon.  A parade took them from the train station to the State House (now the Old State House Museum) where the Governor formally welcomed the President and his party.

In his brief remarks, President Harrison spoke of the hospitality and the natural resources available in Arkansas.  He also touched on the Civil War, which at the time was less than 30 years in the past. He noted “The commonwealth rests upon the free suffrage of its citizens and their devotion to the Constitution and the flag is the bulwark of its life.  We have agreed, I am sure, that we will do no more fighting among ourselves.” These remarks were met enthusiastically by the crowd assembled.

The President concluded is brief remarks thanking the State officials and the citizenry.  He then took the train to Texarkana where he made his third remarks of the day.

Benjamin Harrison was on the Presidential ticket two times. The first time he lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College defeating incumbent Grover Cleveland. The second time he lost both the popular and electoral votes to Cleveland.  He did not carry Arkansas in either election. Though he was the first sitting president to visit Little Rock, there is nothing here named for him.  Since there was already a Harrison Street named after his grandfather, he is skipped between Cleveland and McKinley in the presidential streets.


Little Rock Look Back: President William McKinley

William_McKinley_by_Courtney_Art_Studio,_1896It doesn’t appear that William McKinley ever visited Little Rock.  He does, however, have a street named after him.  In the list of Presidential streets, he is the last President to be the namesake of a street.  It would not be until Roosevelt was named for FDR in the 1930s and Clinton Avenue was named in the 1990s that more Little Rock streets would be named for the Commander in Chief.

William McKinley, Jr., was born on January 29, 1843. He would be the last US President to have served in the Civil War, entering as a private and exiting as a major.  After the war, he returned to his native Ohio, was married and became an attorney.  From 1877 until 1883 and again from 1885 until 1891, he served in Congress.  Defeated for re-election in 1890, he ran for Governor of Ohio in 1891 and was elected. He was re-elected in 1895 but by the next year would be on the ballot for President. Famous for campaigning from his front porch, he was elected in 1896 over William Jennings Bryan.  In 1900, he was re-elected again over Bryan.  On September 6, 1901, in the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY, he was shot.  He died on September 14.

President McKinley is responsible for the name Fort Logan H. Roots for the federal military installation located in Little Rock on the north side of the Arkansas River (now part of NLR). It was named for a former GOP Congressman from Arkansas.  As a civic leader, Roots had been involved in the negotiations for the land swap which led to the establishment of the military installation north of the river and the creation of City Park (now MacArthur Park) on the site of the former military outpost. He died in 1893 shortly after the deal had been executed.

Arkansas voters never gave McKinley their electoral votes. But when he was assassinated in September 1901, there was a public memorial service held for him at the Kempner Theatre in downtown Little Rock.  At the time, it was the largest indoor structure in the City for events.