Little Rock Look Back: Ages of Little Rock Mayors

With the election of Frank D. Scott, Jr., as Little Rock’s next mayor, there have been questions about the ages of Little Rock’s past mayors.

Mayor-elect Scott will become Little Rock’s 73rd mayor when he takes office on January 1, 2019..  There have been sixty-six other men and women serve as mayor of Little Rock.  Much like Grover Cleveland is counted twice in the list of US presidents because of serving non-sequential terms, there have been six men who have served non-sequential terms as Little Rock’s mayor and are therefore counted twice.

Of the seventy-three mayors of Little Rock (including Mayor-elect Scott), the ages are known of fifty-eight at the the time they took office.

Of those fifty eight, the youngest mayor of Little Rock was Eli Colby. He took office in 1843 at the age of 28.  The next youngest is Pat L. Robinson who took office a month after turning 29.

The oldest person to take office as mayor was 66 year old Haco Boyd in 1969. The next oldest was 64 year old David Fulton in 1835.

The average age upon taking office is 45.

The largest gap of years between the ages of sequential mayors at the start of their terms was 31 years. Webster Hubbell was 31 when he took office in 1979. He was succeeded by 62 year old Charles Bussey in 1981.

The shortest gap of ages of sequential mayors at the start of their terms was roughly one year.  W.W. Stevenson and Elijah A. More (yes he spelled his name with only one “O”).  In 1833, Stevenson took office at the age of 35. The next year, More took office at the age of 34. Stevenson’s birthday was on January 29 and More’s was on January 20.

Here is the list of the ten youngest mayors of Little Rock at known age of starting their term:
1. Eli Colby — 28 in September 1843
2. Pat L. Robinson  — 29 in April 1929
3. Webster L. Hubbell — 31 in June 1979
4. J. G. Botsford — 32 in January 1871
5. William E. Ashley — 33 in January 1857
6. John E. Knight — 34 in January 1851 (34 years and 3 months)
7. Harold E. “Sonney” Henson, Jr. — 34 in January 1965 (34 years and 5 months)
8.  Elijah A. More – 34 in January 1834 (34 years and 11 months)
9.  Frank D. Scott, Jr. – 35 in January 2019 (35 years and 1 month)
10. Thomas A. Prince – 35 in January 1985 (35 years and 4 months)

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Arkansas Heritage Month – LR Mayor Pat L. Robinson and a municipal auditorium

PLR AuditIn April 1929, at the age of 29, Pat L. Robinson (no relation to Senator Joe T. Robinson) was inaugurated as Little Rock’s mayor.  Shortly after he took office, a variety of City Council committees and city interest groups started making proposals for projects to be funded by City bonds.  The decision was made to put a municipal bond issue before voters in August 1929.

The Young Business Men’s Association proposed a municipal auditorium be included.  In his 1929 inaugural address, Mayor Robinson had commented that an auditorium would be a worthwhile project for the city, should funding be available.  Another proposal, which seemed to have mayoral support, was the Civic Center plan (including land for an auditorium) which J. N. Heiskell had started shopping in the waning days of the Moyer administration.

The City Council approved the calling of the election and the submission of eleven different items.  Mayor Robinson then invoked the ire of the aldermen by noting he would only support four of the eleven proposals. Over the ensuing weeks, he and the aldermen traded charges and parliamentary ploys.  In July, the Council voted to cancel the election, which the mayor vetoed.  Though the Council had the votes to override the veto (and therefore not have the election), they let the veto stand.  The election proceeded as planned in August.

Hobbled by a lack of a cohesive campaign to begin with which was exacerbated by the City Hall infighting, it was probably no surprise that the few of the election proposals were approved by voters.  The marvel is probably that any were actually approved.  This appears to have been the first municipal bond election put forth after the 1926 approval of the new amendment to the Arkansas constitution.

Neither the Auditorium nor the Civic Center proposals were approved.  Throughout his term, the Hotel Marion continued to be the main site in Little Rock for conventions, while Little Rock High School’s auditorium was the showcase for performances.

No further proposals for an auditorium were put forth during the remainder of the Pat L. Robinson administration.  After continuing to alienate the Democratic power structure, he was challenged in the November 1930 primary, and failed to receive the nomination to be the Democratic nominee for mayor in 1931.

Little Rock Look Back: Mayor Pat L. Robinson

IMG_4517On this date in 1900, future Little Rock Mayor Pat L. Robinson was born.  While I cannot verify that he was indeed named after St. Patrick, it would be fairly reasonable to assume there might be a connection, especially given the fact that he was Catholic.

Robinson was a rising star of Little Rock Democratic politics.  In April 1929, just weeks after his 29th birthday, he was elected Mayor.  He had twice been elected as City Attorney (1926 and 1928) and was one of the youngest to serve in that position.

During Mayor Robinson’s tenure, he announced plans to construct a new airport.  That project led to the creation of what is now the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.  Mayor Robinson was also involved in helping Philander Smith College secure the property where it is now located.  In addition, during his tenure, what is now the Museum of Discovery was folded into the City of Little Rock.

Single at the time he was in office and generally considered good looking, Mayor Robinson was sometimes referred to as the “Jimmy Walker of the Southwest.” Walker was the handsome and charming Mayor of New York City at the time.

Mayor Robinson ran afoul of some of the Democratic party leaders. Records don’t seem to indicate exactly what actions he took or did not take.  One thing that is brought up is that the City went into financial distress during his tenure.  Considering the Wall Street crash happened shortly after he took office, that financial state was not unique to Little Rock.

IMG_4532During this era in Little Rock, it was customary for an incumbent mayor to be given a second term. But City Clerk Horace Knowlton challenged Robinson in the primary.  It was a bitter campaign with Robinson linking Knowlton to disreputable denizens and Knowlton charging Robinson with “an orgy of spending.”  Robinson initially came out 17 votes ahead. But after a review and a lawsuit, it was found that Knowlton ended up with 10 more votes and became the nominee.  At the time, being the Democratic nominee was tantamount to election.

After he left office, Robinson practiced law for a few years in Little Rock and then left the city.  Records do not indicate where he went but he no longer appeared in the City of Little Rock directory by the early 1940s.