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.


Washington Tribute at Clinton Center

Washington's Copy of the Acts of Congress.

Washington’s Copy of the Acts of Congress.

The library focusing on the 42nd President now has an exhibit honoring the the 1st President.  The William J. Clinton Presidential Center has a “Tribute to George Washington” on display through July 12.

It features:
George Washington’s Copy of the Acts of Congress
The volume contains the Constitution and draft Bill of Rights with Washington’s personal written notes as well as an original signature. The volume, dating back to 1789, is on loan from Mount Vernon.

George Washington Correspondence
On loan from the National Archives in Washington, DC, the Clinton Center will showcase two rare documents that helped shape American history during Washington’s administration. One includes a handwritten letter by President Washington regarding the the Jay Treaty with Great Britain. The second document is a letter to President Washington signed by Chief Justice John Jay.

George Washington [The Constable-Hamilton Portrait]
The portrait of George Washington was painted in Philadelphia in 1797 by artist Gilbert Stuart. New York merchant William Kerin Constable commissioned the portrait for Alexander Hamilton. The portrait is on loan from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

The Clinton Center is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

19th Amendment at Clinton Library and Clinton School

From last Friday through tomorrow (Wednesday, October 24), the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum is exhibiting one of our nation’s treasures, the original 19th Amendment to the Constitution (which gave women the right to vote).  The document is on loan from the National Archives and Records Administration.

This evening at 6pm, Bernadette Cahill, author of “The Truth about the Nineteenth Amendment”  will be a guest lecturer at the Clinton School of Public Service.

A special complimentary viewing opportunity will be extended today from 4:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. Other times regular admission fees apply – $7.00 for adults, $5.00 for senior citizens 62+ and retired military with ID, as well as groups of 20 or more with advance reservations.  Children 6 and older are $3.00. Children under 6 and active military are free.

Beginning in the 1800s, women organized, petitioned, and picketed to win the right to vote, but it took then decades to accomplish their purpose. Between 1878, when the amendment was first introduced in Congress, and August 18, 1920, when it was ratified, champions of voting rights for women worked tirelessly.

On May 21, 1919, the House of Representatives passed the amendment, and 2 weeks later, the Senate followed.  When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920, the amendment passed its final hurdle of obtaining the agreement of three-fourths of the states.

Arts & Humanities Month: Clinton Presidential Center

The William J. Clinton Presidential Center offers visitors a variety of permanent and temporary exhibits, lectures, the official archives of the Clinton presidency, special events and a restaurant.

The facility consists of 20,000 square feet of exhibit space, including a White House Cabinet Room reconstruction and a full-scale replica of the Oval Office. The permanent exhibits are divided into the following areas: the Campaign, Inauguration, the Vice President, White House at Work, Life in the White House, and the Work Continues.  There is also a film produced by award-winning filmmaker Harry Thomason which introduces visitors to Clinton and the Clinton Library.  (As hard as it is to believe, there are now voters who were born during the Clinton White House years.)

LEGO Clinton Library

Currently the temporary exhibit “Nathan Sawaya’s Art of the Brick” features a variety of structures that this lawyer-turned-artist has created out of LEGOs.

LEGO Clinton portrait

The Clinton President Center is open for exhibits from 9am to 5pm on Monday through Saturday and from 1pm to 5pm on Sunday.  Prices range from $3 to $7 with active US military and children under 6 admitted for free.

Forty-Two is the restaurant at the Clinton Presidential Center.  It is open from 11am to 2pm seven days a week.  Lunch is served Mondays through Saturdays with a brunch served on Sunday.  Forty-Two also offers special events such as cooking demonstrations, kids chef camps, and Around the World Thursdays one night each month.

LEGO Clinton Museum Store

The Clinton Museum Store is located down the street from the Clinton Presidential Center. It is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5:30pm, and Sunday from 2pm to 5:30pm. It is the official gift shop of the Clinton Presidential Center.  (Federal law prohibits the sale of merchandise on National Archives property.)  It features a variety of merchandise celebrating not only the Clinton presidency, but also politics, political parties (Democrat and Republican), and issues which are important to Bill Clinton.