Bill Clinton announces for Presidency on October 3, 1991

The Clintons following his remarks.

On October 3, 1991, Governor Bill Clinton strode out the front doors of the Old State House Museum and announced his intentions to seek the 1992 Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States.

(While Clinton was a major fan of JFK, it is doubtful he realized that his announcement took place on the 28th anniversary of JFK speaking in Little Rock.)

Clinton was the fifth major Democrat to announce for the office. That there were that many by early October was somewhat surprising considering that the first half of 1991 saw many national Democrats announce they were NOT seeking the office.

Jerry Brown, Bob Kerrey, Paul Tsongas, and Tom Harkin were also in the race.  Clinton was seen as a centrist, along with Senator Kerrey while the others were viewed as being from the far-left wing of the Democratic Party.

In its coverage of the announcement, The New York Times noted the significance of Gov. Clinton’s remarks on race.  In the speech he referenced his desire to strengthen relations and remove barriers between the races.  As the Times pointed out, it was at the Old State House that Arkansas held two conventions on the issue of secession prior to the state’s entry into the Civil War.

At the time of the announcement, Gov. Clinton was far from a front-runner. His national profile was probably the lowest of any of the announced candidates. Most of the knowledge of him outside of Little Rock came from his lengthy speech about Michael Dukakis at the 1988 Democratic Convention and the subsequent appearance on “The Tonight Show” where both he and Johnny Carson poked fun as his loquaciousness.

Regardless of their views on his chances, the Governor’s family, friends, and fans packed the front lawn of the Old State House to cheer him.  The national media treated him as a serious, albeit largely unknown, candidate.  After having had Wilbur Mills, Dale Bumpers and others flirt with running and then backing out, the local media were probably thrilled to finally have someone from Arkansas actually running for the presidency.

One local media outlet would not see much of the campaign. Just fifteen days later, the Arkansas Gazette would close. As a paper which had covered nearly two decades of his career, the Gazette was often Clinton’s champion, though the paper was not afraid to point out times the two differed.  However, there would be no Gazette headline about Clinton in New Hampshire, at the Democratic Convention, or a general election victory.

On Election Day in 1992 and again in 1996, Bill Clinton would repeat the stride out the front doors of the Old State House accompanied by his wife and daughter.  Those two times the crowds would spill down the streets in all directions. Instead of a handful of media outlets there would be scores of them.

But it all started on a sunny autumn day in Little Rock in early October 1991.

August 2nd Friday Art Night – Old State House Museum features Rodney Block Jazz Project

Join the Old State House Museum for Second Friday Art Night, Friday, August 9, from 5 to 8 p.m.

They will present the Rodney Block Jazz Project in concert!

Led by trumpet king Rodney Block, the quartet will perform their unique blend of traditional jazz, gospel, hip-hop, bebop, funk and soul, live on the iconic lawn of the
Old State House.

Little Rock Look Back: Benjamin Harrison is first current POTUS 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.

A Night at the Museum: Raiders of the Lost Arkansas – tonight at the Old State House Museum

Get ready for the next Night at the Museum on Thursday, April 4,  from 6-9 pm! This month’s theme is “Raiders of the Lost Arkansas!”

Nights at the Museum is an event for ages 21+ that offers attendees a chance to enjoy games and activities, libations, and a fun new way to interact with history. Nights at the Museum will take place on the first Thursday of each month seasonally, March-October, on the iconic front lawn of the museum.

Nights at the Museum is hosted by the Arkansas State House Society, and all proceeds will benefit the museum’s educational programs.

Admission is $5; food and beverages will be available for purchase at the event. Tickets may be purchased in advance HERE or at the gate.

The museum can validate parking at the DoubleTree Hotel; all metered parking downtown is free after 6 pm.

Little Rock Look Back: Bill Clinton Announces Run for Presidency

The Clintons following his remarks.

On October 3, 1991, Governor Bill Clinton strode out the front doors of the Old State House Museum and announced his intentions to seek the 1992 Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States.

He was the fifth major Democrat to announce for the office. That there were that many by early October was somewhat surprising considering that the first half of 1991 saw many national Democrats announce they were NOT seeking the office.

Jerry Brown, Bob Kerrey, Paul Tsongas, and Tom Harkin were also in the race.  Clinton was seen as a centrist, along with Senator Kerrey while the others were viewed as being from the far-left wing of the Democratic Party.

In its coverage of the announcement, The New York Times noted the significance of Gov. Clinton’s remarks on race.  In the speech he referenced his desire to strengthen relations and remove barriers between the races.  As the Times pointed out, it was at the Old State House that Arkansas held two conventions on the issue of secession prior to the state’s entry into the Civil War.

At the time of the announcement, Gov. Clinton was far from a frontrunner. His national profile was probably the lowest of any of the announced candidates. Most of the knowledge of him outside of Little Rock came from his lengthy speech about Michael Dukakis at the 1988 Democratic Convention and the subsequent appearance on “The Tonight Show” where both he and Johnny Carson poked fun as his loquaciousness.

Regardless of their views on his chances, the Governor’s family, friends, and fans packed the front lawn of the Old State House to cheer him.  The national media treated him as a serious, albeit largely unknown, candidate.  After having had Wilbur Mills, Dale Bumpers and others flirt with running and then backing out, the local media were probably thrilled to finally have someone from Arkansas actually running for the presidency.

One local media outlet would not see much of the campaign. Just fifteen days later, the Arkansas Gazette would close. As a paper which had covered nearly two decades of his career, the Gazette was often Clinton’s champion, though the paper was not afraid to point out times the two differed.  However, there would be no Gazette headline about Clinton in New Hampshire, at the Democratic Convention, or a general election victory.

On Election Day in 1992 and again in 1996, Bill Clinton would repeat the stride out the front doors of the Old State House accompanied by his wife and daughter.  Those two times the crowds would spill down the streets in all directions. Instead of a handful of media outlets there would be scores of them.

But it all started on a sunny autumn day in Little Rock in early October 1991.

Little Rock Look Back: Gov. Baxter returns after end of Brooks-Baxter War

On the morning of May 19, 1874, Joseph Brooks cleaned out his belongings from the gubernatorial office in the 1842 Arkansas State Capitol (now the Old State House) and disappeared to points unknown.

The beginning of the end of his stint claiming to be Arkansas Governor came on May 15 when President US Grant accepted the recommendation of his Attorney General that found Elisha Baxter was the duly elected Governor of Arkansas.

Following Brooks’s departure, the grounds and building were in shambles.  A Gazette reporter noted that barricades had been built on the lawn of the building.  The front and back doors remained, but their facings had been removed to make it easier to roll big weapons and equipment in and out of the building.

Inside, furniture was in disarray and broken.  The bookcases in the state library had been turned on their sides to serve as tables.  The reporter described the smell as composed of “a mixed perfume of sour bacon and human beings.”

In preparation for the return of Gov. Baxter, crews were busy trying to restore order in the building. The Senate Chambers were nearly put back in order that day, but the House Chambers needed more attention.

As another illustration of the disarray in state government between April 15 and May 19, the state treasurer, Henry Page, told the newspaper that he had not cut a single check at the request of the Brooks administration.  He stated that he had not denied the request, he just delayed responding to it.

Finally that day, Governor Baxter arrived at the head of a ceremonial parade of carriages.  Among those who accompanied the governor was Arkansas Gazette founder William Woodruff.  In the next carriage, future US Senator and Attorney General Augustus Garland sat with reporters from the New York Times and Arkansas Gazette.

Upon arriving at the Capitol grounds, Baxter delivered a speech.  101 guns were fired in salute to him.  The cannon on the capitol grounds (nicknamed Old Lady Baxter) was shot off several times.  A retinue of Little Rock’s ladies pulled the lanyard to detonate the cannon.

As part of President Grant’s order to end the Brooks-Baxter War, the ground was laid for a new Arkansas Constitution, the end of Reconstruction, and the re-enfranchisement of Democratic voters.  In short order, the 1874 constitution, under which Arkansas still operates, was adopted.  Many of the Republicans and African American office holders soon found themselves out of power. And African Americans were completely disenfranchised.

It would be 92 years before Arkansas would again elect a Republican to be Governor.  The adoption of the new constitution took the term of governor and other constitutional officers from four years to two years.  In 1874, he retired to Batesville and lived there until his death in 1899.  Brooks remained in Little Rock until his death in 1877.

Benjamin Harrison becomes first sitting president to visit Little Rock

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.