Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Little Rock Look Back: Grant in Little Rock (but not the Capital Hotel elevator)

On April 15, 1880, former president Ulysses S. Grant spoke in Little Rock as part of his world tour. While here he made a couple of appearances and participated in a parade. It was Grant’s first visit to Arkansas either as a soldier or a politician.

At his outdoor speech, his remarks followed brief comments by Governor William R. Miller and Mayor John Gould Fletcher (erroneously referred to as John C. Fletcher in the Memphis Appeal story the next day). Grant’s comments were brief and flowery. He thanked Arkansans for a warm welcome, praised the future prospects of Arkansas and discussed the demise of what he termed “sectionalism” which was undoubtedly a reference to the division between the Union and and former Confederate states.

Also that day, Grant addressed a banquet in Concordia Hall (now part of the Arkansas Studies Institute complex on the Central Arkansas Library downtown campus). His was one of fifteen toasts that evening. It was simply “The United States of America, forever United.” He expounded briefly on the theme of unity of citizens from all states. He also discussed immigration noting, “All foreigners find a welcome here. We make them American citizens. After we receive them, it is but one generation until they are Americans.” He noted that he could speak much more on the topic, but that since he was but one of fifteen toasts and that there was to be music after each toast, “It will be to-morrow (sic) morning when we get through if we all take as much time as the subjects admit of.”

Not everyone was thrilled to have the former commander of the Union Army in Little Rock. The story goes that when he was parading down the street, some Little Rock women (in a display of Souther un-hospitality) sat in chairs with their backs to the parade route. But all in all, it appears to have been a successful visit for the man who was the only Republican in the 19th Century to win Arkansas’ Electoral votes.Grant arrived in Little Rock on the night of April 14 and lodged at the Capital Hotel. He undoubtedly enjoyed some whiskey and cigars while at the Capital. Grant had originally planned on departing in the afternoon of April 15, but Little Rock leaders pled with him to stay so that he could be honored at the banquet. He assented.

Incidentally, there is an urban myth that, while in Little Rock, General Grant rode his horse in the oversized elevator of the Capital Hotel.  This is a relatively recent story. The oversized elevator was not installed until the 1980s, over 100 years after Gen. Grant was a guest of the facility.


Little Rock Look Back: Ike in Little Rock

Detail from UPI photo of General Eisenhower following his address.

Detail from UPI photo of General Eisenhower following his address.

If Ike, Little Rock and September are considered, it is usually in reference to his role in the desegregation of Little Rock Central High in September 1957.  But five years earlier, he appeared in Little Rock on September 3, 1952.

General Eisenhower’s speech to 14,000 in MacArthur Park was the final leg in his swing through the South on his campaign for the White House.  He became the third presidential candidate to visit MacArthur Park in 1952 following General MacArthur (in his ill-fated attempt to gain traction as a GOP candidate during the delegate selection process) and Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson.

He visited every southern state except Mississippi on this campaign jaunt.  In comments that neither he nor his audience could have foreseen as prescient, Eisenhower declared that he deplored the government meddling in areas in which it did not belong.  This remark was made in reference to race relations.  His stance was that some rights of minorities should be protected, but it was not necessarily the role of the federal government.

Ike proffered that if white southerners did not protect the rights of African Americans they were in danger of losing their own rights, too.  In the era of the Cold War when people were worried about the imminent loss of rights, this message seems to have crafted to appeal to those concerns.  While Eisenhower did not shy away from addressing civil rights, his Democratic opponent Adlai Stevenson was silent on the issue.  But with Alabama segregationist Senator John Sparkman as his running mate, it put Stevenson in a difficult position to try to bring it up.

In the end, Ike lost most of the South.  He did carry Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida. The only states Stevenson won were in the South.  Eisenhower’s 43.74% of the Arkansas popular vote was the highest any Republican had garnered since General Grant carried the state in 1868 and 1872.

 


Little Rock Look Back: Ulysses S. Grant

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On April 27, 1822, future US President Ulysses S. Grant was born.  His birth name of Hiram Ulysses Grant. There are various stories as to the reason for the change, but was is not in dispute is that as an adult his name was Ulysses Simpson Grant.  Simpson was his mother’s maiden name.

After leadership in the Mexican-American War, Grant retired from the Army. He rejoined after the Civil War broke out.  After success in Kentucky, Tennessee and the Siege of Vicksburg, President Lincoln promoted Grant to Commanding General of the US.  After the war ended, he led the Army’s efforts during Reconstruction.

Elected president in 1868 and reelected in 1872, Grant stabilized the nation during the turbulent Reconstruction period.  As President, he continued Reconstruction efforts as well as oversaw efforts to reduce frontier violence (though the Great Sioux War did take place during his presidency).  He restored relations with Great Britain and avoided war with Spain, but was unsuccessful in annexing the Dominican Republic. While he staved off immediate problems from the Panic of 1873, the country still fell into a five year economic depression.

Out of the White House for four years, he sought a return in 1880. He was not successful in obtaining the GOP nomination.  Likely in an effort to build support for his Presidential quest, he embarked on a nationwide tour.  On April 15, 1880, he spoke in Little Rock. It was his first visit to Arkansas either as a soldier or a politician.  He spoke at Concordia Hall (now part of the CALS campus) and stayed at the Capital Hotel during this visit. Though he had not visited previously, Grant did become the first Republican Presidential candidate to win Arkansas’ electoral votes in 1868; he repeated this feat in 1872. It would be 100 years later, with Nixon’s second term, that Arkansas would cast her electoral votes for the GOP nominee.

General Grant died on July 23, 1885.  Grant Street in Little Rock is named for him.


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Little Rock Look Back: Gen. Grant speaks in Little Rock but does not ride horse in Capital Hotel elevator

US_Grant_fOn April 15, 1880, former president Ulysses S. Grant spoke in Little Rock as part of his world tour. While here he made a couple of appearances and participated in a parade. It was Grant’s first visit to Arkansas either as a soldier or a politician.

At his outdoor speech, his remarks followed brief comments by Governor William R. Miller and Mayor John Gould Fletcher (erroneously referred to as John C. Fletcher in the Memphis Appeal story the next day). Grant’s comments were brief and flowery. He thanked Arkansans for a warm welcome, praised the future prospects of Arkansas and discussed the demise of what he termed “sectionalism” which was undoubtedly a reference to the division between the Union and and former Confederate states.

Also that day, Grant addressed a banquet in Concordia Hall (now part of the Arkansas Studies Institute complex on the Central Arkansas Library downtown campus). His was one of fifteen toasts that evening. It was simply “The United States of America, forever United.” He expounded briefly on the theme of unity of citizens from all states. He also discussed immigration noting, “All foreigners find a welcome here. We make them American citizens. After we receive them, it is but one generation until they are Americans.” He noted that he could speak much more on the topic, but that since he was but one of fifteen toasts and that there was to be music after each toast, “It will be to-morrow (sic) morning when we get through if we all take as much time as the subjects admit of.”

Not everyone was thrilled to have the former commander of the Union Army in Little Rock. The story goes that when he was parading down the street, some Little Rock women (in a display of Souther un-hospitality) sat in chairs with their backs to the parade route. But all in all, it appears to have been a successful visit for the man who was the only Republican in the 19th Century to win Arkansas’ Electoral votes.Grant arrived in Little Rock on the night of April 14 and lodged at the Capital Hotel. He undoubtedly enjoyed some whiskey and cigars while at the Capital. Grant had originally planned on departing in the afternoon of April 15, but Little Rock leaders pled with him to stay so that he could be honored at the banquet. He assented.

Incidentally, there is an urban myth that, while in Little Rock, General Grant rode his horse in the oversized elevator of the Capital Hotel.  This is a relatively recent story. The oversized elevator was not installed until the 1980s, over 100 years after Gen. Grant was a guest of the facility.


Little Rock Look Back: President Ronald W. Reagan

RWR 40On February 6, 1911, future U.S. President Ronald Wilson Reagan was born. His life took him from small town Illinois, to Hollywood in the last days of the Golden Age of the studio system, to politics, to the California State House, to the White House.

On November 3, 1984, he became the first sitting U.S. President to spend a night in Little Rock. He stayed at the Excelsior Hotel (now Marriott Downtown) before making a campaign speech on November 4.  His only special requests for the room were jelly beans and ginger ale.  His speech was in the Statehouse Convention Center, which had opened less than two years earlier.

In 1980, Reagan had become only the third Republican to win Arkansas’ electoral votes (after Grant in 1868 and 1872 and Nixon in 1972). He was expected to easily win them again in 1984.  The main purpose of his speech on the Saturday before election Day was to drum up support for other GOP candidates in the state.  While he carried the state and the electoral votes, none of his preferred candidates won their races in 1984.

Four years later, on October 27, 1988, he flew in to Little Rock to make remarks at Central Flying Service. The purpose this time was to campaign on behalf of GOP nominee George H. W. Bush. As Reagan had done in 1980 and 1984, Bush carried the state and won the Presidency.

In 1992, after native son Bill Clinton defeated Bush in his bid for re-election, Reagan welcomed Clinton to his office in Los Angeles.  Having served as Governor of California, he was able to relate to Clinton’s impending transition from Governor to President.

In 2004, months before the Clinton Library opened, Reagan succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease.  He had publicly disclosed he had the illness in 1994 during the second year of Clinton’s first term.  Though the Clinton Library was not open yet, the Clinton Foundation set up a memorial book at Curran Hall for people to stop by and sign. The book was then sent to the Reagan Presidential Library.


Little Rock Look Back: U S Grant speaks in Little Rock

US_Grant_fOn April 15, 1880, former president Ulysses S. Grant spoke in Little Rock as part of his world tour. While here he made a couple of appearances and participated in a parade. It was Grant’s first visit to Arkansas either as a soldier or a politician.

At his outdoor speech, his remarks followed brief comments by Governor William R. Miller and Mayor John Gould Fletcher (erroneously referred to as John C. Fletcher in the Memphis Appeal story the next day). Grant’s comments were brief and flowery. He thanked Arkansans for a warm welcome, praised the future prospects of Arkansas and discussed the demise of what he termed “sectionalism” which was undoubtedly a reference to the division between the Union and and former Confederate states.

Also that day, Grant addressed a banquet in Concordia Hall (now part of the Arkansas Studies Institute complex on the Central Arkansas Library downtown campus). His was one of fifteen toasts that evening. It was simply “The United States of America, forever United.” He expounded briefly on the theme of unity of citizens from all states. He also discussed immigration noting, “All foreigners find a welcome here. We make them American citizens. After we receive them, it is but one generation until they are Americans.” He noted that he could speak much more on the topic, but that since he was but one of fifteen toasts and that there was to be music after each toast, “It will be to-morrow (sic) orning when we get through if we all take as much time as the subjects admit of.”

Marker at the Capital Hotel noting Grant's visit. Note that it refers to him as General instead of President.  At the time, only sitting Presidents were referred to as President.

Marker at the Capital Hotel noting Grant’s visit. Notice that it refers to him as General instead of President. At the time, only sitting Presidents were referred to as President.

Grant arrived in Little Rock on the night of April 14 and lodged at the Capital Hotel. He undoubtedly enjoyed some whiskey and cigars while at the Capital. Grant had originally planned on departing in the afternoon of April 15, but Little Rock leaders pled with him to stay so that he could be honored at the banquet. He assented.

Not everyone was thrilled to have the former commander of the Union Army in Little Rock. The story goes that when he was parading down the street, some Little Rock women (in a display of Souther un-hospitality) sat in chairs with their backs to the parade route. But all in all, it appears to have been a successful visit for the man who was the only Republican in the 19th Century to win Arkansas’ Electoral votes.