Little Rock Look Back: Dan Sprick

Future Little Rock Mayor Dan T. Sprick was born on May 19, 1902.  He served three terms on the Little Rock City Council (from 1935 to 1941).  In 1945, he was elected Mayor of Little Rock and served one term. During his tenure on the City Council, he was the sole vote against locating Robinson Auditorium at Markham and Broadway.  He had favored another location.

He was not alone, however, in being held in contempt of court and spending part of the day in jail.  On Monday, December 4, a dozen of Little Rock’s aldermen (which included Sprick) reported to the county jail to serve sentences for contempt of court. The previous Monday, the twelve council members had voted against an ordinance which had been ordered by the judge in an improvement district matter. The other aldermen had either voted in the affirmative or had been absent. Because the twelve had refused to change their votes since that meeting, the judge ordered them jailed.  After the aldermen changed their votes later in the day, they were freed.

His tenure as Mayor was relatively quiet. He took office the same month that World War II ended. While in office, the Sprick administration was marked by growth in the city budget and in city positions. As a part of that growth, there were many more new purchases taking place which had prompted extra scrutiny of the City’s purchasing procedures. A thorough investigation toward the end of his tenure found no malfeasance or misfeasance, it did note that the city needed to do a better job of anticipating cash flow. Much of the City’s focus during the Sprick tenure was on growth and keeping up infrastructure needs.

Sprick later served for ten years in the Arkansas State Senate (from 1961 to 1970).  During his tenure in the Senate, Sprick was closely aligned with Gov. Orval Faubus.  When the Little Rock high schools had been closed a year to ensure segregation, Sprick had served on the board of a private school set up by some of the leaders of the segregation movement.

His time in the Senate was also marked by controversy.  He was one of three Senators to opposed Muhammad Ali’s speaking at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.  After an Arkansas Gazette editorial lambasted him, Sprick sued the paper for libel. The Gazette settled with him out of court because his health was poor.

One of the landmark pieces of legislation he guided through the Arkansas General Assembly allowed cities to collect advertising and promotion taxes.  The 1972 and 1973 upgrades to Robinson Center were funded by this tax (as have some subsequent upgrades). So the building he voted against while on the LR City Council benefited from legislation he championed while in the General Assembly.

Sprick died in January 1972.

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Women Making History: Rev. Dr. Peggy S. Bosmyer

In 1977, Peggy S. Bosmyer was ordained an Episcopal priest at Little Rock’s Trinity Cathedral.  Not only was she the first woman in Arkansas to be ordained to a full priesthood in the Episcopal Church, she was the first woman south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Born in Helena, she was a graduate of the University of Arkansas and Virginia Theological Seminary.  She served as a deacon at Grace Episcopal in Pine Bluff before serving as a curate at Little Rock’s St. Mark’s Episcopal.  In 1976, the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women to the priesthood. It was after that she was able to be ordained in 1977.  Her ordination was front page news in the Arkansas Gazette.

Following ordination, she was appointed Vicar of Little Rock’s St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, then a part-time position. She also served as a program director for the Diocese of Arkansas, which included oversight of Camp Mitchell.  In 1985, Rev. Bosmyer was appointed full-time Vicar of St. Michael’s.  Nine years later, she left Little Rock to be a professor on the faculty of the School of Theology at the University of the South.  While there she served as Co-Vicar of St. James at Sewanee. She also received her Doctor of Divinity from the University of the South in 1999.

Rev. Dr. Bosmyer returned to Little Rock in 2001 to be Vicar of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church.  She held that position until her death in December 2008 from pancreatic cancer.  She is interred at the columbarium of St. Margaret’s.  She was survived by her husband of 24 years, Reverend Dr. Dennis Campbell, and four children.

She was not only one of the first female Episcopal priests in the U.S, she was on the forefront of women serving as ordained priests and preachers in mainline denominations.  Certainly her ordination was not without controversy. There are still those who disagree with women serving as priests (though likely few remain within the Episcopal church).

The legacy of Rev. Dr. Bosmyer continues today with the women serving as rectors, vicars, priests in charge, and associate rectors throughout the state of Arkansas.  While Arkansas has not had a woman serve as Bishop, Rev. Dr. Katherine Jefferts Schori served as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church from 2006 to 2015.

Women Making History: Stephanie S. Streett

Stephanie S. Streett is the executive director of the Clinton Foundation. In this role she oversees the day-to-day operations of the Clinton Presidential Center, including the development and implementation of its educational programs, special events, exhibits, and services as well as staff management.

She establishes and cultivates strategic partnerships and cooperative arrangements with state and local governments, the non-profit and private sector, community groups and other organizations. Stephanie also serves as the corporate secretary for the Clinton Foundation Board of Directors.

Stephanie has used her position to broaden culture in Little Rock through the wide variety of exhibits which the Clinton Center has hosted. A wide variety of styles of visual arts, design, contemporary craft, sports, science and history have been showcased in exhibits at the Clinton Center.  She also was instrumental in planning the special events in conjunction with the Clinton Center 10th Anniversary in 2014 and the 2017 celebration of the 25th anniversary of President Clinton’s election.

In addition, she has been active in promoting partnerships with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Together with Kaki Hockersmith, she has facilitated several seminars which have brought key Kennedy Center leaders to Little Rock.  Together they lead the effort known as Fusion: Arts + Humanities Arkansas. Now in its second year, Fusion promotes heritage and culture and celebrates human achievement by weaving the arts and humanities together.

She has been the president of the University of Arkansas Alumni Association National Board of Directors and is co-chair of the Board of Directors for City Year Little Rock. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Downtown Partnership of Little Rock and is a member of the International Women’s Forum Arkansas.  In April 2018, she was honored with the 2018 City Year Little Rock Lifetime of Service Award at the Red Jacket Ball.

Little Rock Look Back: Creation of War Memorial Stadium approved

On March 18, 1947, Governor Ben T. Laney signed the bill into law which authorized the construction of War Memorial Stadium.

The plans for the stadium were the brainchild of Arkansas Secretary of State C.G. “Crip” Hall and University of Arkansas Athletic Director John Barnhill.

Apparently the Southwest Conference was threatening to kick Arkansas out because of an inadequate football facility. Since the University did not have the funds to build a new one on its campus, Barnhill and Hall decided that the state should build one. Many other states were building War Memorial facilities of a variety of natures. The duo decided that the new football facility could be a War Memorial Stadium to pay tribute to the men who died in the recently concluded World War II.  While the stadium was touted as being of use to all colleges in the state and a variety of other types of activities, it was very much designed to be a home for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Getting the stadium through the Arkansas General Assembly was not easy.  The bill to create the stadium commission sailed through both houses. But even some who voted for it said they would oppose any funding bills.  When time came to vote for the funding, the bill fell far short of the three-quarters vote that was needed in the House for an appropriation bill.

WWII veterans were on both sides of the issue.  Some felt it was an appropriate way to honor those who died.  Others felt it was a gimmick to get the stadium approved.  Some of the opponents felt that a new state hospital for UAMS would be the more appropriate way to honor those who died during the war.  The debates were often heated and personal.

Overnight a new bill was created. It would pay for the stadium through the issuing of bonds. In addition to the state issuing bonds, any city which wished to bid for it would have to put up money for it as well as provide land.  This new bill would require only 51 votes to pass the House.  It was able to pass that threshold.  The Senate made a few amendments (mostly dealing with the composition of the stadium commission and the amount of dollars that the host city had to pledge).  Finally the House agreed to the Senate amendments and it went to Governor Laney.

The next hurdle for the stadium was choosing a location. That process would occupy stadium proponents throughout the spring and summer of 1947.

Women Making History – Erle Chambers

First woman sworn in as a member of the Arkansas General Assembly: Erle Chambers.

Miss Chambers of Little Rock was elected in 1922 at the same time as Frances Hunt of Pine Bluff. But because members were sworn in based on their last names, she was actually sworn in first.

She had trained as an attorney at both the University of Arkansas and the University of Chicago, but never practiced law.  She served as Pulaski County probation officer from 1913 until 1917. At that time, she went to work for the Tuberculosis Association, where she would work until her death in 1941.

Miss Chambers served in the Arkansas General Assembly from 1923 until 1926.

Rock the Oscars 2019: Roy Reed

It is possible that journalist extraordinaire Roy Reed appears in archival footage of the Oscar winning documentary “Nine from Little Rock” (Documentary, Short-1964) and Oscar nominated Eyes on the Prize: Bridge to Freedom 1965 (Documentary, Feature-1988).  First for the Arkansas Gazette and then for The New York Times, Reed was an eyewitness to history being made.  What is not in doubt is that he is a character in the Oscar winning film Selma.  In that movie, he was played by actor John Lavelle.

Roy Reed was born on February 14, 1930, in Hot Springs and grew up in Garland County. After attending Ouachita Baptist College and the University of Missouri (from which he would receive a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Journalism), Reed worked for a newspaper in Joplin and served in the US Army.  In 1956, he returned to Arkansas to work for the Arkansas Gazette.

While he did not specifically cover the integration of Little Rock Central High in 1957, he was part of the paper’s coverage of civil rights. He later was assigned to cover the Faubus administration.  In 1965, he was hired by The New York Times and covered the South. He covered the historic Freedom March to the state Capitol in Montgomery in March 1965.  After spending 1965 and 1966 in the South, he was assigned to the Times’ Washington DC bureau.  In 1969, he moved to New Orleans to open a Southern bureau for the paper.  He remained in the Crescent City until 1976, when he was transferred to the London bureau.

After retiring in 1978, he moved to Northwest Arkansas and taught journalism at the University of Arkansas until 1995.  Reed continued to write essays and books including Faubus: The Life and Times of an American Prodigal (1997),  Looking Back at the Arkansas Gazette: An Oral History (2009) and Beware of Limbo Dancers: A Correspondent’s Adventures with the New York Times (2012).  Reed died in December 2017.