Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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Little Rock Look Back: Benjamin Harrison becomes first sitting president 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.


Little Rock Look Back: Mayor William Whipple

whippleOn August 4, 1834, future Little Rock Mayor William G. Whipple was born in Connecticut.  He attended school in Massachusetts and graduated from Wesleyan University. After studying law at Albany Law School, he moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In 1868, Whipple moved to Little Rock following the 1866 death of his first wife in Wisconsin. Long active in Republican politics, he quickly became involved in Little Rock’s political and social life.  Shortly after his arrival he was appointed United States Attorney and served three years.

In 1870, he married Mary S. Dodge, daughter of former mayor Roderick Lathrop Dodge MD.  They had one son Durand, who followed his father into the legal profession. The Whipples were active members of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

In 1887, Whipple was elected Mayor of Little Rock and was re-elected two years later.  Whipple’s mayoral administration introduced electric lighting to the city beginning on September 1, 1887, paved many streets with granite and macadam, created sixty miles of new brick and concrete sidewalks, and introduced a steam dummy railway.

In 1892, he ran for Governor of Arkansas as the Republican nominee but was unsuccessful.  In 1895, he sought a third term for Mayor but was defeated by James A. Woodson.

From 1897 to 1900, he served as register of the US Land Office in Arkansas.  Whipple, who had long practiced law, was appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas in 1900.  He served in that capacity until 1913.

In July 1914, Mayor Whipple died.  He is buried at Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock.


Little Rock Look Back: Mayor James A. Woodson

IMG_0298On July 14, 1848, future Little Rock Mayor James Alexander Woodson was born in North Carolina.  The son of two prominent eastern families, he and his parents moved to Pine Bluff in 1849.  His father died within two weeks of the family’s arrival in Arkansas.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted as a drummer boy in the Ninth Arkansas infantry but was discharged because of his youth. He worked as a clerk at a general store in Pine Bluff. After the Civil War ended, he attended school in Virginia and Maryland before returning Pine Bluff. Upon his return he worked in the steamboat business and eventually started working in railroads. He was instrumental in putting together one of the forerunners of the Missouri Pacific Railroad and worked for them for 18 years.

Woodson moved to Little Rock in March 1881 and continued working for the railroad until 1891.  Working in the mercantile business allowed him more time to be engaged in civic affairs.  In 1895 he was elected mayor.   He handily defeated former mayor W. G. Whipple who was seeking to return to office.

During Mayor Woodson’s tenure, he oversaw renovations of the 1867 Little Rock City Hall (which was located at the time on the north side of Markham between Main Street and Louisiana Street).  He also championed the construction of a city hospital and the first free bridge across the Arkansas River.  Mayor Woodson was reelected in April 1897 and April 1899.

In April 1890, he resigned to take over the Arkansas and Southwestern Railway.  After restoring it to sound financial footing, he later led the Arkansas Asphalt Company.  That company provided the first asphalt for paving Little Rock city streets.

Woodson served as a director of the Little Rock board of trade (forerunner to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce), director of the Mercantile Trust Company and president of the state board of trade (forerunner of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce).

Woodson married Virginia Lanier in 1868.  They had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood.  Mayor Woodson died on October 19, 1908 and is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery.  His wife lived until 1937 and is buried next to him.  Also buried in Mount Holly are their children James Alexander Woodson, Benjamin Morehead Woodson and Gertrude Woodson Hardeman; each of whom died before their mother.  Mrs. Hardeman’s husband and son are also buried in Mount Holly.

In 2013 and 2014, Mayor Woodson was one of the characters portrayed at the annual Parkview High School “Tales from the Crypt” program at Mount Holly.

Some have noted his resemblance to actor Nick Offerman of the show “Parks and Recreation.”  Here is a Six Degrees game to link the two.

  • James Woodson
  • The Woodson community and Woodson Lateral is named for him
  • Growing up in the area, actor Billy Bob Thornton has been to Woodson Lateral
  • Bruce Willis appeared in BANDITS with Thornton.
  • “Friends” featured Willis and Paul Rudd as multi-episode guest stars
  • Rudd appeared in “Parks & Recreation” as a multi-episode guest star
  • Nick Offerman starred in “Parks & Recreation”


Little Rock Look Back: President Benjamin Harrison becomes first sitting president to visit LR

Benjamin-Harrison-by-Joseph-Gray-Kitchell-1897-358x426On 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 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.


Little Rock Look Back: William G. Whipple – LR’s 34th Mayor

whippleOn August 4, 1834, future Little Rock Mayor William G. Whipple was born in Connecticut.  He attended school in Massachusetts and graduated from Wesleyan University. After studying law at Albany Law School, he moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In 1868, Whipple moved to Little Rock following the 1866 death of his first wife in Wisconsin. Long active in Republican politics, he quickly became involved in Little Rock’s political and social life.  Shortly after his arrival he was appointed United States Attorney and served three years.

In 1870, he married Mary S. Dodge, daughter of former mayor Roderick Lathrop Dodge MD.  They had one son Durand, who followed his father into the legal profession. The Whipples were active members of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

In 1887, Whipple was elected Mayor of Little Rock and was re-elected two years later.  Whipple’s mayoral administration introduced electric lighting to the city beginning on September 1, 1887, paved many streets with granite and macadam, created sixty miles of new brick and concrete sidewalks, and introduced a steam dummy railway.

In 1892, he ran for Governor of Arkansas as the Republican nominee but was unsuccessful.  In 1895, he sought a third term for Mayor but was defeated by James A. Woodson.

From 1897 to 1900, he served as register of the US Land Office in Arkansas.  Whipple, who had long practiced law, was appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas in 1900.  He served in that capacity until 1913.

In July 1914, Mayor Whipple died.  He is buried at Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock.


Little Rock Look Back: James A. Woodson, LR’s 37th Mayor

IMG_0298On July 14, 1848, future Little Rock Mayor James Alexander Woodson was born in North Carolina.  The son of two prominent eastern families, he and his parents moved to Pine Bluff in 1849.  His father died within two weeks of the family’s arrival in Arkansas.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted as a drummer boy in the Ninth Arkansas infantry but was discharged because of his youth. He worked as a clerk at a general store in Pine Bluff. After the Civil War ended, he attended school in Virginia and Maryland before returning Pine Bluff. Upon his return he worked in the steamboat business and eventually started working in railroads. He was instrumental in putting together one of the forerunners of the Missouri Pacific Railroad and worked for them for 18 years.

Woodson moved to Little Rock in March 1881 and continued working for the railroad until 1891.  Working in the mercantile business allowed him more time to be engaged in civic affairs.  In 1895 he was elected mayor.   He handily defeated former mayor W. G. Whipple who was seeking to return to office.

During Mayor Woodson’s tenure, he oversaw renovations of the 1867 Little Rock City Hall (which was located at the time on the north side of Markham between Main Street and Louisiana Street).  He also championed the construction of a city hospital and the first free bridge across the Arkansas River.  Mayor Woodson was reelected in April 1897 and April 1899.

In April 1890, he resigned to take over the Arkansas and Southwestern Railway.  After restoring it to sound financial footing, he later led the Arkansas Asphalt Company.  That company provided the first asphalt for paving Little Rock city streets.

Woodson served as a director of the Little Rock board of trade (forerunner to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce), director of the Mercantile Trust Company and president of the state board of trade (forerunner of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce).

Woodson married Virginia Lanier in 1868.  They had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood.  Mayor Woodson died on October 19, 1908 and is buried in Mt. Holly Cemetery.  His wife lived until 1937 and is buried next to him.  Also buried in Mount Holly are their children James Alexander Woodson, Benjamin Morehead Woodson and Gertrude Woodson Hardeman; each of whom died before their mother.  Mrs. Hardeman’s husband and son are also buried in Mount Holly.

In 2013, Mayor Woodson was one of the characters portrayed at the annual Parkview High School “Tales from the Crypt” program at Mount Holly.


Little Rock Look Back: Mayor William G. Whipple

whippleOn August 4, 1834, future Little Rock Mayor William G. Whipple was born in Connecticut.  He attended school in Massachusetts and graduated from Wesleyan University. After studying law at Albany Law School, he moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In 1868, Whipple moved to Little Rock following the 1866 death of his first wife in Wisconsin. Long active in Republican politics, he quickly became involved in Little Rock’s political and social life.  Shortly after his arrival he was appointed United States Attorney and served three years.

In 1870, he married Mary S. Dodge, daughter of former mayor Roderick Lathrop Dodge MD.  They had one son Durand, who followed his father into the legal profession. The Whipple family were active members of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

In 1887, Whipple was elected Mayor of Little Rock and was re-elected two years later.  During this time period, electric lighting was introduced to Little Rock (September 1, 1887), streets were paved, and new brick and concrete sidewalks were installed.

Whipple’s mayoral administration introduced electric lighting to the city beginning on September 1, 1887, paved many streets with granite and macadam, created sixty miles of new brick and concrete sidewalks, and introduced a steam dummy railway.

In 1892, he ran for Governor of Arkansas as the Republican nominee but was unsuccessful.  In 1895, he sought a third term for Mayor but was defeated by James A. Woodson.

From 1897 to 1900, he served as register of the US Land Office in Arkansas.  Whipple, who had long practiced law, was appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas in 1900.  He served in that capacity until 1913.

In July 1914, Mayor Whipple died.  He is buried at Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock.