110 years since President Taft visited Little Rock

One hundred and ten years ago today (October 24, 1909), William Howard Taft became the third sitting president to visit Little Rock. His visit is the shortest presidential visit to the city, to date.

In this day of touchdowns at airports by politicians on the political stump, it is interesting to note that the shortest visit was made on a train. It was a true “whistle stop” visit.

Taft’s train arrived at Union Station (then a new building, it burned in 1920 and was subsequently replaced by the one currently standing on that site) in Little Rock to a crowd of 15,000.

President Taft stepped from the train, made brief remarks in a hoarse voice that few heard, stepped back onto the train and departed.

That same day he spoke in Texarkana and Arkadelphia. He was on his way to Helena to speak at a ceremony.

JFK in LR

On October 3, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered remarks at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds.  Only a few weeks later, he would be felled by an assassins bullet in Texas.

In the speech, the President praised Arkansas’ congressional delegation including Senators John McClellan and J. William Fulbright and Congressmen Took Gathings, Bill Trimble, Wilbur Mills and Oren Harris.  Each of these men held senior leadership positions in key committees.  The main focus of the speech was to discuss President Kennedy’s vision for a new economy in the South.

The President was actually in the state to speak at the dedication of the Greers Ferry Dam. He agreed to make that appearance as a part of a negotiation with Congressman Mills as they were deadlocked over changes to the tax code.  He had previously visited Little Rock in 1957 when he came to the state to address the Arkansas Bar Association meeting in Hot Springs.

President Kennedy continued the string of 20th Century Presidents to visit Little Rock.  Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman had all visited while in office.  Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower all visited prior to attaining the presidency.

Little Rock Look Back: TR in LR AR

On October 25, 1905, President Teddy Roosevelt, recently elected to a four year term in his own right, made an appearance in Little Rock.

He was greeted at the train station by Governor Jeff Davis and was the guest of honor in a parade up Main Street to City Park (now MacArthur Park) in where a public meeting was held featuring remarks by the President.  During this remarks, speaking to a largely Democratic crowd, the Republican Roosevelt noted: “The candidate is the candidate of a party; but if the president is worth his salt he is the president of the whole people.”

According to media reports at the time, Main Street from Markham to Tenth was a solid mass of cheering spectators for the parade.  This was the first time a sitting President had spent time in Little Rock away from a train station. The only other incumbent President to visit Little Rock had been Benjamin Harrison, who had made only a brief layover.

Roosevelt would make three more visits to Arkansas.  In 1910, he spoke at the Arkansas State Fair in Hot Springs.  In April and September 1912, he made several campaign stops in the state as he was running to reclaim the presidency, this time heading the Progressive (or Bull Moose) ticket.  Though Roosevelt’s successor, William Howard Taft, would visit briefly once in office and once after leaving office, it would not be until Roosevelt’s cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited in 1936, that another sitting President spent much time in the state after TR’s 1905 visit.

Little Rock Look Back: Taft stops in Little Rock

One hundred and nine years ago today (October 24, 1909), William Howard Taft became the third sitting president to visit Little Rock. His visit is the shortest presidential visit to the city, to date.

In this day of touchdowns at airports by politicians on the political stump, it is interesting to note that the shortest visit was made on a train. It was a true “whistle stop” visit.

Taft’s train arrived at Union Station (then a new building, it burned in 1920 and was replaced by the one standing there today) in Little Rock to a crowd of 15,000.

President Taft stepped from the train, made brief remarks in a hoarse voice that few heard, stepped back onto the train and departed.

That same day he spoke in Texarkana and Arkadelphia. He was on his way to Helena to speak at a ceremony.

JFK in ARK (and specifically LR)

On October 3, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered remarks at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds.  Only a few weeks later, he would be felled by an assassins bullet in Texas.

In the speech, the President praised Arkansas’ congressional delegation including Senators John McClellan and J. William Fulbright and Congressmen Took Gathings, Bill Trimble, Wilbur Mills and Oren Harris.  Each of these men held senior leadership positions in key committees.  The main focus of the speech was to discuss President Kennedy’s vision for a new economy in the South.

The President was actually in the state to speak at the dedication of the Greers Ferry Dam. He agreed to make that appearance as a part of a negotiation with Congressman Mills as they were deadlocked over changes to the tax code.  He had previously visited Little Rock in 1957 when he came to the state to address the Arkansas Bar Association meeting in Hot Springs.

President Kennedy continued the string of 20th Century Presidents to visit Little Rock.  Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman had all visited while in office.  Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower all visited prior to attaining the presidency.

Little Rock Look Back: Taft in Town

One hundred and eight years ago today (October 24, 1909), William Howard Taft became the third sitting president to visit Little Rock. His visit is the shortest presidential visit to the city, to date. 

 In this day of touchdowns at airports by politicians on the political stump, it is interesting to note that the shortest visit was made on a train. It was a true “whistle stop” visit.
Taft’s train arrived at Union Station (then a new building, it burned in 1920 and was replaced by the one standing there today) in Little Rock to a crowd of 15,000. President Taft stepped from the train, made brief remarks in a hoarse voice that few heard, stepped back onto the train and departed.

That same day he spoke in Texarkana and Arkadelphia. He was on his way to Helena to speak at a ceremony.