Thursday, February 23, 2012
This morning we drove from Memphis to Conway, Arkansas, where we heard Susan Eisenhower speak about her grandfather, President Eisenhower, and his role in the integration of Little Rock Central High. The event was hosted by the University of Central Arkansas, and was timed to coincide roughly with the 55th anniversary of Little Rock’s integration.
Ms. Eisenhower is an historian and expert in International Relations, and it was nice to hear her historical and personal accounts of her grandfather’s actions.
The events were brought to an even more personal level, however, by the presence of Elizabeth Eckford in the row immediately in front of us. Ms. Eckford, of course, was one of the Little Rock Nine, one of the few students specifically selected to attend what was then an all-white school. The photo of her being screamed at by a white student as she entered the school is one of the iconic images of the Civil Rights movement.
We were able to meet Ms. Eckford, speak with her, and take a photograph with her. She also signed the program, as did Ms. Eisenhower. It was a great experience.
Following the event at the University of Central Arkansas, we traveled to Little Rock where we got an exclusive tour of the Governor’s Mansion. The mansion, which is made up of 300,000 bricks, was completed in 1950 and the first governor to live in it was Sid McMath. Since then, the mansion added a foyer and a grand hall, one that was very impressive. My favorite item in the mansion was the chandelier in the foyer from Paris which took over 3 months to piece together. However, the chandelier in the Grand Hall was made in Dallas, Texas which was twice as big – Everything is bigger in Texas!
By mid-afternoon, with our day already shaping as a busy one, we toured Little Rock Central High and its accompanying museum. There, I learned that the 101st Airborne Division from Ft. Campbell, KY—the Screaming Eagles—were the ones that secured the school and escorted the Little Rock Nine to school. Ike, of course, commanded them to assist with the integration, just as he had ordered them a decade before to liberate Europe.
We later visited Pugh’s Old Mill that was featured in the Gone with the Wind. Pugh’s Mill was simply breath taking. Many nuptial festivities have taken place in the North Little Rock area park, and for good reason. It’s a beautiful park, with many picturesque features.
The original architecture for the mill was done by Justin Matthews and the details were sculpted by Senor Dionico Rodriguez. The park is adorned with bridges that are molded concrete, designed to resemble sculpted wood. We took numerous photographs highlighting the beauty of the park. This by far has been my favorite location/stop on the trip, and I would love to return. I suggest any fan of Gone with the Wind should visit the park.
Before going to dinner we stopped by the River Market to tour the riverside district and walk on Junction Bridge overlooking the Arkansas River.
For dinner, we ate at Damgoode Pies where I split a supreme pizza with Lauren and ordered a half-dozen hot wings. Soon after, we made it back to Conway and are now preparing for a day full of festivities, beginning with a 6:00 am hike to a waterfall.