Thursday, February 23, 2012
We were back up and at it early again on Thursday. After a quick bite to eat we were on the road to Conway, Arkansas, home of the University of Central Arkansas. U.C.A. was hosting a speaker series entitled the Arkansas Civil Rights Symposium, and this year’s focus was the 55th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High.
This morning’s speaker was Susan Eisenhower, President Eisenhower’s granddaughter.
She gave interesting insight into President Eisenhower’s feelings and actions in support of the civil rights movement. She spoke to his management style while commanding troops and how it carried over into his personal life and presidency. A fact I found interesting was that during President Eisenhower’s two-term presidency, he had the opportunity to appoint five judges to the Supreme Court. He insured this majority would consist of desegregation advocates, and that pro-segregation legislation would no longer stand the checks of our federal government. After the speech we were honored to have the opportunity to take a photo with Ms. Elizabeth Eckford, probably the most famous of the “Little Rock Nine”.
After the speech we had a casual lunch at the Riverwalk Market. For me, lunch consisted of a Rueben sandwich, coke from a glass bottle (the best way to drink coke by far), and, to top it off, banana pudding.
After lunch was a private tour of the Governor’s Mansion. The property was beautiful. When given the chance to sit at the formal dining table, my choice of seat was easy: the head of the table where the Governor sits. Originally the Arkansas Assembly apportioned $100,000 to build the Mansion but later put forth another $98,000 to complete the project. Sidney McMath was the first Governor to move in to the home in 1950. While sitting in the formal dining room, our tour guide (Leonard Boyle) informed us that the rug beneath our feet in the 1970’s was valued at $55,000 and a larger rug in the formal living room was worth $88,000. Both of these rugs were donated by former Arkansas Governor and Mansion resident Winthrop Rockefeller. Without calculating for inflation or the rug’s appreciation, these values exceed the amount originally apportioned for construction of the Mansion. After stepping lightly through the formal living room, we made it to the Governor’s library. All of the books were on donation from the Clinton Presidential Library, where we will visit Saturday. The collection ranged from the Holy Bible to a Criminal Law book and even a book authored by Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich. It was mentioned that President Clinton had read every book in the library, which would explain why a book on criminal law and the Holy Bible were on the same shelf. A recent addition to the original Governor’s Mansion was a grand hall, with seating for over 200, this ballroom plays host to numerous banquets annually. After a musically inspired photo opportunity, in which I sat at the piano, we wrapped up the tour and made our way to a high-school campus of national note.
Central Little Rock High School is perhaps the most recognizable high school name in the country. On this campus 1,000 members of the 101st Airborne division and 10,000 Arkansas National Guard followed executive orders to forcefully integrate the high school. The Little Rock Nine were a hand-selected group of African American students who, in 1957, agreed to blaze the trails of integration in compliance with the Supreme Court decision handed down in Brown v. Board of Education.
We were then on to the Pugh Mill, which is one of the last remaining sets of the great American film Gone with the Wind. I could see how this could be quite the romantic setting but with a group that is 71% male (5 of 7), the romance was kept to a minimum.
For dinner we went to Damgoode Pies, a Little Rock hotspot for pizza enthusiasts. As usual, I ordered a Hawaiian style pizza and it was very good, suggesting that if I decide to attend the William H. Bowen School of Law here in Arkansas, I’ll be frequenting this joint regularly.