Arkansas History

Fort Smith Southside High School's mascot Johnny Reb.
fortsmithschools.org

UPDATE: The school board in Fort Smith voted unanimously on Monday night to end or phase out the use of Confederate-linked themes at Southside High School. Around 200 people attended the meeting to lend input to the decision.

The Confederate soldiers monument at the state Capitol.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

In recent weeks, the battle over Confederate imagery has focused mainly on a flag, but for some the debate naturally extends to other symbols they see as offensive. As Arkansas, like many Southern states, continues to grapple with emblems of its past, the question arises: To what extent are monuments in public places an issue?

Majestic Hotel
Save Her Majesty: Restore The Majestic Hotel Facebook Page

  The Missouri owner of an historic Arkansas hotel has agreed to the Hot Springs City Board's $680,000 offer to purchase the property.

The Board voted Tuesday night to accept Majestic Hotel owner Gary Hassenflu's caveat that the city's offer be amended to reflect the assessed value of the property- $2.03 million - and to label the $1.35 million difference as a donation to the city.

The oldest of the hotel property's three buildings burned down in February 2014. City officials said its priority after the purchase becomes final will be cleaning up the fire debris.

Robinson Auditorium
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

On the one year anniversary of Little Rock’s historic Robinson Auditorium closing to begin a nearly $70 million renovation, a topping out ceremony was held Wednesday. The final steel beam that will be put in place on the expanded structure was signed by local officials, members of the design and construction teams and other guests. Work is scheduled to be completed by November 2016.

Arkansas's Governor Comments On Confederate Symbolism

Jun 22, 2015
Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) on the state Capitol steps.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Governor Asa Hutchinson briefly chimed in on the subject of Confederate iconography in the hours preceding the governor of South Carolina’s call on Monday for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from its statehouse grounds.

Hutchinson said the flag does not have a place in contemporary politics but did not say it should be removed from South Carolina’s statehouse either.

Robinson Auditorium Center Music Hall
City of Little Rock

As workers begin to rebuild the interior of Little Rock's Robinson Auditorium, a key goal of the nearly $70 million renovation is to greatly improve its acoustics.

There had long been complaints about how live music sounded in the venue, which is the home of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. There were "dead spots" in the hall where the audience couldn’t properly hear the orchestra or all the instruments. That’s why the facility has been gutted and is being rebuilt inside the existing structure as part of the voter-approved project, funded with a two percent tourism tax.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Work is nearing the halfway point on a nearly $70 million project to renovate Little Rock’s historic Robinson Auditorium.

Nearly everything has now been ripped out, including the stage, balcony, interior walls and floors, leaving little more than the outside shell of the building and its support beams.

The forced relocation of Native Americans is considered by historians to be one of the darkest periods for America. In a new book released this month, NPR Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep digs into the back story of what led to the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which started the process of tribes being moved to undeveloped western parts of the country.

Lee Theater
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas has identified several historical locations in Arkansas that it says are endangered. The alliance announced its findings Thursday in Little Rock.

On the list are:

University of California Irvine Southeast Asian Archive

Fort Chaffee in northwest Arkansas once played an important role at the end United States' official involvement in the Vietnam War after the fall of Saigon to North Vietnamese forces on April 30, 1975. From May until December of that year, Fort Chaffee became the temporary home to more than 50,000 Indochinese who had sought refugee status.

The resettlement process was known by the U.S. Military as “Operation New Life.” It was brought about when Congress enacted the Indochina Migration and Assistance Act of 1975

Port Authority Board of Directors Chairman Christopher Mathews.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The Little Rock Port Authority decided Wednesday it will formally weigh-in on the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma’s attempt to turn 160 acres near the Arkansas River into trust land. That status would exempt it from local and state control and be the first designation of its kind in Arkansas.

Apollo 13 crew
NASA

Two Apollo 13 astronauts and its Mission Control flight director are to speak at the University of Arkansas about the flight, its problems and the eventual safe return to Earth.

Flight Capt. James Lovell, lunar module pilot Fred Haise and flight director Gene Krantz are to speak April 23 in Bud Walton Arena as part of the student Distinguished Lecture Series. The third astronaut on the flight - Jack Swigert - died in 1982.

Apollo 13 launched April 11, 1970, intended to be the third NASA mission to land men on the moon. But an oxygen tank exploded, crippling the spacecraft.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

It has been 30 years since a legendary Little Rock radio station changed formats, marking the end of a key chapter for Arkansas media. This past weekend, many former employees of KAAY-AM 1090 got together to share stories and reflect on changes in the industry.

Little Rock Nine 9
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The National Archives has digitally remastered a film about the Little Rock Nine for the anniversary of its Academy Award win for best short documentary 50 years ago.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that it's the fifth film the archives' Motion Picture Preservation Lab has restored to cinema quality.

The film will be shown at the National Archives later in the spring and is available online.

The archives says the 18-minute film, titled Nine from Little Rock, was never intended for American viewers but was shown in hundreds of cities around the globe.

wikipedia.org

The historic Delta Queen riverboat is heading for New Orleans for repairs that some hope will make it seaworthy for the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers again.

One significant hurdle remains for the vessel. A congressional exemption to the Safety of Life at Sea Act is necessary because the Delta Queen is a riverboat rather than an oceangoing vessel. A bill allowing the exemption stalled in the Senate last year.

Lee Powell, Executive Director of the Delta Caucus, is optimistic about congressional support this year.

LaVerne Bell-Tolliver
www.hisdreamourstories.com

While the history of the integration of the Little Rock School District is largely overshadowed by the 1957 crisis at Central High School, 25 young African-Americans also faced daunting challenges in following years when they desegregated the city’s junior high schools.

On Saturday, many will be sharing their stories, some for the first time publicly, as part of the celebration of African American history month.

Central High School
nps.gov / National Park Service

Little Rock's Central High School would be in line for restoration money under President Barack Obama's budget.

The president's budget would set aside $50 million for work at key civil rights sites as the nation prepares to mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Other sites include the national historical trail from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and the Martin Luther King Jr. site in Atlanta.

President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Central High in 1957 to enforce a court order to let nine black children attend the school.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

It took workers using two excavators a little less than an hour to bring down the old Cinema 150 movie theater in Little Rock. The dome-shaped building at the corner of University and Asher Avenues ran many of the top films of its day.

Built in the late 1960s with a screen that curved at a 150 degree angle, it gave movies a big impact.  The theater was closed in 2003, considered functionally obsolete for having just one screen in an era of multiplexes. But it still had a very special place in the hearts of many who saw films there.

Three coins commemorating the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service will go on sale next month.

The Marshals Service says the coins, including a gold $5 coin, a silver dollar coin and a copper-nickel clad half dollar coin, will be available for purchase in limited quantities beginning Jan. 29. The designs for the coins were unveiled in July.

Majestic Hotel
Save Her Majesty: Restore The Majestic Hotel Facebook Page

Officials say the latest cleanup plan for the Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs calls for debris removal to start next month.

A large fire ripped through the historic hotel in February, prompting the city to raze part of the complex and condemn the rest. Rubble has piled along Park Avenue since the blaze.

The owner of the property, Park Residences Development LLC, sent a letter last week to the state's environmental quality department about its cleanup plan.

The people working to build a museum dedicated to U.S. Marshals are working with the Army Corps of Engineers on officially securing land on which the building will be constructed on.

Museum president and CEO Jim Dunn says the Robert Westphal family is ready to donate land along the Arkansas River to the museum. But an easement issue with the Army Corps of Engineers has to be resolved first.

Dunn says the Corps' easement was established when it was building the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.

U.S. Marshals Museum
www.usmarshalsmuseum.com

Formal groundbreaking has been held in Fort Smith for a U.S. Marshals Museum on the banks of the Arkansas River overlooking Oklahoma.

Federal, state, tribal and local officials that included U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor and John Boozman; Rep. Steve Womack; Gov. Mike Beebe; Principal Chief George Tiger and marshals services officials were among the estimated crowd of 1,000 that turned out for Wednesday's ceremony.

The groundbreaking took place on the 225th anniversary of the creation of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Oliver Stone
oliverstone.com

Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone is visiting Little Rock Saturday as part of this year’s Reel Civil Rights Film Festival. Stone will participate in a moderated discussion following the screening of an episode of his 2012 television documentary series, "The Untold History of the United States."

Part of the 60-minute episode explores the decision of President Dwight D. Eisenhower to send the 101st Airborne to Little Rock to enforce the 1957 integration of Central High.

The Arkansas Archaeological Society has received a $63,000 grant to document and return human remains and cultural objects to their native people.

The grant announced Wednesday was among $1.5 million awarded nationwide by the National Park Service under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The grants were awarded to museums, Indian tribes and Alaska native villages.

Robinson Center Music Hall Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Mike Beebe, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and others used crow bars Tuesday to rip up part of the stage at Little Rock’s historic Robinson Center Music Hall, formally signifying the start of renovations to the venue.

The $68 million project will modernize the facility, which was built in 1939.  The work will improve its acoustics and seating, while enabling it to host any touring Broadway production.

Stodola said it has taken a lot of work to get to this point.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A group of photographers is working to document a long-closed, historic hotel in Pine Bluff, while it's also being studied by architecture students. The hotel was once considered among the finest in Arkansas, but has been abandoned for nearly half a century and after a hard winter, the once grand structure is deteriorating fast.

The two story lobby with marble walls and plaster ornamentation is crumbling. The curved ceiling once featured stained glass, but that’s broken, allowing water to pour in.

rohwer
astate.edu

The National Park Service has awarded nearly a quarter-million dollars in grants to projects in Arkansas that help preserve and interpret sites that were used to confine Japanese Americans during World War II.

The grants announced Thursday are among $2.9 million awarded nationally. In Arkansas, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock received a $220,000 grant for its cemetery conservation project at the Rohwer Relocation Center in Desha County. It held more than 8,000 Japanese Americans during the war.

Majestic Hotel
Save Her Majesty: Restore The Majestic Hotel Facebook Page

The owner of the Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs has been given 60 days to clean up the rubble left over from a fire that destroyed a large part of hotel complex in February.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality sent a letter Monday to Garrison Hassenflu, who owns the corporation that owns the Majestic property. The letter also says Hassenflu must submit a plan within 10 days detailing a removal plan for the debris at the Majestic site.

Robinson Center Music Hall Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Little Rock’s historic Robinson Center Music Hall will soon be closing its doors to begin two years of renovations to modernize the facility.

Clinton Foundation Clinton School of Public Service
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A former railroad station in Little Rock that today houses the Clinton Foundation and the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service is getting a new certification for energy efficiency.

To mark Earth Day, officials gathered Tuesday in front of Sturgis Hall, which was built in 1899, to make the announcement.

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