Little Rock, Arkansas

Maumelle provided the perfect home base to explore Little Rock.  Our first stop was the Clinton Presidential Library…part of our quest to visit as many presidential libraries as possible.  This library is situated on 17 acres next to the Arkansas River and is the largest in terms of physical area and largest in terms of photographs, documents, email messages and artifacts…..it is also the most expensive with all funds coming from 112,000 private donations (Wikipedia).  Readers of this blog may note that the Reagan Presidential Library is physically larger due to the Air Force One Pavilion shown in our post.  We were interested to note that the Nixon Library devoted a great deal more space to a frank discussion of the Nixon impeachment while the Clinton Library, in our opinion, gave the Clinton impeachment far less frank a discussion.

We were interested to learn more about Little Rock’s history in our next stop to visit the Little Rock Arsenal built, by the request of the federal government, in 1836, the same year Arkansas was admitted to the Union.  The arsenal was built to store munitions and outbuildings included office buildings, a storehouse, a magazine, a guardhouse, a hospital and other service structures.

The facility was surrendered to the Confederacy as the Civil War loomed.  Confederate troops occupied until 1863 when it was reoccupied by Union Forces for the duration of the war.  Following the end of the war the Arsenal became a troop barracks and remained until abandoned in 1890.  Douglas MacArthur was born in the barracks in 1880 and in 1892 the site was turned over to the city for use as a city park.

The arsenal tower is all that remains today and its the home of the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History.  We found the museum to extremely well done with exhibits depicting the city and national’s involvement in World War’s I and II as well as Korea and Viet Nam. We recommend the Arsenal for your stop in Little Rock both for the museum as well as the grounds and walking tours of this historic part of Little Rock.

Our final stop in Little Rock was the Central High School National Historic Site.  For those too young to remember, the Little Rock Nine were a group of nine black students who enrolled at formerly all-white Central High School in September 1957.  Their attendance at the school as a test of the landmark Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional.  On September 4, 1957, the first day of classes at Central High, Governor Orval Faubus called in the Arkansas National Guard to block the black students’ entry into the high school.  Later that month, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent federal troops to escort the Little Rock Nine into school.  The Park Service as done a wonderful job in providing a balanced and thorough exhibit commemorating this historic part of our nation’s history.  The tour includes access to Central High School which still operates today as a public high school.

Central High School, completed in 1927 at a cost of $1.5 million, was the nation’s largest and most expensive high school facility.  The school’s gothic revival architecture features statues of four figures over the front entrance representing, ironically,  ambition, personality, opportunity and preparation.  Another stop we thoroughly enjoyed.

Truman Presidential Library

This journey has been an amazing combination of witnessing America’s physical beauty and discovering more about its history.   Readers of the blog know that Presidential Libraries have been an especially interesting part of this trip.

Visiting Presidential libraries for us had been a walk down memory lane prior to Kansas City.  Both Karen and I were born during Eisenhower’s term of office (Karen just barely) but really had few actual memories prior to JFK.   Our visit to the Eisenhower library really helped understand more about America during and after WWII.

Our visit to the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri gave us a chance to explore an increment of American history prior to WWII and bridging into our childhood.  Truman grew up as a product of a Missouri farming family.  He entered politics in Missouri after returning from service in WWI and served as a State Senator prior to being tapped to serve as VP for Roosevelt prior to Roosevelt’s death just months after he was re-elected to office in 1945.

Harry S. Truman preceded Eisenhower as President and served between April 1945 and January 1953.  Although World War II had began with Nazi Germany’s attack on Poland in September 1939, the United States did not enter the war until after the Japanese bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Presidency took us into WWII but his death in office in 1945 put Truman in a position to end the war with the use of the atomic bombs in Japan and into the Cold War those of us born in the 1950’s remember all too well.

Truman also presided over the reconstruction of Europe under the Marshall Plan as well as the transition of the US economy from wartime to a peacetime and continued struggle for civil rights.

Of particular interest for me we’re the geo-political insights from this period including the Cold War with Russia, Israel and the Korean War and China’s role which filled in a lot of “the blanks” to current events.

And, as a finale the Library had a wonderful tribute to the year of my birth with Life Magazine covers and articles throughout 1952!

Eisenhower Presidential Library

Continuing our journey east through Kansas brought another Presidential Library…that of Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower….the last President born in the 19th century.  His presidency (1953-1961) was preceded by that of a Harry Truman and succeeded by John F. Kennedy.

Although Ike was born in a Texas, his family moved to Abilene, Kansas when he was 2.  He graduated from West Point in 1915 and although he wanted to see combat in WW1 he instead commanded a unit that trained tank crews (where he met George Patton).

Following the war, he served under various generals and was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in 1941. After the U.S. entered World War II, Eisenhower oversaw the successful invasions of North Africa and Sicily before supervising the invasions of France and Germany. After the war, Eisenhower served as Army Chief of Staffas and then took on the uncomfortable role as president of Columbia University.    In 1951–52, he served as the first Supreme Commander of NATO before becoming the first a Republican President since Herbert Hoover in 1928.

The Library in Abilene is on the site of his childhood home and also the final resting place of the President, his wife Mamie and their eldest son who died at age 3 of scarlet fever.

Eisenhower was considered a moderate conservative and best known for opposing the expansion of the Soviet Union and reducing federal deficits.  His other accomplishments are noted on the photos captured at the Library.

I was born the year Ike took office but my memories of Ike are limited to the final years of his Presidency and the inauguration of his successor, John Kennedy.  I do have vivid memories of the nuclear/Soviet fear that swept the country during Ike’s term and a subject I’m interested in reading more about in retirement.

We encourage anyone visiting Kansas to check out the Eisenhower Library.  One of our travel goals is to visit as many Presidential libraries as possible.  Next on this years adventure is Harry Truman’s in Missouri and Bill Clinton’s in Little Rock.  Readers of this blog already know those we’ve already seen on this trip

 

Reagan Presidential Library

Simi Valley hosts the Presidential Library of Ronald Reagan.  As we walked up to the front door from the parking lot we met an amazing man who would become our06BA61CE-A464-4FAF-A146-C0F03468CA59

our personal docent for the day…and a Floridian to boot!  RW was making his inaugural visit to visit two special features of the Reagan Library….President Reagan’s final resting place 1B078B1A-2DAA-4813-A917-6AE48061A131and Air Force One 094B392C-10B0-4FAF-B78D-D858CA6DBABB

As a young Air Force security officer RW was assigned to Air Force One during President Reagan’s term as one of a contingent of Air Force personnel who’s job it was to protect Air Force One during the greatest number of world-wide travel miles of any President until that time. It was obvious…and we could feel the love RW had both for the President and this aircraft.  We learned a lot from him and will be forever grateful for having spent time with him.12BB93E0-3ADA-4E3A-B84A-97C6DA104C79

Even more amazing is that RW had recently retired, sold his home and was traveling the country in his own RV.

The Regan Library reminded us of what a remarkable man Reagan was before, during and after his Presidency. 8E811AC6-9A09-4A78-879F-6F80BE5573CC

It was sobering to us to remember that the Reagan presidency will began almost 40 years ago!  Equally sobering for us was to consider the following:

 

No one wants war!  Yet we believe that those who can’t defend themselves are likely to become victims and being prepared can never be taken for granted.

As with other libraries we’re reminded how important it is to understand Presidencies in the context of their time.

 

This was a wonderful experience.

 

George W Bush Presidential Library

Bush 43 library is on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Special First Ladies Exhibit:

More to follow.

Presidential exhibit was comprehensive with special 9/11 exhibits (note Sarasota connection).

There were many school groups touring today…even the oldest of which weren’t born or were too young to remember 9/11.

and reminders of just how much happened during those 8 years.