First Time in Little Rock

Arkansas is the last state that I have never visited, but despite numerous attempts the timing was never right. So this year as we moved slowly north I was adamant we would spend some time there, despite it being slightly outside of our route. Finding a place to stay that was close to both Little Rock and Hot Springs was a bit of a challenge, but Lee ended up booking us at Cloud Nine Park. The park is high on a plateau about 13 miles west of Little Rock and we really loved it. It is clean, has great views, and a terrific clubhouse. Ultimately we were glad we stayed here because we ended up spending more time in Hot Springs than Little Rock. It’s been awhile since I liked an RV park enough to write about it, but this one definitely deserves a mention.

We arrived on Saturday after a full day of driving and then set off for Little Rock early on Sunday. We have discovered Sundays are a wonderful day to see a city as most of the crowds are minimal early in the day. The first place we drove to was Little Rock Central High School, the National Historic Site where 9 school children were escorted by the National Guard so they could walk into a newly integrated school. We parked right out front of the school and the site was absolutely beautiful.

For those who aren’t that familiar Arkansas was the last state to integrate its schools and ultimately it required the President sending the National Guard to force the governor to comply. The courage of those young people has always been inspiring to me and standing on the steps of the place it happened was impactful. Best of all, it is still a working school, and since it was Sunday we were able to walk the grounds. I especially loved the reflection pond out front with benches for each of the young students.

Standing on the same steps gave me chills. I wonder what impact it has on the students today.
This was 1957 and let us not forget that less than 70 years ago children had to be under armed guard to enter a school.
The reflecting pool with benches
Each student had one

Although the visitors center was closed later I was pleased to see that all nine students received the Presidential gold medal from Bill Clinton.

The nine brave black students were Melba Pattillo Beals, Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Thelma Mothershed, Terrence Roberts and Jefferson Thomas. (This picture includes Daisy Bates a journalist standing second from right)
Iconic photos from the time

Frankly at the same age and given the same set of circumstances I don’t know that I would have had the courage to do this. They were literally risking their lives for a better education. Here are some of their quotes about their choice.

It was a powerful experience and I was so glad that we took the time to see it. Later when we visited the capital building we also saw a statue dedicated to them and a peaceful protest on the capital steps by a large group of mostly people of color. What they did was one huge step in making that possible.

The capital building

As we still had some time before the Bill Clinton Presidential Library opened at 1pm we decided to have lunch downtown. Not many restaurants were open but we got a table at the Flying Fish. I really liked the old booths and the decor which was hundreds of fish on the wall. The food was pretty good, although on the pricey side and it was a nice place to eat with the locals.

Next up is our visit to the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library.

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