Inauguration Trip: Day 8, Little Rock

The Arkansas Capitol

Ava Garrett

As we entered the grounds of our third state capitol building of this trip, we were instantly taken aback by its impressive stature. Just like the Mississippi capitol, the Arkansas capitol stood tall, with a golden crown-like statue at the top.

Of course, like the other two capitols we visited, the Greek and Roman influence on the architecture was noticeable immediately from the large pillars and pediment at the entrance. The Arkansas capitol building’s construction began in 1899 and finished in 1914, making the capitol over 100 years old.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building

After making it through security, we made our way to the rotunda, where we were greeted by Ms. Cheryl Augustine, who was so kind to give us a quick rundown of where all the rooms were located, and we also got a glance at Governor Asa Hutchinson, who walked right by us.

Cheryl then led us to the fourth floor, where we entered the “Senate” gallery to watch the Senate convene. Getting to see the Senate in action was a fun experience because we had a closer look at what was happening, and we even watched as the State Senators voted on a bill.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building

So, we would like to extend a huge thank you to Cheryl for getting us in!

After seeing the senate proceedings, we thought we would take our chances and head over to the “House of Representatives” gallery to see if we would be able to go in there as well. Luckily, we were able watch the House in action too. The gallery of the House of Representatives is a beautiful large room with a tall gold chandelier hanging in the middle of the rotunda. The rotunda was also nicely crafted, with stained glass at the top that let in the light and brightened up the whole room, not to mention a pretty impressive VIP room.

  • SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building
  • SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building
  • SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building
  • SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building
  • SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building

Outside, in the capitol rotunda, the 4,000-pound chandelier hangs suspended from the ceiling, incorporating over 2,000 brass, copper, zinc, iron, and glass parts. On the third floor of the building, right above the grand staircases that led us to the House and the Senate, were four murals that each had a different theme. Over the south – which is where the Senate is – the “Education” and “Justice” murals stood. Over the north – where the House is – the “War” and “Religion” murals were.

  • SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building
  • SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building
  • SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building
  • SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building

Across the archway, we spotted two capitol officers that I just had to get a photo with, and lucky for me, they were nice enough to do so, which pretty much made my whole day.

  • SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building
  • SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building

After that, we headed to the old Arkansas Supreme Court room, which also embodied a lot of the Greek architecture that is visible throughout the rest of the Capitol, such as the pediments over the doors and the large pillars surrounding them.

  • SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building
  • SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building
  • SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building

As a final stop, we toured the grounds of the Capitol to see “Testament,” by John and Cathy Deering. This a monument to the Little Rock Nine, and it features statues of each of these civil rights’ heroes.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Arkansas Capitol Building

Compared to the other three capitols that I’ve been to, Arkansas has made its way to the top of my list, and I’m happy to say that I am now 4 out of 50 of the state capitols down! 

The Little Rock Nine

Following the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, not all states were eager to begin the desegregation of public schools. Little Rock, AR was notably reluctant, and with the support and “leadership” of Governor Orval Faubus, this reluctance turned to outright rebellion. So it was in 1957 that Dwight Eisenhower sent in federal troops to force integration at Little Rock Central High, bringing international attention to the civil rights movement in the United States.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Little Rock Central High

When inside the Little Rock museum, we quickly realized how fearless the nine African Americans had to be to make it through the obstacles they faced. Although only a small minority of the community, and clearly not enjoying the support of most of Little Rock’s citizens, they remained steadfast.

Of the many inspirational quotes populating the museum…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Little Rock Arkansas, Little Rock Central High

…the one that most resonated was a paraphrase from the spiritual “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired.” The concept of continuing to move forward despite exhaustion has a significant meaning within the African-American community, and it made me think where we would be if Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and the Little Rock Nine hadn’t battled on.

Making this even more poignant was visiting the high school grounds. The campus is beautiful, and very large! Although under construction, we were able to get some photos of us at the structure where civil rights history was made.

This visit was a good reminder of how far we’ve come, while still being cognizant of how far we have to go. But, of course, we will not get tired!

Pinnacle Mountain State Park

Ilexus Williams

After visiting the Little Rock High School Historical Site, the LEAP students embarked on what seemed like our toughest adventure yet: hiking. Just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas sits Pinnacle Mountain State Park. The state park covers 2,356 acres and the mountain has an elevation of 1,011 feet. Additionally, the park encompasses both biking and hiking trails.

Our hiking trail of choice was the East Summit Trail! With strong will and determination, we started our 1.5 mile trek up East Summit Trail in a race to watch the sun set!

The beginning of our trail was a breeze, walking up a staircase of rocks. However, we came to the base of the mountain and faced what seemed like a sea of massive boulders. After digesting the overwhelming view, we started our ascent. Maneuvering our way through the rocks was very strenuous, so we took well-deserved breaks, which gave us a chance to enjoy the beautiful rolling plains behind us.

Finally, we reached the pinnacle, and it was breathtaking! The hard work that we put in to reach the top was fulfilling and well worth it. Being able to look out at the orange and pink hued sky and the expansive rolling hills gave us the opportunity to reflect on everything that we have experienced and allowed us to acknowledge how fortunate we are to take part on this trip. To paraphrase MLK, “we have been to the mountaintop,” and our experience was indescribable.

Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, Huron Daily Tribune, Laredo Morning Times, Beaumont Enterprise, Connecticut Post, and Midland Reporter Telegram. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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