Arkansas State Capitol Grounds Monuments
The grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol at 500 Woodlane in Little Rock (Pulaski County) hold at least seventeen monuments honoring, among others: the Little Rock Nine, fallen law enforcement officers and firefighters, Confederate soldiers, and Medal of Honor recipients. Modern monuments, including three erected between 2015 and 2019, must be approved by the Arkansas Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission.
The oldest monument on the grounds is the Monument to Confederate Soldiers located northeast of the capitol on Woodlane near its junction with Fourth Street. Dedicated on June 3, 1905, it was first located near the east entrance of the capitol but was moved to its present site shortly after the building was completed in 1911. Sculptor Frederick Ruckstuhl designed the monument, which was paid for with state funds as well as donations from the United Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and private donors. The dedication ceremony was replete with Lost Cause rhetoric, with Governor Jeff Davis proclaiming that “at this altar we each…pay our devotions and make our offerings to the cause we each know was right, the cause of the Confederacy.”
Immediately east of the east steps of the capitol are two mounted plaques recognizing two former secretaries of state: C. G. “Crip” Hall, who served from 1937 to 1961, and Kelly Bryant, who served from 1963 to 1975. Neither plaque features the date of installation.
The Monument to Confederate Women stands southeast of the capitol. Sculpted by J. Otto Schweitzer and dedicated on May 1, 1913, the monument was financed with state funds augmented by money raised by the United Confederate Veterans. Governor J. Marion Futrell spoke at the unveiling: “The poverty of my language forbids any attempt upon my part to properly portray the character and greatness of our magnificent womanhood. Permit me to say that if the soldier was great, she was greater.”
The Medal of Honor Memorial is located southwest of the Monument to Confederate Women and recognizes twenty-five Arkansas Medal of Honor recipients. Designed by artist John Deering, the memorial has a central eagle sculpture surrounded by plaques for each soldier. Medal of Honor recipients Clarence Craft, Nicky D. Bacon, James Hendrix, and James L. Stone attended the November 18, 2000, dedication of the memorial.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is located on the southeast corner of the capitol grounds and is engraved with the names of 645 Arkansans who died in the war. More than 5,000 people attended the March 7, 1987, dedication of the memorial at which retired General William C. Westmoreland spoke, and 500 were at the November 11, 1987, dedication when a John Deering sculpture of a soldier, titled Going Home, was added.
The Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is on the mall south of the capitol and features the names of police and county officers, state police officers, federal officers, and constables who died while on duty. It took nearly two hours to read the 149 names then inscribed on the monument at its October 23, 1994, dedication.
The War of 1812 Memorial Fountain is located just southeast of the capitol building. Dedicated on October 18, 1917, by the Nicholas Headington Chapter of the United States Daughters of 1812, it features the names of fifty-six War of 1812 veterans buried in Arkansas. The memorial was restored in 2003–2004 as a drinking fountain.
The Eternal Flame, just south of the capitol’s south entrance was ignited on July 11, 1969, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the American Legion. Medal of Honor recipient and lieutenant governor Maurice “Footsie” Britt led the dedication ceremony.
The Civil War Prisoners’ Marker is located southwest of the capitol near the Justice Building and commemorates the Arkansas state prison used by both sides during the Civil War. Sponsored by the General T. J. Churchill Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, it was placed “in memory of the Confederate soldiers imprisoned here” and was dedicated on May 7, 1936.
Perhaps the most controversial monument on the grounds is the Ten Commandments Monument southwest of the capitol. The Arkansas General Assembly passed legislation allowing its installation in 2015, and the monument was dedicated on June 27, 2017. Within twenty-four hours, a man later determined to have mental problems rammed his car into it, destroying the monument. A replacement, protected by four concrete bollards, was installed on April 26, 2018, and its ultimate fate remains the subject of ongoing lawsuits.
The newest monument sits west of the west doors of the capitol. The Arkansas Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, made of tall, polished black stone panels with a silhouette of a saluting soldier cut into them, was dedicated on September 28, 2019. Some 400 people attended the ceremony, including former U.S. Marine corporal Hershel “Woody” Williams, who received a Medal of Honor for his actions at Iwo Jima in World War II and whose foundation seeks to place similar memorials around the United States.
Immediately west is the Bauxite Boulder, which was placed on the capitol grounds in 1943 “to symbolize Arkansas’s contribution to World War II” when the state mined the majority of the bauxite used to produce aluminum for the nation’s war effort. It was marked with a Batesville (Independence County) marble panel on April 29, 1943, because aluminum was not available; this was replaced with an aluminum plaque by 1952. The twenty-ton boulder was quarried at the Dullin bauxite mine near Sweet Home (Pulaski County).
Across the street at the east end of the capitol mall sits a massive granite boulder that was quarried at Granite Mountain and installed on June 15, 1936, to commemorate the centennial of Arkansas’s statehood.
The Arkansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial is located on the mall west of the granite boulder. The almost twelve-foot-tall sculpture of three firefighters was designed by artists Robert Daus Sr., Robert Daus Jr., and Paula Haskins, along with Jackson Brown Palculit Architects. Around 3,500 people attended its March 22, 2014, dedication, and it includes the names of more than 100 firefighters and Arkansas Forestry Commission officers who died on the job.
Testament: The Little Rock Nine Monument is located directly north of the capitol and features statues of the nine Black students who integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957, along with panels with quotes from them. Around 2,000 people—including all of the Little Rock Nine—attended the August 30, 2005, dedication of the $360,000 memorial created by John and Kathy Deering.
The American Revolution Bicentennial Monument and Fountain sit just north of Testament. The centerpiece, shielded by a travertine canopy, is a Liberty Bell replica presented to Arkansas in 1950 at the conclusion of a Liberty Bond drive that raised $6.5 billion to help pay off the U.S. World War II military debt. The canopy and adjacent fountain were created 1977 in celebration of the United States bicentennial.
For additional information:
Arkansas State Capitol Self-Guided Grounds Tour. Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office. https://www.sos.arkansas.gov/uploads/stateCapitol/2018_grounds_tour.pdf (accessed January 3, 2023).
Ault, Larry. “State Monument Honors Medal of Honor Recipients.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 19, 2000, pp. 1B, 3B.
“Bauxite Boulder Marked with Batesville Marble.” Arkansas Gazette, April 30, 1943, p. 11.
Blackmon, Doug. “Vets Get Past Due Welcome.” Arkansas Democrat, March 8, 1987, pp. 1A, 16A.
Carrroll, Scott. “Memorial Extols Fallen Firefighters.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 23, 2014, pp. 1B, 4B.
“Elaborate Program Marks Unveiling.” Arkansas Gazette, May 2, 1913, pp. 1, 9.
“‘Eternal Flame’ Is Lighted at Capitol.” Arkansas Democrat, July 12, 1969, p. 7.
“‘Eternal Flame’ to Be Dedicated.” Arkansas Gazette, July 11, 1969, p. 15.
“Fountain at the Capitol Unveiled.” Arkansas Gazette, October 19, 1917, p. 3.
“Imprisoned Soldiers of South Honored.” Arkansas Gazette, May 8, 1936, p. 19.
Lyon, John. “10 Commandments Monument at Arkansas Capitol.” Pine Bluff Commercial, June 28, 2017.
“Many See the Unveiling of the Arkansas Monument to the Confederate Dead.” Arkansas Gazette, June 4, 1905, p. 3.
Reinolds, Chris. “Badges of Honor Etched in Stone.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 24, 1994, pp. 1A, 2A.
Ross, Margaret Smith. “Markers and Monuments of Pulaski County.” Arkansas Democrat, Sunday Magazine. January 20, 1952, p 13.
Satter, Linda. “States Wants to Stay Monument Lawsuit.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 28, 2019, pp. 1B, 6B.
Schnedler, Jack. “Stately Sculptures.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 24, 2020, pp. 1E, 6E.
Tubbs, Charlotte. “LR Nine Honored for Historic Role.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 31, 2005, pp. 1B, 3B.
Turnage, Clara. “Arkansas Memorial Pays Tribute to Gold Star Families.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 29, 2019. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/sep/29/memorial-pays-tribute-to-gold-star-fami-1/ (accessed January 3, 2023).
Van Laningham, Scott, and Bob Wells. “Arkansans Gather to Honor Veterans.” Arkansas Gazette, November 12, 1987, p. 9A.
“Will Pay Homage to War Heroines.” Arkansas Gazette, May 1, 1913, p. 1.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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