John Boyle (1874–1938)

John F. Boyle Jr. was a Little Rock (Pulaski County) businessman and philanthropist whose name survives in the Boyle Building downtown and Boyle Park in the west-central portion of the city.

John F. Boyle Jr. was born on November 14, 1874, in Little Rock to John F. Boyle Sr. and Mary Matilda Dorsey Boyle. After completing primary and secondary school in Little Rock, around 1900, Boyle was hired to work for his father’s insurance firm, Adams & Boyle Insurance Company (1877–1921). He had a long career as a general insurance agent as well as cotton salesman and real estate investor.

In 1910, Boyle started his first company, the Boyle Realty Company, but it failed a year later. In 1916, he partnered with J. E. Coates and Eugene E. Rains, and he started a second iteration of the Boyle Realty Company. This was met with greater success, and later the same year the company purchased the State National Bank building at the intersection of Capitol and Main streets and renamed the structure the Boyle Building. The company owned and operated the Boyle Building from 1916 to 1999. The business relocated to 6705 West 12th Street in 1999, where it continues to operate in the twenty-first century.

Boyle was a lifelong philanthropist and a major contributor to the construction of the YMCA Building at 524 Broadway Street and Second Presbyterian Church at 3rd and Gaines Street. Boyle also deeded the land to the city for the creation of Boyle Park in west-central Little Rock in 1929. Boyle was a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, the Little Rock Country Club, Second Presbyterian Church, and the Quapaw Club.

In 1922, Boyle married Snow Yowell Ledbetter and adopted her two sons from her previous marriage to Calvin R. Ledbetter: Calvin and Joel. After their marriage, John Boyle had the Boyle House at 2020 Arch Street constructed for the family, and they moved there in 1922. The family lived in the home until Snow Boyle’s death in 1949.

A few months prior to his death, Boyle took a step back from his business interests after becoming very ill. His wife took over operations of the Boyle Realty Company, and he gave up his positions as director and vice president of the W. B. Worthen Company and director of Arkansas Power and Light Company. Following complications from surgery, Boyle died on May 15, 1938.

For additional information:
“Boyle’s Body on Way Back for Funeral: Little Rock Businessman Dies in Baltimore Hospital.” Arkansas Democrat, May 16, 1938, p. 8.

Butler, Danielle. “The Heart of the Home: Developing the Modern Kitchen in Little Rock’s Boyle House.” MA thesis, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 2015.

“John F. Boyle, Leader in Business Dead: Had Active Part in City’s Growth.” Arkansas Gazette, May 16, 1938, p. 1.

UALR Seminar in Public History Files on the Boyle Realty Company. Center for Arkansas History and Culture. University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Danielle Butler
Little Rock, Arkansas


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