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Doggedly rewriting history

We continue to monitor the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s attempts to rewrite history on the Little Rock school crisis. Executive Editor Griffin Smith, since his arrival more than a decade ago, has tried to downplay Gov. Orval Faubus’ responsibility for the events. When he first arrived, Smith dictated boilerplate explanatory language that Faubus had used the National Guard only to keep the peace in Little Rock, rather than block desegregation. He’s been forced to back off that, but the effort to blame the federal court, or somebody other than Faubus, for Little Rock troubles continues.

Lately, the newspaper’s recitation has been saying: “On Sept. 20 [1957], complying with the order of a federal judge, Faubus removed the guardsmen.” The recitation goes on to note that violence broke out Sept. 24. Cause/effect.

The facts: On Sept. 20, federal Judge Ronald Davies did NOT order Faubus to remove the Guard. He only ordered that they not be used to prevent desegregation. In his written order, Sept. 21, Davies wrote: “No claim was made that he [Faubus] could not use the Arkansas National Guard to preserve law and order. His right to do so was expressly recognized by the district court.”

Faubus not only did not have to remove the troops, he also had time to put them back in place before Sept. 24. He preferred to let rabble-rousing takes its toll.Who will remember Arkansas history if her largest newspaper does not?

Breakfast blackjack

Southland Park in West Memphis continues to expand the reach of its machine gambling – video poker, blackjack and other electronic machines that resemble, but are not legally considered, slot machines because some element of skill is involved in playing.

The Arkansas Racing Commission last week approved the gambling parlor’s request for later hours on Friday and Saturday nights. Beginning sometime in August, it now will operate continuously the two weekend nights — until 5:59 a.m. Sunday morning, when it will close for four hours. Previously, the gambling stopped at 2 a.m. both nights. Track officials said they had to send as many as 500 gamblers home at the 2 a.m. close, which follows by only two hours the last greyhound race on Friday and Saturday nights. In Las Vegas, the action never stops. The law allows that in Arkansas, too, subject to Racing Commission approval, but no gambling is allowed on Christmas or Easter. A Southland spokesman said 24-hour operation on other days might be considered in the future, depending on demand.

Music appreciation

Ah, rumors. An interesting one currently making the rounds in Little Rock political circles — particularly those that skew to the right — is this: After Gov. Mike Beebe moved into the Governor’s Mansion, he and first lady Ginger Beebe had an antique grand piano — donated to the mansion by the Baldwin family of piano-making fame more than three decades ago — kicked to the curb so they could install a bar. The piano was sent to the state agency that disposes of surplus property, where it supposedly was scooped up by friends of the governor for pennies and then resold at a New York auction.

Good story. Not true. Mansion administrator Ron Maxwell said an antique “square” grand piano purchased with mansion funds in February 2004 from a woman in Mayflower that once graced the Grand Hall has indeed left the building. Maxwell said the piano is in storage on the mansion grounds, and there are currently no plans to sell it or to send it to state surplus.

“The governor and Mrs. Beebe had some plans for the way they wanted the Grand Hall of the mansion to look,” Maxwell said, “and it was determined that the piano probably did not fit into plans we were making for the atrium space, where it was originally.”


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