2 Tay­lors do bat­tle over who said what

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - CELIA STOREY

One hun­dred years ago, the en­e­mies of Lit­tle Rock Mayor Charles E. Tay­lor were look­ing for ways to get his goat.

In July, he went to New York to ob­tain an ex­ten­sion from city cred­i­tors for $575,000 in loans. That’s when Some­body spread The Bad Story about him.

None of the four his­to­ri­ans I’ve asked knows what that story was, but then, we don’t need to know. What’s in­ter­est­ing is how the mayor, one of Lit­tle Rock’s for­ma­tive lead­ers, re­acted.

He had a lot go­ing on. Mil­i­tary draft num­bers had been called, and Camp Pike was set­ting up to house thou­sands of sol­diers. A Bel­gian del­e­ga­tion was in town. Cer­tain city al­der­men were try­ing to ram through an or­di­nance to al­low movie the­aters to op­er­ate on Sun­days — which he op­posed.

So this must have been a doozy of a ru­mor: He is­sued an an­gry state­ment de­nounc­ing it. Then he held a rally where 250 of his friends pledged to root out its mon­gers and take them to court. (My Old News col­umn from July 17 had fun words from that rally.)

Martha Rim­mer, who wrote Tay­lor’s bio for the on­line En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Arkansas His­tory and Cul­ture, is cer­tain the ru­mors, what­ever they were, were lies. She has found no ev­i­dence of mis­con­duct by Tay­lor, who was the fa­ther of four, hap­pily mar­ried, a Sun­day School man­ager — and also the mayor who shut down Lit­tle Rock’s large and ugly “red light” district, be­gan curb­side garbage col­lec­tion, made the fire depart­ment ef­fec­tive, em­pow­ered a real health depart­ment with in­spec­tors ….

When he took of­fice in 1911, ty­phoid fever was killing about 30 res­i­dents a year. His first year of mu­nic­i­pal mod­ern­iz­ing re­duced that toll to 12. And be­fore state law banned al­co­hol in 1916, he re­duced the not-funny prob­lem of pub­lic drunk­en­ness by en­forc­ing stricter liquor laws.

The cre­ation of Camp Pike in North Lit­tle Rock caused a milk short­age and then a coal short­age, as well as other prob­lems.

“Tay­lor had his en­e­mies af­ter four terms in of­fice be­cause of his re­form poli­cies, es­pe­cially from those who ben­e­fited from its ear­lier ‘wide-open-town’ im­age, the city’s fi­nan­cial prob­lems,

and the added bur­dens aris­ing from Camp Pike, all of which were cre­at­ing a lot of ten­sion,” Rim­mer says.

One im­me­di­ate re­sult of the loud de­fense mounted by Tay­lor’s friends July 17, 1917, was that one gos­sip came for­ward.

Here’s the Demo­crat, July 21 (the Gazette’s re­port was sim­i­lar):

Mayor and Doc­tor in Fight on Street

Mayor Charles E. Tay­lor was cut twice with a small pocket knife and slightly in­jured by Dr. W.H. Tay­lor, 115 Arch Street, fol­low­ing some words be­tween them at Sec­ond and Louisiana streets at 10 o’clock Satur­day morn­ing. …

Dr. Tay­lor, ac­cord­ing to the mayor, had called at his of­fice, and ad­mit­ted that he had re­peated the sto­ries, and apol­o­gized. Later the mayor was told that Dr. Tay­lor had de­nied that he had apol­o­gized, and when, Satur­day morn­ing, while he was talk­ing with some friends, the mayor saw Dr. Tay­lor ap­proach­ing, he stopped him and asked him to re­peat what had been said in the city hall Fri­day.

Words fol­lowed, and ac­cord­ing to the mayor, Dr. Tay­lor called him a vile name. The mayor then struck the doc­tor in the face, and the two men clinched. While they were clinched the doc­tor cut the mayor twice, once in the back un­der the right shoul­der blade, and again on the right arm.

Wit­nesses sep­a­rated the men, and friends of the mayor took him to the of­fice of Dr. J.H. Lenow, 104 Louisiana street, where the wounds were cau­ter­ized, and pro­nounced not of a se­ri­ous na­ture. The cut on the back was about six inches long, and the one on the arm about four inches long. Both broke the skin, but did not pen­e­trate to any depth.

A large crowd was at­tracted by the men strug­gling on the street, and af­ter the men were sep­a­rated it was re­ported that the mayor had been se­ri­ously and per­haps fa­tally in­jured. This re­port was tele­phoned to po­lice head­quar­ters, and Chief Roten­berry hur­ried to the scene in an au­to­mo­bile. He placed Dr. Tay­lor un­der ar­rest and took him to po­lice head­quar­ters.

There he was booked on a charge of as­sault with in­tent to kill. His bond was fixed at $500, and it was signed by Mrs. Ida B. Jones, who is Dr. Tay­lor’s daugh­ter. At­tor­ney Hal L. Nor­wood was re­tained to rep­re­sent Dr. Tay­lor.

Dr. Tay­lor is 71 years old and re­tired from ac­tive prac­tice some years ago.

The pa­per quoted a state­ment from the mayor to the ef­fect that Dr. Tay­lor had as­sured him he’d learned that the ru­mor was “lies, d—n lies,” and re­gret­ted re­peat­ing it. The next day in the street, the mayor wrote, he was telling his friends J.G. Cubage and L.S. “Sharp” Du­n­away, both of Con­way, about the apol­ogy when W.E. But­ler strolled up.

“Mr. But­ler said his in­for­ma­tion was that Dr. Tay­lor had de­nied mak­ing any apolo­gies. About that time I saw Dr. Tay­lor com­ing down the street and I stopped him and said: ‘Doc­tor, Mr. But­ler says you have de­nied say­ing to me that you were sorry for hav­ing re­peated those vi­cious ru­mors about me.’

“He got mad and said that what he had told me was that he said to two of his friends that the sto­ries were lies. I an­swered, ‘Doc­tor, what you re­ally said was that you were sat­is­fied that the sto­ries were lies, d—n lies, and that you were sorry for your con­nec­tion with them.’

“In re­ply the doc­tor called me a vile name and came at me with his right fist raised in a threat­en­ing man­ner.”

So the mayor hit him. But he thought bet­ter of fight­ing an old man and tried to shove him away.

“The doc­tor ev­i­dently had his open knife in his hand when he stopped to talk to me.”

Doc­tor Tay­lor gave the pa­per a dif­fer­ent ac­count. First, he said he never claimed to have spread the Bad Story. No. What he had con­fessed to was ex­press­ing be­lief in a ru­mor that the mayor had been shot. Fur­ther, he re­mem­bered that the mayor had ap­proached him on the street and de­manded he say he had apol­o­gized for ly­ing.

“I then said, ‘You are a liar, I never said any such thing.’ He then struck me and com­menced to choke me. I reached in my pocket and got my knife and struck at him.

“I am 71 years old and have had two sun strokes and am fee­ble and not able to de­fend my­self with my fist against an at­tack or an ac­tive man like Mayor Tay­lor. I did not want to kill him, and had no thought of killing him, but I did want him to quit chok­ing me and had no other way of mak­ing him quit and what I did, I did in self-de­fense.” Cubage also spoke to the Demo­crat, cor­rob­o­rat­ing the mayor’s ac­count up to and in­clud­ing the phrase “lies, damn lies.” In­ter­est­ingly, the Demo­crat didn’t cen­sor the dirty “-am-” in its quo­ta­tions from Cubage, so we can credit Tay­lor with the del­i­cacy of not spell­ing out a cuss word.

Also credit him with hav­ing all charges against the old doc­tor dropped, be­cause he did that, too.

And then Some­body tried to have the mayor’s son ar­rested as a draft dodger.

But that is a story for an­other day.

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