Mea culpa, Mr. Kavanaugh
Dear Reader, I have messed up and, oh, is my face red. But before we get to that, we need to talk about you.
Did you or did you not notice my goof in the Jan. 7 Old News, the column about the popular Pulaski County Sheriff “Big Bill” Hutton? Hmm?
I apologize for the mistake. I have no excuse. I’d like to pretend it happened because I was flying along on deadline, seriously behind schedule and doing the research as I wrote … but I’m behind deadline every week. Fear of flogging is the only reason I get anything done.
What was the mistake? When I tell you, if you immediately think, “Oh, I saw that, no big deal,” be warned: That’s not the right answer. We all need you to flag my errors. (A gently worded email is all it will take.) Otherwise, the ignorance wins. All of you who have proudly stood in the warm glow of my fond references to “Favorite Reader” may now step down — all of you except one — the only reader who pinged me Jan. 7 as soon as he read what I said: Mike Hood, manager of the civil engineering division of Little Rock Public Works, you are my only Favorite Reader today.
Hood is expert on the origins of street names in Little Rock. His research is posted on the city website as a downloadable pdf file, complete with a handy quiz. Here is a shortcut link: arkansasonline. com/114hood.
Did I fail to mention that what I messed up involved the name
of a Little Rock street? It did. While ticking off some items that made Hutton popular, I mentioned he served Pulaski County under C.C. Kavanaugh — which is correct. But I identified C.C. as county judge, which he was not. He was county sheriff from 1904-1908, with Hutton as a deputy.
Also, I said C.C. was very popular and had a street and a ballfield named for him.
He may have been popular. Charles Coburn Kavanaugh (1874-1938) mounted a campaign for governor in 1910. He ran as a “wet,” that is, against the not-yet dominant temperance movement. He didn’t win. But he did become a power player in the Pulaski County Democratic Party, and in the 1920s led opposition to the Ku Klux Klan (see arkansasonline.com/114defeat).
But no, the definitely popular county judge named Kavanaugh was C.C.’s brother, William Marmaduke Kavanaugh — W.M. for short. (And I’ve written about him in Old News, too. D’oh!)
William Marmaduke Kavanaugh (1866-1915) was county sheriff from 1898-1900, county judge from 1900-1904, U.S. senator in 1913 (filling out the term of Sen. Jeff Davis, who died in office). W.M. began his residence in Little Rock at the Arkansas Gazette first as a reporter, then city editor, then managing editor and finally general manager. He left the paper for baseball, banking and politics.
He championed professional baseball as president of the minor league Southern Association. The ballfield that once stood where Little Rock Central High School’s Quigley Stadium stands today was named Kavanaugh Field in his honor. And Prospect Avenue was renamed Kavanaugh Boulevard after he died.
Probably the baseball connection explains why I failed to heed the chirp from the back of my brain as I typed my inaccurate sentence and moved on without fact checking. Hutton made his name as a great outfielder with Little Rock’s first pro team, the Little Rock Travelers. I was charmed by the apparent web of relationships in Little Rock at the turn of the 20th century, sports, county administration and newspapering all buddy-buddy-like.
Fred Allsopp describes both brothers in his funny 1907 memoir Twenty Years in a Newspaper Office. Allsopp recalls the older brother’s first day at the Gazette and his first impression:
A short, dumpy, stalwart, compactly-built, brown-haired young man, not handsome, but having a pleasing countenance, and with intelligence, energy, earnestness and dogged determination written on his features.
He wasn’t cultured, smooth or dignified, but was respectful and polite, a good reporter, accurate and reliable (says the man who has C.C. Kavanaugh’s name wrong. Allsopp calls him Coburn C. Kavanaugh, but other sources, including his headstone, call him Charles Coburn).
W.M. had two pronounced character traits, Allsopp says, as he doles out an anecdote to illustrate both:
One day a man attacked him about some matter. They were both standing in the front door of the office. Kavanaugh struck him on the face, and the blow was so forcible as to send the man sprawling on the sidewalk, and making it necessary for him to be carried home. Mr. Kavanaugh
regretted that he had felt called upon to punish him for an insult, and insisted on providing medical attention for him. I am informed that the man is now one of Kavanaugh’s best friends.
At one point, Allsopp writes, Little Rock newsmen tried to form a private club. They rented two rooms, outfitted with — and this is all the furniture they had — one reading table and one billiards table. The club accomplished nothing but card games, which drove away two preacher members, and then there were too few members to pay the rent. The club died, and Kavanaugh picked up the tab.
Quick to take offense, but generous, he left the paper for politics, banking and baseball.
C.C., Allsopp adds, also was connected with the Gazette for a time …
And his sterling qualities endeared him to all the force. He was distinguished for writing the worst hand in the office. The brothers Kavanaugh are a mere sliver of the amusements in Allsopp’s 282-page book. Look here: arkansasonline.com/114allsopp.
In closing, I should not say but am going to say anyway that I am no longer peeved with you, Less Than Favorite Reader. My feelings have softened toward you more and more as the end of this column grows nearer and nearer. It has been a delightfully easy column to write — two days before my deadline.
I could not have done this without your failure to correct my mistake.
The only thing left to say is thanks. Thank you, very much.
A sketch of Charles Coburn Kavanaugh was included in his campaign ad in the Jan. 23, 1910, Arkansas Gazette.