Mea culpa, Mr. Ka­vanaugh

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - CELIA STOREY

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 arkansason­­feat).

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: arkansason­­sopp.

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.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette

A sketch of Charles Coburn Ka­vanaugh was in­cluded in his cam­paign ad in the Jan. 23, 1910, Arkansas Gazette.

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