Little Rock College
Little Rock, Arkansas
The Arkansas Gazette covered Little Rock College activities extensively. Rachel Silva’s online Sandwiching in History tour of Little Rock College/St. John’s Seminary provides a history of both schools and campus buildings. The school seal from the front of Morris Hall is courtesy of the Diocese of Little Rock.
Founded by Bishop John B. Morris, Little Rock College opened September 15, 1908 with only 14 students but had 47 by the end of the year. The first ad in the Gazette noted that it offered classical, scientific, commercial and preparatory courses. Enrollment rose; 114 students were enrolled in 1915—28 at college level. The 1921 Directory of Catholic Colleges and Schools shows that by then college students outnumbered preparatory students 135 to 122.
L.R.C. added more programs to attract student or meet community needs. A night school was added in 1909, attracting 61 students a year later. St, John’s Seminary came in 1911 to train priests. An architectural program was added in 1915. In 1918 the U.S. Army awarded Little Rock College an SATC program; a ROTC program came in 1919. In 1921 the school offered a pre-medical program, and in 1922 it added a School of Pharmacy. Women were admitted as day students in 1928.
The Gazette showed that L.R.C. students had numerous extracurricular and social activities. The College orchestra, College band and a jazz band figure prominently in school programs. Students performed a yearly minstrel show to support athletic programs. The Morris Literary Society met weekly; teams from the O’Hearn Debating Club participated in state and regional contests. Students published a newspaper, “The Pebble,” and a yearbook, The Aquila. There were regular dances and banquets sponsored by various organizations.
In 1930, the financial crisis hit the campus. Bishop Morris closed the college that summer. However, Silva notes that the “Philosophy Department” continued to offer classes to the seminary students. The preparatory school also continued as the forerunner of the present Little Rock Catholic High School.
Student Pharmaceutical Association. Image from the 1928 Aquila. Photo courtesy of University of Arkansas Medical Science Library Historical Research Center.
Bricks and Mortar
The Gazette reported in 1908 that Bishop Morris had purchased the Arkansas Military Academy building at the corner of 25th and Gaines streets. By 1910 a $1500 gymnasium had been added to the campus. In the fall of 1912 a new dormitory was built.
In 1915 with a growing student body, L.R.C. purchased 40 acres in Pulaski Heights for a new campus, comprising “forest, shore, lake, isle, hill and dale.” When LRC moved there, the campus contained three large brick and stone buildings. Morris Hall, the four-story administration building, contained offices, the library, and chapel, as well as providing dormitory space for the older students. Four-story Fitzgerald Hall contained science classrooms and labs and served as a dormitory for younger students. Originally its top floor housed the commercial and engineering departments. The smaller, two-story Byrne Hall contained the refectory. From 1929 until 1960 it housed a seismograph to monitor the New Madrid area.
In 1930 the preparatory department moved back to the Gaines Street campus, remaining there until 1959. St. John’s Seminary was returned to the Pulaski Street campus, remaining there until it was closed in 1967. Today only the dormitory remains at the Gaines Street location. The Pulaski Heights campus—still intact-- serves as the Diocese center.
Team name: In 1923 the Gazette began referring
to athletic teams as Eagles instead of Catholics.
Colors: Dark Purple and White
L.R.C. played its first football game eleven days after school opened in 1908, losing 15-0 to the All-Stars. Mostly prep students, the 15-member team (from a student body of 30) averaged 132 pounds per man. For several years the team played a high school schedule with a an occasional game against a college reserve team. In baseball and basketball, L.R.C. teams played in the Interscholastic League against the local high school, the medical school and the deaf-mute institute.
By the 1920’s L.R.C. teams began playing against other four-year colleges in various manifestations of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Using present names, the 1928 schedule included Lyon College, Arkansas-Monticello, Ouachita Baptist , Hendrix College, University of the Ozarks, Southern Arkansas, Central Arkansas, Arkansas Tech, and Arkansas State. The Eagles won one game.
However, L.R.C. won the conference basketball tournament in 1928. The college also participated in the annual conference track meets and tennis tournaments.
Little Rock College track team. Image from the 1924 Aquila, courtesy of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.