Pratt Remmel

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Pratt Cates Remmel, Sr.


In office
1951–1955
Preceded by Sam M. Wassell
Succeeded by Woodrow Wilson Mann

Born October 26, 1915
Little Rock, Arkansas
Died May 14, 1991 (aged 75)
Little Rock
Resting place Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock
Political party Officer of the state Republican
Spouse(s) Catherine Couch Remmel
Children Catherine Remmel Matthews

Pratt Remmel, Jr.
Rebecca Couch Remmel

Parents:
Augustus Caleb "Gus" Remmel
Ellen Lucy "Nell" Cates Remmel

Residence Little Rock, Arkansas
Alma mater Little Rock High School

University of Virginia

Occupation Insurance agent
Religion United Methodist

Pratt Cates Remmel, Sr. (October 26, 1915 – May 14, 1991), was the only 20th century Republican elected on a partisan ballot to have served as mayor of the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas. Remmel was elected to the first of two two-year terms in 1951, was reelected in 1953, and then defeated in 1955 by the Democrat Woodrow Wilson Mann, who like Remmel was engaged in the insurance business.

In 1954, Remmel was the unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate against the Democrat Orval E. Faubus, who won the first of his six consecutive two-year terms as the state's highest constitutional officer. Remmel's 37 percent of the general election vote was the greatest then attained by a Republican candidate since Reconstruction. In some ways, he paved the beginning of a long route that would bring fellow Republican Winthrop Rockefeller to the governorship in 1967. Rockefeller moved into the state only a year before Remmel ran for governor.

Background

Remmel was born in Little Rock to former Arkansas Republican state chairman Augustus Caleb "Gus" Remmel (1882–1920) and the former Ellen Lucy "Nell" Cates (1888–1961), who was the Arkansas Republican national committeewoman, a position equivalent to membership on the Republican National Committee, having served from 1928 until 1957. Remmel's father died when he was five, and his mother reared her children without a husband. One of Remmel's great-uncles, Harmon Liveright "H. " Remmel (1852–1927), served as Republican state chairman from 1900 to 1925 and GOP national committeeman in 1924 and ran unsuccessfully for Arkansas governor in 1894, 1896, and 1900 and for the United States Senate in 1916.[1]

Remmel graduated from Little Rock High School in 1933. In 1937, he received a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, Virginia.[2]

During World War II, Remmel was a United States Navy lieutenant, a pilot, and flight instructor.[3] Hel married the former Catherine Couch (April 22, 1918 – January 24, 2006), the daughter of Harvey C. Couch of Pine Bluff, the founder of Arkansas Power & Light (a subsidiary of Entergy) and the director the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Lake Catherine near Hot Springs in Garland County is named in honor of Catherine Couch Remmel.[4]

Remmel spent decades trying to build the Arkansas Republican Party. In 1940, he became chairman of the Pulaski County (Little Rock) Republican Executive Committee. Thereafter, at various times he was treasurer of the Republican State Central Committee, finance director of the Arkansas Republican Party (1949–1951), chairman of the Young Republicans of Arkansas and vice chairman of the Young Republican National Federation. Remmel attended the national Republican conventions as a delegate in 1952 and 1956 and as an alternate in 1948 and 1960.[5]

Election as mayor, 1951

In the 1951 mayoral race, Remmel unseated the Democrat Sam M. Wassell, who sought a rarely given third term. Not since Ben D. Brickhouse (1919–1925) had anyone served longer than four years as mayor of Little Rock.[6] Wassell ignored Remmel, for he viewed the Republican nominee as too weak to warrant the reactivation of the precinct organization from the summer Democratic primary. Wassell claimed incorrectly that a Republican could not be elected in Little Rock because the party during Reconstruction had "left such an awful stink they haven't been back in seventy years."[7]

Remmel termed the Wassell administration "ineffectual, half-hearted, do-nothing government."[8] Near the end of the race when Wassell detected that Remmel was making rapid gains, the mayor listed his own accomplishments as:

(1) a newly constructed airport
(2) the establishment of a municipal budget system
(3) modern garbage disposal
(4) a revised building code
(5) improvements in city-owned properties.[9]

The former Arkansas Gazette, since purchased by WEHCO Media, Inc., and renamed the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, remained neutral in the mayoral campaign but instead urged the establishment of a nonpartisan city commission-manager form of government. "We don't know what the Democratic Party or the Republican Party has to do with municipal taxation and revenue, streets, sewers, drainage, health and sanitation, parks and recreation," the newspaper declared.[10] Little Rock established a nonpartisan city manager government starting in January 1958.[11] Therefore, Remmel's election victory as a Republican cannot be duplicated in Little Rock.

Remmel not only defeated Wassel: he won by a landslide, 7,794 votes (68 percent) to 3,668 (32 percent). He won all but three of the city's then twenty-six precincts. He was the first Republican to have sought the position in a quarter century. Then Democratic Governor Sidney Sanders McMath attributed Remmel's victory to local factors, particularly a divisive Democratic primary between Massell and Alderman Franklin E. Loy (February 10, 1915 – February 6, 1999), also an insurance agent.[12]

The Little Rock election caught the eye of Republican U.S. Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio who told an audience in Biloxi, Mississippi, that he hoped Remmel's victory would be "indicative of a new trend in the South."[13]At the 1952 Republican convention in Chicago, Remmel first favored a largely ceremonial choice, General Douglas MacArthur, a fellow Little Rock native whom he had hosted when the general visited the city.[14] Delegates Remmel, his mother "Nell" Remmel, National Committeeman Wallace Townsend and state GOP chairman Osro Cobb all voted at the convention for Taft. The Arkansas delegation split 6-4 for Taft, and an eleventh delegate abstained.[15] When the nomination went to Dwight Eisenhower, a Texas native who grew up in Kansas, Remmel worked for the national ticket, but the Adlai Stevenson-John Sparkman electors still won in Arkansas, a traditional Democratic political bastion at that time.

Reelection as mayor, 1953

Remmel announced that his second campaign would not accent the party issue, and the GOP declined even to offer an aldermanic slate. Remmel claimed that his record had been "fair to all and partial to none." [16] He spent some $15,000 in his second race and, in a technological innovation, linked six Little Rock radio stations to carry a simultaneous rally.

In his bid for a second term, Mayor Remmel faced the Democrat Aubrey Robert Kerr (1912-2001). The race assumed broader ramifications in that Remmel was expected to run for the United States Senate in 1954, if former Governor McMath who was defeated for renomination in the 1952 primary by Francis A. Cherry should unseat Democratic Senator John McClellan of Camden in the senatorial primary. Or, Remmel was seen as a possible Republican nominee for the congressional seat based in Little Rock.[16]

The Democrats denounced Remmel as the "silk-stocking candidate" and the "tool of the Republican Party." Such rhetoric came from Alderman Franklin Loy and Arkansas Attorney General Thomas J. Gentry, who had become hostile critics of the Remmel administration.[17]

Remmel defeated Kerr, 9,724 (59.2 percent) to 6,693 (40.8 percent). While Remmel claimed that his reelection had partisan implications because Kerr had emphasized party, state Republican Chairman Cobb said that the results merely reflected that Little Rock "places good government ahead of party labels."[18] Kerr's campaign manager, Frank H. Dodge, said, quite prematurely it turned out, that Remmel's reelection meant that "the two-party system is now at work in Little Rock."[19]

Remmel the Christian

A devout Christian, Remmel was a member of the board of stewards of the First United Methodist Church in Little Rock and the Methodist Men's Club. He was a former state president of the Gideons International, the men's organization which distributes Bibles in public places, such as hotel rooms.[4] On his mayoral reelection, Remmel said that one of his objectives would be to "help Little Rock grow more righteous."[20] He addressed a high school graduating class in Corning n 1953 and urged the young people to accept the "fundamental belief in God as the key to success."[21] At a Mena civic club, Remmel warned that the USA was "moving farther away from the Constitution and is giving up freedoms which were bought by the blood of the founders of the country."[22]

In his second inaugural address, Remmel quoted from Proverbs and stressed that "in this era of our world's history, we need to turn to God."[23] In the 1954 gubernatorial race, Remmel conceded that "some folks have said that Remmel is too religious, but that's exactly why Remmel has a chance at all."[24] While campaigning for governor, Remmel sought the prayers of ministers he met, carried his Bible in his hip pocket, and read five chapters daily.[25]

1954 gubernatorial results

Faubus prevailed, 208,121 262.1 to 37.9 percent. The turnout was forty thousand fewer than in the Democratic runoff. Faubus polled just 16,793 more votes against Remmel than he had against Cherry. Theoretically, large numbers of Cherry supporters either stayed home in the general election or voted for Remmel. The Republican won six counties: Arkansas, Pulaski, Sebastian, Garland, Searcy, and Newton. He received at least 40 percent in five other counties, including Jefferson, Union, and Washington. He carried the cities of Fayetteville, El Dorado, and Brinkley though he lost the respective counties.[26]

Faubus in his memoirs recalled Remmel as "a most gracious loser. The day following the election, he and his brother, Roland (Roland Rowe Remmel, September 26, 1917 – July 2, 2006), came ... to congratulate me on my victory and to wish me well. Their attitude made a strong, favorable impression on me which I never forgot."[27]

Among Democrats supporting Remmel was governor was Odell Pollard, an attorney from Searcy, who switched parties himself in 1958 and later served as the GOP state chairman from 1966 to 1970.

Defeat in 1955

Woodrow Wilson Mann (November 13, 1916 – August 6, 2002) won the Democratic mayoral nomination over the opposition of persistent Alderman Franklin Loy, who had campaigned more against Remmel than he did against Mann by asking voters why they would even consider giving Little Rock "a black eye" by reelecting Remmel.[28] Mann claimed that Remmel lacked interest in the office, had refused to allow the city attorney to oppose utility rate increases, had ignored the need for parks and playgrounds, and had failed to secure a third bridge across the Arkansas River.[29] Remmel did not commit himself to seeking a third term until a month before the election.[30] In retrospect, Remmel said that he should have been contented with the customary two terms and not reached beyond his grasp, but he wanted voters to have a second choice in regard to Mann, whom he considered to have an unsavory reputation in the insurance business. Remmel spent $18,000 in his losing campaign.[31]

The third-term bid brought out the united Democratic hierarchy, including Governor Faubus, Senator J. William Fulbright, and U.S. Representatives Brooks Hays, and Wilbur D. Mills. All urged the rejection of a two-party system. Faubus later expressed regret over his support of Mayor Mann, whom he called the "mouthpiece" of anti-Faubus forces in the 1957 Little Rock desegregation crisis.[32]

Mann upset Remmel by 1,128 votes in a moderately close outcome. Mann polled exactly 10,000 votes (53 percent) to Remmel's 8,872 (47 percent). After his tenure as mayor, Mann relocated to Houston, Texas, where he was engaged in the life insurance business. His primary rival, Franklin Loy, also in the life insurance business, later moved to Lexington, Kentucky.[33]

Through his mayoral tenure, Remmel was a former member of the advisory committee to the United States Conference of Mayors and a former chairman of the Arkansas Municipal League. He was once a member of the United States National Commission for UNESCO.[4]

Remmel's obituary

In addition to his Republican and religious affiliations, Remmel was a 32nd degree Mason, a Shriner, and a member of the American Legion, the Sertoma and Optimist clubs, and the United Fund. He was a former Arkansas president of the American Red Cross. He was affiliated with Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and the Little Rock Country Club.[34] Remmel was a board member of the Arkansas River Basin Commission and chairman of the Arkansas Waterways Commission.[3]

Remmel died in Little Rock. Services were held in his First United Methodist Church. In addition to his wife and brother Roland, Remmel was survived by a son, Pratt Remmel, Jr. (born 1946); two daughters, Catherine R. "Cathie" Matthews (born December 29, 1941) and Rebecca Couch Remmel (born c. 1950); another brother, Augustus C. Remmel, Jr. (June 14, 1914 – February 27, 2000); two sisters, Gertrude Remmel Butler (1910-2007), wife of attorney Richard Colburn Butler, Jr. (1910-1999), and Carrie Remmel Dickinson (1919-2005), wife of Haskell Tyndale Dickinson (1917-2002), and three granddaughters, all of Little Rock.[35]

Pratt Remmel Park off Interstate 440 and Pratt Remmel Road are named in Remmel's honor. In addition, Pratt Remmel, Jr., the director of the Arkansas Ecology Center, is the founder of Dunbar Garden, an urban park and green space in Little Rock.[36]

The Remmels are interred at Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock.[37]

Not a loyal Republican like his father, Pratt Remmel, Jr., is an outspoken advocate for the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump. In a 2017 letter to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Remmel said that if Trump were a Democrat, the Republicans would be trying to impeach him. Remmel voiced his specific objection to Trump's skepticism about the validity of the climate change debate. He called Trump an "incompetent and dangerous president .. Being a climate-change denier seriously degrades his capability to lead our nation."[38]

References

1. Arkansas Gazette, December 4, 1920; March 8, 1961; The New York Times, October 15, 1927; Pratt Remmel, The Political Graveyard [1].
2. Bessie Butler Allard, ed. Who Is Who in Arkansas, Vol. 1 (Little Rock, 1959), pp. 199-200; Who's Who in the South and Southwest (Chicago, 1952), p. 603.
3. 3.0 3.1 Arkansas River Hall of Fame
4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Marvon Johansen Browning, "Pratt Remmel dies; GOP mayor of LR ran against Faubus," Arkansas Democrat, May 16, 1991.
​ 5. Bessie Butler Allard, ed. Who Is Who in Arkansas, Vol. I (Little Rock, 1959), pp. 199-200; Who's Who in the South and Southwest (chicago, 1952), p. 603
6. John L. Ferguson, Arkansas Lives: The Opportunity Land's Who's Who (Hopkinsville, Kentucky, 1965), p. 466.
7. Arkansas Gazette, October 16, 1951.
8. Arkansas Gazette, November 1, 1951.
9. Arkansas Gazette, November 4, 1951.
10. Arkansas Gazette, October 30, 1951.
11. Arkansas Democrat,November 7, 1956.
12. Arkansas Gazette, November 7, 1951.
13. Memphis Press Scmitar (defunct Tennessee publication), November 8, 1951.
14. Arkansas Democrat, October 24, 1954.
15. The New York Times, October 17, 1951; Robert A. Diamond, ed., Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections (Washington, 1975), p. 93, 166; Billy Hathorn, Interview with Pratt Remmel, September 7, 1983.
16. 16.0 16.1 Arkansas Democrat, November 1, 1953.
17. Arkansas Gazette, October 15, 1953.
18. Arkansas Democrat, November 4, 1953.
19. Arkansas Gazette, November 4, 1953
20. Malvern (Arkansas) Daily Record, November 20, 1953.
21. Corning (Arkansas) Clay County Courier, May 13, 1953.
22. Mena (Arkansas) Evening Star, March 28, 1953.
23. Remmel's second inaugural address as Little Rock mayor, Pratt Remmel Collection, University of Arkansas at Little Rock Archives.
24. Remmel speech at West Memphis, Arkansas, October 26, 1954, Pratt Remmel Collection.
25. Arkansas Gazette, October 10, 1954. 26. Arkansas Secretary of State, Election Statistics, 1954.
27. Orval E. Faubus, Down from the Hills, p. 62.
28. Arkansas Gazette, October 11, 1955.
29. Arkansas Gazette, November 6, 8, 1955.
30. Arkansas Gazette, November 1, 8, 1955.
31. Billy Hathorn, interview with Pratt Remmel, September 7, 1983.
32. Arkansas Gazette, October 15, 1955.
33. Arkansas Gazette, November 9, 1955; interview with Remmel, November 30, 1983.
34. Interview with Remmel, November 30, 1983.
35. Marvon Johansen Browning, "Pratt Remmel dies; GOP mayor of LR ran against Faubus," Arkansas Democrat, May 16, 1991.
36. Arkansas Ecology Center, Garden Stories.
37. The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Reily to Remwick.
38. Pratt Remmel, Jr., "Time has come: Trump’s denialism endangers all," Letter to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 7, 2017 [2].