Rockefeller Elementary opened in 1979. It was named to honor Winthrop Rockefeller (1912-1973), Governor of Arkansas from 1967 to 1971. Rockefeller was built to replace two existing schools. One of them, the Parham School (built in 1908), was in the construction path of the proposed Interstate 630, so much of the funding for its replacement came from the state highway and transportation departments. The new school was bid at $2.3 million. With the prospect of a beautiful new school, the Little Rock School District decided also to close the Kramer School on Sherman Street (built in 1895). The Kramer School had gained national attention as the site of the Center for Early Development and Education established by Dr. Bettye Caldwell, Professor of Education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The center, often referred to as "The Kramer Project," began in 1969. The decision was made to move the center to the new school. The Rockefeller early childhood program provides educational experiences and child care for children aged six weeks to three years. It was developed to determine the effects of a high-quality education coupled with an extended-day childcare program on children who were from six months of age through the sixth grade in school.
Rockefeller opened to early childhood and intermediate students (grades 4-6) in August 1979 with an enrollment of 563. It became a full elementary school and center for early childhood education in 1987. The school currently serves children ranging in age from 6 weeks through 5th grade. Rockefeller is an open-space school. It offers specialized work labs, music instruction and performance areas and even separate playground areas with age-appropriate equipment for toddlers, pre-kindergartners and elementary students. The extra funds it receives allows the school to retain a full-time nurse and Early Childhood Coordinator as well as specialists in art, music, physical education, technology and media. Rockefeller's renowned Show Choir has earned a reputation as an excellent performing group and has performed throughout Arkansas.
Winthrop Rockefeller, politician and philanthropist, was the first Republican governor of Arkansas since the Reconstruction era. The grandson of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., he attended Yale University and served in the U.S. Army during World War II, earning a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He moved to Arkansas in 1953 and established Winrock Enterprises and Winrock Farms atop Petit Jean Mountain. In 1955 Governor Orval Faubus appointed him Chairman of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission. Rockefeller began a number of philanthropies and projects: he financed the building of a model school at Morrilton, he established a Fine Arts Center in Little Rock, he financed the construction of medical clinics in some of the state's poorest counties and he made annual gifts to the state's colleges and universities. These philanthropic activities continue to this day through the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. He ran for governor and lost in 1964, but his second run in 1966 landed him in the State Capitol. While in office he focused on Arkansas' lackluster educational system, providing funding for new buildings and increases in teacher salaries. During his second term he quietly completed the integration of Arkansas schools that had been such a political bombshell only a few years before. Rockefeller was diagnosed with cancer in 1972 and died the next year. His legacy lives on through the foundation that bears his name, which provides funding for projects across Arkansas to encourage economic development, education and racial and social justice.
"I have enjoyed the personal use of money; but I have gotten the greatest satisfaction from using it to advance my beliefs in human relations, human values." -- Winthrop Rockefeller
"LR schools named for prominent people," Arkansas Democrat article by Cynthia Howell, 18 Apr 1983; page 10B.
"Friends say goodbye to school," Arkansas Democrat; Monday, 7 May 1979; p. 1B (article about closing and demolition of Parham School).
Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation web site; history page:
page=inside&sub=history Wikipedia online encyclopedia; Winthrop Rockefeller biography page. If you have information about a Little Rock school or photographs that you would like to contribute to this project (we will return photographs if requested), please contact us!
Updated March 2005