On December 4, 2018, Frank Scott, Jr. became the first elected African-American mayor of the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas.
More than 60 years after the Central High Crisis of 1957 vaulted Little Rock onto the international stage, Scott’s historic victory symbolizes significant progress in race relations in the Deep South.
When he addressed his crowd of supporters, Scott drew a deep breath and said, “First, I just want to say it’s good to see Little Rock right now. It’s good to see every race, every culture, every faith, every sexual orientation, every gender identity, because this is all about unifying our city.”
Scott, a 35-year old banker with First Security Bank and former state highway commissioner, cobbled together an effective coalition of support to best his run-off opponent, Baker Kurrus, a retired businessman and former school superintendent with a strong history of advocacy for the city’s troubled public schools.
With Scott holding a commanding 66-34% lead in early voting, Kurrus called to concede. As more vote totals poured in, the race tightened but was not close with Scott carrying a 58-42% lead in late voting totals.
The race was never really about race.
Scott touted his business, pastoral and political background as a foundation for building unity across a city that has seen six decades of progress and regression on the racial front. Campaigning as a native son of the city from southwest Little Rock, he promised “new leadership” and “bold, new solutions for old problems.”
Often aspirational, Scott promised to add more police officers to the streets of a city that has seen brutal crimes in recent years. He centered his messaging on jobs and economic development, more resources for programs to work with youth and public schools, and more thoughtful transportation investments.
But mostly, he talked about inclusion.
“We can’t unify Little Rock if every citizen doesn’t see themselves at the table,” he often said at campaign stops.
He’s detailed an exhaustive plan of action to grow representation for younger citizens of the city, the LGBT community, and to diversify City Hall.
Scott will be sworn into office on January 1, 2019. He will succeed Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, who will complete his 12th year as mayor.