Located beside the Arkansas River, the Clinton Presidential library building was designed as a bridge to the future. Many locals think it looks more like a double-wide trailer but it is an impressive site as you approach the structure from downtown Little Rock. Built in a poor section of town that contained numerous dilapidated warehouses, the building of the library contributed to the rejuvenation of Little Rock.
William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States was born in Hope, Arkansas and was raised primarily by his grandparents while his mother studied nursing after the death of Clinton’s father. He stated in his biography that he knew at an early age, he would be good at public service and he pursued it. Meeting President Kennedy in 1963 further spurred his interest in public service.
He attended Georgetown University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He received his law degree from Yale in 1973 where he met Hillary Rodham. They married in 1975 and he became a law professor at the University of Arkansas.
Clinton was elected to the House of Representatives from Arkansas in 1974 and was elected as Arkansas’ Attorney General in 1976. He would serve two terms as the youngest Governor of Arkansas in 1979 and 1982. In 1993, he was elected President and served two terms until 2001.
Guests can begin their library tour in the Orientation Theater where they will view a 15 minute Clinton narrated overview of his life and presidential terms. A guided library tour, given at regular intervals daily, is the way to get the most out of your visit. The docent-led tour provides you with more information than you can amass by reading about each artifact. Hank Klein, a retired banker, and volunteer was our tour guide for the hour-long journey. The three levels of the library are easily accessible by escalator or elevator. Security, ticket sales and gift shop are located on the first floor. The tour begins on the second floor with an overview of the construction and history of the area.
Clinton’s School of Public Service is housed adjacent to the library in the old railroad annex. Clinton did not want the building demolished so it was repurposed for the Master’s program that is available through the University of Arkansas.
In the cabinet room, you are invited to take a seat at the 23-foot table which was reproduced for the library by the same Buffalo, New York firm that constructed the table for the Nixon administration. Each chair is labeled for a cabinet position. The room contains portraits of two former presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, and George Washington. Visitors then continue into the left wing of the library to view the eight-year timeline of Clinton’s Presidency. On display are boxes of letters to the President and the Presidential appointment books. Visitors learn that Clinton was the last President to have a balanced budget. The last time that had been accomplished was in 1969 under President Nixon. Clinton was also the second President to be impeached, although he did not leave the office. Andrew Johnson had been the first in 1868.
Artifacts, personal items and a replica of the Oval Office are housed on the third floor. You can see a selection of Bill’s saxophones and presidential china.
The centerpiece of the area is the Chihuly sculpture.
In the Oval Office, you can have your picture taken behind a replica of the Resolute desk.
The library was dedicated in 2004 and welcomes traveling exhibits regularly. The archives house 80 million pages which are the largest archival collection of the Presidents.
The library pays a unique homage to a Southern President who today continues his role as a public service.