In 1943 and 1944, the Arkansas Capitol was dark during the Christmas season, on orders from the War Production Board.
On December 15, 1945, however, the Capitol was lit once again. Lights outlined the dome and building, a revolving tree out front, glowing nativity scene in front of the bronze doors, all lit through New Year’s Eve.
In years to come, each holiday season at the Capitol would see a mix of the familiar with something new.
In 1946, the 40-member Al Hazar Temple Shriners’ band performed, in an event broadcast over a local radio station. They were followed in 1947 by the Little Rock All-girl Choir plus the Dokie Band of the Knights of Pythias.
By 1950 the ceremony, attended by some 5,000, was heard across the state on the “Razorback Network.” Ads in the local paper taken out by the Secretary of State exhorted parents: “for the true significance of Christmas, make sure the children see the Nativity scene at your state capitol.”
The next year, the ceremony was joined by the choir of the A M&N College in Pine Bluff, today’s UAPB and was televised, by Memphis station WMCT.
And on December 18, 1954, “Christmas in Arkansas” was broadcast nationally over the NBC radio network, with hundreds of thousands of listeners hearing the Pine Bluff choir and the happy sounds of the crowd in front of Arkansas’s Capitol.
Capitol Snapshots is presented by Capitol Historian David Ware and the Arkansas Secretary of State's Office.