Little Rock's Idea Man
Jimmy Moses grew up steeped in the history of Little Rock, especially its downtown.
His great-grandfather, Herman Kahn, moved to Little Rock from Frankfurt, Germany, in 1870. Kahn and his sons, Sidney L. Kahn Sr. and Alfred G. Kahn, were involved in banking and real estate development. Sidney Kahn developed the Prospect Terrace neighborhood in Little Rock.
Herman Kahn's best-known development was the Marion Hotel, which was among the most famous businesses in Arkansas for much of the 20th century. Construction began on the hotel in 1905. The Marion was the tallest structure in the state from when it opened in 1907 until 1911. The hotel closed in the early 1980s and was demolished to make way for the Excelsior Hotel (which later became the Peabody and then the Marriott) and the Statehouse Convention Center.
The 500-room Marion had green carpets, bellboys in green uniforms and a marble fish pond in the lobby. The hotel was named after Herman Kahn's wife, Marion Cohn Kahn. The Marion billed itself as the "Meeting Place of Arkansas," and the state's top organizations held their conventions there. Its bar was named the Gar Hole and featured a mounted alligator gar. Visitors to the Marion through the years included Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Douglas MacArthur, Helen Keller and Will Rogers.
Within walking distance of the Marion, Moses' family operated the music and electronics store Moses Melody Shop on Main Street. the business was established shortly after World War I by Moses' grandfather, Grover Cleveland "Cleve" Moses, and operated for almost six decades until falling victim to downtown's decline in the late 1960s. During the 1960s, the store had what was known as the Color TV Lounge where customers could watch color television. There were soundproof glass booths for listening to records and live Saturday radio broadcasts by radio station KALO that featured local bands. Jimmy Moses worked in the store as a boy.
TRANSFORMING THE CITY
Moses describes downtown Little Rock as "being in my DNA." He remembers the days when customers came into the Moses Melody Shop in droves while the lobby of the Marion was filled at all hours. By the time Moses left for college at Washington and Lee University in the mountains of southwest Virginia, the capital city's core had begin its long, slow decline.
Moses sits by the window in the Little Rock Club on the 30th floor of the Regions Center in downtown Little rock and looks out on the city that has been central to his career. He's now in his 60s and thinking about his legacy. He says he wants to be remembered as someone who helped transform Arkansas' largest city back into a place where people "want to live" rather than fleeing to the suburbs in Saline, Faulkner and Lonoke counties.
"Little Rock is at a crossroads," Moses says as he gazes down on the city. "We've done a lot of good things to set the stage for growth, but I'm not sure that our leadership has fully embraced the concept that we can be great."