Albert Pike's legacy in Arkansas

A. Drew Smith
The Albert Pike School House  on the Van Buren Court House square.

Albert Pike was born in Boston, Mass. in 1809, but spent most of his life in Arkansas. Pike serve in a single battle as Brigadier General of a Choctaw Troupe for the Confederacy in the Civil War and his monument in Washington, D.C. was toppled and burned late Friday night.

In 1825, he passed the entrance exams for Harvard University, but was unable to pay the advanced tuition to attend. This led Pike to travel west. With brief stops in Nashville and St. Louis, Pike ended up in Santa Fe for a time before eventually traveling to Fort Smith.

Upon arrival in Fort Smith, Pike began a career as a school teacher in nearby Van Buren. The one room school house has been preserved and recently restored and currently stands on the grounds of the Van Buren courthouse.

Pike made many influential friendships in Fort Smith while teaching, writing poetry and philosophizing. He wrote several political articles for the Little Rock newspaper The Advocate. These articles caught the attention of the editor who offered Pike a position in the editorial tripod for the paper.

His time in the River Valley was short, but started his stint living all over Arkansas. In 1833, he left Crawford County to teach in Pope County.

Pike soon moved to Little Rock to pursue a career as a journalist where he eventually became editor and owner of The Advocate where he reported on the Supreme Court of Arkansas.

Later, Pike sold the paper and pursued a career as a lawyer. He worked his way up all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States fighting for the rights of various Native American Tribes.

Pike’s interest in various ancient languages eventually led him to discover the order of the Freemasons, which he joined in 1840 and eventually gained the status of Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite's Southern Jurisdiction as a 33rd level Freemason.

In 1862 Pike resigned from the Confederacy after several disagreements with Confederate leaders. In 1865 Pike requested a pardon for an earlier interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and was granted the pardon on April 23, 1866 by President Andrew Johnson.

In Fort Smith, there is a road and an elementary school named after Pike. There is also a bust of Pike at the masonic lodge in Little Rock.

The multi-faceted man ended his days in Washington, D.C. where he died in 1891 at the masonic temple. The Freemasons built a monument to him in 1901 in Judiciary Square. This monument stood as the only Confederate affiliated statue in the District of Columbia until rioters tore in down on June 19 as a part of the George Floyd protests that have been taking place since Memorial Day.