Located in North Little Rock, Arkansas, Camp Joseph Robinson is the home of Arkansas National Guard. The camp provides training for the Army National Guard while also providing storage and facilities to a number of different military and civilian organizations. Camp Robinson was also once known as Camp Pike, named of General Zebulon Montgomery Pike when it was originally built in June 1917. Camp Robinson has a long history dating back to World War I and World War II, but unlike other bases that have closed in the intermission between conflicts, Camp Robinson has always served a purpose.
The Beginning of Camp Pike
The camp area was first awarded to the central Arkansas area because of the Little Rock Board of Commerce. The board suggested that at no cost to the US government that they could establish a post and gave the camp to Little Rock in Pulaski County. Public donations helped to build the post and totaled $500,000 in all. Construction began in 1917 and completed in November of the same year. Over 10,000 workers helped to build Camp Pike. All in all, the camp cost $13,000,000 to build.
The camp was home to the 87th Division, which served as replacement training when the division went to France. It became a demobilization facility and home for the US Third Infantry Division after World War I concluded. About 6,000 acres of land in Camp Pike was deeded to Arkansas with two restrictions. For one, the land must be used for military purposes, and two, the US government could reclaim the land in times of an emergency. That emergency would some come in the shape of World War II.
Camp Pike was the headquarters of the Arkansas National Guard in between World War I and World War II. To support the post, much of the unused or unnecessary materials in storage were sold. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was also stationed at Camp Pike, and Citizen’s Military Training Camps (CMTC) also used Camp Pike during the summers. In 1937, Camp Pike would be renamed for the late Arkansas Senator Joseph Taylor Robinson.
A Note About Joseph Robinson
Joseph Taylor Robinson was born in 1872 and became a notable American politician from Arkansas who served the Democratic Party. He had also served as a state representative, US representative, US Senator, 23rd Governor of Arkansas and Senate Majority Leader. He was at one time a candidate for Vice President.
Throughout his career as a US Senator, Robinson was a staunch Democrat who spoke eloquently and passionately about the issues of the time. He was a strong supporter of President Woodrow Wilson, and he championed the Keating-Owen Labor Act while also supporting bills that regulated railroads and other US industries. He voted to declare war on Germany. He wasn’t always successful in his endeavors, as he could not persuade Senate to ratify the Treaty of Versailles.
He ran for Vice President alongside Alfred E. Smith as a Democratic candidate. The race was difficult and Robinson was criticized by Senator James Heflin for his Catholic roots. Even though the Democrats lost to Republican party’s Herbert Hoover, Robinson still became a national figure who was known for his speeches and Democratic values. He would eventually become the Senate Majority Leader in 1933 where he would earn the title “Scrappy Joe” as he often grew red in the face, pounded his desk and stamped his feet while delivering a speech. Eventually that passion would lead to health problems as he unsuccessfully tried to pass a proposal to change the United States Supreme Court in 1937, which was known as the court-packing plan.
On July 14th, 1937, Robinson was found dead after suffering heart failure in his apartment. He was still known as the “fightingest” man in the US Senate.
Preparing Camp Robinson for War
In 1940, the US reclaimed lands for Camp Robinson and constructed facilities for the 35th Division, which was a National Guard division that could be called into active duty for one year of training. They began training in early 1941 and were called into active duty just as the US got into World War II.
Camp Robinson became a different place after the start of the second World War. It was a replacement training center. There were two centers stationed at the camp including Army training and medical training. The centers would eventually combine to form the Infantry Replacement Training Center.
During World War II, Camp Robinson would also host German prisoners of war with a capacity of 4,000 prisoners.
In Arkansas, there weren’t too many large cities in the early 1900s. Camp Robinson was the second largest city with a population of 50,000. About 750,000 soldiers had trained at Camp Robinson until its temporary closure in 1946. The camp had grown spanning 32,000 acres by this post. However, the land reverted back to Arkansas, but portions of the camp were given to organizations that were necessary to the US government. For example, the wildlife management area (WMA) located north of highway 89 and the North Little Rock airport were two of the sites. Some of the land became a National Cemetery, but a large portion of the camp created facilities for Arkansas’ Army, Navy and Marine Corpse reserve centers. These were collectively called Camp Pike in honor of the original name of Camp Robinson.
Located in Downtown Little Rock, Camp Robinson continues to serve as a home for the Arkansas National Guard’s Joint Forces Headquarters and other National Guard installations. The camp is also home to the National Guard Bureau’s Professional Education Center and Marksmanship Training Center.
Housing Near Camp Robinson
Lodging and billeting at Camp Robinson is handled by the billeting office, which can be reached at C-888-366-3205. For temporary lodging, single, double and VIP rooms are provided. Amenities include laundry, CATV, daily housekeeping, coffeemaker, Internet access, microwave and air conditioning.
Housing for the Arkansas National Guard and trainees is also handled under the billeting office.
The base is home to several activities such as a 9-hole golf course and MWR Restaurant.