Archive for Sunday, March 30, 2003

Eisenhower statue begins trek

Sculpted in Lawrence, piece will represent Kansas in Washington

March 30, 2003


With Americans nearing week three of war with Iraq, the likeness of a leader who helped end a war nearly 60 years ago is about to be unveiled.

On Saturday Lawrence artist Jim Brothers helped prepare his 10-foot tall sculpture of Dwight D. Eisenhower for a trek to Abilene, where it is scheduled to go on display April 28 at the former president's library and museum.

After a couple of weeks in Abilene, the sculpture, which weighs more than 580 pounds and depicts Ike at more than 7 feet tall, will be transported to the U.S. Capitol where it will become part of the National Statuary Hall Collection.

A public unveiling in the Capitol rotunda is tentatively slated for June 4, and after six months it will be moved to a new location in the building.

The pose Brothers chose for the piece was taken from a famous picture of Eisenhower talking to troops on the eve of D-Day -- an image that might hit home for many Americans watching nightly newscasts of fighting in the Persian Gulf.

"I would hate to speak for him," Brothers said of Eisenhower, but "I often wonder what he would have thought about what's going on now."

The sculpture showed Eisenhower making a powerful gesture, but Brothers said the general actually was talking to a recruit about fishing.

"He was the most powerful man in the world," Brothers said, and yet the image suggests he was also human.

Eisenhower said later that talking to the troops the day before he sent them to Normandy Beach in World War II was one of the hardest things he had ever done.

Brothers said he felt honored and lucky for having been chosen to sculpt the piece, which will replace a marble statue of George Washington Glick, Kansas' governor from 1883 to 1885.

"I feel that I've been very, very blessed as an artist," he said. "If I died tomorrow, I'd be a success."

The decision to replace the relatively obscure Glick with Eisenhower in the Capitol's 139-year-old, 97-statue collection was made by state and U.S. legislatures after a campaign led by U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan.

The House of Representatives approved the unprecedented swap Tuesday, and the effort is pending in the Senate.

"Dwight D. Eisenhower embodied all that was and is great about Kansas, and has long been considered Kansas' most revered son," Tiahrt said. "I find it regrettable that we have neglected to honor Dwight D. Eisenhower with a memorial in our nation's capital."

Congress in 1864 allowed each state to send statues of two people notable to its history to the Old Hall of the House of Representatives after lawmakers moved into a new, larger chamber. In addition to Glick, Kansas sent U.S. Sen. John James Ingalls, who also may soon be replaced -- with aviator Amelia Earhart.

Brothers said he would be at the dedication ceremony this summer, although he would rather just stay home and "play with the clay."

And although proud of the statue, he said he was not sorry to see it leave his care.

"People always ask, 'Don't you hate to see your work go,'" he said. "Absolutely not. Sculpture takes so long, you've really about had it."

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