Statue of Harry Truman to be unveiled, dedicated in U.S. Capitol rotunda




  • In World
  • 2022-09-29 10:52:00Z
  • By The Joplin Globe, Mo.

Sep. 29-Lamar-born Harry S. Truman will become just the 10th U.S. president to be represented in the U.S. Capitol rotunda after the unveiling and dedication Thursday of a bronze statue of his likeness.

The 33rd president is often remembered for his contributions to end World War II, the desegregation of the armed forces and the establishment of the United Nations, NATO and the National Security Council, so it's fitting that he finally return to Washington, D.C., to be honored, say experts and officials who promote Truman's legacy.

"President Truman may be remembered largely in black and white, but he is a 21st-century standard for presidential leadership and public service. His story is our story, America's story," said Alex Burden, executive director of the Truman Library Institute, in a statement. "Inheriting a global catastrophe after World War II, Truman shouldered the burden of leadership in a rudderless world with remarkable courage, integrity and humility. That's why it's a tremendous honor to lead this effort to bring Truman back to Washington more than 75 years since he boldly led our nation through some of the most dramatic and consequential chapters in America's history."

Truman was born in Lamar, where his birthplace remains a state historic site, and grew up in Independence. He was a farmer, small-businessman, Army veteran, county commissioner, U.S. senator and politician. He assumed the presidency April 12, 1945, after just 82 days of serving as vice president under Franklin D. Roosevelt.

According to the Truman Library Institute, Truman as president led the country through world-defining decisions, including:

-Ending World War II.

-Forming the United Nations and NATO.

-Desegregating the U.S. armed forces and federal workforce.

-Enacting the National Security Act of 1947 to create the National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Air Force and Joint Chiefs of Staff.

-Recognizing the newly formed state of Israel.

-Resisting communist expansion and establishing alliances that resulted in an era of peace and prosperity.

'Admired' by Missourians

In a follow-up interview with the Globe, Burden said Truman, a Democrat, continues to have a strong bipartisan appeal. As a senator and president, Truman regularly worked both sides of the aisle and maintained good relationships with many Republicans, he said.

"That ability to cross the aisle and put party aside ... is a rare ingredient to find in a politician these days, but I think most people recognize that's important," he said.

Even today, Truman is revered by politicians of all stripes. Missouri's entire congressional delegation and state leaders, who are heavily Republican, were significant supporters of the statue project, Burden said.

"President Truman's tenacity, character and courage to confront difficult problems are values admired by his fellow Missourians and people who study our history," said Missouri U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican who played a crucial role in steering the project, in a statement. "No president faced more crucial decisions than those President Truman confronted in the first nine months of his presidency. It's been an honor to work in the same Russell Senate offices he used for the last 12 years."

Truman also endears himself to people in the 21st century because he was honest and spoke plainly, he failed in several business ventures before going into politics, and he pushed for civil rights and desegregation, Burden said.

"His character, I think, has an enduring appeal to people; the way he conducted his life and his business and his politics is without reproach," he said. "I think he's a political role model we can point to as an example of how we all want our elected officials to behave and comport themselves."

Lest anyone think a president of the 1940s is no longer relevant, in many ways we're still living in Truman's world decades later, Burden said.

NATO, one of his creations, has reemerged on the international front because of Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Years of relative peace in Western countries arose as a result of the Marshall Plan and Truman's desire to see countries defeated in WWII restored as democracies. Many of his priorities, such as national health care and strong foreign policy, are still sought by political parties today.

"I think we're all benefiting from living in almost eight decades of peace and prosperity of the world order that Truman put in place in the late 1940s," Burden said.

About the statue

The statue of Truman, standing 7.5 feet tall atop a 3-foot inscribed pedestal, will be installed in the Capitol rotunda, joining statues of presidents George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, Andrew Jackson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

The project was spearheaded by the Truman Library Institute, which was founded by Truman himself as the nonprofit partner of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum. The nonprofit collected $400,000 in donations from across the country for the project and also recently led a $30 million renovation of the Truman Library in Independence.

Artist and sculptor Tom Corbin said in a statement that Truman was a president "who seemed to always be in motion." As such, his statue portrays Truman walking down a set of steps "with a confident, open and welcoming quality" rather than standing still, as many other Capitol statues depict.

Corbin and others involved in the project also spent a lot of time reviewing portraits, photographs, videos and personal items from Truman's presidential years in order to get his likeness just right, said Cassie Pikarsky, director of strategic initiatives for the Truman Library Institute and project lead for the statue.

"We also worked with members of Truman's family to make sure to get every detail correct - from his World War I lapel pin and pocket square fold in his signature double-breasted suit to his Masonic ring with the number 33 that he always wore and his signature glasses," she said in a statement.

To make room for Truman, the statue of Alexander Hamilton will be relocated from the rotunda to the Hall of Columns. Additional statues in the rotunda are a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. and a portrait monument to Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

Truman's statue also will become part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, which consists of 100 total statues, or two representing each of the 50 states. It will replace a marble statue of Thomas Hart Benton, a U.S. senator from Missouri and great-great-uncle of the Neosho-born painter of the same name. The Benton statue will be relocated to the State Historical Society of Missouri in Columbia.

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