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Daytona group nears fundraising goal for Mary McLeod Bethune statue

The Daytona Beach News-Journal logo The Daytona Beach News-Journal 7/8/2019 By Mark Harper, The Daytona Beach News-Journal
a man wearing a suit and tie: A marble statue of Bethune-Cookman University founder Mary McLeod Bethune will have a place of honor in National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol next year. [News-Journal File] © News-Journal File/News-Journal/The Daytona Beach News-Journal/TNS A marble statue of Bethune-Cookman University founder Mary McLeod Bethune will have a place of honor in National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol next year. [News-Journal File]

Fundraising is nearing completion for a marble representation of Daytona Beach education and civil rights luminary Mary McLeod Bethune in National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.

[ALSO: Mary McLeod Bethune statue approved by House]

[AND: Pushed aside for Mary McLeod Bethune, general may have new home]

The Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Fund Inc., a nonprofit corporation, announced recently that it's collected $380,000 -- just 5 percent shy of its goal of $400,000.

It's expected that in 2020 the 9-foot statue of Bethune will replace one of General Edmund Kirby Smith of the Confederate Army as one of two representing Florida in the museum. Bethune, the daughter of former slaves, founded the school that would become Bethune-Cookman University in 1904 with $1.50 and later became one of the nation's leading civil and women's rights activists as well as an adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt.

a person standing in front of a building: Nilda Comas, a Florida artist, works on a clay version of the Mary McLeod Bethune statue to be installed in Statuary Hall in Washington next year. Comas is scupting the statue in Pietrasanta, Italy, and will be using marble from the same quarry that produced the marble for Michelangelo's "David." [Nilda Comas] © Nilda Comas/News-Journal/The Daytona Beach News-Journal/TNS Nilda Comas, a Florida artist, works on a clay version of the Mary McLeod Bethune statue to be installed in Statuary Hall in Washington next year. Comas is scupting the statue in Pietrasanta, Italy, and will be using marble from the same quarry that produced the marble for Michelangelo's "David." [Nilda Comas]

Sculptor Nilda Comas has been commissioned for the work and has been creating it in Pietrasanta, Italy.

She is using the last marble hunk of its size pulled from a historic quarry near the northern Tuscany town known as "the Little Athens of Italy" because of its culture of sculptors and artisans, said Bob Lloyd, president of the statue fundraising committee. The same quarry produced the marble Michelangelo used to sculpt his "David" 500 years ago.

When complete, it will take about two months to ship the statue from Italy to Washington, Lloyd said.

The nonprofit corporation is an independent organization, set up in partnership with the Daytona Beach Community Foundation and B-CU.

"We wanted to make sure the project was affiliated as a community effort and not just a B-CU project," Lloyd said. "We wanted a much broader outreach across the community. ... We should treasure (Bethune) as a leader and a beacon for the Daytona Beach community."

The Florida Legislature approved Bethune as the replacement of Smith as one of its two Florida representatives in the Capitol in 2018. The other is John Gorrie, the father of refrigeration and air-conditioning.

"Dr. Bethune will stand among the greatest Americans in our nation's capital and will continue to serve as an inspiration to women and especially women of color," said Nancy Lohman, founding chair of the fundraising committee.

Lloyd said he and other committee members are hoping the Bethune statue will take the place of Gorrie in the main statuary hall, and the Gorrie work will be moved to the basement, in place of the Smith statue.

The move to replace Smith came during a time when other monuments of Confederate leaders were being taken down or moved and followed the slaying of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina, church by a white supremacist who had posted photos of a Confederate Battle Flag and neo-Nazi symbols.

Smith, a St. Augustine native, served in the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War, then joined the Confederate States Army during the Civil War. He became a general early in the war and oversaw a territory stretching from Louisiana to Missouri and west to Arizona, before surrendering in Galveston, Texas, in 1865.

The Smith statue will be moved to the Lake County Historical Society and Museum in Tavares.

Bethune, interestingly, is featured in a bronze statue in Lincoln Park in Washington. The monument by sculptor Robert Berks, unveiled in 1974, is the first to honor a black woman in Washington.

"Dr. Bethune was a pioneer who not only championed education but was an advocate for human rights for all sectors of our society. She left a rich legacy for Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona Beach, and the state of Florida. She is an example of the best of America," said Clifford Porter, vice president for institutional advancement for Bethune-Cookman University.

Lloyd said in addition to funding the Capitol statue, the committee's hope is the money will cover the cost of a second replica statue of Bethune to be placed somewhere in Daytona Beach.

TO HELP: Donations can be made with checks payable to Daytona Beach Community Foundation with a notation indicating "MMB Statuary Fund" on the memo line, and in care of the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce, 126 E. Orange Ave., Daytona Beach, FL 32114.

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(c)2019 The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla.

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