On the east bank of Peter Pan Lake stands a bronze effigy with a cordial, yet steadfast, disposition memorializing “Sage of Emporia,” William Allen White. Both the subject and artist of this monument were honored during a presentation by Roger Heineken Feb. 12 at Emporia State’s William Allen White Library.
White, who died in 1944, was “one of the most prominent citizens of not only Emporia, but also Kansas,” said Heineken, Emporia State retiree and member of the William Allen White Community Partnership, Inc., during the ceremony. White’s legacy motivated the Emporia community to commission Jo Davidson to form and cast a larger-than-life bronze bust of him, according to Heineken.
During his career, Davidson used his talents to immortalize the likeness of Charlie Chaplain, Helen Keller, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and hundreds of others in stone and bronze according to his grandson, and fellow artist, Laurent Davidson’s website. Several of Davidson’s works are on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D. C.
Davidson, who met White and his son William Lindsey White in 1919 at the Versailles Peace Conference, crafted the bust of White in 1947 at his Pennsylvania studio and exhibited it at a New York City gallery before it reached its final destination in Emporia. The bust was produced at the cost of $10 thousand – $133 thousand by today’s standards – according to Heineken.
The fundraising for White's memorial came in the form of monetary donations and WWII war bonds. The Emporia community raised enough money in war bonds to gain the naming rights of two prominent players in the Pacific theater: the USS William Allen White and a Boeing B-29 Bomber that “accompanied the Enola Gay on the mission to drop the atomic bomb,” according to Heineken.
The existing memorial was erected and dedicated in 1950, six years after White’s death. Former President Herbert Hoover, a friend of White, was the keynote speaker at the dedication Ceremony.
“To refresh my memory,” said Hoover during his speech lamenting his friendship with White. “I have gone through the files of hundreds of communications between us over a third of a century... and every page raises again the sense of personal loss at his passing and the loss to his country of his superlative mind and character.”
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