TOPEKA — Less than a year after former Kansas governor Jeff Colyer signed Senate Bill 262 approving the construction of a statue of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the statute reigns as a monument to one of Kansas’s most famous citizens.
SB 262, which details the construction and payment for the statue, was the first bill Colyer signed into law as governor. Colyer was present at the unveiling ceremony last October, as were several of Eisenhower’s relatives, including his granddaughter Mary Eisenhower.
The seven-foot tall, 600-pound bronze statue, which sits on the northwest lawn of the state Capitol, was designed by Jim Brothers, a Lawrence sculptor who had previously designed the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia.
Eisenhower, who was born in Texas but spent his childhood in Abilene, Kansas, is considered one of the most famous Kansans in history. After graduating from West Point in 1915, Eisenhower went on to serve in World War One and was eventually promoted to major.
After the war, he enrolled in the Army’s graduate school at Fort Leavenworth, graduating first in his class two years later. In 1945, he was appointed U.S. Army Chief of Staff. In 1952, Eisenhower retired from active service and returned to Abilene to begin running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. In November of that year, he won the presidential election in a landslide against Democrat Adlai Stevenson of Illinois.
Eisenhower was very proud of his hometown, once saying “The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene.” After his presidential term was over, he moved with his wife to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; his final resting place, however, is in the town he loved so dearly during life, and now his home state has created a touching tribute to honor his achievements.
Marissa Ventrelli is a University of Kansas junior from Chicago majoring in journalism.