One question frequently aimed my way by out-of-towners is, “What do you have to do to get a statue of yourself cast and placed in a prominent place across Arizona?”
The answer is complicated, but here’s a brief overview of how ten of my favorites were elevated to such lofty heights:
After serving as a U.S. Senator from Arizona for five terms, Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) resigned and ran as the Republican nominee for President in 1964 but lost the election to Lyndon B. Johnson. He is immortalized with a statue cast by Joe Beeler, located in a small park near the corner of Lincoln Drive and Tatum Boulevard in north Phoenix.
After serving eight years on the Scottsdale City Council, Herb Drinkwater (1936-1997) was elected and re-elected mayor of the city for the next 16 years. His memory is honored by a Clyde Ross Morgan bronze situated in Scottsdale’s Civic Plaza.
Father Eusebio Kino (1645-1711) came to North America in the mid-1600s and established 24 missions across Arizona, California and northern Mexico. His bronze likeness, the creation of Julian Martinez, rises above the landscape in Bolin Plaza near the state capitol in Phoenix. It was given to Arizona by the governor of Sonora, Mexico, in 1967.
Before he was killed by German troops after his airplane crashed in France, Frank Luke Jr. (1897-1918) shot down 18 enemy aircraft, including 14 balloons and four planes. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and two Distinguished Service Medals. Luke Air Force Base is named for him, and Roger Burnham’s sculpture stands in front of the State Capitol in Phoenix.
Many who knew Heather Farr (1965-1993) thought she could easily become among the most prominent golfers on the LPGA tour after she turned professional in 1986. She had already been an All-America selection in both high school and college, but breast cancer cut her career short at 28. Her likeness, in the form of a Jerry Cox bronze, stands near the clubhouse at the Papago Park Golf Course.
The city of Williams is named after William “Old Bill” Williams (1787-1849), a legendary pathfinder and frontiersman who led several expeditions into Arizona and surrounding territories. A bronze of him, clad in buckskin, stands in a small park near the outskirts of the community. It was sculpted by
B. R. Pettit.
Although history now records him as a tragic victim of war, Ira Hayes (1923-1955) was initially considered a hero because he was one of the six men who helped raise the flag on Iwo Jima toward the end of World War II. He was removed from active duty and sent on a fundraising campaign across the United States. The effort was too much for the young Native American and led to a premature death, partially attributed to alcoholism. His bronze likeness, created by Felix de Weldon, stands in a small park in Sacaton on the Gila River Reservation.
Rex Allen (1920-1999) grew up in Willcox, then found fame as a singing cowboy in the movies and as a frontier doctor on television. His hometown remembers him with a small museum and a life-size bronze statue standing across the street in a railroad park. Legend says his horse, Koko, is buried alongside the sculpture, the creation of Buck McCain.
The larger-than-life statue of Pancho Villa (1878-1923) in a downtown Tucson park has been the subject of controversy ever since the government of Sonora donated it to the city as a friendly gesture. But many detractors point out that Villa and his army of revolutionaries once invaded the United States with a 1916 raid on Columbus, New Mexico, and therefore should be considered an enemy, not a friend. Regardless, the Julian Martinez man-on-a-horse sculpture remains.
Although the horseman statue riding in front of the Yavapai County Courthouse was named “Rough Rider” when artist Solon Borglum created it, nobody calls it that. Instead, it’s known as Buckey O’Neill (1860-1898), a Prescott hero who died on San Juan Hill in Cuba while fighting with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War.
These are but a small fraction of the statues honoring the greats of Arizona and America. With a little legwork and research, those interested can also find bronzes of such luminaries as Frank Kush, Pat Tillman, Harriet Tubman, Cesar Chavez, Paul Robeson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington Carver, Winfield Scott, Bil Keane, Ernest McFarland, Carl Hayden and many others spread across the state.\
— Sam Lowe is a former Valley newspaperman who now writes about his travels across Arizona, the U.S. and the globe.