Home In the News Statue of controversial Montgomery namesake unveiled near City Hall

Statue of controversial Montgomery namesake unveiled near City Hall




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The bronze statue of city namesake American Revolutionary War General Richard Montgomery, which was originally to be erected at Montgomery Plaza, was unveiled instead across the street from City Hall at Lister Hill Plaza on Friday.

The city commissioned freelance sculptor Clydetta Fulmer to create the 600-pound statue.

“He was a gentleman and a soldier who was energetic and elegant. When he took command it was said he was ‘born to command.’ He was called the ‘First Great American Hero,”https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/” Fulmer said.

Not everyone shared the same opinion of Montgomery. Historians say he became a slave owner when he married into his wife’s slave-owning family. 

Michelle Browder, a history tour guide, called the statue of Richard Montgomery an embarrassment to the city and said she was happy the sculpture would not be placed at Montgomery Plaza like originally planned.

“At least it’s out of sight. You have to go and look for it now versus it being in the middle of the city,” Browder said.

Browder brought the Vera Institute of Justice to City Hall to protest the sculpture when it was first planned for placement at Montgomery Plaza. She complained about the idea of placing a sculpture of a slave owner in what was the central location of the Montgomery slave trade in the 1850s. 

“What am I supposed to tell these people when they come to the city and they see a slave owner adjacent to the slave auction block,” Browder said. 

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There are still no sculptures of Rosa Parks or Dr. Martin Luther King at Montgomery Plaza. 

There was no mention of Richard Montgomery being a slave owner by Mayor Todd Strange or historian Richard Bailey, who made speeches about the statue at the unveiling ceremony Friday. Instead of any mention of that history, there was a celebration of Montgomery as an American hero and patriot.

City Councilman Charles Jinright and Strange said the placement of Richard Montgomery at Lister Hill Plaza was a more appropriate location for the sculpture and the area needed revitalization.

Fulmer explained her process in creating the sculpture. Fulmer has been commissioned to create at least 10 public sculptures around the Montgomery area, including the life-sized bronze sculpture of Helen Keller as a child reading braille at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped on Monticello Drive. 

At the unveiling of the statue, Fulmer’s voice echoed through the City Hall auditorium as she described her process.

“Just as you have a skeleton to support your body, so the clay figure needs a framework inside to support it,” she told a large crowd of about 50 people.

Fulmer used Larry Cornwell for a model. Cornwell, past president of the General Richard Montgomery Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, had a revolutionary war costume. Sons of the American Revolution is an organization comprised of men who are descendants of revolutionary war soldiers.

Fulmer based the statue’s measurements on Cornwell, even measuring his ears to complete the work.

“She measured everything. Everything that is up there is me, except for the face,” Cornwell said.

Cornwell said the reason the city is named after Montgomery is because the Revolutionary War general was back in the news in 1818 when his body was exhumed from where he was buried by British troops following the Battle of Quebec and moved to a cemetery in New York City.  

“At that time, it was making all the news. He was the first hero of the American Revolution being returned to American soil,” Cornwell said.

A resurgence in his popularity prompted a number of cities in the country to name cities after Montgomery. 

Sara MacNeil can be reached at smacneil@montgome.gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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