The wait is over.
The newly sculpted marble statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was unveiled today in a formal ceremony befitting all the accolades she deserved.
The statue will be temporarily displayed in Daytona Beach prior to being transported to Washington D.C for its permanent placement in the U.S. Capitol, representing one of the two greatest Floridians in the state's history.
Dr. Bethune is the first African American and only the 10th woman to be honored in the Statuary Hall State Collection. Her statue will replace Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith.
The City of Daytona Beach, Dr. Bethune’s home town and where she founded Bethune-Cookman University, received the unique opportunity to display the 11-foot statue for a limited time.
Visitors will learn the details of Dr. Bethune’s legacy as an educator, activist and entrepreneur, which will be showcased through the symbolism of the three-ton creation sculpted by Florida artist Nilda Comas, the first Hispanic Master Sculpter whose work will be in the Statuary Hall State Collection.
The statue, created by Ms. Comas in Pietrasanta, Italy, began as an 11.5-ton block of marble excavated from Michelangelo’s cave in the Apuan Italian Alps in Tuscany.
“We are thrilled to be able to bring the exhibit of this statue of Dr. Bethune to Daytona Beach before the statue takes its place of prominence in Washington, D.C. for all time,” said Nancy Lohman, president of the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Fund Inc. “This has been years in the making and we’ve rallied the support of many business and community partners to help us properly pay tribute to this great Floridian.”
It is one of Daytona Beach's proudest moments, Mayor Derrick Henry said. “Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune recognized that she was the heir and custodian of a rich and seismic heritage. We, too, are the heirs of a rich and unassailable legacy. A hallmark of courage and a shining example of American exceptionalism. A gleaming representation of what is possible with faith and dogged determination.”
Dr. Hiram Powell, B-CU interim president, quoted Dr. Bethune, saying, “With faith, nothing is impossible. Without it, nothing is possible. Faith in God, but also faith in oneself. We should all care for the least of thee.”
Dr. Powell added, “She was an amazing woman. She is an amazing women. And what a legacy she has left us.”
The scultor was joyous with the unveiling.
“From the beginning I thought this sculpture is to be in marble,” Ms. Comas said. “Because that is the highest honor you can give a person. The long journey was really worth it.”
After the ceremony, Deric Feacher was beaming as Daytona Beach City Manger and a B-CU alumnus.
“I understand the legacy and what Dr. Bethune did for this community,” Mr. Feacher said. “Having this statue here today and eventually in DC will be a milestone in our community that will be life changing.”
The statuary fund raised the funds and coordinated creation of the marble statue as well as a bronze statue for Bethune Plaza in the Daytona Beach Riverfront Esplanade Park, a feature-length documentary and an instructional program for K-12 students.
The statue will be displayed until Dec. 12 at Daytona State College's performing arts center at 221 N. Beach St. The performing arts center at B-CU, where another Bethune statue is located, was undergoing renovations and unavailable for the unveiling and display.
The unveiling and display were led by DSC President Tom LoBasso and DSC Trustee Bob Lloyd. But they said they would support the Beach Street site as the venue for the statue, but only if they were co-hosts with B-CU, demonstrating the very attitude and mindset of collaboration Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was known for … an event shared by everyone and open to everyone.
The exhibit will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and admission is free. For more information, visit mmbstatue.org.