By Anne B. Pope, Executive Director —
A bust of legendary Tennessean David Crockett was unveiled on Tuesday, December 6, 2016. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 505 in 2014 to place the bust on the second floor of the State Capitol Building, outside the House of Representatives Chamber across from the bust of Andrew Johnson.
“I thought it was appropriate that we should have two former members of the legislative body watch over us as we enter and leave the chamber,” said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick.
As indicated in the Senate Joint Resolution 505, David Crockett is one of Tennessee’s most notable sons, due in large part to his legendary volunteerism. He is revered as a pioneer, frontiersman, public servant, statesman, backwoods orator, and most of all, a man of the people.
“From the Nolichucky River in the East to the Mississippi River in the West, David Crockett was a man of the people. He fought for freedom and independence until the day he died. And, in that sense, he was not unlike some who serve here today. He was a man of his time and for all time, a true Tennessean,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris.
The lawmakers were joined by members of the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Tennessee State Museum and the Office of the State Architect on behalf of the State Capitol Commission. Antonio (Toby) Mendez, the artist who created the bust, was also in attendance. Mendez said he was honored to have the opportunity to memorialize this Tennessee hero.
“My signature is on the bust, but the lasting thing is that it will be here for a very long time. There is such permanence about a bronze sculpture and it’s going to be part of storytelling for generations to come. There is a great deal of pride I have in that as an artist,” said Mendez.
Mendez has been a working sculptor for over 30 years. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and studied art in Madrid, Spain. Among many others, his works include: the Mohandas Gandhi Memorial in Long Island, NY; President Theodore Roosevelt for the National Park Service, Buffalo, NY; Hall of Fame Red Sox player Carl Yastrzemski for Fenway Park in Boston, MA; a bronze portrait of Sidney Kimmel for the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, PA; and a sculpture of Danny Thomas for Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN.
The Tennessee Arts Commission announced a national call to artists in early 2016, which resulted in 43 applicants representing 24 states. A selection committee evaluated all the applicants based on artistic excellence, artistic vision, project management and Tennessee connection. The committee unanimously selected Mendez for the commission. Mendez’s references from his past works all noted he was extensive in his research, and had great attention for detail, but his real gift is his ability to bring sculptures to life.
Tennessee hero David Crockett was born in Limestone, Greene County. Recognized and idolized as a true Renaissance man, he was a farmer, frontiersman, sharpshooter, lieutenant, town commissioner, writer and legislator. He will always be remembered as a heroic participant in the Battle of the Alamo, in which he made the ultimate sacrifice of his life to preserve the independence of the Republic of Texas.
“No single historical individual captures the essence of Tennessee better than David Crockett. He lived in each Grand Division of the state, he was a self-made man who served in public office, and he gave his life fighting for the independence of Texas from the dictatorial rule of General Santa Anna. He is one of the most publicly loved figures from our state, and we are proud to have him represented in our Capitol for his service to the people of Tennessee,” commented Jim Hoobler, Senior Curator of Art & Architecture at the Tennessee State Museum and Curator of the State Capitol Building.
I would like to thank the members of the selection committee for their participation and hard work: TN State Architect, Peter Heimbach; Senior Curator of Art & Architecture at the Tennessee State Museum and Curator of the State Capitol Building, Jim Hoobler; Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris; Representative Ron Travis; TN Arts Commissioners Stephanie Conner-Chair, Jan Ramsey, Ritche Bowden, and Andrea Loughry; Sculptors Ed Hamilton and Russ Faxon; and Military Sites Preservation Specialist from the Tennessee Historical Commission and Director of the Tennessee Wars Commission, Fred Prouty.
I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Krishna Adams, Director of Visual Arts, Craft, Media and Design, who managed the project on the Commission’s behalf.
More About David Crockett
In 1794, when Crockett was eight, his father opened a tavern in Morristown and in 1811 Crockett moved to Middle Tennessee. In 1813 he volunteered to fight in the Creek Indian War and was later appointed a lieutenant. From 1817 to 1820 Crockett served as a magistrate for Lawrence County.
He entered the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1821 to represent Lawrence and Hickman counties, which at that time was located in Murfreesboro, the provisional capitol of Tennessee. He was re-elected in 1823, but defeated in 1825. Crockett was then elected to the United States House of Representatives, representing West Tennessee in 1827. He won a second term in 1829 and served until 1831. He lost that election after vehemently opposing Andrew Jackson’s policies regarding land reform and the Indian Removal bill.
Crockett was re-elected in 1833 but defeated in 1835. It was at this point that the Tennessee icon moved to Texas, ultimately dying at the Alamo during the fight for independence from Mexico.