LMU to recognize Civil War general with statue

Published 11:03 am Friday, September 8, 2023

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The Lincoln Memorial University Board of Trustees will unveil and dedicate a new statue honoring Gen. Oliver Otis Howard during its annual Homecoming celebration at 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 13.

“It is very fitting to have a remembrance of General Howard on this campus. Without his support, this institution would never exist,” LMU Chairman Autry O.V. “Pete” DeBusk said. “Reverend A.A. Myers got everything started with the Harrow Academy, but Howard really took this to the next level. In recalling his conversation with President Lincoln not only did he give us an identity, but a strong sense of mission and a legacy to honor. I can’t help but think that Howard and Lincoln would both be blown away by how this school that started as a small liberal arts college has grown into a national University following the Ivy League model and offering many quality professional degree options.”

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Howard, a native of Maine, was a career soldier serving in the Union Army during the Civil War and later assigned a tour of duty in the West. He was wounded at the battle of Fair Oaks, resulting in the amputation of his right arm. After a short recovery period, he returned to his post and was promoted to major general. He played a significant role at the Battle of Gettysburg and was sent by President Abraham Lincoln to join the fight in Tennessee. Howard performed well while leading the 11th Corps in the Battle of Chattanooga, an engagement which opened the way for future operations against Atlanta.

At the end of the war. Howard was chosen to head the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, more popularly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau. He promoted African-American education on all levels and eventually played a key role in the founding of Howard University. The institution was created by a group of congregational church members to train African American ministers. Howard found land for the campus within the boundaries of the District of Columbia, used Bureau money to help pay for the land and sustained the college financially for many years. For his efforts, the school was named for him.

In 1894, at the age of 64, Howard retired from the Army following 44 years of continuous military service. Following his military career, he traveled the country as an acclaimed speaker. On one of his trips, in 1896, he returned to Tennessee and made a stop in the Cumberland Gap area. There he met with Reverend A.A. Myers who had founded the Harrow Academy for underprivileged mountain families. Howard agreed to help raise money for the school if Myers would expand its scope to include higher education. A year later, Lincoln Memorial University was founded as a living memorial to President Abraham Lincoln. Howard remained dedicated and involved with LMU through the end of his life in 1909.

The LMU Board of Trustees commissioned the statue through personal donations to honor the University’s founder. LMU once again called on sculptor Omri Amrany, who cast the statue of Pete DeBusk, to pay tribute to Howard. Amrany’s work is displayed throughout the country and includes tributes to the likes of Michael Jordan, Lute Olson, John Purdue, Bob Cousy, A’ja Wilson, Hank Gathers, Vince Lombardi, Pat Tillman, David Beckham, Frank Thomas and Orville Redenbacher.

“While General Howard and Reverend Myers were the architects of LMU’s beginnings, the current Board of Trustees are the engineers of the institution’s future,” DeBusk said. “I believe it is important to remember and honor our past, but this Board also deserves recognition for their faithful service. Sharing their individual time, talent and treasure, the board has charted a steadfast course to secure the future of this institution.”

Once installed, the statue, which depicts Howard on horseback during the Civil War, will stand over 20 feet tall. The statue will be installed over a Tennessee marble base currently under construction in Alumni Park (the original site of Lamar Hennon Field) adjacent to DAR-Whitford Hall.

The statue will be the second memorial to Howard on the LMU Main Campus. Alumnus and accomplished sculptor R. Rhudy Bell, ’52, completed a bronze bust of Howard. The University installed the bust outside of the Duke Hall of Citizenship in 2003. It was moved to its current location outside of Chinnock Chapel during the University’s Quadrangle’s realignment in 2016 when the Jim Whitt Bell Tower was erected.