Daytona Beach, FL - It's sculpted from the same marble as Michelangelo’s “David," and its scale almost represents the massive impact she made in the lives of others.
On Monday (Oct. 11), members of the community, state and local legislators, city and county leaders, and even members of her own family were in attendance as officials unveiled the marble statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune; a local civil rights legend whose notoriety is known well outside Daytona Beach.
“Dr. Bethune recognized and acknowledged that she was the heir and custodian of a rich and seismic heritage,” said Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, speaking at the statue unveiling. “We too are the heirs of a rich and unassailable legacy.”
The statue, funded by the Dr. Mary McLeod-Bethune Statuary Fund, will remain in Daytona Beach on exhibition until it makes its next journey to the National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol, where her spot was once held by Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith. Dr. Bethune’s statue will stand next to that of John Gorrie, the man considered to be the grandfather of air conditioning.
“She captured my heart and she inspired me,” said Nilda Comas, the master sculptor behind the project.
Comas said the project came to fruition over the span of four years. In that time, Comas took the time to learn more about Dr. Bethune’s legacy, which included a trip to the Library of Congress where she was able to read Dr. Bethune’s writing, and hear her voice in one of her speeches.
“I just fell in love with Dr. Bethune and everything she did,” said Comas.
Comas added that out of the 10 finalists chosen for the project, she was the only woman and the only person experienced in sculpting in marble. The other finalists only specialized in casting bronze.
The marble statue of Dr. Bethune can be found at the News-Journal Center, where it will remain on display until December 12.
Dr. Bethune’s statue will be the first statue of an African American to represent a state in the US Capitol. It is also the first statue created by a hispanic woman to be featured in the US Capitol.