Tubman statue found enjoying retirement

Nothing which comes stays, and nothing which goes is lost.


-- A.S. Swetchine

I think we found Minerva.

The old statue of the goddess of wisdom has been missing for almost half a century from the lobby of Tubman high and middle school, but if my sources are correct, she stills exists -- protected in a private storage facility in North Carolina.

Fred Holcombe Jr. , the father of the current owner, says he hopes to send me a photo as soon as he can. If that happens, I'll share it.

This should be good news to Tubman alums and teachers who wanted to know what happened to her. For years there were rumors she was on a private estate, or stuck in a garden or simply fallen into ruin.

I thought so, too, until Jodie Galloway called.

He said he was there about 1966 when the Richmond County school system included Minerva in a surplus property auction, and a man he knew -- Dr. Fred Holcombe , of Clinton, S.C. -- bought her.

Jodie said Dr. Holcombe appreciated history and liked the classic statue of the Roman goddess with a war helmet on her head. He took her back to South Carolina and placed her in a small antique store next to his office.

Dr. Holcombe had passed away, Jodie said, but he told me he would try to find his son who now lives near Raleigh and ask about the statue.

While Jodie was doing this, I was calling the newspaper in Clinton to see if someone might walk down the street to see whether there was anything in the antique shop.

There wasn't, I was told, and I began to worry.

But then Fred Holcombe Jr. -- "Scooter" to his friends -- called to tell me the good news that the old Augusta school statue was still around.

He repeated much of what Jodie had already told me about the statue and how his dad had bought it, then brought it to Clinton.

"Minerva was a big part of my life," he said. "She was always something special. We always hoped some of that wisdom would rub off."

What didn't rub off, he said, were the names.

An old Tubman tradition reported years ago in The Chronicle said graduates would write their names on the statue. Scooter Holcombe says many of the names were still there, small but legible and written in pencil.

He said the statue has a damaged right hand, but it had been that way when Dr. Holcombe brought it to Clinton. When the doctor died, he left the statue to Scooter's son, who protectively put it in storage.

Minerva, which Scooter estimated to be nearly 8 feet tall, was always part of their family. His father would come home from work, he said, and he remembers his mother asking: "How's Minerva today?"

I think we now know the answer.

She's doing fine, adopted by the Holcombes and enjoying retirement.

She might no longer be inspiring wisdom in the lobby of a school, but she still bears many of those handwritten names to remind her of Augusta.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com.


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