Originally created 12/02/99

Senator honored by state



COLUMBIA -- Despite some health problems this year, U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., is expected to be on hand Saturday, the day before his 97th birthday, when a massive bronze-and-granite statue of himself is unveiled on South Carolina's capitol grounds.

The public is invited to the 3 p.m. event, which will include tributes from Democrats and Republicans alike. And the renovated South Carolina Statehouse will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. so that people can see it in conjunction with the monument's unveiling.

The 17-foot statue is on the south side of the capitol. It depicts the nation's oldest and longest-serving senator, elected on a write-in vote in 1954, as he appeared some 30 years ago.

"We are absolutely delighted with the masterful likeness of Sen. Thurmond the artist created, which is based on photographs taken in the 1960s during the early years of the senator's service in the U.S. Senate," said Richland County Republican Sen. John Courson, chairman of the Strom Thurmond Monument Commission.

"The dedication ceremony will go down in history as the day the people of South Carolina paused to honor an extraordinary human being who is clearly our state's man of the century."

The work is by Tryon, N.C., sculptor William Behrends, whose design was selected from submissions by artists nationwide.

"Mr. Behrends is an internationally respected sculptor and artist," Mr. Courson said. "He truly has captured the spirit and energy of Strom Thurmond to stand as a symbol of the senator's legacy in the new millennium."

At Saturday's ceremony, the senator's children will unveil the monument. There will be remarks from Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges and Republican Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler, and Democratic Senate President Pro Tem John Drummond and Republican House Speaker David Wilkins.

The event will be taped for a special showing on South Carolina Educational Television on Sunday night at 6.

The state Legislature created the Monument Commission in 1997 to raise private money for a permanent monument to Mr. Thurmond on the grounds of the capitol, where his office was located when he was governor, 1947-1951. Donations covered the entire cost of the statue, for which no tax money was spent, Mr. Courson said.

Major corporate donors were ALCOA, Mount Holly, Bank of America, BellSouth, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina, SCANA Corp., Springs Industries and Wachovia Bank.

Reach Margaret N. O'Shea at (803) 279-6895.