Local sculptor Dexter Benedict has created a bust of renowned U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson for installation at the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, DC. The bust will be delivered for a dedication event at 10 a.m. May 17 in Jamestown on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Jackson Center there. The bronze portrait sculpture will be installed in the main gallery of the Supreme Court later this year.
A native of Jamestown, Justice Jackson earned a sterling reputation as a lawyer in the early 20th century, rose in political power in the state, and was urged to run for Governor in the 1930s. As a strong supporter of the New Deal, he was named U.S. Attorney General by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940, and then appointed to the Supreme Court in 1941. Following WWII, President Truman chose Jackson as the Chief Prosecutor for the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals. Later, he was the leading Justice in the highly significant 1954 Supreme Court decision opposing racial segregation, Brown vs. the Board of Education. He remains the last Supreme Court Justice never to graduate from law school, having learned the profession as an apprentice before passing the bar, and always referred to himself as a simple "county seat lawyer." Interestingly, according to Greg Peterson, director of the Jackson Center, former Chief Justice William Rehnquist began his career at the Supreme Court as Jackson's law clerk and was the speaker at the center's opening in 2003, and current Chief Justice Roberts began his career as Rehnquist's law clerk and will be the keynote speaker for this occasion.
As a sculptor, Benedict considers it a great honor to commemorate the life and extraordinary work of Justice Jackson. Benedict was first commissioned to create an eight foot tall cast bronze statue of Justice Jackson for Jamestown 18 years ago after being selected by Arts Council of Chatauqua County in a juried competition. That statue was unveiled in 1996 with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as the guest speaker.
With this new project, naturally, the Jackson Society and Jackson's biographer, Saint Johns University Professor John Barrett, asked Benedict if the head mold for the Jamestown statue still existed. Benedict found the mold in storage, and recast the larger-than-life bronze image as Jackson's portrait bust for the Supreme Court. According to Peterson, Jackson's family are very pleased with the work, and are covering all the costs of the bust in his memory.
In creating a bronze casting, Benedict works first in clay to develop the form and then, using the lost wax process, casts the work in his foundry. While the head mold needed no alteration, the shoulders of Jackson's bust had to be re-sculpted to straighten the twist of the original statue's pose.
Benedict is retired after a career teaching art at Keuka College, and was honored with the title of Professor of Art, Emeritus. He continues to create new works as a full-time artist in addition to commissioned works and casting pieces for other sculptors.
Page 2 of 2 - "I enjoy my work as a sculptor, attempting to give form to the visual poetry and spirit that I feel, imagine or see as I develop an image," says Benedict. "The process is fascinating, from the evolution of an idea in the transitory soft clay to the conversion into enduring bronze, and continues for me to be work worth doing. I hope that the viewer can find meaning and some sense of the thought and process "fire" in the work."