Benedict’s sculpture to be a fixture at Harry S. Truman Presidential Library

MILO — Once more, a renowned local sculptor, Dexter Benedict, has been called upon to create a bronze statue of a national hero. A greater than life-size statue of President Harry S. Truman, is in the final stage of refinement at Benedict’s Fire Works Studios on Baker Road. Benedict’s statue is destined for the main entrance of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Mo., which was closed in July for an approximately year-long major renovation.

Shown smiling in full stride, carrying his favorite silver-belly hat in a welcoming gesture, Benedict drew his composition for Truman’s statue from a variety of images found on the internet. He expects to be finished with the clay in a few days, along with another life size statue of a mule destined for a location along the Erie Canal near Rochester. This will be followed by molding and casting, with final finishing by the spring in time for the planned installation in May.

The Truman statue ranks among Benedict’s highest profile commissioned works. His larger than life bust of Justice Robert H. Jackson resides in the Supreme Court of the United States. Smaller copies are also at the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, as well as at The Truman Library. It was that bust of Jackson, the famed Chief Prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi leadership figures after World War II and who was named to the Supreme Court by Truman, that attracted the attention of the Truman Library & Museum Director, Dr. Kurt Graham. With funds donated by a generous anonymous benefactor, Graham says the statue will be placed at the new, grand entrance, greeting visitors with a friendly and inviting welcome. “We are thrilled to have what will become an iconic piece going forward. Dexter’s work will be a major feature of the renovation.”

The $30-million Truman Library & Museum project coincides with the 75th anniversary of Truman becoming president in 1945, and is the largest renovation of the complex since Truman himself opened it in 1957.

The renovation includes a new, permanent 12,000-square-foot Truman exhibition, upgrades to the visitor experience with a new entrance with easier access, and expand its educational and community programming. The new Truman exhibit will feature the latest interactive experiences with a comprehensive educational strategy and improved storytelling. The improvements are expected to be complete in 2020.

At the project groundbreaking, Clifton Truman Daniel, President Truman’s oldest grandson, welcomed Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, State Sen. John Rizzo, and David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States to Independence to launch the official start of construction.

Daniel said of his grandfather and the library, “He imagined it as a place where people could learn about our democracy and the presidency. He teased my grandmother that the library courtyard was their final resting place so he could get up and go to work if he wanted to. He’d like the idea that this renovation will do just that — keep him, his times and his presidency alive for future generations.”

Ferriero said, “Our Presidential Libraries play an important role in educating visitors about how our government works, especially the role of the President. The Kansas City area is fortunate to serve as home to one of our nation’s 14 presidential libraries, and we look forward to the next generation learning from Harry Truman’s life and Presidency upon the reopening of the Truman Library next year.”

Thrust into the presidency in the final months of World War II, the difficult decisions Truman faced are at the core of the history of the 20th century, setting the United States as the new world power.

“The full stature of this man will only be proven by history,” said George C. Marshall.

Truman took up the burden of leadership in a shattered world with the American belief that an open, free society can produce citizens and leaders capable of meeting any challenge. The Truman Library and Truman Library Institute is dedicated to the achievements and leadership shown by a Midwestern farm boy who never went to college, “so future generations will come to understand both the possibilities and the responsibilities of American citizenship.”