After many years of fundraising and an extensive search for an appropriate location, a statue of former U.S. Congressman and civil rights advocate Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868) was unveiled today in front of the Adams County Courthouse.
Hundreds of people filled the sidewalk and spilled into Baltimore St. during the unveiling ceremony on a sunny spring day.
“Stevens lived in Gettysburg between 1816 and 1842,” said Thaddeus Stevens Society president Ross Hetrick in a television interview filmed after the ceremony. “He had a profound effect on Gettysburg. He helped establish Gettysburg College.”
Stevens encouraged President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and helped pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed slavery. Stevens is known as the “Father of the 14″ Amendment,” which granted citizenship and equal civil and legal rights to African Americans, and was a powerful advocate for education.
The event was designed in part to celebrate Steven’s 230th birthday.
The ceremony included music from the Civil War Reenactors of the 46th Pennsylvania Brass Band, and speeches by Gettysburg Borough Council President Wes Heyser, Gettysburg Major Rita Frealing, and Adams County Commissioner Randy Phiel.
The statue was commissioned by the Thaddeus Stevens Society. A major financial contributor to the statue, Michael Charney, gave a rousing address about the contributions of Stevens to civil rights in the U.S.
Statue sculptor and multidisciplinary artist Alex Paul Loza drove from Tennessee with his family to be part of the ceremony.
Loza is originally from Lima, Peru, and attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago.
Loza said he was impressed by how Stevens used his knowledge and influence to move the country toward equality.
Loza said he depicted Stevens leaning forward with his whole weight on his weaker club foot. “I was trying to illustrate that nothing could stop him,” he said.
Loza said when he learned he had won the contract for the statue he visited Gettysburg to learn more about the Stevens. “I was inspired not only in capturing the likeness but also his essence.”
Featured image: Alex Loza (2nd from right) and Mayor Frealing (3rd from right) with Lorza’s family [Gettysburg Connection]