News & Features » Miscellany

A Henrico group's plans to build a Maggie Walker monument come as a surprise to the Maggie L. Walker Historical Foundation, which has been planning its own monument.

The Two Maggies

There are two statues of Jefferson Davis in Richmond but not one of Maggie Walker. While that says a lot about our racially checkered past, the gap may be closing soon. Last week, the Henrico Section of the National Council of Negro Women Inc. announced it had formed a nonprofit corporation to raise money for a monument to Walker. The group is scheduled to appear before City Council April 12 (after Style Weekly's press deadline) to request the donation of a triangular parcel of land near Jackson Ward at the intersection of Adams Street, Brook Road and West Broad Street. It all came as a shock to the members of the Maggie L. Walker Historical Foundation, who for the last year have been discussing building their own Walker monument on the riverfront with local sculptor Paul DiPasquale. "I am really in the dark about this. It was a total surprise," says foundation president Muriel Branch. DiPasquale, who sculpted the Arthur Ashe monument, approached the foundation last year with the idea of a Walker monument, something that the foundation itself has kicked about for decades. However, the foundation has been struggling for a decade to get nonprofit status, a major stumbling block to getting its Walker statue made. That's not so with the Henrico group. Its fund-raising effort is being led by Alfred "Doug" Goodwein, an IRS contract representative and former senior planner for Richmond. Last week, Goodwein told Style that his group already had a commitment from a private company for $125,000 of the statue's estimated $250,000 budget if City Council donated the land. The Henrico group, which consists of about 70 women, anticipates its statue will be built within 15 months. Though the group has said it will conduct a nationwide search for a sculptor, Goodwein says it has already been looking at the work of Los Angeles artist Tina Allen. An acclaimed painter and sculptor, Allen sculpted a monument to "Roots" author Alex Haley that was unveiled last year in his hometown of Knoxville, Tenn. Currently working on a monument to Sojourner Truth in Battle Creek, Mich., Allen has also done sculptures of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Bill Cosby, Muhammad Ali and Bishop Desmond Tutu collect her work. Reached at her studio in California last week, Allen says she has not yet been contacted about the Walker statue but is intrigued. Though her schedule is busy, she says, "I'm always interested in any statue that uplifts women. It's so important that we start redefining women for the 21st century." As for DiPasquale, though he says he was also surprised by the Henrico group's announcement, he "applauds" their effort. "I think [Walker's] time is past due," DiPasquale says, adding that there is "crying need in the market for women to be acknowledged." DiPasquale, who is also known for sculpting the giant Indian brave at The Diamond and a bust of living civil-rights legend Oliver Hill at the Black History Museum, says he will apply for the Henrico group's statue also. The historical foundation never decided to hire him for the statue and says it planned to interview several artists, including DiPasquale. He passionately wants to create a statue of Maggie Walker, a native Richmonder who rose from being the child of a slave in the segregated South to becoming the first black female bank president in the nation and a pioneering black entrepreneur and civil-rights figure. "My vision is not of the matronly Maggie Walker," DiPasquale says. "It's of the young, vibrant businesswoman. You see pictures of her as a slim, fashionable, attractive entrepreneur. That's the image I imagined working with." He also doesn't think that anyone who raises money for a Walker statue should discount Monument Avenue as a site, despite the controversy that raged around the Ashe monument being placed among icons of the Confederacy. "I think Maggie Walker would look great on Monument Avenue," DiPasquale says cheerily. After the Henrico group announced its plans last week, Branch, the president of the Maggie L. Walker Historical Foundation, called them. The two groups have talked about the possibility of a merger, a possibility that would help the Henrico group because the foundation includes Walker descendants and Branch, who co-authored a critically praised children's biography of Walker and is now a scholar/writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia. The groups are also talking about aiding each other's statue-building efforts because they have come to the conclusion that nothing precludes two monuments to Walker being built in Richmond. They won't be competing for fund-raising dollars at the same time because, as Goodwein points out, the Henrico group has a commitment for half its budget and plans to raise the rest in quick order. The foundation would still have to get nonprofit status to raise money for a statue, a process that still seems far distant. "I don't really see it as negating the public monument at the riverfront," Branch says of the Henrico group's proposal. "There could be two. Wouldn't that be great? This woman is an icon here in Richmond. If anybody deserves to have a couple monuments, it's Maggie Walker." Says Goodwein: "There's room in four quadrants in this city for Maggie Walker. This city is big enough. If you come north, south, east or west, you should meet

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Add a comment