ABILENE — Gov. Jeff Colyer signed his first bill into law Wednesday at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library. Senate Bill 262, which had unanimously passed both the House and Senate, authorizes a statue of Eisenhower to be placed on the grounds of the Kansas Capitol.

Plans are to unveil the 7-foot bronze statue of Eisenhower as a five-star general mounted on a 3-foot granite base shortly before his Oct. 14 birth date. The statue, which will be placed just off the horseshoe drive near the main public entrance on the north side of the building, will be made using the same mold that created the statue of Eisenhower that stands in the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall. A similar work, also by the late Lawrence sculptor Jim Brothers, is part of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedsford, Va.

Colyer described Eisenhower as a real hero.

“The idea of servant leadership is encapsulated in Ike, and I take great pride in the fact that one of the greatest Americans of the past century was a quiet Kansan," Colyer said in a statement about the event. "He taught us that you have to listen before you serve and you have to serve selflessly before you can lead effectively, and that is a standard I have tried to live up to my entire life.”

Donations needed

John Milburn, director of legislative and public affairs for the Kansas Department of Administration, said most of the $140,000 needed to pay for pouring the bronze cast was raised by private individuals through contributions from Kansas people. He said some money is still needed to cover the cost of the pedestal, and anyone wishing to contribute should contact the Kansas Historical Society.

The statue of Eisenhower made by Brothers was based on a photograph taken while the general conversed with paratroopers on June 5, 1944, the day before the D-Day invasion. Milburn said that when the photo was taken Eisenhower was discussing fly fishing with the men.

"He was personable," Milburn said. "He wasn't discussing battle plans and missions. He was trying to know the back story of the boys who were going to jump." 

Ike inspirational

Merrill Eisenhower Atwater, chief operating officer of People to People International Foundation, which was launched by his great-grandfather in 1956, said he testified before both the Kansas House and Senate before passage of the bill. He said if the statue of Eisenhower serves as inspiration for even one person a year, it would have been well worth the money.

"Ike grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak," he said. He overcame many obstacles before becoming supreme Allied commander during World War II and later the nation's 34th president.

Atwater credited Sens. Elaine Bowers, R-Concordia, and Randall Hardy, R-Salina, and Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, as well as former Gov. Sam Brownback, for efforts to get the project underway.

Bowers, a member of the Capitol preservation committee, introduced the bill, with Hardy as co-sponsor.

"His life proves that it doesn't matter where you come from, you can achieve the highest heights of your career because Ike came from literally nothing and became president of the United States," Atwater said.