By TIFFANY RONEY
A world-renowned Kansas artist who used his sculptures to honor President Eisenhower died Tuesday. Jim Brothers, resident of Lawrence, created the sculpture for a D-Day memorial in Virginia. He also crafted a statue of Ike that the Eisenhower Foundation placed in the rotunda of the capital building.
Lynda Scheele, then-board member of the foundation, went with the rest of the foundation members to the unveiling of Brothers’ Ike statue in June 2003 in Washington, D.C.
“His work is incredible,” Scheele said. “He work on the D-Day memorial outside of Washington D.C. – it’s got numerous sculptures, life-size figures, climbing the cliffs. I mean it’s an incredible piece of work.”
Scheele was on the board for that entire project and wrote the request for the statue proposal, which was published in sculpture magazines around the country. Scheele said 13 or 14 artists responded with proposals. A selection committee narrowed the pool to three artists who then came to Abilene to present their mockettes which are small versions of the sculptures they were proposing.
“Out of artists that came from all over the United States and even one from overseas, it was a Kansas person who won the contest: Jim Brothers,” Scheele said. “I was familiar with his work, and it was very nice to work with him during the process.”
Reason for sculpture
Scheele said each state is allowed two sculptures in statuary hall. Normally, the sculptures are of two of the state’s most famous people, but Scheele said Kansas’ sculptures at the time were “people that nobody had ever heard of.”
In response, then-U.S. Representative of Kansas Todd Tiahrt spearheaded a campaign to have the statues replaced with new sculptures. After Brothers’ statue was unveiled at the rotunda, though, it never moved to statuary hall.
“The real excitement came when we learned that after the unveiling in the rotunda it was to be moved to statuary hall, but someone, I think it was the capital architect, said it shouldn’t be moved because the location of the presidents’ statues is in the rotunda, so it got to stay in the rotunda,” Scheele said. “It’s still there now, and it probably will be until it gets too crowded as many more years go by. But, all in all, it was a very rewarding experience.”
Brothers as a man
Stew Etherington, then-president of the Eisenhower Foundation, said he spoke with Brothers twice during the project and attended the unveiling.
“He worked hard to get everything right,” Etherington said. “It’s hard to get Ike’s face right, and he did really well.”
Scheele worked closely with Brothers on the development of the statue. She said she appreciated Brothers’ personality.
“He was a very easy-going, laid-back kind of person. He wasn’t high-strung or temperamental like many artists are,” Scheele said. “He was just kind of a good ol’ boy, and I really enjoyed that. He’ll be missed in the arts community in Kansas, certainly, and in the sculpture community in a wider area.”