Brandi Howliet | Staff Writer
“Legacy Park,” a new project, was unveiled at Hampton University on Jan. 27. The park features statues of several historic figures, all of whom had an impact on humanity and Hampton University. The figures include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President Barack Obama, General Samuel Armstrong, Rosa Parks and HU President William Harvey, just to name a few.
Jon Hair is the artist who created the iconic sculptures featured in the park. Hampton University’s Board of Trustees chose Hair as the sculptor for many reasons. Hair has built a credible reputation since the beginning of his career; he even created sculptures for the United States Olympic Team. According to his website, he has created at least 50 sculptures during his career.
Many students do not know that the Board of Trustees is the primary reason why Legacy Park stands today. The decision to build the park was considered not only by President Harvey, but by the entire board.
“The Board of Trustees established [Legacy Park] to recognize iconic figures who supported and contributed to Hampton University’s mission of high academics and quality development,” President Harvey said.
It does not take much thought to understand why figures such as Obama, Parks and King are featured in the park. Yet, there are also lesser-known figures who have contributed to Hampton’s legacy who have earned their spots as well.
Susan La Flesche was the first African American woman to receive a medical degree. Many students did not know that she was a graduate of Hampton Institute.
Reuben Burrell, better known as “Mr. B,” worked at Hampton for 66 years as a photographer. Throughout his career, he captured moments of student life, ceremonies and historical events. Although he is not as well-known as King or Parks, he has made just as much of an impact in regards to Hamptonian history. Legacy Park stands as a reminder for students to take note of these individuals’ historical accomplishments.
“First of all, I believe that the chief reason for [Legacy Park] is promotion of learning,” President Harvey. “I want students to research these figures. Be thankful. Giving thanks is a virtue. Give thanks for people who help us. I don’t care if you’re 15 or 50, it is important.”
Most statues received a warm reception from faculty and students here at Hampton. Many students were confused about the inclusion of former president George H.W. Bush. Despite the controversy, throughout his presidency, Bush was a very big advocate for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and also had shown his support for the United Negro College Fund. His support began long before his presidency; it actually started while he was attending Yale in 1948 as an undergraduate. During his first year of office, Bush created the Presidential Advisory Board on HBCUs. This board was established to provide specific strategies to help improve the schools. His advocacy and constant support for HBCUs and Hampton University are prominent reasons why he is memorialized in Legacy Park.
“George H.W. Bush was very friendly to HBCUs,” President Harvey said. “He started the UNCF chapter at Yale. Black colleges received more money from the federal government [under his presidency] than [that of] any other president. Hampton University received unprecedented support from the federal government.”
Others honored in Legacy Park are Frederick Douglass, Jerome Holland, Mary Jackson, Mary Peake and William Howard Taft.
Legacy Park now serves as a new, beautiful and educational attraction at Hampton University. Students are encouraged to research the historical figures that are featured in the park to learn their special significance.