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JFK Tribute in Fort Worth

JFK Tribute with statue by Lawrence Ludtke, 2013 (photo by Mr. Holga)

JFK Tribute with statue by Lawrence Ludtke, 2013 (photo by Mr. Holga)

2013 is turning into a banner year for all things Kennedy in Dallas and Fort Worth. Dealey Plaza is getting a face lift. The Sixth Floor Museum is getting a new visitors center. Lee Harvey Oswald’s last residence is for sale ($500,000 asking). The Dallas Museum of Art and Amon Carter Museum of American Art will each exhibit the art from President Kennedy’s hotel suite. And Fort Worth marked their place in history with JFK Tribute in front of the former Hotel Texas (now the Hilton Fort Worth.)

I finally ventured over to Fort Worth to see the JFK Tribute before the Labor Day weekend. As usual, it was inferno hot outside. I went early in the morning trying to beat the heat, but instead I got the sun at the president’s back (Kennedy is facing west), which is not great for photography. A cloudy day is preferred.

For the most part, I like the tribute to the slain president. It is everything you can expect in a memorial. There is lots of granite with lots of writing. Everything is so hard edged and geometric. I’m sure there is some symbolism to the layout, but honestly, that is lost on me. Like all other visitors that morning (I counted six including the couple I photographed with their camera) I was drawn to the statue in the center.

Click here to see Mr. Holga’s iPhone panorama of the JFK Tribute.

Artist Lawrence Monroe Ludtke

The bronze statue of President John F. Kennedy is the work of late Texas sculptor Lawrence Monroe Ludtke. Unfortunately, I could not easily find the name of the artist until I read through most of the text on the home page of the official JFK Tribute site ( Ludtke is only mentioned in one paragraph, which is a tragedy since web pages are practically free. There are two pages dedicated to the committee and donors.

In all fairness, information about Ludtke on the Internet is hard to find. The artist’s official website does not even mention his passing. Which means this post may become the de facto life and times of Lawrence M. Ludtke.

From his obituary I read Ludtke started working in the sporting goods business and later developed his sculpting skills. I didn’t see any professional training in the arts. I can only assume Ludtke was self-taught.

Is Kennedy holding an imaginary eagle? (photo by Mr. Holga)

Is Kennedy holding an imaginary eagle? (photo by Mr. Holga)

From his website I see Ludtke created many larger-than-life bronze sculptures including:

  • President Abraham Lincoln
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson
  • President Ronald Reagan
  • General Sam Houston
  • Major Dick Meadows
  • General Earl Rudder
  • General Robinson Risner
  • General “Wild Bill” Donovan
  • General James Hollingsworth
  • Colonel “Bull” Simons
  • General Jerome O’Malley
  • Harry Reasoner
  • John Wayne

Ludtke created the design for the Kennedy statue back in 1991. Ludtke, who passed away on May 4, 2007, never got to see the final memorial in Fort Worth.

I like Ludtke’s Kennedy statue. From straight on it looks like the president is accenting his speech by hitting a podium. The only problem is the statue does not have a podium, which makes the president appear to be talking to an imaginary eagle perched on his arm. I’m sure you see the eagle too, now that I have said something. I don’t blame Ludtke for this awkwardness. I blame the committee and donors. They gave the artist a photograph and said we want this. And then they (committee and donors) didn’t have the courage to add the podium. Very few generals ride into battle without a horse. Very few politicians speak without a podium.

Best Viewed at Night

As I said earlier, I viewed the JFK Tribute during the day. I should have seen it at night. After hours, the three large images of President Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and the enthusiastic Fort Worth crowd are all lit up along with the name of the memorial and other accent lights. It is a sight to behold and a lot cooler. Since it rarely rains in Texas, the JFK Tribute and a starry night would look just right.

If you're lucky, then you get to use a near by meter. Otherwise, you'll pay $10 and walk a block. (photo by Mr. Holga)

If you’re lucky, then you get to use a near by meter. Otherwise, you’ll pay $10 and walk a block. (photo by Mr. Holga)


If you are going to visit the JFK Tribute any time soon, I must warn you. There isn’t any parking. And by that I mean there are only a few metered spaces near the JFK Tribute, which were all taken and probably always are. Fort Worth, much like Dallas, likes to gouge drivers with a parking tax. The nearest paid parking is hard to find, a block away and costs $10. I was only there for less than an hour (seems a little steep).

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial

The same day I trekked over to Fort Worth, I also visited Dealey Plaza and the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial (1970) by architect Philip Johnson. The memorial is a cenotaph, or open tomb, which is supposed to symbolize the freedom of Kennedy’s spirit. The monument is 50 feet wide by 50 feet wide by 30 feet high and made out of concrete. In the center of the monument is a simple pedestal with the name John Fitzgerald Kennedy on it.

Click here to see Mr. Holga’s iPhone panorama from inside the Kennedy Memorial.

The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial seems to be missing a statue of the president. There is an empty pedestal in the center with nothing on it. Did thieves take it for the bronze? Did the planning committee run out of money? No matter how many times I see this monument, I keep thinking something is missing.

Well, my hat is certainly off to Fort Worth. They have out done Dallas with the new JFK Tribute. It is pretty near perfect, and best of all they got a statue of Kennedy. Cheers.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial by Philip Johnson, 1970 (photo by Mr. Holga)

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial by Philip Johnson, 1970 (photo by Mr. Holga)

 Related Posts

The American President at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza – August 31, 2013

Amon Carter Museum of American Art to Present Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy – August 20, 2013

The Sixth Floor Museum Highlights Presidential Coverage in Special Photography Exhibit – July 30, 2013

Assassination and Commemoration: JFK, Dallas and The Sixth Floor Museum Now Available – July 17, 2013

About M. C. Roman

M. C. Roman, owner and managing editor of Dallas Art News, is a painter, printmaker and photographer. He is a graduate of Southern Methodist University. M. C.'s art can be viewed at Social media friends can find M. C. on Facebook at

3 responses to “JFK Tribute in Fort Worth”

  1. Andy Taft says:

    Michael: Thank you for the kind words about the JFK Tribute in Fort Worth. If I may, I’d like to respond to some of the observations you made.

    The layout of the Tribute was intended to create a dignified room in which to have a thoughtful experience. The intent was to tell the JFK in Fort Worth story without overwhelming the sculpture. I was glad to read that you were drawn to the bronze. We accomplished our goal during your visit.

    As for the parking, there are a lot of on street spaces all around the area that cost very little. A tip for visitors: valet park at the Hilton Hotel and spend some more time exploring all the other things downtown Fort Worth has to offer.

    You make a great point about our lack of attention to sculptor Lawrence Ludtke on our web site…we are going to fix that and feature him more prominently. You will find his name at the Tribute on the glass credits panel.

    Regarding the bronze, Ludtke’s choice was a classic JFK pose, leaning forward, his hand clenched and punctuating his point with emphatic gestures. You can find many photos and videos of him using this gesture while sitting or standing, with and without a podium.

    Factual correction: the committee and donors (hardly lacking in courage to attempt touching a date as sensitive as November 22, 1963) never gave the artist a photo and said “do it like this.” According to Mrs. Ludtke, he never considered a podium and the proposal maquette did not feature one. None of his monumental works feature that kind of extraneous subject matter. Those interested in Ludtke’s work should get a copy of Amy Bacon’s excellent book, Life In Bronze, published by Texas A&M Press (2013).

    With all due respect, Ludtke chose neither an awkward pose nor rendered an incomplete sculpture…it is a remarkable capture of the man in motion, selling his vision, inspiring action.

    Andy Taft, President
    Downtown Fort Worth, Inc.

  2. Andy Taft says:

    I heard from Dallas JFK aficionado and Fort Worth JFK sculpture effort starter, Farris Rookstool, and learned more of the history of the pose. He worked closely with Ludtke, paying special attention to the arm and hand position, using multiple reference photos to get it just right. Rookstool’s role in this effort hasn’t received the attention it should…another web site update to be made.