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.
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 (www.jfktribute.com). 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.
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 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.
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.
The American President at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza – August 31, 2013