Heading south on US 75 from the Red River, at Exit 67 on the west one can see a 17 foot tall bust of General Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States. It was done by artist David Adickes, now of Huntsville, Texas. Though he worked out of several studios in Houston for most of his career, when he was in his 70s, he learned that his old high school in Huntsville was for sale, bought it and turned it into his own studio.
Adickes has done busts of all 44 United States presidents, and they have been seen in one or more of the artist’s Houston studio at various times. There have also been several plans to house them all in a theme park, including one in Virginia. However, that one failed in 2010 and many of the works now lie exposed to the elements. An earlier park was planned in South Dakota fairly near Mount Rushmore, but it also failed in 2003.
The white concrete image of Eisenhower has found a permanent home in Denison however, and is the site of a United States military veteran’s memorial at the entrance to a historical park as one enters Loy Lake. The town of Denison has also secured the residence that served as the Eisenhower home from about 1889 to 1892 when Ike’s father worked for the railroad there. The home is the centerpiece of a small historical park of period structures a few blocks away from the downtown area.
Perhaps his most iconic and familiar creation to Texans is the 67 foot tall statue of Sam Houston that stands off Interstate 45 outside Huntsville, Texas. Adickes began the project called “A Tribute to Courage” in 1992. It was built in sections made of concrete and steel with an outside layer if fiberglass and was dedicated in 1994. It is a popular attraction that has countless visitors each year that it has been in place. Near it is a gift shop and a full size replica of the statue’s face, frequently used for photo ops. “Big Sam” has been a success for Huntsville with the area’s travel economy having experienced a large boost. It also has helped give Huntsville a more broad identity than being the location of the well known college and state prison.
Adickes is the son of a Huntsville appliance dealer. He was a clerk/typist serving in New York in World War II, but tells of typing his own orders to be transferred to Europe. After serving there in World War II, he returned to his home to get a degree from Sam Houston State Teachers College, as Sam Houston State was then known. Following that, he attended Kansas City Art Institute and studied for a time in Paris under the artist Ferdinand Léger. Upon his return to Texas, he recalls that his first art sale was the sale of a painting for $100 which began his long career.
When Adickes learned that his former high school building was up for sale a number of years ago, he actively pursued and was able to acquire it. He had graduated in 1943 and it was the location of many fond memories for him. There he had learned to dance, played in the high school band, attended football games and other experiences as he enjoyed his high school years. Completed in 1931 and located at University and 8th Street, the structure sits near where his grandfather had built an early apartment house and another house where his brother was born. He renovated the building and it now houses a gallery for his oil paintings and other creations.
Adickes’ works are exhibited all over the country, and fortunately many are currently located in Texas where they can be enjoyed by Texans all over the state. Though now in his 80s, Adickes still actively continues to create and add to his large body of work.
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