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Tribute to John Deering and His "Testament" Sculpture

Location: Wahsington, DC


Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, nearly half a century ago, Arkansas experienced one of its darkest moments. As nine African-American students fought to integrate Central High School, they were accosted by students, threatened by parents and forsaken by local leaders. It took an intervention by President Dwight Eisenhower to bring desegregation to this public school.

But in the 48 years since this event my State has seen brighter days, most recently on August 30, 2005, when I was proud to be present for the unveiling of ``Testament,'' a sculpture of the Little Rock Nine depicting the nine brave students on their journey to claim an equal education.

``Testament'' is a tribute by John Deering, one of Little Rock's own, to those students and the courage they demonstrated that day. The life-sized sculpture depicts the nine students as they were in 1957: Equally brave, scared, determined. It is the largest bronze statue in Arkansas and the first monument honoring the civil rights movement on the grounds of a Southern State capitol. During the 40th anniversary of the desegregation, John came up with the idea for the sculpture. With approval from the Little Rock Nine Foundation, John created the work with his wife Kathy and studio partner Steve Scallion. The sculpture has been 7 years in the making and now stands proudly in Little Rock.

I would like to recognize John for this sculpture and his contributions to journalism and the arts. As the editorial cartoonist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, John has earned numerous local and national accolades. He has been recognized by the Arkansas Press Association with the Best Editorial Cartoonist Award seven times in his career and in 1996 he won the illustrious Berryman Award from the National Press Foundation. His editorial cartoons are nationally syndicated, as is his comic strip ``Strange Brew,'' allowing readers throughout the country to share in his humor.

But make no mistake, John is serious about his cartoons, and the artistry is as important to him as the jokes. His dedication to artistry has translated to other mediums, including painting and sculpture. John has works displayed throughout the country. ``Testament'' is not the first monument he has sculpted for Arkansas. In 1987, John created a life-size sculpture of an American soldier for the Arkansas Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which I consider both poignant and powerful.

When the ``Testament'' sculpture was unveiled, the Little Rock Nine once again stood together in solidarity. An emotional moment for those brave men and women, it was also a moving event for John as 7 years of private work was finally put on public display. As this sculpture stands on Arkansas' capitol grounds, it serves as a testament to the Little Rock Nine, as well as Arkansas' past and future. I applaud John for his valuable artistic contribution to Arkansas and the nation and I hope that this statue will serve as a lasting reminder of the difficulties and triumphs of the civil rights movement for generations to come.

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