Abraham Lincoln — weighing in at 1,700 pounds — arrives in Dayton

The 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, rolled through Dayton Tuesday.

The likeness, a 1,700-pound bronze sculpture created for the Dayton VA Medical Center campus, was delivered to Dayton from Urbana.

Forty motorcycles with the Ohio Gold Wing Road Riders Assoc. and dozens of automobiles decorated with American flags escorted the sculpture to town along with the Dayton Police Dept.

Mike Major, the artist who created the statue, towed the presidential figure on a trailer from his Urbana studio to Copp Integrated Systems, 123 S. Keowee St.

An unveiling planned for May was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The statue will be stored at the company until the details of a fall unveiling are finalized.

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“This Lincoln monument is so awesome. It’s going to be a wonderful, beautiful addition to the city of Dayton,” Regina Payne, president of the Lincoln Society of Dayton, said.

The patriotic caravan drove past the Old Courthouse in downtown Dayton where Lincoln stood on a box and gave a speech in 1859. A statue of the president on Courthouse Square, also created by Major, commemorates the historic event.

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The new Dayton VA statue honors the promise Lincoln made to the country’s Civil War veterans.

Just over a month before Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, he made a speech promising “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.”

Major’s work depicts a seated Lincoln, pen in hand, with legislation he has signed establishing the National Soldier’s and Sailor’s Asylum to care for Civil War veterans.

Dayton was the location for one of the first three soldier’s homes in the country, which is now today’s Dayton VA Medical Center.

Major said the determined expression he detailed on the sculpture’s face was what he envisioned when he began shaping the likeness last year.

“My goals were to have a Lincoln who had just finished the Civil War and is following through with his promise to take care of soldiers,” he said.

“There’s a somber look because he is reflecting on all of the soldiers who had died and hoping he could care for the ones who had needs, were homeless or suffering from life-long injuries.”

The bronze Lincoln wears a bow tie and vest under a jacket and is seated in a favorite wooden chair he traveled with that would accommodate his lanky frame.

The statue will be placed in a small park at Ohio and Kentucky avenues, a prominent location on the VA campus.

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“It’s amazing when you see it. It’s so huge and bigger than life and very much like the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.,” Glenn Costie, president of the American Veterans Heritage Center, said.

“It’s just a great piece of work and we’re looking forward to introducing it to the school kids and making it a place where folks will come and maybe hear a lecture about Lincoln and what he did for the VA and for the veterans.”

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The American Veterans Heritage Center and the Lincoln Society of Dayton are raising funds for the sculpture and park and are $50,000 away from their goal of $379,000.

To learn more about the project and donate to the effort visit americanveteransheritage.org.

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