One of the College of William & Mary’s most famous alumni is being honored by his alma mater just in time for his 257th birthday.
William & Mary installed a statue of James Monroe in front of Tucker Hall, the home of the college’s English department.
The college’s Board of Visitors gathered Thursday to dedicate the bronze statue, which is a gift of Carroll and Patty Owens, members of the college’s class of 1962.
“James Monroe was an early national leader of compelling ability and accomplishment who has been somewhat lost to history, even to his own alma mater,” William & Mary president Taylor Reveley said in a news release. “We are about to remedy this lapse on our own campus with a magnificent new statue of President Monroe. The statue will speak to the importance of this alumnus to the United States, the international order and William & Mary.”
Monroe is one of three U.S. presidents to have attended William & Mary, along with Thomas Jefferson and John Tyler. A statue of Jefferson currently stands between Washington and McGlothlin-Street halls on the college’s campus, while a bust of Tyler stands near James Blair Hall.
The base of the Monroe statue includes a frieze featuring significant events from Monroe’s life and career.
“The statue tells the story of James Monroe’s life, and I hope that the students will benefit from that and really feel a sense of pride in their college,” Patty Owens said in a news release.
A native Virginian, Monroe attended William & Mary until 1776, leaving without a degree to fight in the American Revolution. During his service, Monroe participated in a raid of the arsenal at the Governor’s Palace, seizing arms for use by Continental soldiers.
After the war, Monroe served in several government positions, including governor of Virginia, secretary of state and secretary of war. He was first elected to the presidency in 1816 and was re-elected in 1920 by a nearly unanimous vote, receiving all but one electoral vote.
Monroe’s presidency kicked off an era of American history often called the “Era of Good Feelings,” marked by a mellowing of political debate.
The statue was designed by sculptor Gordon Kay, a 1973 William & Mary graduate, who has also completed sculptures of Pope John Paul II, Pierre L’Enfant and John Marshall.
The dedication of the statue marks the first in a planned series of events commemorating the 200th anniversary of Monroe’s inauguration in 1817. The “Monroe Renaissance” is being led by former William & Mary Board of Visitors rectors James B. Murray Jr. and Jeffrey Trammell.
“It is seemly that the Alma Mater of the Nation — James Monroe’s alma mater — take the lead in celebrating our nation’s last founding father,” Reveley said in a news release.