COLUMBIA — One man's dream to put up a statue in Douglass Park that would honor black leaders largely remains a dream more than a year after he first announced it.
William "Gene" Robertson, a professor emeritus at MU, went public in March 2008 with his plan to build a statue in Douglass Park depicting Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr., according to a previous Missourian report.
But nearly 14 months later, the park remains statue-less, and the process to create such a statue has proved difficult, Robertson said.
"My enthusiasm about the project is still high," Robertson said. "But the movement has been slower than I expected."
Robertson said he had planned to join forces with a group of residents led by First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz, the same group that campaigned last year to relocate Columbia's historic shotgun house in Douglass Park, in the hope of getting more done faster. But that didn't work out, Robertson said.
"We thought we'd be part of this larger group doing some of this cultural stuff," Robertson said. "However, the committee hasn't been moving in terms of the cultural area. They tried to make it a part of something bigger, and the bigger thing didn't move."
Robertson also said he still needs an artist to pick up the project. He said he has been in touch with several sculptors but is waiting for them to produce blueprints.
"I've been in contact with some sculptors who, again, were very enthusiastic about getting involved in the project but slow in terms of putting together renderings of what they wanted to do," Robertson said.
Without something concrete, Robertson said he is wary of approaching the City Council with his idea. "I don't want to go on without something tangible," he said.
Robertson has taken pledges for donations to help fund the project. Douglas Simmons, who has shown interest since the beginning, initially pledged $1,000 in March 2008.
"The project appealed to me when I first heard about it," Simmons said this week. "I made the pledge out of good faith, and it still stands. It's just a matter of when (Gene) gets the project moving."
Despite the slow process, Robertson said he remains enthusiastic about the possibility of putting a statue in the park.
"I have spent the year going to various activities at Douglass Park. The more I experience there, the more I realize something like that is needed," Robertson said. "Getting all my ducks in a row has been the hard part."
Anyone interested in the project can contact Robertson at email@example.com.