KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A sculptor in Independence, Missouri, is relying on his personal history to create a piece of history.
Byron Constance has spent hundreds of hours in his home studio creating a life-size statue of Harry S. Truman to go on display in the city’s downtown called Independence Square.
The statue will recreate a picture of Truman, but Constance, 94, has some first-hand knowledge of the president to incorporate into the statue.
“When I met him in person for the first time, you would’ve thought I was his long-lost son,” Constance remembered. “He was all personality. And a great conversationalist.”
After leaving the White House in 1953, Truman returned to Independence, where he grew up. Constance lived a few doors down from Truman during one period. He presented the former president with an award from the Independence Board of Realtors in 1957 and the two men shared a barber.
“On occasion, we’d be in the barbershop together at the same time and engage in a little bit of small talk,” Constance said casually.
Constance thinks back on those interactions as he sculpts the 5-foot-8 statue of Truman in his Army captain uniform while serving in France during World War I.
In the picture Constance uses as reference, Truman poses by himself with a straight face looking directly into the camera. He’s wearing flared pants and tall boots, part of the cavalry uniform.
“It’s a rather dramatic picture of him,” said Constance, who didn’t pick up sculpting until his 50s.
The sculpture is the first in what the Independence Square Association hopes to be many statues to go around downtown depicting Truman’s connection to the city where he grew up, instead of focusing on his years as president of the United States, a title he held from 1945 to 1953.
“We often know the presidential part of his life, but what was his life like prior to the presidency? What was his life after his presidency? So when visitors come into our historic downtown, they can start to discover all of that,” explained Jeff Rogers, the executive director of the Independence Square Association, who remembers seeing Truman in the grocery store as a young boy.
Constance admits he didn’t always align politically with Truman but said Truman earned his respect and a place in history.
“He left a great history to our country and as a world leader,” Constance said. “We don’t want to forget him.”
Rogers and Constance hope to unveil the statue on Independence Square in November.
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