Written in bronze
An 8-foot-tall James A. Baker III looks up to George H.W. Bush on the banks of the Bayou
The sloping green space at the corner of Smith and Preston took on special meaning on Tuesday with the unveiling and dedication of the larger-than-life bronze statue of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III.
With pomp and circumstance befitting the senior statesman, the gathering of 300 dignitaries including former President George H.W. Bush saluted Baker and four generations of his family for their contributions to the nation and to the city of Houston.
The $1.2 million statue, funded via a public-private partnership, towers at 8-feet-tall on the banks of Buffalo Bayou in Sesquicentennial Park. Just across that meandering waterway, on a slightly higher plane, a similar bronze of President Bush looks on. Both sculptures are the work of artist Chas Fagan of Charlotte, N.C.
"It is heartwarming for me to know that the two of us will be looking across Buffalo Bayou at each other for a very long time," Baker told the gathering. "And, of course, it is particularly fitting that the statue of President Bush is on higher ground. That is the way it should be, because I have always looked up to him and will continue to do so."
The dedication ceremony in the park across from Wortham Theater Center, the area now known as Baker Common, began with the arrival of a Marine Corps marching band, a surprise for Baker, a Marine Corps veteran. The band launched into "Hail to the Chief" as Bush approached the lecturn to honor his life-long friend. In his remarks, he called the diplomat "one of the finest men I have ever known."
CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz presided over the ceremony that included praise for coordinating committee co-chairs Charles Foster and David Jones. Mayor Annise Parker officially accepted the statue on the city's behalf remarking, "This park will be a focal point for future celebrations" and "a front window to our city."
Baker's public service has included roles as chief of staff in President Ronald Reagan's first administration, as Secretary of the Treasury in Reagan's second administration, Bush's Secretary of State and chief of staff in the final year of Bush's presidency. Continuing his work as a behind-the-scenes diplomat, Baker remains involved with the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.
In addition to the former Secretary's statue and a plaque, Baker Common is graced by three other plaques honoring three previous Baker family members who played key roles in city leadership.
Who made this public-private partnership possible? Major donors were Shahla and Hushang Ansary, Baker Botts LLP, the Brown Foundation, the Fondren Foundation, the Virginia & L.E. Simmons Foundation, B.A. Bentsen, Houston Endowment, Shell Oil Co., and Loli and Marvin Odum.