General Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. was born on Friday, February 11, 102 years ago. The Pensacola native was an Airman from Tuskegee, who became the nation’s first African-American four-star general.
The newly constructed bridge over Pensacola Bay will bear his name. Plans are in place for a monument in his honor at the foot of the bridge.
“Well, that’s the proposed site, and the beauty of it is that you’ll have access to it. And, there’s parking available,” said Cris Dosev, president of Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James. , Jr. Memorial Foundation, the driving force behind the new monument.
“We are just north of the Pensacola Visitor Center and just east of the new roundabout under the flyover, which takes you to 17and Avenue and Graffiti Bridge.
Motorists exiting the Gulf Breeze Bridge will have the best vantage point.
“You’ll see the flag pole first, with this giant American flag. Then you will see the F-4 Phantom and it will take you to the statue of General James,” he explained.
Dosev says it took three years to get to this point, starting with intense debate over the naming of the bridge in 2019 and legislation to make it official in 2020.
“From that point on, we were able to reach out to the community and ask for help from the City of Pensacola, who generously provided us with $250,000 in a grant that will largely pay for the sculpture and pedestal sourced from our sculptor. , Mr. Ed Dwight,” Dosev said.
Dosev says Dwight, whose studios are in Denver, is a very unique person who is perfect for the job.
“He has done more than 100 projects mainly on the theme of African-American heroes and historical figures in America,” he begins. “But, before he was 29, he was an aeronautical engineer, and an Air Force pilot, a test pilot, 2,500 hours in tactical jets, a very accomplished pilot, and the first black man selected for the American AF program as an astronaut by John F. Kennedy,”
“Being a fighter pilot like Chappie James seems to kinda pull it all together, and that’s more than likely why I was selected to do the commission,” said sculptor Ed Dwight.
Now over 80, Dwight has an impressive resume of African-American themed statues and monuments which now includes a 10ft statue of General James.
“You know, it was a perfect subject for the sculpture. You know, Chappie was obviously an interesting character. He was a tall man and he had an imposing presence.
For example, the artist references the Vietnam-era photo of James in his flight suit, standing in front of an F-4C Phantom fighter.
According to Dwight, this image was chosen as the inspiration for the sculpture, offers lots of interest and detail, including his flight helmet, sidearm, and survival gear.
“The vest itself was probably 35 pounds with all the first aid equipment, survival gear. And, it had zippers,” Dwight noted. “And, any badges you have add to the power of the sculpture.”
Checking up on the progress of the statue, Dwight said he was looking for a historically accurate helmet to serve as a model for the statue as he completed the clay model phase and prepared to make a hard copy.
But the statue is only part of the monument.
Back at the monument site at the foot of the bridge, Chris Dosev updates his efforts to acquire an aircraft for the exhibit.
“We just got an Air Force Phantom from the Air Force Museum,” he said.
The jet is currently on static display in Gallatin, Tennessee, about an 8-hour drive from us, just northeast of Nashville.
“We are in the process of securing this administratively. It will be leased to the City of Pensacola. We will have it brought here to the Naval Air Museum to rework and prepare it. And then we’ll put him on a stick, here behind the general.
The memorial board is now busy working on the administrative and structural details to come up with a final development plan for the million dollar memorial project.
At this point, Dosev says everything is on track, with the expectation that the monument will be completed by September to coincide with the completion of the bridge and the celebration of the 75and Air Force birthday.
“And we can’t wait to be there,” he exclaimed. “I think people are really excited about it.”