Posted by Mary L. Wimberley on 2009-11-25

Students returning to the Samford University campus after Thanksgiving break will be greeted by a new presence in the school’s Beeson University Center.

A seven-foot tall statue of former college president Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry was installed in the building’s lobby as students began to leave for the holiday on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

For many years, 1908-2009, the statue represented Alabama in the statuary hall collection in the nation’s capitol. Earlier this fall, the Curry likeness was replaced with that of famed Alabamian Helen Keller.

At Samford, Curry’s approximately 2,500-pound white marble statue by sculptor Dante Sodini sits atop a 1,800-lb. marble base.

Curry served as the third president of Howard College, now Samford, during 1865-68, when the school was located in Marion, Ala. The school moved to Birmingham in 1887.

Known as a crusader for education, Curry was one of the first leaders after the Civil War to advocate religious instruction and general education for black children in the South.

Before being tapped by the Alabama Baptist State Convention to serve as president of Howard, the Talladega attorney and ordained Baptist minister served in the Mexican War, in the Alabama legislature, U.S. House of Representatives and the Confederate Congress.

A Georgia native and graduate of the University of Georgia, Curry was inspired by the lectures of Horace Mann while studying at Harvard Law School and became an advocate of free universal education.

After resigning as president of Howard, he taught history and English literature at Richmond College in Virginia, and was instrumental in the founding of the Southern Education Board. He was later an envoy and ambassador to Spain. His publications included works on education, American government and Spanish history. He died in 1903, and is buried in Richmond, Va. The school of education at the University of Virginia is named in his honor.