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Remembering a Pearl Harbor Hero through Art: African-American Mess Attendant Who Fired on Enemy Planes to be Memorialized

Released: 12/2/2013 4:25 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Baylor University
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WACO, Texas (Dec. 2, 2013) — Doris Miller was only a mess attendant on the battleship USS West Virginia when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. But the African-American native of Waco, Texas, became a hero when he raced topside and manned a machine gun to return fire after helping wounded soldiers to safety.

Amid controversies elsewhere about how to memorialize heroes — among them Martin Luther King and President Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower — an effort by Cultural Arts of Waco to memorialize Miller is under way that is appropriate and vastly different from designs many deem too abstract – or overwhelming, like the nearly 70-foot-tall one of Sam Houston near Huntsville, says David A. Smith, Ph.D., a senior lecturer of history in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences.

The tribute to Miller — the first African-American to be awarded the Navy Cross — will not be “coolly detached” or meaningless, said Smith, author of Money for Art: The Tangled Web of Art and Politics in American Democracy.
The bronze sculpture of Miller -- whose heroism was depicted in a scene in the movie Pearl Harbor -- will be slightly larger than life size and placed in a memorial that is an abstraction of a navy ship to suggest Miller's naval service but not to compete with the statue for attention, Smith said.

A reflecting pool will reinforce the naval identity and is a traditional memorial element such as the reflecting pool between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., memorial.

"The whole thing, the combination of representational and abstract elements, is designed to work together to promote reflection -- which is what good abstraction does -- and to honor a particular individual," Smith said.
"It will be a reminder of how true heroes’ individuality is revered because they surrendered it for others."
For more information on Miller, visit these links:

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

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