Monuments around Arkansas honor WWI veterans

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program - Monday, April 24, 2017

At least 71,862 Arkansans served in the U.S. military during World War I, and some 2,183 died before the Great War ended. Many monuments were raised to honor the veterans after hostilities ceased, and five of them are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Young Memorial

One of the first of them was created to honor the six Hendrix students who died during the war, including Robert W. Young, who was killed in action. Hendrix students and faculty began raising funds for a memorial statue in 1919, and on November 21, 1920, the marble Doughboy statue was dedicated outside of Young Stadium. It was moved in 2013 and expanded to include a pair of sculptures honoring two brothers and Hendrix alumni who died fighting in Afghanistan. The Young Memorial was listed on the National Register on July 19, 1996.

Herman DavisAnother sculpture honors Arkansas’s most-decorated WWI soldier, Herman Davis of Manila, who General John J. Pershing listed among his “100 Greatest Heroes of the World War.” Though he survived combat, Davis did not live long after the war, dying on January 25, 1923, from the lingering effects of poison gas inhaled on the battlefield. American Legion posts and civic clubs across the state soon began a fund-raising campaign and on Memorial Day 1925 the Herman Davis Memorial was dedicated in the hero’s home town. The Arkansas General Assembly made Herman Davis Memorial Park a state park in 1953, and it was listed on the National Register on April 7, 1995.

Greene County sent 476 men to serve in WWI, and 40 of them never came home. The Paragould War Memorial, featuring a State of Liberty replica by sculptor John Paulding, was purchased through public subscription and dedicated at the Greene County Courthouse on November 11, 1924, before a crowd of 5,000 people. It was listed on the National Register on June 20, 1997.

Green County

Two other Arkansas cities boast copies of what might be the most famous of all WWI statues. Ernest Moore “Dick” Viquesney of Spencer, Indiana, designed Spirit of the American Doughboy, a seven-foot bronze depicting a charging soldier that can be seen in at least 140 towns in 35 states. Viquesney patented his creation in 1920, even selling table-top versions topped by a lampshade, but lost a court battle with the afore-mentioned John Paulding, whose Over The Top sculpture (one of which can be seen at the Craighead County Courthouse in Jonesboro) was patented earlier.

The Phillips County Memorial Association led a nine-year effort to raise funds to place one of Viquesney’s sculpture in Helena, and it was dedicated before an appreciative crowd of 2,500 on July 10, 1927. Victor Ellig American Legion Post 31 in Fort Smith spearheaded the drive to acquire a Spirit of the American Doughboy, which was dedicated in front of 2,000 onlookers in Tilles Park on July 4, 1930. The statue now stands in front of the Ellig Post Legion Hut. Both were listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 23, 1997.

Helena DoughboyFort Smith Doughboy