Naked City

Edwards Exiled to Galveston

The Texas Emancipation Juneteenth Historical Commission's July 6 meeting was bumrushed by the gregarious Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. Ellis, an ex-board member, was concerned that the centerpiece of a five-statue sculpture commemorating the end of slavery – "The Lawmaker" – bears an uncanny resemblance to Rep. Al Edwards, also a Houston Democrat and, by coincidence no doubt, chair of the Juneteenth commission and longtime advocate of the statue, planned for the Capitol grounds. "[I don't know] whether or not one of the statues looks like you. I haven't looked at you up close," said Ellis, adding coyly, "I hear rumors."

"The Lawmaker" certainly appears to share Edwards' lanky frame, closely-cropped hair, and some facial features, though not the hangdog expression he was wearing this particular day. "That was a drawing that the media picked up and ran with. That looks nothing like the marquee that they drew up," Edwards said. Ellis said he only hoped to prevent "a tribute to our tortured history end[ing] up with somebody making jokes."

Passing around a miniature bronze mock-up of the statue, Edwards said to Ellis, "People could say it looks more like you."

"Because I got a beard?" Ellis replied.

Peering closely at the statuette's feet, the always fashionable Ellis exclaimed, "These look like Bruno Maglis to me."

With the sculptor, Eddie Dixon, unavailable, artist Adrienne Rison-Isom took the stand to dispel additional rumors: that her "Exhilarated Woman" figure resembles Juneteenth Commission member Stella Roland. Rison-Ison said she did not model her "Exhilarated Woman" after any one individual, but used several women from Ebony magazine. She was incensed not only about that, but about broader problems as well. "I'm very, very disappointed [in] the way this project has been made so negative," said Rison-Ison, alluding to a graphic that ran in the Statesman of a proposed free-slave figure, "half-naked in chains." "Golly, that's how we oughta have a black man looking," she said bitterly.

"Historically, its been said that all African-Americans look alike," said commissioner Byron Miller of San Antonio, striving to give the discussion some context. "When an African-American is accused of a crime, they pick up every brother on the street." Weighing in on "The Lawmaker"'s likeness, Miller said, "the statue does not look like Al Edwards, other than this little goatee."

Eventually, the commission dampened the controversy by voting to request a redesign of "The Lawmaker," and to put that figure on permanent display in Galveston, instead of with the rest of the ensemble, which will eventually stand on the Capitol grounds.


Oops! The following correction ran in our July 22, 2005 issue: A "Naked City" item about Juneteenth sculptures to be placed on the Capitol grounds incorrectly spelled the name of artist Adrienne Rison-Isom. The Chronicle regrets the error.
  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond

    Naked City

    Terrorism kills more than 50 in London, war in Iraq kills thousands
  • Naked City

    Wynn announces the formation of Mayors for Public Broadcasting, a nationwide coalition organized to defend public broadcasting from proposed Congressional funding cutbacks

    Naked City

    Sunset Farms landfill operator requests 75-foot vertical expansion

    Naked City

    Travis County bond advisory committee recommends commissioners place a $60 million open space fund on November's proposed bond ballot

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle