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The Seattle Times

Posted at 07:05 p.m. PDT; Sunday, September 5, 1999

Boy (oh boy) Scout Memorial:
naked truth about symbolism

by Jennifer Heffernan
Knight Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON - How exactly does a 12-foot
naked bronze man fit in with the Boy Scouts of
America? Well, take a gander into the heart of
Washington and you just might, with any luck,
be able to answer that question.

Across from the Commerce Department, there
exists a shaded nook that this very naked man
along with a flimsy-robed woman and a
properly dressed Boy Scout call home. It's a
little known part of the nation's capital, only
yards from the White House.

The three striking figures stand forever on the
stone platform: a fresh-faced Scout followed by
a Greco-Roman set of parents, one of whom
probably would make prudish Aunt Betty blush.

Road-weary travelers Darla Kay
Sanders-Weatherford and husband Terry saw
this unusual sight during a road trip from
Fayetteville, Ark. "Yeah, I was reading the stone
over there," Darla Kay said. "But I was
wondering why that man was naked when the
rest were clothed. He looks so proud of
himself, too."

Which brings us back to the original question:
How can a memorial with a 12-foot naked man,
a statuesque woman from the Roman age, and a
fully clothed child mesh with the Boy Scouts'
devotion to tradition and family values?

Scout historian Peter Bielack of Washington
urged visitors to "put yourself in the mindset of
the '50s."

The work of sculptor Donald DeLue and
architect William H. Deacy, the memorial was
designed in 1959 and dedicated Nov. 7, 1964.
The design by DeLue, who died in 1988, was
chosen by Boy Scout Headquarters and
approved by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

A fact sheet for the memorial says that "the
center of the design is a three-figure group of
heroic proportions. In the forefront is a Scout
hiking into the future with faith and confidence.
In back of him are two classic figures
representing American manhood and
womanhood."

Bielak applauded DeLue's artistry, noting "it
was meant to be generalized symbolism. You
don't want to put a father figure or mother
figure in a particular outfit. Mothers and fathers
came in all shapes and sizes and backgrounds. ...
I don't see anything wrong with it."

Not everyone shares Bielak's sentiments. Ron
Carroll, executive director of the Scouts'
National Council in Bethesda, Md., said: "I
didn't care too much for it. If the Boy Scouts of
America had designed it, they probably would
have done it differently. I would have preferred
more of a traditional man. Clothed. Not nude."

In the book "Outdoor Sculpture," author James
Goode of the Smithsonian Institution called the
statue "incongruous."

"There is both an incongruous clashing between
the scale of the figures and a questionable
mixture of contemporary and neoclassical
details," Goode wrote.

Charles Atherton, secretary of the Commission
of Fine Arts, which has final say over the design
and location of all memorials on federal land in
D.C., said: "I would certainly agree that having
this classical reference is quite odd. I don't think
many people are moved to join the Boy Scouts
after they see it. ... it seems to me that the Boy
Scout alone could have carried the statue quite
well."

Etched in the stone platform are the words of
the Boy Scout Oath: "On my honor I will do my
best to do my duty to God and my country, and
to obey the scout law to help other people at all
times, to keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake and morally straight." Inside, a
vault contains scrolls inscribed with Scouts'
signatures. Scouts won the right to have their
names included in the memorial by raising
money for its construction.

Copyright © 1999 The Seattle Times Company