Two years after his house on 14th Street was brought back from the brink of dilapidation as a showcase for his historic life, the scholar-statesman will be immortalized with a life-size bronze statue on its grounds later this spring.
Oxford city officials and the state Department of Archives and History both have given approval to the design and the plan for its placement.
Martha Lyles Wilson and her daughter, Judge Virginia Wilson Mounger, both of whom live in the Jackson area, commissioned Taylor sculptor Bill Beckwith to create the statue. Wilson, an Oxford native, had family ties to Lamar.
"Virginia was on our very first advisory committee for the Lamar House restoration," said Bill Russell of the Oxford-Lafayette County Heritage Society, which oversees the Lamar home. "She said, 'Gee, one day it would be great to have a statue of Mr. Lamar.'"
Beckwith had previously created several pieces for the Wilson family, including statues of Wilson's late husband, Earl, and their grandchildren. Those pieces grace the Mississippi Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson, on whose board Earl Wilson served for a quarter-century.
Beckwith is also noted as the creator of the William Faulkner statue that sits outside Oxford City Hall and the bronze memorial honoring the Mississippi 11th Infantry at Gettysburg, among many others.
Lamar was one of Mississippi's foremost statesmen. A lawyer and University of Mississippi professor, he served in state and federal posts both before and after the Civil War. He served the Confederacy as a military officer and was appointed as its ambassador to Russia, but he was also credited after the war as one of America's greatest reuniting influences.
More notable yet is his status as the only American ever to serve in both houses of Congress, the Presidential Cabinet and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Beckwith sculpted the statesman's face from a handful of photos.
"The photographs of him are varied in age, from fairly young to his Supreme Court," he said. "I used the head shots from the historical record to put together a mature L.Q.C., but I don't know that he is any certain age."
Because he is a modern-day relative of Lamar, Oxford historian Jack Lamar Mayfield served as Beckwith's body model for the project, posing in a host of positions aimed at conveying energy.
"Generally, when a piece is going to stand outside, you want to go 7 foot, 9 foot tall," Beckwith said. "Outside, it can get overwhelmed by the scale of the sky and the trees. I tried to get all the form I could out of 6 foot. I think we did it."
The statue depicts a bearded and mustachioed Lamar in a long, three-piece suit carrying a thick volume - presumably a law book.
Placement is awaiting the completion of a base and the arrival of warm weather.
"Once we get it in, the dedication is up to these ladies," Russell said, referring to the Heritage Society members who will plan the ceremony. "We're probably two months out."
For Beckwith's part, the unveiling can't come soon enough.
"I can't wait to see it outside," he said.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.