RAESLY: This is Babs, April, 1974. I am in my car outside of Stitchcraft inthe boiler room of which Professor William Thompson has been sculpting for the last year the statue of the late Senator Russell which will be placed on the Capitol grounds. I am here for the purpose of interviewing Professor Thompson about his experiences in the sculpting process. And I will start this tape without further formal mention of what I'm doing as soon as I get inside the boiler room where the statue actually is and where Bill Thompson is.
RAESLY: Ah, that's just as good as it; was yesterday, Bill.00:01:00
THOMPSON: Well, it changes with different light.
RAELSY: Yeah. I still like it. And I think when they took the picture of it forthe paper they made a mistake in that they didn't get far enough away--
RAESLY: --and it gave you the wrong impression on the face because theyconcentrated on it.
THOMPSON: Yeah. Well, I think that. I changed the face from that time, too, thetime of the picture, but I do think that's partly it. It's hard to photo- graph because of the perspective they pull them out of is misleading a lot of times.
RAESLY: That's right. I really do--I really think it's excellent.
THOMPSON: Well, I'm certainly glad because you're the person who really knowshim best, better than anybody. 00:02:00
RAESLY: Well, I got to know him both officially and personally and it gave me aunique view of the man.
THOMPSON: Yeah, I can see that. I can really understand that. I've tried to gethold of Jeb _/Henry Edward Russell/'cause I'm very near the end now /?/ and I called him last night and I called him this morning, but I thought when we got a break in the interview I would try and call him again.
THOMPSON: And see if he can come down soon because I'd like for him to kind ofrepresent--one of the members that would represent the family.
RAELSY: Right. And you can, of course, get Richard/B. Russell, III/ over inWinder any day but Thursday.
THOMPSON: Any day but Thursday?
RAESLY: Thursday's his day out in the country, up on the farm.
RAESLY: It's his day off and it's just far enough that they can say, "We'resorry he's out in the country someplace and he's actually out on the farm." 00:03:00
THOMPSON: Isn't that great? Well, I just called George H. Beattie Jr. executivedirector of the Georgia Council for the Arts/ and he is the director of the arts council and he was trying to get in touch with Hugh Peterson set up, I think, a meeting between Hugh Peterson and Mrs. Hugh Sr. Peterson and Jeb and our farming member there.
RAESLY: (laughs) Well, we'll let them come--
THOMPSON: Our fate is to never to get together.
RAESLY: Uh-huh. I hope they can.
THOMPSON: I really think that the approval of the commission is--will, really bedependent somewhat on what the family thinks the family reaction.
RAESLY: When you--you were invited into that competition weren't you?
THOMPSON: Right. I was invited into competition. There were three of us invitedinto it.
RAESLY: And you were paid a retainer while you worked on the small model.
THOMPSON: While I worked on the small model. And then, I think they opened thecompetition up because of the Japanese fellow, what is his name again? 00:04:00
THOMPSON: Mitoba, right, because he wanted to enter it. And then if he enteredit then they wanted to--then anybody could enter it at that time.
RAESLY: But they weren't put on a retainer to do it?
THOMPSON: But they weren't put on a retainer. They just entered it on their own.[time seal on this portion of the interview released in 1994]
RAESLY: And it was you and a fellow in Ohio.
THOMPSON: Myself, a fellow in Ohio, Bill [William M.] McVey, and Donald DeLue inNew York, and originally Julian [Hoke] Harris was asked instead of McVey. He's the sculptor from Atlanta. But he refused entry into it, and he said it was because of the National Sculpture Society which he's a member of--but I really think it was his health.
RAESLY: That's when he kicked up the furor about some being paid to do it, andsome having to do--
THOMPSON: Right, some not. See he--they, the people that organized the00:05:00commission they entered-- they organized the commission and proceeded with it. And they didn't enter into any negotiations with the National Sculpture Society. For great part, most of the things that went out of the National Sculpture Society are never going to be art. I mean they--it's a society that, from my point of view, it's not a great society to belong to. And members that have belonged to it over a number of a period of years have tied up all the commissions in the country, you see. And it's been--It's been a great source of--
RAESLY: The hard way to break in.
THOMPSON: The hard way to--yeah, you can't really get into the society becauseit's--you have to do things precisely their way.
Thompson: And I don't feel that it's, just between us, I don't feel that it's avery good professional society. It may change in the years to come, I don't 00:06:00know. At any rate, he used that as sort of a buff to conceal his real reasons for not entering, which, this is my opinion, which were he had cancer and a heart condition and he's just had a cancer operation--
RAESLY: Just wasn't up to it.
THOMPSON: --and he wasn't up to it. So he started this kind of thing. Sure, he'sa bitter man. He said the whole thing--for example, I talked to him before the competition was judged, and after or either before we went into the competition or after he resigned from it, and he said to me that the whole thing was just a plot to take the commission away from him, that they should have given him the commission, you see. I mean it was just--
RAESLY: That's a good attitude.
THOMPSON: --it's a kind of a feeling and also Steffen Thomas is that kind ofperson. I never met the man, but he is kind of--he's got a big opinion of 00:07:00himself, and he's distorted, is the only way I can think of saying it. Because if you have an art class and you have one pose, somebody poses in this pose, and you have ten students doing the piece, they ought to come out with different pieces.
RAESLY: Everybody sees it differently.
THOMPSON: Everybody sees it differently and I didn't even realize that his workhad a similar stance. I suppose all people in public office have certain similarities, you know.
THOMPSON: Well, I took your advice and I took the advice of people who--thatknew him and this is what it came out to be.
RAESLY: Yeah, I was going to ask--one of the things I wanted to ask you wasfirst, have you ever been in a competition for a commission of this size before?
THOMPSON: I've been in competition for a lot of commissions and every one was00:08:00this size, you know.
RAESLY: Uh-huh. My next question was going to be, how did you decide to have him standing?
RAESLY: So often they have them, you know, seated--
THOMPSON:--seated. I felt that for the space or for the area that we aredesigning for, that it should be something that was very vertical. It needed that height to compete with the building behind it and the trees and everything else, and then also the man himself kind of rose out of the people. He was a man of the people and rose up. So there was really a vertical in ascension, almost a movement upward.
RAESLY: Now, did you get this feeling when you were in the competition or--
THOMPSON: Well, these feelings, when I started to design for it in thecompetition, yes, I started, first, I made drawings and sketches of him seated. And they would only be perhaps two inches in height, and then I would do that in 00:09:00an assimilated scene, you know. The scale would be similar to what would, and then I--that was too horizontal a shape for the area. So, I gradually moved into a vertical shape, because you see the figure can be very interesting, but I felt that in the environment that it was in and for the purpose that this was supposed to--what we hoped it would achieve, we wanted something that would be dominant; that would dominate the space and also something that would inspire us and I wanted to get that sense of coming out of the land and not"
RAESLY: This sort of developed as you worked on it--
THOMPSON: This developed as I worked along.
RAESLY: --this feeling that the man came from the land and the people.
THOMPSON: From the land, right. It didn't--at first, these feelings are hard to00:10:00really pin down exactly. You start working with-something and as you do, they begin to evolve. You don't have a clear cut feeling about it when you first enter it. And really what happens is there are so many possibilities for the thing and you are trying to keep open to possibility--
RAESLY: That's right.
THOMPSON: --that if anybody asked you, you would sound a little incoherent intrying to take a position until you had investigated a number of the possibilities and so at the beginning stages the main thing is to stay open.
RAESLY: I know when you were doing sketching over in the storage area, when I'dbe down there with you, and I noticed it after the first day or so, you would tend to get me talking about the man.
THOMPSON: Right. Right.
THOMPSON: I wanted to get the flavor of him--he cannot--a man is so much more00:11:00than his, than his physical appearance. Really, I mean, there is sort of an energy that comes from a man, especially a man with the destiny of the Senator here, a man who, who had an idea of his own potential and who had achieved this potential and began to--He thought largely, I mean, he thought in big concepts, I believe, and I couldn't get that kind of a flavor of the man, I could guess at it, until I heard what other people thought of him and how other people reacted to him that knew him, you know, that really knew him.
RAESLY: Right, now in the stage when you were working on the competition, thesmall model, I assume you talked to other people who knew Senator Russell besides me.
THOMPSON: Yes, surely. I talked to Dean Rusk, I talked to Lamar Dodd, I talked00:12:00to--well, later, after I'd won the competition I talked to more people, but at that time I talked to Louis Griffeth, and--
RAESLY: All good--
THOMPSON: --he gave me, his opinion of him and how, what his reactions to theman were when they came to dedicate the hew building when he would be in town or when they would go visit him, when there would be some banquet or function. And these people all gave me their reactions and impressions of the Senator and some of them, there would be slight differences, but there would be a pattern forming of the type of person he was. He was a person that--let me say he was a very 00:13:00powerful person was the impression. I got in terms of his thought and in terms of his bearing and in terms of when he walked into the--a room, you knew he was something special. He wasn't the type of a person that was always what you--an extreme extrovert in the sense that he was always an attention-getter is the impression I got. And the impression I also got was that he was an extremely thoughtful man, a man that thought things over and I guess, in a sense, I don't know, these are what I'm putting together.
RAESLY: You, you're doing--this is fascinating to sit here having known the manand hear you describe him so accurately, continue-- own, head, in his own mind. I think he accumulated material but then I don't think that he was impulsive 00:14:00about the way that he jumped to conclusions about it. I get this impression that he, he kind of digested all these things and then arrived at a conclusion that was thought out. I don't think he,. I get the impression that people respected him, and had so much respect for his thoughts were, because they felt that he- -when he said something it was well thought of he had investigated it and it wasn't usually said for any reason other than he believed it and that he had thought it out. I don't get the impression that he was playing to other people, I don't get that sense, you know--
RAESLY: When he said something, it was his conviction.
THOMPSON: It was his conviction. I don't think he said it because he thoughtsomebody wanted to hear him say it.
RAESLY: Yes, yes.
THOMPSON: I get that impression. I get an impression of a very strong spiritualbase in the man, you know, and of course, this I get from talking with Jeb probably. 00:15:00
RAESLY: And he came down here after you had won the competition.
THOMPSON: After I had won the competition. I--
RAESLY: And you, you did some busts of his head.
THOMPSON: I did some of his head, and I did some drawings of his hands and Iasked him about their youth, you know, and about the family and I--and about what his impressions of his brother were.*
RAESLY: And this opened a whole new spectrum for you.
THOMPSON: This opened a whole new spectrum for me. And I was very impressed byJeb himself, and I got a flavor of the sense of warmth and humanity in the man as a person, not just somebody that you could admire, but somebody that you could love, I mean in a sense. 00:16:00
RAESLY: That's right.
THOMPSON: This kind of--and Jeb to me, really--I used Jeb sort of as a model,not that his features were exactly like the Senator's but I felt that the charisma of Jeb must have been similar to the charisma of--
RAESLY: The Senator?
THOMPSON: --I--but there is a definite charisma in Jeb when you--
RAESLY: Oh, yes.
THOMPSON: --and also Fielding. There was a--when I met Fielding I had the-- Ihad the sense of a very holy man, I suppose would be the word that I would express it--great feel of dedication to principles that aren't really spoken of very often today, you know. I felt this with all the Russell men that I met, those three people I met. Well, I didn't meet the Senator, but I mean--
RAESLY: You feel like you did.
THOMPSON: --it felt like, felt like I had-- But the two brothers--there's a00:17:00sense of dedication and a strong sense of a value system that goes beyond just self-gain or prestige, something like this, but again I say it's on a spiritual base and these men impressed me. Jeb impressed me with the great compassion that he had and his approachability. This is the thing that I was a little wondering to myself, a man of such stature as Russell, how he could--how so many people could hold him in such high esteem as a person, even people that held different views from him. And I told you what Dean Rusk said when I was asking him about 00:18:00his height--
RAESLY: Oh, yes.
THOMPSON: --and I--I asked him how tall a-man Senator Russell was. And he said,"Well," he said, "I couldn't rightly," or he said maybe, he said, "I couldn't tell you his height because every time I went in to see him I was on my knees."
RAESLY: (Laughs) I think that was a very gracious overstatement. But how did youdecide on the height? Was it because of the surroundings and the site it's going into?
THOMPSON: Right, where I--on the original sight the statue had been in aperspective with the building behind it.
THOMPSON: And the first bank of windows would have cut right behind the Senator,and so I tried to overpower the bank of windows behind him, so that when you 00:19:00looked at it--it would.
RAESLY: I think that would overpower anything they've got in Atlanta.
RAESLY: Is it going on the Capitol grounds itself?
THOMPSON: Oh, yeah, right on the Capitol grounds. Washington Street will behere, my right hand here would be Washington Street, then the grounds would be here, and the walkway going up to the front steps of the Capitol would be right here. And this will be placed right in this area here, so it can be seen from the automobile passing by, you'll get a panned view of it. And then as you walk up the steps you will be able to get a best scene view of it, and walk' around it and--
RAESLY: And there are not that many statues out on that part of the lawn.
THOMPSON: No, and I think actually it's a better site than the original sitebecause wehave trees behind it, and when those trees come in, they'll provide a nice foliage for it.
THOMPSON: And I think the green will look much better than, that sure, for sure.
RAESLY: It surely will. Well, when you started and this is just my ignorancewith mechanics, how did you start? Now, you've got the model which is, what about four feet?
THOMPSON: Yeah, this is, well, with the base there it's four feet, it's probablythree feet from here--
THOMPSON: --from the toes up to the head. And what I--what I did was I startedwith photographs because that's all we had to work with--
THOMPSON: --and the photographs came from the span of his life--from his earlydays up until just before he died, what I wanted to do was to get him in the peak of his career. And in order to give it vitality, the photograph is a two-dimensional thing, and you cannot really get a three-dimensional feeling from it, I had people that were generally the physical build of the Senator pose 00:21:00for me, and then I would make my model of the figure from that. Then when I got to the head, it required me studying the photographs and putting the photograph of the head onto his figure.
RAESLY: From a two-dimensional to a three-dimensional thing. transferral becausewhen you look at a photograph, it flattens things out. The shadows look like form where they're not really form.
THOMPSON: So there's--you have to go back and check five or six photographs andthen you have to try and see, well, is this really the form or isn't this the form? Is it a shadow? Because you can get a generalization, but you cannot really get the particular of it.
RAESLY: Well, that's where Dr. Jeb's coming up here after you got the award--
THOMPSON: Right. This is after--he bears a family of form and then I had spent a00:22:00long time making this head, and I spent a relatively short time making Jeb's head because I could look at him and I could see what--shapes that I had seen in the photograph and they began to take on meaning to me that was entirely different than the meaning in the photograph. And then--
RAESLY: In this portion he is getting to look more and more like the Senator. Ihad noticed this just shortly before you started to do the art work. But every time I saw him he looked more and more like Senator Russell.
THOMPSON: Well, I'm really happy it did.
RAESLY: Because ten years ago, I don't think he would have been that helpful toyou, character of the eyes and the character of the mouth, but yet there's a similarity in all of these things. For example, in the bone structure I can see, you know the chase is different, I can see a type of bone structure that comes 00:23:00from Jeb that I can translate to the statue.
RAESLY: And you can interpret the photograph.
THOMPSON: And in the mouth, I can--he was a tremendous help in the mouth becauseI could see the muscle structure. Both of them are speakers, and I assume that they, their muscle structure developed similarly. There would be differences, but then I could check what I had done from the photographs and what I had taken from Jeb and it required a pulling together of these two things, and though it took me longer to do it this way, I took that model, and when I got to the point of doing the head, I stuck the head on top of his head.
THOMPSON: See. And then I worked from that and so I had really a--let me showyou a photograph--a sense of what Jeb looked like, and then I tried to pull it from Jeb's features into the Senator's. There is the photograph here. 00:24:00
THOMPSON: And you can see he looks more like Jeb at this particular time--
RAESLY: Yes, he did. a picture of him looking a little bit as a cross between Jeb--
RAESLY: You can see the transition already.
THOMPSON: You can see the transition of these things.
RAESLY: When you're through with these photographs the Russell Library wouldlove to--
THOMPSON: To get a batch.
RAESLY: --to be your depository for anything you want to--
THOMPSON: All right.
RAESLY: --not keep.
THOMPSON: All righty. Well, how about me giving you a set of photographs of theprogression of this?
RAESLY: Be great if you have them.
THOMPSON: Yeah, I've got them and what I'll do is I'll have a set made thatshows, you can see here in this photograph the tiny head up above in the scaffolding here--
THOMPSON: And that's me working on him. You can get the relationship of that.
RAESLY: And also it--with you working on him, it shows the overall size there.00:25:00
THOMPSON: Right. And--
RAESLY: And here you've got somebody posing with a hand for you.
THOMPSON: Right, like the head is here.
RAESLY: Uh-huh, so you get the pull of the coat.
THOMPSON: So, I get the pull of the coat. I thought that--that was another thingthat struck me about the Senator was the way he kind of moved in his clothing. It always gave the sense of an extreme movement or action within them. Even when he was stationary, or something, there seemed to be a tremendous energy of movement going along within the suit almost, and--
RAESLY: I think that was a very accurate statement. Now when you started on thebig one you had the little one.
RAESLY: Did you just put up four thousand pounds of clay and whittle it down ordid you start and build it up?
THOMPSON: I started and built it up. Actually, I had to weld my armature, the00:26:00superstructure in there--
THOMPSON: --before that. Then onto these pipes that would be vertical andhorizontal, so that I could tie wire to that with butterflies and these butter- flies are crosses. I'm looking to see if I can find one here--made of wood like this.
THOMPSON: And then the clay pulls against that as it goes to--
RAESLY: So there's a whole wire superstructure inside.
THOMPSON: --there's a whole wire superstructure holding that up. Otherwise theclay would all fall off.
RAESLY: That's what I figured.
THOMPSON: And you can't get clay to do that. So, then I did that and then I tookstyrofoam and pushed the styrofoam in behind that superstructure--
RAESLY: So it couldn't cave in from the weight.
THOMPSON: So it couldn't cave in from the weight and I cut down, I probably. cutdown, that piece might, could weigh seven or eight tons entirely if it weren't for the styrofoam in it. Now, there are areas that are solid. The head is solid, 00:27:00and parts of the arm are solid, and the reason for that is that, that styrofoam is a big weight reducer, cuts down on the weight, but it also makes it difficult to model. It doesn't give you the freedom to get in there.
RAESLY: Right, now I would assume though that most of this arm that's extendedwould have to have--
THOMPSON: Well, the reason for that is that I changed the arm from the model,and therefore I didn't have a--I couldn't take it mathematically from the model. So I had to give myself a lot of leeway, and the only way I could give myself the leeway was to do it all in clay. There is a tremendous amount of butterflies in there. The-arm fell down, the lower part of the arm here--
RAESLY: Oh, dear.
THOMPSON: --once and the other arm fell down and came off, pulled off.00:28:00
RAESLY: That must be--just give you a feeling of just--
THOMPSON: It really scares you, right. and the next day you come in and it's onthe floor--
RAESLY: I think that would be enough to discourage me right there. That's whyyou've got that one arm tied up--
THOMPSON: Right, that's to help support it, to stabilize it. The other arm--inmaking the armature you have to project and try and get the metal to come in the center core, see, of the form. Well, it was off to one side and all that weight fell down. So there's probably a couple of weeks work gone on this arm and a weeks work gone on this arm, and I just had to--
RAESLY: Had to redo it.
THOMPSON: --chalk up and redo.
RAESLY: You were on your deadline on when to finish this.
THOMPSON: Well, we want to get it finished by September or October of next year.I'm--my deadline is October I believe on it. 00:29:00
RAESLY: And that's the metal casting and everything.
THOMPSON: Metal casting. See, the problem with getting it up now is I have waitfor approval to go to the next step, waiting
RAESLY: You could have, if you get the October date met, you could have yourunveiling on the Senator's birthday,
THOMPSON: Oh really. Wouldn't that be something?
RAESLY: November 2.
THOMPSON: Oh, wouldn't that be great?
RAESLY: It's a Saturday.
THOMPSON: Wouldn't that be, wouldn't that be fantastic. You know the problem oftheir asking somebody to do a work of art and a time limit, it's going to be up for a long time and it's not a matter of doing something that you, that's just a matter of a system. You do that work and you get results. It's a matter of doing something and then doing it over again, and then doing it over and over again until you get the results that you want and, therefore--and I worked very 00:30:00rapidly and I worked fast, but. I also don't hesitate to tear down and redo some- thing again. And that's what takes the time in a work like this, you know, You just have to put time in to make art. There's no other way of doing it.
RAESLY: That's right. Now yesterday you were talking to us and you mentionedbriefly how you would start your day as you came in.
THOMPSON: Right. Well, I feel that my best work comes when I pray andcontemplate When I start my day that way, because I feel that art really is a creative thing and it ties in with all of creation, and therefore, I want to ask God to help me in my work, to help me do a good job for that day. And I have 00:31:00particular devotion to the Holy Spirit because as we read, Christ said that this is our channel to God, and so I pray to the Holy Spirit to help me understand my problem and to guide my hands, and to guide my thoughts so that I will be in tune with it. And therefore, I believe the spirit of the Senator is, is still vital and moving, and so I want really to get that spirit into the statue. It's--anybody can make a resemblance, but it takes something beyond that to get a spirit of the man, to get a life. And this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to get his spirit which I don't think is dead, and I wanted his statue to really 00:32:00project that spirit since it is a symbol that commemorates the Senator. I wanted that to happen. And I really felt that I--it's been an experience, (pause in tape) No, I didn't, in fact I really didn't know that you were taping when you first came in--
RAESLY: It's easier to just sit down and start talking--
THOMPSON: Yeah, it really is.
RAESLY: --a lot of people freeze up if you make a big deal of turning on thetape recorder.
THOMPSON: Yeah, right.
RAESLY: And if you just sit down and start talking--
THOMPSON: It's much easier. I didn't really realize that we must have been in awhile before I realized that you were actually taping. I thought--I really was waiting to have you turn on your machine.
RAESLY: Everybody always does, and they--we get into a conversation, it flows alot easier.
THOMPSON: Yeah, I can see that. I'd feel happier that way.
RAESLY: And I had put on the tape before I came in: when I started up, who Iwould be talking with and where I would be.
THOMPSON: Oh, I see.00:33:00
RAESLY: So that when it started up it was already an introduction on there, andwe could just start in.
THOMPSON: Well, that's great.
RAESLY: But I would imagine, going back to this experience, it is very creative.Well, more than creative, as you've said, it's a spiritual experience, in trying to capture the spirit of the man and the vitality of the man, the warmth of the man, and the terrific mind itself.
THOMPSON: Yeah, yeah. Well, see all of those things are--they're intangible. Imean, they're there, but how do you do it. I mean this is the problem. There are no symbols that can create that kind of an emotional effect in the viewer. A symbol doesn't do it--
THOMPSON: --and so you have to--what you want to try and do in sculpture, atleast what I want to try and do in sculpture, is to make my forms vital forms, 00:34:00because I want to make them in sculpture, as energetic as the Senator was in life. And I want them to be--to have as much integrity as sculpture as the Senator had integrity as a person in life. So, therefore, what I try and do is, I try and make my forms be strong, simply stated, well-organized in terms of three-dimensional sculpture. That is, they, the rhythms and movement, should give movement around the piece. And that movement around the piece should really be such that when you look at that you're conscious of a form, and when I say 00:35:00that, the reason I say that is so much sculpture is not a form in itself. It's a symbol of something else, but there's no validity in the sculpture itself--
THOMPSON: --which works on two levels. It works on the level of the symbol ofthe Senator and then it also works as a form, a three-dimensional sculpture like music would be.
RAESLY: That's right.
THOMPSON: Yeah. And so those are the two distinctions. Yet they have to bedovetailed together so that they are one, when you look at it. And that's really the problem that I have as a sculptor is to try and make this something that has strength and power in its own realm, as well as the realm of symbolism, see. had actually known the man.
THOMPSON: Yeah, I really did. When I would work with him and when I began to00:36:00get--for a long period of time things don't come off. I mean you have a lot of odds and ends up there, but you haven't pulled them together. And in the process of pulling them together and in the process of working hard on the statue, I really felt that I knew the Senator, not in the sense of verbal language but in a, I suppose in a nonverbal or--the only word I can really think of is the spiritual life. I felt that I knew him in a way that hardly anybody else knew him, you know. And as I said yesterday, I also felt that I knew his mother and I don't know precisely why, because when I would pray and ask God to help me that day with my work, I would really feel the inner--and I'm not saying this, but I 00:37:00would really feel a sense of the change and it would almost bring goosebumps down your back and at that time I began thinking of his mother and what a woman she must have been to have raised all these kids, and I got a tremendous sense of a spiritual person. I had known a little bit about his mother from Jeb, but I felt that his mother was helping me in a way, you know.
RAESLY: Well, I think I do know. Did you know before I told you yesterday of theexceptional closeness between the Senator and his mother?
THOMPSON: No, no, I hadn't. I didn't know about it. But Jeb had told me onestory that stood--stayed in my mind, that stuck in my mind, and that was that I think it was Fielding had hurt himself in some sort of an accident, and they 00:38:00told Mrs. Russell and she would always--she must have been a person with phenomenal faith and trust because she said, "Well, now don't worry because Fielding was God's before he was mine."
RAESLY: Isn't it marvelous?
RAESLY: This is--I never had the privilege of knowing Mrs. Russell. She diedbefore I started to work for the Senator. Rut the--you're telling me the same-- I had not heard that particular episode.
RAESLY: But this is all so much of what I've heard from all the members of thefamily about her; and the closeness between this particular son, her first son--
RAESLY: --and her. As I told you yesterday, he always called her "Dear." Andover in the family record room there is a Bible to Richard B. Russell, Jr., 00:39:001904, I think is the date in it, and it's from "Dear."
THOMPSON: Isn't that great? Well, you know to get the flavor of the man, I,really., talking with Jeb gave me kind of an insight into the beginnings of this man because in his--Jeb would talk about the early days of the Senator and he talked about one time Judge, the father, took up practice in Athens here. Evidentially to help bring in enough money to support the--I've got a large family so I can sympathize with the Judge there. But he said that he was in a court suit. He was representing somebody, the Judge was, and the other person, the opposing party, said something to the Judge and called the Judge a liar, and 00:40:00the Judge hauled off and hit the guy. He said that he just felt like he couldn't have somebody call him a liar and he hit the guy. Well, the son of the man that he hit was in the courtroom and he pulled out a pistol and hit the Judge over the head. Well, Jeb told me that when the Senator, I think--was the Senator in the navy ever?
RAESLY: Yeah, he was in the enlisted reserves at the University.
THOMPSON: In the enlisted reserves of the navy. Well, the Senator went after--went looking around town for the son of that man with the only weapon he had which was a knife, he said a navy knife, and I didn't quite understand what it meant but I thought he might have been in the navy. But I thought that it was a lucky thing that he didn't find him. It was a real lucky thing that he didn't find the--
RAESLY: Oh, yes, that would have ruined him.
THOMPSON: --son, because I thought of the change of history that might haveoccurred if the Senator had found him, and if he had lost his cool and done 00:41:00something that he would regret and I--
RAESLY: Or had gotten killed himself.
THOMPSON: --or gotten killed himself. I never even thought of him getting killed himself.
RAESLY: Yeah, he was human.
THOMPSON: Yeah, right. But I have often thought, and I have thought that perhapstoo that his mother prayed with this kind of faith that maybe she just let God handle it, you know. the devout attitude of her whole life. I mean, she--you hear of devout Christians and you think, well, they're the ones in the church every Sunday, but to her God was you know, just as much a part of her life as her children or her husband or the cat or the maid.
THOMPSON: Yeah, it was a real reality. It wasn't something in the pages of a book.
RAESLY: That's right.00:42:00
THOMPSON: Well, it certainly shows with the boys.
RAESLY: Right, and I think all of the children were required to memorize so manypassages out of the Bible each week.
THOMPSON: Oh, well, I wouldn't--that would be great. That explains Jeb's ability to--
RAESLY: Oh, yeah, and the Senator could quote the Bible too. Oh, yeah.
THOMPSON: --Quote. Oh, could he? Oh, yeah, that's great.
RAESLY: Fact, many is the time that he would take something out of the Bible andI'd have to run find a Bible to make sure that I was spelling all the words right.
THOMPSON: Well, I tell you I really feel that I've known the family in a way,without ever really knowing them, in a verbal way or--I probably was--I probably got to know them better, you know, sometimes you can do that without--you can get to know somebody better by not knowing them--
RAESLY: That's right.
THOMPSON:--because you're not hung up with all the superficial aspects of it.
RAESLY: That's right. When you finish and, now this is the clay finish, now,00:43:00your next step will be to go into plastic.
RAESLY: After this is approved.
THOMPSON: Right, that's right.
RAESLY: And you'll make a negative cast first.
THOMPSON: Make a negative cast first and then I take that off the clay model andinto that negative cast I make a positive plastic cast.
RAESLY: Aren't you going to miss the clay model?
THOMPSON: Yes, I will.
RAESLY: It's going to be like losing a friend, I would imagine.
THOMPSON: It really will be. I'm not going to tear it down however until I getthe plaster positive to the foundry so that I have some insurance--
THOMPSON: --you know, that I--
RAESLY: Come over here every day and water it if you have to.
THOMPSON: Oh, yeah, I'll have to water it and keep it--because even though itmight become damaged, it would be better than starting all over again. It would be terrible if anything like that happened. It's quite a complex procedure 00:44:00making a mold of that because you have to take it off in sections and those sections will have a fine fidelity to what you see there. It'll pick up all the texture. And then when you pour your--or when you put your plaster positive in there, then you have to chip away that mold and you have to--
RAESLY: The negative.
THOMPSON: --and you have to chip away the negative. So you no longer have anegative mold; you only have the plaster positive, and they call that the waste mold. And then when it goes to the foundry--
RAESLY: That's why you've got to keep the clay, because you don't have anynegative of that thing.
THOMPSON: That's right. Then when it goes to the foundry they'll make a piecemold of it. They'll make a rubber mold of the head and that will allow--then if anything goes wrong, if for example, when they cast that head in bronze, they might get a gas pocket or something and they would come back to the rubber mold 00:45:00of the head and recast that section.
RAESLY: Now when they--when you say, "They cast it," how do they cast it? Dothey take and cover the plaster with--
THOMPSON: With other--the head they'd do with rubber. They would separate it.
THOMPSON: And put a rubber base material over that. And then over that rubberthey'd have a shell that they put over that which is made of plaster. That's the mother mold that keeps the rubber so that it retains the form of the head.
THOMPSON: Then, down in areas in here, they would do a piece mold and plaster onthe coat all the way down. And there might be in this--by the time this piece is finished, there might be, oh, there might be seventy pieces to that mold.
RAESLY: A giant jigsaw puzzle.00:46:00
THOMPSON: A jigsaw puzzle. And then that has a mother mold behind it, and then,they take that off. And it's all a hand operation. And then into that mold they make a wax positive and that wax is hollow probably a quarter to a half inch thick and probably it would be mostly a half inch thick in a piece this size. Then they take that and they submerge--they put a pouring cup, which allows the metal to come in and then they put vents off the piece to allow the gas to go off, and they do it in the material which allows some of the gas to escape, but you have to have a channel to carry off the gas as it fills up as the metal comes in, And then they pour that with hot tongs, a temperature probably about 2100 degrees, depending upon the conditions, but it would range between about 00:47:002100-1900 degrees and they knock that investment off and then they weld the whole piece back together.
RAESLY: And then you have your finished--
THOMPSON: Then you have your finished. Then you have to go over it and check all areas--
RAESLY: Then you'd go out to the foundry at that point and check it yourself.
THOMPSON: I'd check it myself. I'd check them when they've got the mold made;I'll go to Detroit and check that. See, the reason I do a plaster positive is to make sure that they do this just the way I've got it here.
THOMPSON: If you send them a mold, the position might change or something mighthappen to it. The positive is more work, but it guarantees better results, so that's what we'll do. We'll do it that way.
RAESLY: Now, when this is cast in metal, you said you've got 4,000 pounds of00:48:00clay up here, what's it going to weigh in metal?
THOMPSON: It'll weigh about fifteen to two thousand pounds of of bronze.
RAESLY: That's a lot of bronze.
THOMPSON: That sure is. Today it's a lot of bronze. Bronze is getting like goldit's expensive. have some of a reddish hue.
THOMPSON: Yeah, I thought that we'd--we can put an oxidation on there throughchemicals that will tint it and I think a reddish brown would be just handsome in that section. It would give a richness to it, and it would also give the sense of the reddened clay of Georgia. And the whole earth quality, I think, would lend itself to the flavor of the man. He was a man from the people and a 00:49:00man from the soil of Georgia. And he certainly--Georgia was never far from his heart wherever he was, I don't think from, from what he did for Georgia, it doesn't look like it was far.
RAESLY: You know this man exceptionally well--
THOMPSON: And, and--
RAESLY: --for someone who never met him. But you're right, he did come from thesoil of Georgia, and I don't think ever got the red clay of Georgia off his shoes.
THOMPSON: Well, that--he certainly--I can remember hearing about him when I youback to teaching art? was in college before I,I lived in Georgia, and of the wonderful things he, you know, he did for Georgia. He really brought industry and research and education and, I guess, you'd call him Mr. Georgia in a sense and, of course, the greatest gift, I suppose, was himself. 00:50:00
THOMPSON: --and so I'm going to start in on that and--
RAESLY: Well, this has opened doors for you then.
THOMPSON: Right, it really has. I won the Andersonville competition, I heardabout it the same day that I won this one. They were conducted in different--one committee didn't know the other committee and it was just a happenstance, a luck that I won both of them. And--
RAESLY: Yes. Almost too much for one man to take on.
THOMPSON: Yeah, it really was. That was a great day. That was the best day Iever had when I heard that I--See, we were back visiting my wife's folks in Cape Cod. And we didn't have a phone where we were staying and so they reached the 00:51:00school and George Beatty in the art council called up the school and they were trying to find out where I was, and he knew where I was. So then he called me and told me that I had the won the Senator Russell competition and that people from Americus were trying to get in touch with me.
RAESLY: I bet you hurried back from Cape Cod.
THOMPSON: Yes, I did. I really did. That was a real thrill. day you unveil it upin Atlanta.
THOMPSON: Well, I'm looking forward to it too. I really want the whole thing tobe just an excellent work, and I'd like to have it a good commemoration to the man. 00:52:00
RAESLY: Now, we were talking yesterday that instead of having quotations aroundthe statue where other people were talking about Senator Russell--
RAESLY: --you wanted to use some quotations from Senator Russell--
RAESLY: --on different matters affecting the state and nation.
THOMPSON: Right, right, right.
RAESLY: What is your reason for that?
THOMPSON: Well, the reason is that we know the Senator is a great man. Andpeople could say things about him, but the people who said it in history might not prove to be great, so I--
RAESLY: Pretty good reason.
THOMPSON: --so I--I would like to have his thoughts. And I think that we needthoughts and we need people like the Senator--to have things that younger generations can come up and look at and see and be inspired from him. And maybe there'll be another Senator Russell that will come out of that. 00:53:00
THOMPSON: And the Bible tells you a grain of wheat has to die--
RAESLY: That's right.
THOMPSON: --so that you can multiply and get a whole field of wheat and maybe--
RAESLY: That maybe between the statue and the library we can do something.
THOMPSON: Right, right.
RAESLY: And get another one.
THOMPSON: That's right.
RAESLY: But that's one thing I will be looking up for you and I'll try to havethem within the next ten days, get you some--
THOMPSON: That would be great. I think that that would be an important additionto giving the flavor of the man too.
RAESLY: We've organized those boxes over there now so we have all the press andspeech material in one section. There's about twenty-four boxes of it, but they're all right together.
THOMPSON: I see.
RAESLY: So, it's a matter of sitting down and reading.
THOMPSON: And I've never seen so much material in my life as you have there.
RAESLY: Yeah, I don't think we're going to run out of things to do very soon inthe library.
THOMPSON: That's phenomenal. It really is. But I think that when all of this is00:54:00put together and it's seen, that your Georgia will really be saying to the Senator how much they thought of him.
RAESLY: I think so.
THOMPSON: And, I really think that he'll understand somewhere, you know.
RAESLY: I think you're right. I don't think that this is going unnoticed.
RAESLY: --any further. Well, anything else you want to put on here?
THOMPSON: Well, I don't really know. As I can say, you know, again, that Ireally felt like I grew and I felt like I've had a real opportunity to grow in my knowledge of the Senator and my knowledge of myself. That was a great experience.
RAESLY: I imagine it would be. When you do go back to teaching art it's going to00:55:00be a little set back for you, I think.
RAESLY: Be a little let down there.
THOMPSON: Yeah, it really will. I love doing this because it's such an excitingthing in its own way. And again, it's a very spiritual thing.
RAESLY: But having had this experience, particularly the spiritual experiencethat you've had, perhaps there was just a little obligation to go back to the young people.
THOMPSON: Yeah, I think that's true, and I think we have to pass it on, you know.
RAESLY: That's right.
THOMPSON: Yeah, spread the good news.
RAESLY: Although if you want to put any part of this interview under a timeseal, I was recording your early comments about sculptors, that's what I'm referring to in particular. We can seal it and lock that in the vault, and it 00:56:00would not be available for researchers for whatever period of time you say, up to and including your death.
THOMPSON: Well, that first part about the National Sculptors Society and so on--
RAESLY: You'd like to have that time sealed until your death, or for twentyyears or so?
THOMPSON: Well, for twenty years, let's see, I'd be sixty-eight. I think at thattime they'd forgive me if I" [note: time sealed lifted of this portion of interview released in 1994]
THOMPSON: --spoke of it, don't you?
RAESLY: Okay, I think they would. So we'll time seal that for twenty yearsuntil. . .
THOMPSON: I don't know what's going to happen to the National Sculpture Society--
RAESLY: In 1994--
THOMPSON: --it might prove to be a very fine one. Those are my feelings about itas of today.
RAESLY: Yeah. In light of the comments on there, I thought I would tell you thatwe can do this. And I didn't think that you'd want to be quoted on that, and you didn't really know I was taping at that point.
THOMPSON: Yeah, right.
RAESLY: I had to give you--
THOMPSON: So if you could, if you could take that--
RAESLY: Till 1994, that whole discussion on--we can block that tape off. Andwe'll make a--
THOMPSON: And regarding Julian Harris, I wouldn't want to--00:57:00
RAESLY: Right, and the tape that will be made available to researchers will notbe this one. We will make a copy, which deletes that portion.
THOMPSON: That's great.
RAESLY: And it will just have my introductory remarks, and then picks up myintroduction, so that the next thing you'll hear I'll be inside talking to Bill. And then we take up what will be after those comments.
THOMPSON: Great. That--that sounds--
RAESLY: So this original tape and the transcript of those portions of remarks Iwill type it--
THOMPSON: Oh, oh.
RAESLY: And I type from this transcript. Anything that we put under a time sealI type myself.
THOMPSON: Oh, I see. So, you are the only--
RAESLY: Right, I'm the only person to know about it.
THOMPSON: Oh, I suppose you have a lot of knowledge like that--
RAESLY: That's right.
THOMPSON: --from a lot of people.
RAESLY: That's right. I can assure you, I have never gotten anybody mixed upwith sombody else because if you were to come back to me and say, I want to talk about that part under time seal. I'd say, What part did you put under time seal?
RAESLY: I wouldn't say, Oh, you mean this and such, that somebodyelse may have put under--
THOMPSON: I see.00:58:00
RAESLY: I let them identify it.
THOMPSON: That's very tricky, isn't it?
RAESLY: Yes, it's always up to the person to identify what they're talkingabout, they talk about something under time seal.
THOMPSON: I see.
RAESLY: Unless I can go back and look at my records and see what they've putunder time seal, and that means going, unlocking the vault, and going in and getting it.
THOMPSON: I'm glad you mentioned that because I hadn't thought of it--
RAESLY: Right. I thought we'd give you that--
RAESLY: because of some--
THOMPSON: Well, he could--he would really--
RAESLY: Julian Cox.
THOMPSON: Julian Cox, he said that I really had the Senator. /He/ said, he wasthere, is what he said, that's--
RAESLY: That's a very good way of putting it. And Julian knew him well over anumber of years. What I wanted to ask you, yesterday you mentioned people coming by--
RAESLY: --Would stop and talk to you. Did this bother you?
THOMPSON: Sometimes it would, sometimes it wouldn't. I picked up a lot ofinformation about the Senator. Some of it, I'm not sure was accurate, but it let 00:59:00me know that everybody liked the Senator. Everybody was interested in the Senator and the Senator was able to speak to very common men and he wasn't patronizing them, he was really speaking to them--
RAESLY: That's right.
THOMPSON: --and the thing that everybody mentioned was that he always calledfingers/ I know I know him, you know. them by their name and that he always spoke of the last occasion they met and that to me was just fantastic because I could never--it would seem so impossible to me to be able to do something like that.
RAESLY: Yeah, that's bad. Well, one time in Atlanta I may have told you this, I01:00:00was with the Senator and we were going through the lobby of the hotel. He stopped, shook hands with a man, called him by name, he said, I'm Dick Russell Harry, whatever his name was, How you doing?" And they got to talking and the Senator said, The last time I saw you I was running for Governor, and we were down in Blakely, and we were talking on the street and you had got word that your son, and I cannot remember his name, but your son had broken his leg, and I ought to be able to remember your son's name. Now, mind you he hadn't seen the man since he ran for governor--
RAESLY: --in 1930. He called the man by name--
THOMPSON: By name.
RAESLY: --he called the man's wife by name, and he was upset because he couldn'tremember the man's son, whom he never saw.
THOMPSON: I'm telling you that's fantastic.
RAESLY: It's enough to discourage any secretary.
THOMPSON: Yeah, I can imagine so. that--I'm going to call--01:01:00
RAESLY: Oh, you want to call Dr. Jeb, too.
THOMPSON: I'm going to call Dr. Jeb. But this is a letter that he wrote meyesterday, and I scribbled these two telephone numbers on top of it, but I think that's a beautiful letter. [Long pause while Raesly reads letter.]
RAESLY: Yeah, [laughs]. That is great. He will be in Lavonia seeing ErnestVandiver today.
THOMPSON: Yes, see, but I'd like to get him down here now. I don't know, Iwouldn't want to put a burden on him or try to influence him but he could stay at our house once he got here, you know. So he could come down and take a look at it because they're going to ask him to represent the family.
RAESLY: He's one of them they're going to ask?
THOMPSON: They're going to ask him and his sister.
RAESLY: Well, you know the sister that probably could help them as much as any-body. I don't know whether she'd do it or not, but I mean she hasn't been 01:02:00invited to look at this from what you're saying, you mentioned Mrs. Peterson.
THOMPSON: Oh, yeah. Well, the only thing that I have to worry about out of thisthing getting through--what I'm afraid of is getting so many people that I can't deal with them.
RAESLY: Yes, You can't please them all.
THOMPSON: See, this is the problem--
THOMPSON: --If I get so many people--I'm going to invite the whole family tocome down and take a look at it, but if I could get approval--
RAESLY: If you could just get--
THOMPSON: --especially Jeb and--
RAESLY: --you could just get three and let it go at that.
THOMPSON: --the sister--listen, if I could just get three, for the--you know,have them represent the family. I don't mind showing the statue but I hate to have it caught up, you know. They could really, in a sense, tie this thing up and I could never get it done. RAESLY: Right. And you've got to have Richard and Hugh, don't you? 01:03:00