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Farragut statue gets finishing touches

Local sculptor Linda Rankin shares her three-year journey of intense research, visiting naval museums and speaking with naval officers to “unveil” the true character of Adm. James David Glasgow Farragut through her Town-commissioned, 7-foot sculpture of the U.S. war hero and Town namesake.

“There’s so much to be learned by generations to come, he was something, such a worthy, worthy hero in the truest sense,” Rankin said.

She traveled to naval yards such as the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. and another in Annapolis, Md.

As Rankin scoured shelves and back rooms for clues to Farragut, she was amazed to see the reverent attitude naval officers and museum staff hold toward Farragut more than a century after his death.

Rankin said she hopes the Farragut community will learn this as well.

Born in 1801 in Campbell Station, Farragut’s journey began after his parents died of yellow fever.

Two years later, in 1810, a family friend, who was a U.S. Navy officer, became Farragut’s guardian and showed him the Navy’s ropes.

When he was 9 years old, he entered the Navy as a midshipman. He fought in the War of 1812 when he was 11.

The most recognized quote from Farragut is: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

This was his command aboard the U.S.S. Hartford during the U.S. Civil War in August 1864 while engaged in an assault in Mobile Bay, Ala., an inlet in the Gulf of Mexico, of which he was victorious.

After reading five biographies, Rankin said she began to understand what made Farragut tick, how he moved and why he took life with a “full speed ahead” attitude.

“Farragut is such a worthy, worthy hero in the truest sense of the word. Farragut’s entire life was wrapped up in the [U.S.] Navy and the United States,” Rankin said.

In the biography, “David Glasgow Farragut” written by Charles Lee Lewis with U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Rankin learned “when Farragut was 14 or 15, he had sunstroke on a voyage to Tunis, [Tunisia, Northern Africa,] and it affected his eyesight. He’s squinting in many photographs afterward.”

In order to produce the sculpture, Rankin chose a foundry in Farmingdale, N.Y.: Elliott Gantz & Co., Inc.

“I wear the road out between here and New York” to ensure authenticity, Rankin said. “With all the research I’ve done, I want to make sure it is exactly right.

“[Sculpting] is not the most comfortable occupation. At the foundry, some of the cutters fly metal through the air, metal spits out at high speeds and embeds the metal in my skin,” Rankin added.

Soon, the three-year journey will be complete.

“What we have left now is the assembly of the piece,” Rankin said.

Currently, the statue is divided into five sections. Rankin will return to New York within two weeks to assemble the sections into one 7-foot, hollow sculpture, followed by at least two more trips before the unveiling.

Rankin, a lover of history and genealogy, began her adventure with her friend and former Farragut Folklife Museum Director Doris Woods Owens.

“I took some genealogy to the Farragut Folklife Museum that tied into the community and met wonderful Doris Woods, and she got the ball rolling,” Rankin said. “Receiving the commission is an honor.”

Rankin’s Adm. Farragut sculpture is the first sculpture commissioned of the nation’s first admiral in more than 100 years, Rankin said.

Rankin requested a guest speaker for the unveiling of her sculpture; she was assured by the Department of the Navy “no less than an admiral” will come to the Sunday, May 2, Town Hall event.


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