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Town leaders dedicate Farragut statue, Farragut Memorial Plaza

Damn the thunderstorm threat, full celebration ahead.

Such was the spirit surrounding unveiling Adm. David Glasgow Farragut’s sculpture, which culminated a Farragut Memorial Plaza Dedication ceremony Sunday, May 2. The sculpture sits as a plaza centerpiece adjacent to Town Hall.

Town government leaders spanning the 30 years of Farragut incorporation joined other area dignitaries for a roughly one-hour ceremony, ending with the 7-foot bronze likeness of Adm. Farragut being unveiled.

Mayor Ralph McGill recalled Adm. Farragut’s famed words during the battle of Mobile Bay, 1864, the Confederacy’s “last major port open on the Gulf of Mexico” in The War Between the States.

Despite mines blocking the bay, then called “torpedoes,” McGill retorted Adm. Farragut’s order: “Damn the torpedoes, go ahead, full speed.”

“A little over 30 years ago, a small group of residents in this area had a vision of a place where self-determination, rather than government from afar by those who had little connection to this community, would produce a Town that would set itself apart from the crowd,” he added. “ ... To achieve the goal they adopted Farragut’s creed.

“In the end they prevailed, just like Adm. Farragut.”

By 2010, McGill said Adm. Farragut’s “bold spirit of dedication to task has never faded in the Town itself,” adding an aerial view of the new plaza “looks like the wheel of a ship, and that’s what it was intended to do.”

Retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Jay A. DeLoach, a military historian, declared about the statue and new plaza a, “Job well done.”

DeLoach said Adm. Farragut was “the greatest Naval Officer of the 19th Century,” adding he was especially fond of being invited because of “a common bond I share with Adm. Farragut.”

That includes a “sea-faring family, being a Naval flag officer and having an Hispanic heritage,” he added.

Eddy Ford, Farragut’s second mayor (1993-2009), recalled how Town leaders and volunteers took the vision of a statue and made it a reality.

Referring to the four committees overseen by Parks and Leisure Services, Ford recalled during 2005, “Out of the blue I surprised these people at a Town board meeting and challenged them to think out of the box” concerning a special way to honor Adm. Farragut.

By April 2006, then Farragut Folklife Museum Director Doris Woods Owens, along with Mike Karnitz, “presented at a Board meeting a concept” that included “memorializing the Admiral.”

Refining its concept by May 2007 according to Ford, Owens and other committee members, having met sculptor Linda White Rankin, concluded a statue “would not only benefit this Town, it would benefit the memory of Admiral Farragut.”

An “official contract” with Rankin was struck in September 2007.

“I did not comprehend the details it takes to create something of this magnitude,” Ford said, adding the Knoxville architectural firm Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon “presented a concept for what this plaza might look like. They did an excellent job.”

Ford credited Karnitz’s work with the National Historical Society to get the plaza “guns” or cannons, adding the one pointing west is “from the USS Hartford, Adm. Farragut’s flagship.”

Mayor Robert Leonard, Farragut’s first mayor who served from 1980 to 1993, stressed the importance of Farragut Folklife Museum’s formation, born out of Tennessee’s Homecoming 1986 celebration, in properly honoring Adm. Farragut.

Leonard specifically credited its first curator, Mary Nell McFee, “whose memory we all revere. She brought to the museum a desk of one of the battleships, and a handwritten letter signed by Adm. Farragut. as the first items of a collection that became what it is today.”

Leonard made reference to how some citizens, through media “letters,” have complained there’s no visual “representation of the town of Farragut.”

“Well, they’re going to know it now every time they go to the Post Office,” he added.

Ford said Jack Hamlett, the first Town Administrator, “was instrumental in buying this property that we are on now,” adding the leadership and vision of Leonard and Hamlett meant “these two men deserve special credit for us being able to stand here on this site and enjoy this place.”

Bases for the plaza “guns” were designed by Bud McKelvey and built by his Public Works department, Ford said.

Also recognized was Mary Lou Koepp, “the very first employee of the town of Farragut, our Town Recorder,” Ford said, also citing the importance of “more than 200 volunteers” spanning 30 years.


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