Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hayes Statue Home on Eastside; Tribute to Athlete Also Inspiration

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hayes Statue Home on Eastside; Tribute to Athlete Also Inspiration

Article excerpt

Byline: Teneshia L. Wright, Times-Union staff writer

Bob Hayes became a living trophy for Eastside residents after he won two gold medals at the 1964 Summer Olympics and a Super Bowl ring with the Dallas Cowboys in 1972.

And although he lived on the Northside when he died in September at the age of 59, Hayes now has a permanent home near where he ran the dirt roads during his childhood on the Eastside.

A 7-foot bronze statue of Hayes was unveiled yesterday at A. Philip Randolph Park, less than a mile from the meager two-bedroom wooden home he shared with his mother and four siblings.

"Bob deserved this," said city Councilwoman Pat Lockett-Felder, who spearheaded the building of the statue. "This is very important, not just to me, but my community. I remember when Bob ran in Tokyo. Our whole community was standing on pins and needles saying, 'Oh, God, we hope Bob wins.' And we were all around the television. . . . It was like Christmas that month when Bob ran because everybody was so excited."

About 250 people battled rain to witness the unveiling. Hayes' Olympic teammate Ralph Boston saw a silver lining.

"I don't think this is rain at all," said Boston, a 1960 Olympic gold medalist in the long jump. "I think it's Bob Hayes' way of saying he's sorry for not being here."

Lucille Hester, Hayes' older sister, said it was important for her to fly down from Washington to see the statue because her brother anticipated seeing it himself and taking his siblings with him. It sits across the street from where their deceased father's shoeshine parlor once stood.

"It gives hope to our children here that he ran on the dirt streets, a little boy from the Eastside of Jacksonville, Florida, and could go to these heights, looking across at Dad, who had a shoeshine store across the street and not necessarily in A-1 condition," Hester said. "It gives our children hope that whatever it is that you can keep your eyes focused on, you can achieve."

Lockett-Felder used about $79,000 from the city's beautification fund to have the statue constructed.

The statue depicts Hayes running on his toes in his Olympic uniform with his old number, 702, across his torso and the '64 Japanese Olympic torch in his left hand. "Bob Hayes Passing The Torch" is inscribed on two sides of the statue's platform. Another side has "World's Fastest Human" with Hayes' greatest achievements, such as his '64 Olympic gold medals and his 2001 induction into the Cowboys' Ring of Honor, listed underneath.

Delaware sculptor Kristen Visbal said it took 230 hours to mold the approximately 350-pound statue. Because of Hayes' frail condition, Visbal spent only 10 hours with Hayes on two trips to Jacksonville in the spring to get his exact proportions, from the hands gripping the torch to his muscular arms and legs. …

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