January 24, 2013

Dalton should support statue of Catherine Evans Whitener

If you haven’t seen the statue of singer Ray Charles in his hometown of Albany, you’ve missed a really remarkable piece of artwork.

Tuesday night, the man who created that statue and many other acclaimed works, McDonough-based sculptor Andy Davis, briefed the Dalton City Council on his desire to create a slightly larger than life-sized statue of Catherine Evans Whitener, the woman widely regarded as the mother of Dalton’s carpet industry.

In the 1890s, while still a teenager, Whitener revived the craft of tufting designs onto bedspreads. The demand for her creations proved so great that she began to teach other young girls in Whitfield County the craft to help keep up with the orders. What began as a simple cottage industry matured over the decades into a global industry with Dalton as its hub.

Davis, who is also an inventor, says he has long admired Whitener and wanted to create a statue of her. All he asked of the City Council is that the city find a place to display it and support him in his efforts to raise money for it.

Council members didn’t vote on the idea, but they indicated they support the plan. And well they should. Whitener laid the foundation for modern Dalton and the prosperity it has enjoyed for many years. She deserves recognition. And if it can be done without spending taxpayer money, so much the better.

Mayor David Pennington said the city has several places where the statue could be placed, including Dalton Green, the site of the old fountain next to the Whitfield County courthouse or maybe at a park the city plans to create on Hamilton Street. But he said council members will seek the public’s advice on where to put the statue. Council members have plenty of time to plan. Davis said it would take him at least a year, maybe two years, to create the statue.

Who knows? Maybe that statue will become a tourist attraction like the statue of Ray Charles in his hometown.

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