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The American Almanac – October 31, 2011




The Father of Rushmore In 1923, Doane Robinson, the aging superintendent of the South Dakota State Historical Society, had a vision of a massive mountain memorial carved from stone so large it would put South Dakota on the map. Robinson told all who would listen of his dream of giant statues of Western figures such as Chief Red Cloud, Buffalo Bill Cody, Lewis and Clark, and legendary Sioux warriors marching along South Dakota’s skyline. Robinson spoke to local organizations and wrote letter upon letter. Many South Dakotans be-lieved that a colossal sculpture would attract thousands of visitors with heavy wallets. Others found the notion ludicrous. Finally, when the newspaper stories stopped and the snickers ceased, Robinson enlisted the aid of the one man he knew could carry the torch—the respected U.S. Senator Peter Norbeck. Norbeck, a frequent visitor at the White House, had the admiration of his peers in the Senate as well as that of the farmers and ranchers of South Dakota who had sent him to Washington. Robinson’s mountain-carving proposal captured the senior senator’s imagination and he encouraged the historian to seek a sculptor capable of commanding such a project. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum, one of America’s most prolific artists, received a letter from Robinson proposing the project in August 1924. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment; he was fed up with the project he was working on. Borglum, a fiery and stubborn artist, lived for visions, not setbacks. He accepted Robinson’s offer.

Mixed Signals

Upon his arrival in September 1924, the flamboyant Borglum politely, but forcefully informed Robinson and Norbeck that his life’s work would not be spent immortalizing regional heroes. The sculptor insisted that the work demanded a subject national in nature and timeless in its relevance to history. By selecting four great presidential figures for the carving, the trio sought to create an eternal reminder of the birth, growth, preservation and development of a nation dedicated to democracy and the pursuit of individual liberty. Borglum soon embarked on a site-searching trip to find a grouping of rocks massive enough to support a giant sculpture. He examined the Needles, as Robinson suggested, but found the rock too brittle for carving and the spires disproportionate to the human form. He left and returned next year. It was on Borglum’s second trip that he found Mt. Rushmore August 13, 1925. Next, Borglum and his party climbed Harney Peak. At 7,242 feet, this is the highest point between the Rockies and the Swiss Alps. The surrounding vista inspired him. “Here is the place!” Borglum exhorted. “American history shall march along that skyline.” He set his sights on the craggy, pine-clad cliff known as Mount Rushmore, near the isolated mining town of Keystone. It had southeastern exposure, giving it direct sunlight most of the day, and was made of sound granite relatively free from fracture. Borglum carefully explored the crevices and sampled the rock of Mount Rushmore. With each test, he reconfirmed that he had found his mountain.

The Waiting Game

Senator Norbeck and Congressman William Williamson easily secured federal legislation to allow a mountain carving in Harney National Forest. A similar bill in the state Legislature was passed in 1925. But months passed as supporters of the Rushmore project scrambled for funding. Environmentalists suggested the project would deface the mountainside. Others asked how a mortal sculptor could hope to improve on what a higher authority had already designed. As the calendars changed to 1926, most South Dakotans dismissed the whole fanciful conception.

Presidential Attention

Then, in the spring of 1927, President Calvin Coolidge decided to spend his three-week summer holiday in the Black Hills. State officials immediately began preparing for the visit by remodeling the rustic State Game Lodge in Custer State Park, which was selected to be Coolidge’s “summer White House.” On June 15, Senator Norbeck and 10,000 South Dakotans warmly greeted President and Mrs. Coolidge, their two dogs and the First Lady’s pet raccoon, as they stepped from the train in Rapid City. They were soon settled comfortably into the Game Lodge and the Dakotan way of life. Their three-week visit turned into a three-month stay. Coolidge couldn’t have known that his fishing skills were greatly enhanced by park officials. Before the president’s arrival, chicken wire was stretched across the creek upstream and downstream from the president’s quarters. Lunker trout from a nearby fish hatchery were trucked in nightly—so many that Coolidge couldn’t help but fill his creel as he “learned to fish.” This extended vacation allowed Borglum and Norbeck enough time to convince Coolidge to participate in the formal dedication of Mount Rushmore. On August 10, the president rode horseback to the mountain, sporting cowboy boots and a 10- gallon hat given to him by local residents. “We have come here to dedi-cate a cornerstone laid by the hand of the Almighty,” Coolidge told a crowd of 1,000 South Dakotans. In an impassioned speech by a man not known for his passion, Coolidge became the first to refer to Mount Rushmore as a “national shrine,” then pledged federal support for the project. After listening with satisfaction to the president’s remarks, the 60-year-old Borglum climbed to the mountain’s craggy summit and symbolically drilled six holes to mark the commencement of carving. The Mount Rushmore dream would em-brace the remaining 14 years of his life and leave a monument unlike any other.

Men and Mountain

At first, it was just a job, a way to put food on the table. But, as the four faces emerged from the granite, the men who helped carve the memorial began to share the sculptor’s dream. These drill-dusty, unemployed miners, who had originally sought only a paycheck in the heart of the Great Depression, became caught up in a challenge that would produce a national treasure. In the six-and-a-half years of work that occurred on and off between 1927 and 1941, Borglum employed almost 400 local workers. Some built roads, ran the hoist house, generated power or sharpened thousands of bits for the pneumatic drills. Others set dynamite charges or completed delicate finishing work on the sculpture. Among the most highly skilled workers were those using dynamite. Using techniques he had developed at Stone Mountain and relying on skills his crew had acquired in mining, Borglum used the explosive in an innovative way that helped to remove large amounts of rock quickly and relatively inexpensively. His powder men became so skilled that they could blast to within four inches of the finished surface and grade the contours of the lips, nose, cheeks, neck and brow. In fact, 90 percent of the 450,000 tons of granite removed from the mountain was taken out with dynamite.

Model to Masterpiece

Borglum created a model of the four presidents on a 1-to-12-inch scale, meaning an inch on the model represented a foot on the cliff. This model has been preserved for viewing at the Sculptor’s Studio. To transfer measurements from the model to the mountain, workers determined where the top of the head would be, then found the corresponding point on the model. A protractor was mounted horizontally on top of the model’s head. A similar, albeit 12 times larger, apparatus was placed on the mountain. By substituting feet for inches, workers quickly determined the amount of rock to remove. Drillers then used the same measuring system and air-powered tools to drill closely spaced holes to exacting depths, a process known as “honeycombing.” The rock between these holes was then broken away using chisels and hammers. The final process, known as “bumping,” used a pneumatic drill and a special bit to leave the finished surface as smooth as a concrete sidewalk. A skilled driller could make $1.25 per hour on the project which was better than the mines were paying. But Borglum’s crew often had to endure extended layoffs due to a lack of funds and harsh winter weather. When spring or more funding came again, the workers would report back to the mountain, eager to get back to work on their adopted cause. As his dream neared its completion, Borglum’s biggest fear was leaving a mystery for future generations. In 1938, Borglum began carving a giant vault in the canyon wall directly behind Mount Rushmore. Into this great hall, he planned to place records of the memorial, of Western civilization, of individual liberty and freedom. But Borglum’s death and the country’s entry into World War II intervened, and the Hall of Records was left unfinished. (In 1998, the National Park Service completed a scaled down version of the hall.) After Borglum’s death, his son, Lincoln, spent another seven months refining the monument. On October 31, 1941, he stopped construction on the sculpture, leaving Mount Rushmore as we know it today: a truly American icon.]]]]> ]]>

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Mississippi Development Authority accepting applications for 2020 Aspire Mississippi program



From the Mississippi Development Authority:

The Mississippi Development Authority’s Asset Development Division is accepting applications for the 2020 Aspire Mississippi program. The program is designed to help communities become better places to live, work and visit through economic, community and workforce development.

“Participants of MDA’s Aspire Mississippi program master the leadership = community development = economic development model, sharpening their leadership skills to effectively develop their communities, which attracts private capital investment creating new jobs in their communities,” MDA Executive Director Glenn McCullough Jr. said in a statement. “Past participants of Aspire Mississippi demonstrated their commitment to bettering their communities through a variety of proactive projects that will bolster their economic development efforts for years to come.”

Aspire Mississippi provides support to counties as they identify marketable assets, allowing participants to increase industrial and economic development in their counties. The program helps communities develop projects that achieve significant and sustainable community and economic development outcomes. Curriculum focus areas include data-driven decision making and project mapping, as well as community, economic and workforce development.

The location for each session will alternate among the Aspire Mississippi counties. In addition to support from MDA, participants receive guidance from partners at the state’s universities, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and state and federal agencies.

Each Aspire Mississippi team is typically formed through the local economic development office and consists of approximately eight to 10 local stakeholders committed to enhancing their knowledge in key community and economic development areas. Teams from the following counties recently graduated from the 2019 Aspire Mississippi program: Covington, Lawrence, Leake, Panola, Sharkey and Walthall.

The 2020 Aspire Mississippi program begins in April and will conclude in late fall with each team’s project presentations and a graduation ceremony.

The deadline to apply for the 2020 program is Monday, Feb. 3. To apply, go to For additional information, contact Ellen Bourdeaux with MDA’s Asset Development Division at 601-359-9333 or [email protected].

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Adopt-a-School training seeks to empower partnerships between churches and public schools



Pastor Tony Evans, the Urban Alternative

Vicksburg will play host to a unique training designed to help churches partner with local schools to transform individuals, families and communities.

The training, a project of Pastor Tony Evan’s Urban Alternatives organization, is part of a nationwide Adopt-a-School Initiative, which provides attendees “the building blocks for starting or enhancing the delivery of social services to urban youth and their families,” the organization’s website states. “Participants will receive an overview of the process for adopting public schools and creating programs, including school-based mentoring, to meet the vast needs of public-school youth and their families.”

The training is hosted by the Warren County Youth Court and Unite Mississippi, the parent organization of numerous faith-based organizations that have “a desire to make communities whole in a grass-roots way,” said Larry Nicks, deputy director of Unite Mississippi.

Recognizing that churches and faith-based organizations are probably the most influential organizations inside many communities in Mississippi, the Adopt-a-School program seeks to develop partnerships between churches and public schools and offer mentoring to children and families.

“Our prison population is growing, and our school literacy problem is getting worse. If we can tap into the school population at the third-grade level, then we can make a difference in the quality of graduates and, of course, our workforce,” Nicks said.

Mentoring at-risk children at an early age, particularly at the third-grade level, is crucial, he said. If children can’t read by third grade “they’ll never catch up and be on level in college and in life.”

The goal is not to only mentor children but to make the family whole through mentoring, job skills and more. Churches with resources will be partnered with churches with few resources.

The problem of literacy must be addressed before it gets to the justice or penal system, said Judge Marcie Southerland with the Warren County Youth Court.

“We have got to reach these children and their families when the children are … in second and third grade, not when they’re 13, 14 and on up to 17 years of age,” she said, adding, “I know this will work.”

“The kids we’re trying to reach are the kids that, for whatever reason, haven’t had proper mentoring and proper upbringing at home,” said Chip Miskelly, chairman of Unite Mississippi. “These are kids who are falling through the cracks.”

“What we’re trying to do more than anything else, is give these kids a fighting chance,” he added.

“It’s a holistic approach to reach not only the kids, but the families as a whole.”

In this one-day training, attendees will learn how to analyze the needs of the community, engage with a local school, recruit and develop volunteers and how to raise the necessary funds to support the endeavor.

The training is Jan. 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the George Oaks Building at the Vicksburg-Warren County Hinds Community College Campus. Lunch will be served, sponsored by Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition of Claiborne and Warren Counties.

Cost of the training is $75 per person, and everyone is welcome. The training is designed for pastors, church and community leaders, and for people who are stakeholders in public schools including parents and teachers, or those who may be interested in becoming stakeholders.

“This is a top-notch training” with a successful track-record of more than 30 years, said Michelle Johnson, a Unite Mississippi board member and Vicksburg coordinator for the training.

For more information or to register, see the Adopt-A-School website or call Bill Collins with Urban Alternatives at 1-800-800-3222, Pastors’ coordinator Pastor James Bowman at 601-529-2044 or Vicksburg coordinator Michelle Johnson at 601-715-0522.

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Vicksburg Chess Club provides a way to exercise the brain for adults and children



Vicksburg Chess Club

To many, chess is a complex board game that takes time and a great deal of focus to learn and play. It’s also a fun way to pass the time.

Chess is a great way to exercise the brain, too. Research has shown chess helps adults prevent or delay Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia and some mental illnesses. In children, it sparks an interest in math and science as it helps them improve critical thinking and abstract reasoning skills, and find solutions to complex problems.

Vicksburg schools understand the benefits of chess and have added the board game to their extracurricular activities with the help of the Vicksburg Chess Club.

“Right now the Chess Club is trying to promote chess in lots of areas,” said Dr. Donald Rathburn, a member of the Vicksburg Chess Club. “We have the grade-school programs. We run chess tournaments. We have a men’s championship and a women’s championship every year. We now have the Chess League that’s been going on for four years and that gives us a championship, and there are more possible tournaments.”

Each Tuesday and Thursday the club meets at the Vicksburg Mall, 3505 Pemberton Square Blvd., at 6 p.m. to play chess and improve their skills. Everyone is invited to join in to watch or play in the matches.

At the weekly club meetings, members and guests have an opportunity to learn different tactics and styles of the game.

“There is a variety of chess,” Rathburn said. “It isn’t just two people playing chess. That is, of course, the most common way to play chess, but it could be two people on two boards or it could be two people on one board. There’s even a thing called random chess.”

The Vicksburg Chess Club also holds monthly chess matches. The next meet is on Jan. 11, 2020, at 10 a.m. in the Vicksburg Mall and as always, the event is free and everyone is welcome. 

For more information or to join the Vicksburg Chess Club and enhance your mind simply join them at their weekly meetings.

“Just come out on Thursday nights to the Vicksburg Mall,” Rathburn said. “We’ll train you and show you how to play chess. I emphasize having a good time. If your ego is involved, I don’t think you should play chess. Accept the fact that when you lose, you’re learning.”

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