Brother Bryan statue
The Brother Bryan statue is a white marble statue of Brother Bryan at the corner of 20th Street South and Magnolia Avenue in historic Five Points South. The statue was created in 1934 with funding from a federal grant given to the city to design and create the sculpture. Sculptor William Grant planned and designed the monument, which was executed by Georges Bridges.
Bryan was asked to report to Bridges' studio to sit for a portrait, but he did not know it was for a sculpture. Bridges later recollected that Bryan was an impatient model, and kept dropping from his chair to kneel, urging the artist, "sweet boy, let's pray!" Apparently inspired, Bridges depicted the minister in prayer.
Some friends of Bryan thought that, because of his humility, Bryan might object to being honored with a statue. When the work was shown to him, he reassured them, saying "It will be out there fighting the devil when I'm gone." The sculpture, placed in the grassy circle in the center of Five Points South, was dedicated on July 29 of that year, with Senator Hugo Black present at the ceremony.
For thirty-two years the statue remained there. On November 21, 1966, the statue was relocated and rededicated at "Prayer Point" at Vulcan Park. Its move was spearheaded by the Women's Committee of 100, which is a charitable group that gives an annual award in Bryan's name. Three of Bryans' great grandchildren attended the dedication ceremony. The committee also invited filmmaker Walt Disney to attend, hoping that he would consider Bryan's story for a movie. Disney died following a lung operation in December of that year.
The initial WPA funding for the project was not sufficient to cover the cost of a stone base, as Grant had planned. One was provided when it was later relocated. A bronze plaque attached to the statue's base reads: "Fervent in prayer, consecrated in life, sympathetic in counsel, friend of the friendless, the sorrowing, the poor and the rich: He went about doing good." The statue, which was oriented to face 3rd Presbyterian Church, remained at Vulcan until 1983 when it was moved to its current spot in response to widely-circulated petitions. The marble statue underwent a restoration at that time.
By 2004 a group headed by local political consultant Tim Baer and Betty Hawkins began a campaign to move the statue back to Prayer Point. Their primary justification for the relocation back to Vulcan Park is that it would provide for greater visibility of both the statue and Bryan's legacy.
- Raines, Howell ( ) "Beer Halls Feared Crusades of Brother Bryan." The Birmingham News
- Grey, Jeremy. (March 4, 2004) "Will Brother Bryan move again?" The Birmingham News
- Birmingham Historical Society (2010) Digging Out of the Great Depression: Federal Programs at Work in and around Birmingham. Birmingham: Birmingham Historical Society ISBN 0943994357