Updated: Mar 7
By Wendy Swanson
Sunday, March 6, 2022
That's Antigoni and Everett Ladd in front of Robert Russin's gigantic Lincoln sculpture in Wyoming. (Photo credit: Antigoni Ladd)
One never knows where or when Lincoln will pop up unexpectedly. That is just what happened in 2014 when Antigoni and Everett Ladd, long-time Lincoln Group members, were on a business trip in Wyoming to teach a leadership class. As they traveled along Interstate 80 in Laramie, what should they spot but a very tall replica of the Sixteenth President The granite pedestal is 30 feet tall and the bronze bust of Lincoln, 12 ½ feet. Definitely, a sculpture that captures one’s attention - and a monument that is hard to miss. How could they not pull over for such a photo op! Naturally, they could not resist the opportunity and we share the resulting photo here.
How did this Lincoln statue end up in Wyoming? Lincoln’s 150th birthday was approaching and the Wyoming Parks Commission wanted to commemorate the 1959 event. One problem: finding Lincoln's Wyoming connection. The justification decided upon for a Wyoming Lincoln monument was the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, signed into law by the Sixteenth President. The Act, which became law on July 1, 1862, offered government incentives to assist “men of talent, men of character, men who are willing to invest” in developing the nation’s first transcontinental rail line. The railroad ran through the land later known as Wyoming.
The Parks Commission was uncertain as to an appropriate design for the monument but the sculptor hired for the task had a plan in mind. He was Wyoming’s best known sculptor, Robert Russin, who as serendipity would have it, also was a big fan of Lincoln. Russin knew exactly what he wanted – a giant head of Lincoln at Sherman Summit, east of Laramie, the highest point on the Lincoln Highway, 8,878 feet above sea level. Russin remarked that such a sculpture had been his dream since 1947.
Much fanfare accompanied the dedication of the statue on October 18, 1959. Russin described his “great head” as "a brooding, contemplative Lincoln... his great heart sorrowing over the rent nation." The head has a craggy and rough appearance, designed to resemble the surrounding Wyoming landscape.
Alas, the statue did not stay long at this prime location, the highest point on the Lincoln Highway. Within less than ten years, the work was relocated to its current location at the Summit Rest Area on Interstate 80 (exit 323, for anyone traveling that way). The move cost the sculpture a few feet in elevation but gained for it many new admirers. As the Ladds discovered, the work can be seen from quite a distance while driving along the Wyoming highway and the new location resulted in more views and visits from travelers along the Wyoming byway.
Seeing the Lincoln replica on their journey that day undoubtedly added a touch of serendipity to the Ladds' travels. Twenty-two years ago they co-founded the Tigrett Corporation – Historical Leadership Training. Lincoln himself serves as one of the historical figures the Ladds used as an example in their leadership exercises.
A few years after founding the organization, the Ladds relocated from the D.C. area to Gettysburg, site of their “Lincoln in Gettysburg” program. The Lincoln program proved to be a popular one as the skills and approaches the Sixteenth President used in addressing the crises of his era are relatable to many of those seen today. The Ladds’ knowledge of Lincoln provided the basis for sound leadership lessons still applicable in our time.
Sadly, Everett Ladd passed away last year. Antigoni describes her late husband as “a teacher through and through, one who believed we best learn through colorful figures to emulate.” In his absence, Antigoni continues as chief executive officer of the corporation that follows Everett’s teaching tool, using historical figures such as Lincoln to mentor and inspire those in leadership positions.
Knowing the Lincoln Group’s interest in all things Lincoln and especially considering the recent focus on Lincoln statues, Antigoni wanted to share one of her favorite moments from her travels with Everett – and Lincoln - that trip to Wyoming.
Reminder: Those interested in Lincoln statues will want to keep our June 14 meeting on their radar. Our speaker that evening will be David Wiegers, discussing "A Life Worth Remembering: A Sculptural Biography of Abraham Lincoln." Wiegers has visited Lincoln statues throughout the U.S. and around the world, compiling a spreadsheet of over 400 of these Lincoln images. He has photographed many of them. Join us and learn about Lincoln's life in statues and just how manymore you have yet to discover!