Local leaders unveil bronze Mary McLeod Bethune statue in Daytona Beach park

Ceremony held at Riverfront Esplanade Bethune Pavilion

A bronze statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was unveiled at a Daytona Beach park Thursday morning, about a month after her marble sculpture found a home at the U.S. Capitol.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A bronze statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was unveiled at a Daytona Beach park Thursday morning, about a month after her marble sculpture found a home at the U.S. Capitol.

Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick L. Henry said his community bore an eternal gratitude for those who brought McLeod Bethune home.

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“You have been a beautiful tapestry of diverse opinions, ideologies and backgrounds woven together through strong, tenacious, firm, loving leadership with an all-hands-engaged approach to this historic journey illustrating our community’s unity and our capacity to preserve the best attributes of our city,” Henry said. “I hope that the statue’s presence in this intermediary space that sits between the world’s most famous beach and the site — a former dump — but the birthplace of Dr. Bethune’s greatest vision, her greatest dream which came to fruition in the place and presence of the great Bethune Cookman University.”

The arrival of McLeod Bethune’s bronze likeness was celebrated in the Riverfront Esplanade Bethune Pavilion at 249 N. Beach St. in Daytona Beach.

The ceremony and dedication honored McLeod Bethune, known as the founder of what is now Bethune-Cookman University and as a pioneering voice behind African American and women’s rights, according to The Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Fund, Inc.

Among other state and local leaders who attended with Mayor Henry were Nancy R. Lohman, president of the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Fund, Inc.; Billie Wheeler, Volusia County councilwoman; Robert W. (Bob) Lloyd, of Brown & Brown Insurance; Dr. Lawrence Drake, the interim president of Bethune-Cookman University; Johnny McCray, Jr. Esq., president of the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune National Alumni Association; Rep. Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach; and the Bethune Cookman University Concert Chorale.

Hortense Fordham-Jeter, who knew McLeod Bethune and would play in her house all the time growing up, said it was amazing to see her recognized Thursday.

“It makes me feel so good to see her and to look at her as we knew her—dynamic, always the same,” Fordham-Jeter said. “She recognized everybody. She never overlooked anyone and that’s why she always got so much support from the Black and white (communities). It’s so nice to have this statue looking down toward her school. Just I’m standing here almost at a loss for words.”

This comes after a marble statue of McLeod Bethune was unveiled in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall on July 13, becoming the first of an African American in the Statuary Hall collection and giving Florida the honor of being the only state to be represented there by an African American woman.

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About the Author:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.