Statue of Civil Rights activist finds home on courthouse lawn; dedication Jan. 6

By BETH BUNCH,

Members of the late Vernon F. Dahmer Sr.’s family stood outside Forrest County Circuit Court Tuesday morning as a bronze statue depicting their husband and father was placed on a granite pedestal on the front lawn.

On the wall below the statue are the words which Dahmer, a Civil Rights activist, lived by, If you don’t vote, you don’t count.

The statue is part of a plaza being constructed in Dahmer’s honor and memory. A dedication is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 6, 2020, following the swearing in of new county officials. The dedication would fall four days short of the day Dahmer was killed in 1966 after his home in Forrest County was firebombed by the Ku Klux Klan.

Ellie Dahmer, Dahmer’s widow, 94, eventually sat and watched with her daughter, Bettie, as the statue was hoisted into place.

“I never thought I would see this day happen, not in my lifetime,” Dahmer said.

Having seen the finished statue prior to Tuesday, she’s pleased with the way the bronze-cast statue turned out.

“Oh, it looks just like him,” she said.

Bettie said she thought the sculptors did “an outstanding job” with her father’s likeness.

“We want to thank Mr. (David) Hogan and the board of supervisors and all the volunteers who contributed to the financing of this. We are most appreciative that they thought enough of Daddy to do this.”

Hogan, president of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors, approached Mrs. Dahmer two years ago during the county’s Christmas party about his thoughts for a statue. ­

“You thought I was crazy, didn’t you?” said Hogan, as he knelt down beside Dahmer and held her hand.

“I didn’t think it would ever happen in Hattiesburg,” she replied.

The seven-foot bronze sculpture was cast at a foundry in Houston, Texas, following the work of Pine Belt artists Ben Watts and Vixon Sullivan.

The project is estimated to cost about $100,000. The Forrest County supervisors and City of Hattiesburg have each contributed $40,000 toward the project with Hogan contributing another $20,000 from his district. Other businesses and citizens throughout the Hub City have also contributed to the project.